Running is about the best way to learn about fellow North Dakota cities and a recent long run along the Missouri River in Bismarck was splendid. Running in other cities along rivers and through parks is relaxing and enriching.

Most cities in the Upper Midwest are situated along rivers to capitalize on the water or railroad tracks to maximize expedient transportation. Interstate highways followed.

The vehicle is parked by the Bismarck Visitor’s Center to maximize running hills. Not far away is a steep uphill trail to Pioneer Park. There are impressive overlooks of the Missouri River Valley that Native Americans appreciated for centuries and causes one to hesitate to take it all in.

There is considerable car traffic on a busy street down the slope of the “Big Muddy,” which makes an elderly runner really appreciate a pedestrian-like lane. The road would benefit from a separate trail and highlights similar challenges we have in the Twin Towns.

There is lots of river traffic on an 88 degree day. There are fishermen, jet skis, canoeists and leisure boats just floating with the current, all enjoying water-based recreation. It is important to have public access readily available.

Much of the run is under a cottonwood canopy and shade is refreshing on a sun-drenched day. All the young trees are protected with woven wire fencing from deer, rabbits and beaver. A few trees are dead like every urban forestry program goes through.

There a number of Native American art sculptures with a bald eagle theme. Missouri River history is told at a few locations with interpretive signage, something that could be pursued along the Bois de Sioux, Ottertail and Red Rivers, too.

The trails are busy with walkers and bicyclists but not any other runners on a hot day. Runners would have likely jogged early morning or are waiting towards dark when temps cool.

Bismarck does a nice job with its balance of the river, wild woods, recreation facilities, trails, art, native plant species, historical interpretation, benches, play and commercialism. Many interests are satisfied. There is Sertoma Park like we have Chahinkapa Park.

The Lewis, Clark and Sakakawea sculpture just downstream of I94 is impressive for all passer-bys. It is good to combine art and history.

An elder reads a book from his lawn chair along a shoreline. This is often observed at the Kidder Recreation Area rock rapids in town. The sight and sounds of water are meditative.

Some walking is incorporated with the running as a 17-mile long run is scheduled. Serious runners do not quit when tired but instead when the goal is finished. It’s what trains the body when the 26-mile marathon is ultimately run. The body felt really good for the first few miles but heat wears you down and beats you up. Running professionals estimate a 30-second per mile slowdown for every five degrees over 55.

A sign highlights a nature park partnership with Audubon, Outdoor Heritage Fund, energy companies and ND Game-Fish. It mentions planting native species, including fruit trees. It is an idea we should consider with the southside greenway along the Bois de Sioux River.

It is interesting to see nearby invasive species like Russian olive and Canada thistle that disrupt our natural environment. Every city has like challenges.

A dog walker stops to watch a whitetail deer doe and fawn walk quietly in the woods. Riparian wildlife is always present. There are plenty of deer along our river trails, too.

Sloughs near the river are lined with shoreline cattails and patches throughout yet are still covered with algae. Drainage areas get all the runoff from fertilized lawns.

An exhausted runner mostly walks up the hill at the end. It was good to spend some time with the Missouri River, our country’s longest flowing river – 2341 miles. One is blessed by the experience.

Wayne Beyer is the director of Wahpeton Parks and Rec.

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