Best Places To Birdwatch in North Dakota – Birding Destinations & Clubs

December 17, 2021 // 22 minute read

Birding Locations » US » Birding In North Dakota

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If you live in North Dakota, you are absolutely in luck because in the United States of America, this state in particular is one of the hottest birding destinations throughout the country. It’s also one of the most underrated locations, which means you get to enjoy the beauty and splendor without having to worry about huge crowds and lots of people getting in your way if that’s something that you prefer.

The beautiful thing about birding in North Dakota is that there are so many different types of refuges, parks, and designated birding locations that it’s hard to keep track of them all. It’s very easy to travel around the state, and like I mentioned earlier, there is a definite lack of crowds which makes this a wonderful birding hot spot. It’s also filled with wetlands, grasslands, and many different types of birds.

Some of my favorite birding hotspots in the state include Sheyenne National Grassland and Theodore Roosevelt State Park. I hope you’ll take some time out of your busy life to visit this wonderful state and check out some of the amazing birding destinations. And if you already live here, you know how great the birding opportunities really are.

Are you on the hunt for some other important resources about popular birding locations surrounding the Roughrider State? We’ve compiled lots of information about the best birding hotspots and wonderful bird watching clubs in many neighboring states. Consider visiting the best birdwatching locations in Minnesota, Montana, and South Dakota in the near future.

Bird Watching Destinations in North Dakota: Free Destinations

Right now, it’s definitely important for North Dakota birdwatchers to discover some of the best places to go that they can visit for free when they want to take a birding holiday with family members and friends. You’d be surprised to learn just how many wonderful locations there really are that do not require you to spend any of your hard-earned money. You can step into the grasslands, forest, marshlands, and other beautiful habitats and see your favorite birds as you enjoy the free hiking trails, picnic areas, and biking along the way.

Continue reading to discover the top free birding locations in North Dakota shared below.

White Horse Hill National Game Preserve – No Admission Fee

The best thing about visiting White Horse Hill National Game Preserve is that it’s located on the North Shore of Devils Lake, which can be found in Benson County. It’s a large preserve that is made up of a full 1674 acres of land that consists of forested hills and other beautiful habitats. And the other exciting thing is that many different types of wildlife can be discovered in the area including prairie dogs, elk, bison, and migratory birds as well.

Location:

2107 Park Drive
St. Michael, ND 58370

Phone: 701-766-4272

GPS: 47.9858° N, 98.9788° W

Hours Of Operation:

The park is open each day from 8 AM until sunset.

Visitor Center Hours:

  • From June through August, the Visitor Center hours are 12 PM to 4 PM every day but Tuesday and federal holidays.
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Black-and-White Warbler
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • American White Pelican
  • Eastern Towhee
  • Double-Crested Cormorant
  • Sharp-Tailed Grouse
  • Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
  • Clay-Colored Sparrow
  • Yellow-Throated Vireo
  • Wood Duck

Hiking Trails:

As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of beautiful land to traverse along as you spend time in White Horse Hill National Game Preserve. This is a good thing because there is plenty of space for you to roam around and enjoy the fresh air, the sunshine, and the beautiful wildlife and natural habitat.

Unfortunately, I actually was only capable of discovering the name of one trail in the area, although there is plenty of space for you to walk around and view amazing birds in their natural location. So, don’t worry because even though there is only one hiking trail, there is so much for you to do and see in this location.

The trail name and all of the other important information include:

  • White Horse Loop – the good thing about this trail is that it’s really easy to navigate, it’s well maintained, and they’ve done an amazing job taking care of it. It’s also relatively short because the total length of the trail is only 2 miles from one end to the other, so it’s easy to walk across. In fact, it should only take a person walking at an average pace roughly 55 minutes to complete the trail, which is great because it’s less than an hour.

Garrison Dam – Free Admission

As a bird watching enthusiast, I can tell you that you’re truly going to appreciate visiting Garrison Dam, because it’s really one of the best and little-known birding hotspots in the Lake Sakakawea region in North Dakota. The dam is a wonderful place to visit if you like to see rare bird species and gulls, because it attracts many of them during the winter.

