People may think of the Fargo area as flat and dry, but because the community is built on the bed of the former glacial Lake Agassiz, bodies of water are a significant part of local life. Fargo and Moorhead were established as river towns, and the Red River is still a big part of area identity and culture.
Over the past two decades, much work has been done to embrace the Red River as a natural amenity. Paths on both sides of the waterway give walkers and bikers a look at floral and fauna. Bridges for pedestrians and pedalers give residents a place to cross from state to state and observe from above.
If you want to get up close with the Red, canoe and kayak rentals are available all summer at the Hjemkomst Landing in Moorhead. Tours are available to offer advice for novice oarsmen and women, giving insight to habitats and history along the estuary.
If you’re looking for a bigger body of water, head 45 miles east to Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. There are more than 400 lakes in the area, but Big Detroit is the most popular regional spot for water recreation from swimming and fishing to waterskiing, tubing, scuba diving or just finding a spot on the sandy beach to sun yourself. Bring your own boat or get a rental to cruise around Big Detroit. Better yet, take in the Quake the Lake power boat races and boat show in August.
Want a leisurely day on the water? Head a few miles east and tube down the Otter Tail River.
Even when the lake freezes over, there’s still fun on the water in Detroit Lakes with Polar Fest, which features indoor and outdoor activities that include an ice fishing tournament and a brisk polar plunge.
While the lakes are the big draw, there is plenty to do away from the water. You can hit the links with seven golf courses throughout the area. If you’re more interested in birds than birdies, explore the Pine to Prairie International Birding Trail to spot some of the 275 species.
Another new trail has bikers beating a path to the lakes. The Detroit Mountain Recreation Area recently opened bike trails and features downhill stretches, a banked wall and different terrains and surfaces to ride and hike. The space is a hotspot in the winter with runs for skiers, snowboarders and even snow tubing.
Twenty miles north of Detroit Lakes, Maplelag is another popular year-round activity area. With more than 40 miles of trails, the location is a scenic draw for cross-country skiers in the winter and for cyclists in the summer.
Runners enjoy the Dick Beardsley Marathon in September to set a scenic race in the Detroit Lakes area.
If you’re looking for a slower pace to take in nature, less than 20 miles north and east stands the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, home to gray wolves, trumpeter swans and the golden-winged warbler. Or head about 30 miles east to Smoky Hills State Forest and its 25.9 miles of hiking trails.
Detroit Lakes isn’t just for the active person. The biggest annual attraction is WE Fest in early August. The biggest country and camping event in the nation attracts about 50,000 fans every year to see the likes of Luke Bryan, Zac Brown Band, Lady Antebellum, Tim McGraw, Kid Rock, Eric Church, Carrie Underwood and more.
Tourism is big business in the area, and Detroit Lakes is equipped to handle visitors by offering plenty of shopping and dining options. Tourists will want to get a wearable memento from Lakeshirts or find some northwoods decor at The Red Willow.
Even when you’re not on the lake, you can keep an eye on the action while enjoying a hot meal or a cold beverage at Lakeside Tavern or The Fireside Restaurant. And no trip to the area is complete without a pizza or macho nacho from Zorbaz.
Whether you’re in the area to unwind or to get geared up for some outdoor recreation, the Detroit Lakes area has something for everyone.