Rising water boosts business on Lake SakakaweaBusinesses and state parks hit records, with most crediting the water rise and good weather. Oil activity also brought in a number of new visitors, according to business and state sources.
By: Jennifer McBride, Dickinson (N.D.) Press
The water in Lake Sakakawea is up this year and that means business is up, too.
“This is the best year we’ve ever had,” said Analene Torgerson, who along with her husband, Jim, owns Lund’s Landing Marina and Lodge near Ray, N.D. “It was a phenomenal business year.”
The full-service marina, which includes a restaurant, lodge, cabins, teepee camping and boat rentals, wasn’t as fortunate last year as the water was so low the bay where they operate was dry. They have been in business 23 years.
“We have our water back,” she said. “There was no water in our bay so we had no access, so our marina was not functional. Now everything has come together.”
Businesses and state parks hit records with most crediting the water rise and good weather. Oil activity also brought in a number of new visitors, according to business and state sources.
Parks see boost
The three state parks on the lake all had great years, North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department Public Information Officer Gordon Weixel said. These include Fort Stevenson, Lake Sakakawea and Lewis and Clark.
Fort Stevenson had a 73 percent increase in July over last July, he said.
The higher water, events, 10 new miles of biking/hiking trails, great staff and facilities, the oil boom and nice weather attracted visitors, Fort Stevenson Park Manager Dick Messerly said. Among a main attraction is a new deep-water marina built by the Corps of Engineers — now the park has two marinas.
“All the things combined created a great year this year,” he said.
Friends of Lake Sakakawea Board members had an annual meeting three weeks ago, and overall, the news was good for the lake area, said Emanuel Stroh, Manning, N.D., a member representing Dunn County.
“The snowpack in the mountains (Montana) comes down the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers and it was really good the last two years and all of the moisture we’ve had in Montana and North and South Dakota helped,” he said. “The water was up and that’s really helped attendance as far as people using campgrounds, boating.”
The lake, which has more shoreline than California, is a huge destination for outdoor enthusiasts, said Sara Otte Coleman, director of the Tourism Division for the North Dakota Department of Commerce.
“You look at the improved infrastructure there, obviously providing the more broad experience helped attract more people to the lake,” she said, adding the department has aggressively marketed the rise in water levels.
Though it was a good year, the Friends group is interested in building on recreational, economic and environmental opportunities and has one main concern — gravel.
“We will be working to get some hard surface in areas where it’s gravel,” Stroh said. “There are a lot of people who don’t want to drive down one, two, three, four miles of gravel with a high-priced motor home or a high-priced boat.”
As winter sets in not all life slows down around Sakakawea. State parks remain open and there’s always fishing.
The lake usually freezes over with 3 to 4 feet of ice, Torgerson said. This creates “Lund’s Landing suburbia,” a congregation of ice-fishing huts.
“The little ice-house community on the lake, they have a great time,” she said.
Weixel doesn’t expect too much of a slowdown, either.
“October, I have a feeling, we’ll have some really good numbers because of the weather,” he said.
The Dickinson (N.D.) Press and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.