Location:

Garrison, ND 58540

Phone: 701-654-7411

GPS: 47.4950° N, 101.4141° W

Hours Of Operation:

Garrison Dam is open seven days a week to the public from dusk until dawn.

The US Army Corps of Engineers Garrison Project team leaders can be reached on Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 4 PM. You can get in touch with them by calling 701-654-7411.

  • Caspian Tern
  • Bald Eagle
  • American White Pelican
  • Forster’s Tern
  • Canada Goose
  • Common Tern
  • Ring-Billed Gull
  • Herring Gull
  • Common Loon
  • American Bittern
  • Ring-Neck Pheasant
  • Western Bluebird

Hiking Trails:

Similar to the first birding location that I mentioned above, this little-known birdwatching hotspot is also a great place to go if you want to get some exercise while you enjoy the open plains and just like the other location, it’s more of a wide-open space and it doesn’t necessarily have a whole lot of hiking trails that I can tell you about below. But there is one good thing because I did discover the name and other important details about one hiking trail in particular, which I will share with you now.

The name and important details about the one hiking trail that I found include:

  • Wetlands Observation Trail – my favorite thing about this hiking trail is that it’s easy to navigate, the paths are clear, and they really do a great job of taking care of this trail at all times. So, you’ll never have to worry about losing your way or walking along rocky terrain because everything is crystal-clear and in wonderful shape. The trail is relatively short because it’s only 1.5 miles long, so a person walking at an average speed should have no trouble finishing the entire path from beginning to end in roughly 40 minutes.

Sheyenne National Grassland – Free Park Admission

One of my favorite things about Sheyenne National Grassland is its location. You can find this beautiful spot in southeastern South Dakota and it’s just 35 miles to the southwest of Fargo, which makes it a wonderful birding hot spot for North Dakota residents to visit whenever they feel like traveling short while outside of their local area. Even better, this wonderful location consists of 70,000 acres of rolling terrain, which makes this public and private land a great place to go to see all types of birds. In fact, it’s the home to one of the largest populations of Greater Prairie-Chicken throughout North Dakota.

Location:

Main Street
McLeod, MD 58057

Phone: 701-989-7300

GPS: 46.3932° N, 97.2998° W

Hours Of Operation:

The Sheyenne National Grassland is managed by the US Forest Rangers in North Dakota. The land itself is open 24 hours a day. Visitors are even allowed to spend the day on holidays.

Sheyenne Ranger District
1601 Main St.
Lisbon, ND 58054

Phone: 701-404-8950

  • Grasshopper Sparrow
  • Upland Sandpiper
  • Black Billed Cuckoo
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Rose Breasted Grosbeak
  • Marbled Godwit
  • Bobolink
  • Greater Prairie Chicken
  • Yellow Throated Vireo
  • American Woodcock
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Sharp-Tailed Grouse

Hiking Trails:

Thankfully, I have an opportunity to fill you in on a little bit more information about local hiking trails in this gigantic 70,000-acre birding wonderland. In fact, interspersed throughout the area, I discovered 4 wonderful hiking trails that I wanted to tell you about today, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do in a moment.

My overall favorite hiking trails that I discovered in Sheyenne national grassland including their names and other pertinent info include:

  • North Country Trail: Sheyenne National Grassland – this first trail is definitely on the more difficult side, but I wouldn’t consider it hard. Ultimately, I have to say that it is moderately difficult at best, although it’s a very long trail from beginning to end. In fact, the total length of the trail is 15.8 miles, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at my friends. In fact, if you were to attempt to walk the whole trail from the beginning to the end, it would take an average person 6 ½ hours to complete.
  • Oak Leaf, N Country National Scenic Trail Loop – this trail is also moderately difficult, but it’s my pleasure to say that it’s a heck of a lot shorter than the previous trail discussed above. In fact, this trail is only 4 miles long, which is certainly a challenge for those who do not walk or hike regularly. But if you do have the stamina to attempt the entire trail, it should take a person walking at an average speed roughly one hour and 40 minutes to complete the trail from beginning to end.
  • Hankinson Hills Trail – this next trail is definitely longer than the last because it is almost twice its size. But the one good thing that I can tell you is this trail is easy to navigate and easy to walk along because the people that maintain the trail have done an excellent job of keeping it clean and clear and free of rocks and debris. The total length of the trail is 7.8 miles long, which is definitely a challenge for many people. But if you are a regular hiker walking at an average pace, you can finish the whole thing in three hours and 25 minutes.
  • North Country Trail: Jorgons Hollow Campground to 61st St. SE – last but certainly not least, this is another doozy of the trail that I get to tell you about whether you like it or not my friends. This trail is moderately difficult because it does have its obstacles and occasional challenges along the way. It’s also really long because the total distance of the trail from one end to the other is 11.4 miles, which is quite the challenge I might say. But, if you are willing to give it a go, you can walk at an average pace and complete this trail in four hours and 55 minutes.

