North Dakota and South Dakota became part of the USA as a territory when the Louisiana Purchase was completed between France and the US, ( between Napoleon – who needed to fund his army and Jefferson – POTUS #3) for a total of about $15,000,000 (Thats over $573 Billion in today’s money). ND and SD were one territory back then, they therefore share a lot of history, including their admittance to the US as States. Harrison – POTUS #9 – actually had the ND and SD papers shuffled so he would not know which state he signed in first. To this day, it still is a mystery. So in 1889, ND became either the 39th or 40th state admitted into the Union.
By area ND is the 17th biggest state, but by population is ranks 47th most populous (i.e., it’s not vey crowded here). Lewis and Clark came through the state on their epic journey to map a way to the west, encountering their first Grizzly bear here. The State bird is the meadowlark and the State flower is the prairie rose. Milk is the official state beverage, they grow more Sunflowers here than any other state, and the geographical center of ALL of North America is in Rugby, ND.
The access to the highpoint is north of the town of Amidon. We drove from Medora, north of Amidon, and we were lucky to spot a very well placed sign on US 85 indicating the turn to the high point. After turning off the highway onto a dirt road, we drove about 5 miles, passing a car repair yard and a few other small businesses. Then we turned right onto a totally unmarked gravel road and drove about a mile. As you approach a few buildings you will see the parking instructions for White Butte.
We parked just next to the signs, put $20 bucks into the donation box (no one had a $10 bill) and started the 1 mile walk to the trail head (we thought that was kind of funny). White Butte is on private property, so please be courteous by donating $ for your walk, parking as instructed, carrying out your trash and visiting during daylight hours. I had read warnings to stay on the south side of the Electrified fence which was monitored by camera. But it was obvious that the south side is where you should walk on the path.
We had a pleasant day for a hike; the weather was partly sunny and cool. The only sign of life we saw on the first part of the trail were the cattle on the north side of the fence. In about 20 minutes we reached the gate at the original trail head.
This is the gate that the owners ask you close behind you as you hike through. As we continued on our hike, we wound up the side of a hill until we came to the base of the chalky white buttes.
I also read to be ready for weather, snakes, and slippery mud. Our weather was great. It was chilly, so we had no fear of snakes being out until we stumbled past a garter snake, (yes that brought a yelp from one of us girls). Slippery mud was, however, a real obstacle. It wasn’t even raining or wet when we hiked, but stepping on damp white chalk is like stepping on black ice.
The “white” in the buttes results from bentonite clay, and the buttes are just where the glaciers left a few high spots.
I had also read about crossing a barbed wire fence – we did do that. But the fence is so smashed into the ground that you have to be observant to see it! We made it to the top in no time and spent some time celebrating.
We entered our name on the VERY crowded notebook in the ammo box. I had read a suggestion to bring a new notebook up and forgot. There is also a memorial at the top for one of the former land owners, Lawrence Buzalsky.
White Butte sits at 3,506 ft above sea level, it is the 30th highest state summit of the US state highpoints. The trail head to White Butte sits at about 3,100 ft, for an elevation gain of just over 400 ft to the top. The round trip distance is about 4 miles. We started up at 9:10 am and made the summit in 40 minutes, 9:50am. It also took us 40 minutes to get back down, for a total round trip hiking time of 1 hr 20 min. That does not include the 20 minutes we spent at the top. This HP is located on private property and there are no amenities along the trail or at the summit. Bring $, water, bug spray, a hat, clothing for a sudden change in weather, and extra grippy shoes. I highly suggest wearing long pants because of the sharp grasses.
After bagging this high point, we got back in the car for the long drive down to South Dakota.