its lengthy course through the south central
corner of the state, the Sheyenne river transects
a variety of North Dakota terrains. Rolling
hills, wide bottomland, each with its own unique
characteristics and beauty, blend along the
rivers banks to create a continuous mosaic
The history surrounding the Sheyenne River dates back to the era when human habitation in the state was first possible. Following the retreat of North Dakotas great glaciers, recovered evidence suggests sections of the river valley provided for primary settlements of prehistoric people. From early hunters and earth lodge dwellers to the equestrian nomads who gradually migrated from the area, the Sheyenne River sustained life through a significant period of North Dakotas introductory history.
Artifacts from these cultures, recovered from areas now long abandoned, are among the oldest founds in the state and date back to 6000 BC. Recent archaeological work has yielded clues to discovering the sequences by which North Dakotas prehistoric inhabitants evolved into modern Indian tribes.
Euro-American interest in the Sheyenne River corridor, as with much of the state, began during the fur trade era of the 1800s. In successive years, the expanse became the focus of important exploration and military operations. Although these historical phases aided tremendously in the settlement and civilization of North Dakota, the real impetus was provided by the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad.
Many recreational opportunities are offered along this lengthy, peaceful river system. The diversity of natural features along its meandering path is an attraction to many, as visitors can see terrain seldom associated with North Dakota. Sandhills, abrupt river banks and noble stands of forest invite photographers, hikers and sightseers to spend a day marveling at the innate beauty of the river valley.
The Sheyenne River also provides north Dakota with many water-based recreation activities. Lake Ashtabula, one of the largest lakes in the eastern half of the state, is a celebrated fishing and boating area. The river reach south of the lake is an especially popular and scenic canoeing route, as it skirts Fort Ransom State Park, Sheyenne State Forest and the Sheyenne National Grasslands. Canoe rentals are available at Fort Ransom State Park.
When winter descends on North Dakota, the Sheyenne river corridor transforms to welcome and promote the season. A typical off-season day will draw cross-country skiers, snowmobilers and an occasion snowshoer out to enjoy the snow which picturesquely blankets the valley.
Plants and Animals
The Sheyenne River flows through a broad, oversized valley that once served as a meltwater channel which fed glacial Lake Agassiz. Its southern reach cuts through the sandy delta deposited by this former waterway, an area which harbors an abundance of unique species. The river is also flanked by a wide bottomland forest, including large numbers of massive old oaks.
The Sheyennes most significant contributions to North Dakotas plant and animal vitality occurs in the Sheyenne National Grasslands, a tract traversed by the river along its southern stretches. Located in Richland and Ransom counties, the Grasslands are comprised of a mixture of landscapes superimposed upon each other. The blending of flat plains, sand dunes, tall grass prairies and hardwood forests combine to form a setting rich with the states rarer plant and animal species.
*Published by North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department
North Dakota State Parks