Icelandic State Park – Free Admission, Paid Parking

One of my favorite things about Icelandic State Park is that it’s located right in the heart of the northeastern part of North Dakota, so it’s a great birding location and wildlife watching hotspots for people living in this area. You can also take a trip and visit if you live further away and another part of North Dakota or a different state entirely if you’re looking to go on a birding adventure with family members and friends. Otherwise, this is a great bird watching location that has several nests, moist forests, lots of elm trees, and plenty of birding opportunities along the prairie.

Location:

13571 ND-5
Cavalier, ND 58220

Phone: 701-265-4561

GPS: 48.7771° N, 97.7513° W

Hours Of Operation:

The state Park allows hunting, fishing, camping, and more and the grounds are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and it even remains open on certain federal and national holidays.

The office, on the other hand, has very specific hours that include:

  • Daily – 9 AM to 5 PM
  • Wild Turkey
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Purple Finch
  • Great Crested Flycatcher
  • Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
  • Ruffed Grouse
  • Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
  • Scarlet Tanager
  • Northern Waterthrush
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
  • Black-and-White Warbler

Parking Fees:

  • Daily vehicle entrance fee – $7
  • Annual single vehicle entrance permit – $35
  • Annual family entrance permit – $55

You can purchase an annual parking permit online here or purchase through their call center by dialing 800-807-4723.

Hiking Trails:

Like many of the state parks and NWRs is located throughout North Dakota, there is plenty of land to walk across but they do not have many trails with actual names, distance information, and other valuable data that people would find handy and useful. But in this particular case, even though I didn’t come up with too much info, I did find the name of one very important hiking trail that I have the privilege and opportunity to tell you about right now.

The name and other important information about the one hiking trail that we discovered in this region includes:

  • Icelandic State Park Loop – this particular hiking trail is moderately difficult, which means there are some obstacles in your path, the trail isn’t 100% clear at every turn, and it’s slightly difficult but not incredibly impossible to walk across. It’s also a longer trail coming in at 5.2 miles in total distance, which can be difficult for some but not for everyone. If you can walk at an average pace, you should have no trouble completing this trail in two hours and 15 minutes from beginning to end.

Kellys Slough National Wildlife Refuge – Free Admission

The thing that I find so appealing about this NWR is that it’s located in Grand Forks, ND and it’s truly a small yet wonderful wildlife refuge. In fact, there are only 3 walking trails in the entire area and they are very short and none of them have a name or any mileage or distance to speak of, because they are so small. Nonetheless, there are many wonderful birds and other wildlife species that you can enjoy and appreciate the next time you come and pay a visit to this gorgeous birding hot spot.

Location:

2098 20th Ave. NE #2000
Grand Forks, ND 58203

Phone: 701-662-8611

GPS: 47.97248°N 97.27758°W

Hours Of Operation:

Like many other national wildlife refuges, this location is open to the public every day. It’s stated that every visitor should enter between one hour before dawn and leave one hour after dusk.

  • Least Flycatcher
  • Greater Prairie-Chicken
  • Hooded Merganser
  • American Avocet
  • Eared Grebe
  • Marbled Godwit
  • Sharp-Tailed Grouse
  • Nelson’s Sparrow
  • American White Pelican
  • Franklin’s Gull
  • Willow Flycatcher
  • Bald Eagle

Hiking Trails:

According to their website, Kelly Slough National Wildlife Refuge is an excellent place to go for wildlife watching and bird watching opportunities. There are many breeding waterbirds and migratory birds located in the area. There are also plenty of opportunities to go hiking to see all different kinds of birds, docs, and other wildlife. 

