The Great Northern Route

The first town east of the North Dakota state line, tiny Fisher (pop. 435) doesn’t look like much, but it was once a bustling frontier port, thanks to its location at the navigational headwaters of the Red River of the North. River traffic has all but disappeared, but the local sugar-beet industry pulls in a billion dollars a year, which may explain the town’s prosperous air.

Near Fisher stretches the Malmberg Prairie Preserve, one of the few extant virgin prairies left. Preserved by early settlers and now protected by the Nature Conservancy, these 80 acres of wild prairie roses, blue gentians, and bright yellow sunflowers shine in late summer. Once home to herds of bison, the land here has never been plowed, and it looks all the more special, surrounded as it is by acres and acres of industrial-scale agriculture. To reach the preserve from US-2, take US-75 south to Hwy-9, then turn south onto Hwy-56 and drive for two miles until you see the Nature Conservancy sign.