Thoughts From The International Peace Garden

The International Peace Garden is a gorgeous spot on the border between North Dakota and Manitoba, 2,300 acres of lakes, trails and flowers nestled in the Turtle Mountains.

It’s a quiet and compelling place to visit. It’s also an unusual place, a park that’s also a symbolic gesture of peace, cooperation and goodwill between the two nations.

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Eli and I visited on a scorching day in late June, when the smoke from wildfires in Saskatchewan made the light hazy and moody. (The countries were sharing more than just tourists on this particular day and it was bizarre to not really need sunglasses when the sun was high in the sky.)

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We spent most of our time in three places, the lovely sunken garden, in the atrium and in front of the 120-foot Peace Tower at the Peace Chapel, where Eli played in the sprinklers and I sat and read the limestone inscriptions that span the intimate chapel space.

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The chapel is the only building that straddles the Canadian and American border and it was such a soothing place to sit and rest and think.

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I could have sat there all day.

The sunken garden was fantastic, all gurgling water features and big lush flowers. The main fountain was a little green (we arrived on algae removal day, apparently) but still soothing. There are wide paths for strolling and benches, small shelters and picnic tables if you need to sit down and rest.

The atrium was great too.

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I never knew cacti were so photogenic, but I seriously could have taken photos here for hours. But I had a toddler in tow and he was all about running around the paths outside, so I’ll have to come back again in the future.

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It takes about an hour to an hour and a half to walk the loop around the center section that contains the majority of the gardens. This is the part of the park that sits right on the border, so it’s possible to skip back and forth from the U.S. to Canada and back again, which is oddly fun to do.

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You can also drive, walk or bike to campgrounds, picnic spots and several pretty lakes on either side of the border. Just take the south loop to explore the North Dakota side or head north a few feet to get to Canada.

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This lake is technically in Canada.

I couldn’t resist brining Eli to the Canadian side, because when else can you do that without a passport? I even spontaneously taught him the Canadian national anthem. In retrospect, I probably should have taught him his own national anthem first, but “O Canada” is infinitely easier to sing.

Peace-Garden-Picnic-Bench

You don’t need a passport to get in, but you will need to go through customs on your way out of the park, so have an I.D. handy. If you have kids in the car, bring their birth certificate along. I forgot Eli’s at home and that held us up a bit. The fact that he greeted the customs agent with a hearty “Hola, amigo” (did I mention I’m teaching him Spanish?) and kept repeating the first line of “O Canada” probably didn’t help him seem particularly American.

It’s such a beautiful space and if you like being outdoors or if you appreciate beautiful things, you’ll find a lot to think about and explore at the International Peace Garden.

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“The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh

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