Unfortunately, none of these trails actually happen to have names and other pertinent information that I can share with you today. So, if you do decide to visit this location, just know that there are plentiful opportunities to get your exercise out in nature by walking around the NWR along many unnamed hiking trails.

Bird Watching Destinations in North Dakota: Paid Destinations

Theodore Roosevelt National Park – Paid Admission to the Park

I can say with 100% certainty that I absolutely adore the beautiful and historic Theodore Roosevelt National Park and I have a sneaking suspicion that if you love birdwatching and wildlife habitats as well, you’ll absolutely be thrilled with this beautiful birding location as well. It’s one of the most rewarding areas because it not only has a wide range of birds for you to enjoy and appreciate, it also has other wildlife in plentiful supply including pronghorns, elk, and bison.

Location:

315 Second Ave.
Medora, ND 58645

Mailing Address:
PO Box 7
Medora, ND 58645

Phone: 701-623-4466

GPS: 46.9790° N, 103.5387° W

Hours Of Operation:

The park itself is open every day from one hour prior to Dawn and it closes one hour after dusk is reached. The visitor center also has very specific hours. They are:

Visitor Center Hours:

  • Open six days a week from 9 AM to 5 PM
  • Closed on Tuesdays
  • Closed on federal holidays: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Washington’s Birthday, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day
  • Black-Billed Magpie
  • Golden Eagle
  • Prairie Falcon
  • Lazuli Bunting
  • Sprague’s Pipit
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • Sharp-Tailed Grouse
  • Orchard Oriole
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Rock Wren
  • Burrowing Owl
  • Northern Harrier

Entrance Fees:

  • Vehicle entrance fee – $30
  • Motorcycle entrance fee – $25
  • Non-motorized individual entrance fee – $15
  • Commercial vehicle 1-6 passenger capacity – $25
  • Commercial vehicle 7-15 passenger capacity – $50
  • Commercial vehicle 16-25 passenger capacity – $60
  • Commercial vehicle 25+ passenger capacity – $150

Hiking Trails:

Thankfully, I have the distinct pleasure of telling you that this location has multiple hiking trails for birdwatchers to take advantage of in any capacity whatsoever. You can walk along the entire trail, which in one case will have you walking for more than 10 miles. Or you can walk part of the trail, three quarters of the trail, one quarter of the trail, or just a short stretch of one of these three amazing trails if that’s what you prefer. Just know that these hiking hotspots are perfect for any and all individuals looking to experience bird watching in the wild like never before.

I personally discovered three amazing hiking trails that I’d like to tell you more about in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The trail names and other important information include:

  • Mike Auney Trail – the interesting thing about this trail is that it’s moderately difficult, which might scare some people but it shouldn’t turn you off at all. The trail isn’t perfectly clear and it isn’t perfectly manicured but it is easy enough to walk along. The bigger challenge is that it’s 5.9 miles long, which might be too much for some of you to handle. But no one is saying you have to walk along the whole trail, so you can turn back at any time if you prefer. But if you were to attempt the entire thing, you’d have to walk for two hours and 55 minutes at an average pace just to complete it.
  • Petrified Forest Loop Trail – this moderately difficult hiking trail is even more challenging than the first and it’s almost twice as long, but it falls a little bit short as you are about to see. The total length of this uneven and moderately difficult to navigate hiking pass is 10.6 miles long, which is certainly a challenging stretch by any means even for those who like to hike often and every day. If you are up to the task and you’d like to attempt this challenge, you’ll have to walk for four hours and 55 minutes to complete the whole trail to go from one and until the other.
  • Prairie Dog Trail – the last trail that I’d like to mention today is actually a very easy trail, so you will not have a difficult time navigating this well-maintained terrain. The trail is 1.9 miles long from beginning to end, which would take the average person around 50 minutes to finish.

North Dakota Birdwatching Clubs

Anyone and everyone living in North Dakota will absolutely adore the wonderful birding communities and opportunities to connect with other like-minded people in this incredible state. The local chapters of the National Audubon Society and other bird watching clubs have effectively made North Dakota one of the best places for birdwatching, environmentalism, birding events, and other fun filled things like maintaining habitants and promoting bird watching field trips.

