We sat sipping coffee last Sunday morning in the cool, still quiet of Turtle River State Park, 14 miles west of Grand Forks. There was a soft rustling of tree leaves above us and the sun was filtering softly through the trees. You could hear the chirping of birds.
There were campers with varying degrees of equipment all around us in the park, which was almost at its capacity of 125 campsites.
I was visiting the campsite of my son-in-law, Dale Sandstrom, and granddaughter, Carrie. They came up from Bismarck to see a SPA show in Grand Forks and explore Turtle River State Park. They are occasional campers who have visited many of North Dakota's State Parks. They liked Turtle River and noticed that there was a lot of interest in fishing. Usually, they go to parks where they can find water for fishing, swimming or boating.
Nearby, a newlywed couple from Grand Forks was enjoying their breakfast. Ryan Jockers was tending the Coleman propane grill. He said he likes fixing bacon and hot dogs outdoors, and he likes getting away from town on the weekends. He camped a lot when he was younger. Now, he and his wife, Kate, find a weekend trip to Turtle River is a getaway from their weekday jobs at UND and the Guest House.
They have a four-person tent and other camping equipment that they got for wedding presents.
My son-in law travels with a tent that has three rooms (albeit small rooms), and they set up a kitchen complete with a coffeemaker. After a few tries, he said you figure out how to put the tent up quickly.
There is a wide range of camping and campers at Turtle River. Near the Sandstrom campsite, there was a couple who live near Binford, N.D. They were doing what they called "a shakedown cruise" with their single-axle semi tractor, which they call a "horse." It pulls the beautiful new camper trailer they recently purchased. Inside, there's a streamlined kitchen, a beautiful living area with an entertainment center and a bedroom and bath that look inviting.
These campers were James and Teresa Dramstad who farm and have raised a family. Now, they hope to go away in the winter. The Dramstads figure there is a lot of this country they have never seen. They plan to make up for lost travel time in their new units.
Like the newlywed couple, the Dramstads were enjoying the outdoors on a Sunday morning.
Steve Crandall, longtime superintendent at Turtle River, keeps the park in order with four full time employees. He said camping was slowed by the rains in May, but the demand for campsites has been brisk in June and July. The park has 72 RV spaces with electricity, and the remainder of the campsites are for tents. During the week, there are travelers who stop for the night. The average stay of campers is two days.
Turtle River State Park has a full-time interpreter, Tina Harding, who has activities planned each weekend. Today, a water hike is planned along Turtle River. This weekend, there will be art inspired by nature Friday and an Art in the Park Festival on Saturday. It will be followed by an evening of entertainment on the hillside. The program Sunday is called "Chalk, Rocks and Things."
The annual pass that provides admittance to all state parks costs $25.
Turtle River activities and special events continue into September. The schedule includes Art in the Park next weekend with works of local artists on display and demonstrations and a workshop. People are invited to bring chairs, picnic lunches and spend the day.
Aug. 21, Turtle River State Park is planning its annual Birthday Bash -- Kids Day. The celebration will mark the 76th birthday of the park.
During September, the park welcomes "Eco Ed" hosted by Grand Forks County Soil Conservation District. It provides all seventh graders in Grand Forks County an opportunity to learn and experience the natural resources of the park. And Sept. 11, Girl Scouts Camp Turtle River is planned for the second year.
The are weekly Friday and Saturday night amphitheater programs and Saturday Dakota Explorer programs designed for youngsters from age 7 to 12.
Reach Hagerty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (701) 772-1055.