A Taste of the Wild West Can Be Found During a Weekend Camping Trip to North Dakota

Dakota Thunder is a 60-ton, 26-foot-tall concrete bison.

With no end in sight to the skyrocketing fuel prices, many RVers might chose to stay closer to home for their family camping adventures this summer.

Depending on where your home base is, RVers traveling from Midwestern states such as Minnesota, Iowa, or South Dakota will find memory-making activities within easy driving distance in North Dakota.

North Dakota might be one of the most underrated states in the Midwest. Sure, their winters can be brutal but during warmer weather travel months, North Dakota offers an amazing number of attractions.

Jamestown offers a Midwest-style taste of the Wild West.

One such destination that should be on your camping bucket list is Jamestown, North Dakota., Known as the “Pride of the Prairie,” Jamestown is located in the southeast corner of the state and can be accessed from Interstate 94, or Highway 281.


Jamestown is located at 

46°54′20″N 98°42′11″W (46.905641, -98.702994)

Here you will find the World’s Largest Buffalo, the National Buffalo Museum, the Writing Trail of Louis L’Amour, the Jamestown Frontier Village, and many RV camping spots among other tourist attractions.

Founded in 1872, Jamestown is a railroad town. The town’s foundation actually began a year early when the Northern Pacific Railroad established a work camp for crews building a bridge over the James River adding another section of track to the new northern transcontinental rail line.

Being a railroad buff, JK found an interesting parallel in that he worked as an excursion train brakeman/conductor in Jamestown, California, the famous home of the Sierra Railroad where numerous Hollywood movies and classic TV shows were filmed, like “Back to The Future” and “Petticoat Junction.”

Examples of vintage railroad cars are on display around the restored Jamestown 1880 Northern Pacific railroad depot at Frontier Village. But there’s more local historic buildings as well in the hilltop town.

Relicts of the 1880 are on display in an old cabin.

Old false front prairie structures were brought in from around North Dakota and are on display here. You can walk through or peer into the buildings to view what it was like to live in a frontier town in the late 1880s.

The old church organ.

There is a bank, post office, church, assays office, one-room schoolhouse, Louis L’Amour’s writing shack, a blacksmith shop, and always creepy, an old dentist’s office! Antique and period artifacts fill the buildings.

During summer months, wild west activities pickup with stagecoach and pony rides, and shoot out reenactments!

JK fits the part of a wild west desperado!

The shops open offering souvenirs, food, and local crafter artwork and jewelry during the peak months. But visitors must be on their best behavior, or they might end up on a “Wanted” poster like JK did (above)!

The Jamestown Frontier Village is open Memorial Day through Mid-September from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm and best of all, admission is free!

Shuffle Off to See the Buffalo.

An easy stroll on the Louis L’Amour trail from the village brings you to the World’s Largest Buffalo monument.

A visitor is dwarfed by the massive bison.

The massive hilltop statue stands out on the Jamestown skyline and can be spotted from I-94 and the surrounding area. The 60-ton, 26-foot-tall bison seems a lot bigger standing underneath. The monument was created by sculptor Elmer Petersen in 1950.

The buffalo, now named Dakota Thunder, quickly became one of North Dakota’s most popular roadside selfie spots. Bring your wide-angle lens if you want to get all of the massive creature in your picture.

As if you needed another reason to break out Netflix and watch Kevin Costner’s “Dances with Wolves” back in the camper, the National Buffalo Museum and a live herd of Buffalo are also located at the Jamestown Frontier Village area.

The National Buffalo Museum tells the story of the North American bison through an introductory film, and interactive and rotating exhibits about the animal’s natural history, cultural significance, and ecological impact.

We did not go into the museum or the museum store during our visit, and unfortunately, we didn’t see any of the bison herd from our parking lot vantage point. Guided pasture tours are available for that safe up-close and personal bison experience.

The museum regular hours are Monday through Saturday 10 am until 5 pm. It is closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas to New Year’s Day. Summer hours are 10 am to 6 pm daily Memorial Day through Labor Day. General admission is $8, children 5-14 years are $6. Seniors 62 and up and active military with ID is $6 and children under 5 are free.

For more information: info@buffalomuseum.com

Now that you have explored Jamestown, it’s time to find your prefect campsite.

  • Jamestown, North Dakota offers many RV and tent camping options. The Jamestown Campground is a former KOA site now operated as a Good Sam campground. It is easily accessible from I-94 via Exit 256. The campground is open March 1 with reservations starting in April (limited amenities dependent on weather). They are fully open on May 1 and run through September 30. October reservations are also available with limited amenities. RV sites are all pull-thru and range from 60 feet long to 85 feet long. They offer full hook-ups that include clean drinking water, sewer, 50amp, 30 amp and limited cable for about $40 per night. Contact them at: jamestowncampground@gmail.com, or call (701) 252-6262.
  • Another place to pull in and stay is the Lakeside Campground located just north of Jamestown on the east side of the Jamestown Reservoir. The campground is operated by the Stutsman County Park Board and offers full hookup sites, a dump station, showers and four no-frills sleeping cabins. The campground also features a marina, fishing docks and boat launches, public beach and the “Little Britches Fishing Pond.” Call for more information: (701)368-1365.
  • If you love to boondock in your camper, try the Parkhurst Campground on the north side of Pipestem Dam. The campground is also operated by the Stutsman County Park Board. They offer primitive camping for RVs and tent campers, on a first come first serve basis with easy access to Pipestem Lake and some of the best trails in the area. The campground also features horse corrals, parking pads specifically designed for horse trailers, and a horse trail to the west of the campground. Contact number for them is: (701) 252-7666.
  • If you and your kids want to experience what life was like for soldiers in the late 1800s reserve a campsite at the Fort Seward Campgrounds. Located at the historic Fort Seward Military Site, you can camp in their furnished tents or in your camper. Get away to the 1870’s and live how the soldiers did. An Interpretive Center and Displays are available to explore during the summer months. Fort Seward Campgrounds are located on 10th Avenue NW just off Highway 281. Call for more information: (701) 251-1875.
  • On the road to the Frontier Village, World’s Largest Buffalo Monument, and the National Buffalo Museum, is the Frontier Fort Campground. The RV and tent camping spot has easy access from I-94 and also is home to the Frontier Fort Bar and Grill and Giftshop. Contact them at: (701) 252-7492

Be sure to call the campgrounds and attractions for the latest updated rates, availability and information.

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