After spending time researching this topic, I discovered a wonderful bird watching club and an amazing chapter of the NAS that I’d like to tell you about right now. If you become a member of one or both of these groups, you’ll have a chance to connect with like-minded people for group meetings, bird walks, field trips, environmentalism, and so much more.

It’s my pleasure to recommend joining either of these organizations because it’s a great way to meet other birders and like-minded people in the Roughrider State. Learn about these organizations in greater detail below.

North Dakota Birding Society

This exciting birdwatching club and birding organization is loaded with members looking to have a fun filled and wonderful birding experience just like you. And, because it’s part of a club, they are looking to repeatedly have this experience over and over again with a group of like-minded peers.

At North Dakota Birding Society, they are specifically focused on 3 key areas that they want all of their potential members to know about. Those areas include:

  • Intentionally promoting the study of North Dakota birds
  • The intentional stimulation of the public to get them interested in birds
  • Deliberately fostering natural habitats to preserve all birdlife

So, if you ever wanted to connect with other like-minded birders in the Minot, ND area, then this exciting birdwatching club is going to be right up your alley.

Contact Info:
Ron Martin
2708 Academy Rd.
Minot, ND 58703

Past and Future Events:

At the time of this writing, the birdwatching club doesn’t appear to have any events scheduled for the foreseeable future. This is likely due to the coronavirus pandemic that is still rearing its ugly head throughout the entire world in 2021. More than likely, as soon as the pandemic is further under control, the birdwatching club will begin hosting regular weekly bird walks and monthly meetings in person. 

Please check the upcoming events page regularly on their website to find out when their live events will begin taking place once again.

Membership Fees:

They made it very easy to join the North Dakota Birding Society. You have to print a page from their website and simply fill out the form and mail it into the following address that I’ll share below. The check should be made payable to ND Birding Society. I’ll also tell you the membership levels and costs below so you know how much to fill your check out for.

Mail your application to the following address:

Ron Martin
2708 Academy Rd.
Minot, ND 58703

Membership Amounts:

  • Regular yearly membership – $8
  • Contributing yearly membership – $20
  • Sustaining yearly membership – $50
  • Lifetime membership – $250

Fargo-Moorhead Audubon Chapter

This chapter of the National Audubon Society is all about bringing like-minded people together to connect and experience bird watching and other various activities as a group. Each month, the chapter will meet up at Moorhead Public Library on Thursday evenings. These meetings take place between October through April and there will be a featured speaker, an agenda, and more. They even go on regular field trips during the summer months to regional birding destinations and local offerings in North Dakota, Minnesota, and South Dakota.

Address:
3002 Fiechtner Drive S, Suite A
Fargo, ND 58103

Phone: 701-298-3373

Past and Future Events:

  • Chapter Meeting – December 2, 2021 at 6:30 PM. The group met up at the Moorhead Public Library to discuss the upcoming Christmas bird count held every year by the National Audubon Society. Like all good members of the NAS, this chapter intended to get involved with the bird count to do their part to keep track of the amazing birds located in their region. It was a productive meeting and very beneficial to the group.
  • Chapter Meeting – January 6, 2022 at 6:30 PM. Like all other chapter meetings, this event is also being held in the Moorhead Public Library. The group hasn’t set a specific agenda for the meeting just yet, but you can check with their webpage here to see what the agenda is once they officially post it in the near future.

Membership Fees:

To become a member of the Fargo-Moorhead Audubon Chapter, you can get started the quickest and easiest way by going directly to their website and filling out the online form found here. Once completed, make your payment online made payable to the National Audubon Society.

New members can pay as little as $15-$20 per year, but they also provide opportunities to contribute even greater sums of money including $100 per month, $250 per month, $500 per month, or more.

Please follow the on-screen instructions to complete your membership application and online payment. It really is this simple to join the group.

Final Thoughts On Birding In North Dakota

We hope you enjoyed this article and get to take advantage of some or all of these bird watching locations & resources. And, if you think we need to add something to this page, please let us know! We want to ensure our readers have the best birding info on this site!

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