North Woods Paradise: ND’s Land of Trees and Autumn Beauty

Fall has arrived and I wish I could be everywhere at once. Since I can’t, I’m asking friends and fellow writers and photographers to fill us in on their fall adventures.

Here’s a dreamy look at Jack Dura’s latest trip to one of North Dakota’s prettiest (and most overlooked) spots, the Turtle Mountains. You can see more stories like this on his website,

Here’s Jack!
– Alicia

Leaves and grass change with the seasons of summer to autumn along a Lake Metigoshe shoreline. Photo by Jack Dura.

Autumn color is so fleeting in North Dakota. If you don’t time a fall color tour just right, you’re likely to miss out on the bright colors of the state’s rare trees.

The hotspot of autumn color in North Dakota has to be the Turtle Mountains. This small landscape was in full bloom of greens, golds, reds, oranges and browns in mid-September.

Lake Metigoshe is a fine place to start. The popular lake is the largest body of water in North Dakota’s Turtle Mountains which straddle the Can-Am border. The state park was largely deserted except for a few wedding guests staying in campers, but the trees were the main attraction.

The sunset cast an amber glow on Lake Metigoshe, less than half a mile south of the Canadian border. Photo by Jack Dura.

The landscape’s aspen forests stood as still as in a photograph as the golden hour of sunset lit up the leaves. Reflected onto the flat, mirrorlike lakes and ponds, stands of tall trees and their watery twins stood symmetrical along the shaded shorelines.

A beaver paddled around in ovular Lake McDonald, slapping its tail before disappearing underwater. Trios of wood ducks rose and flew through the soft-colored sky.

A beaver swims in Lake McDonald before disappearing with a smack of its tail. Photo by Jack Dura.

Night brought a thin layer of dampness to everything, overtaken in morning by clouds of frost smoke roiling toward the center of Lake Metigoshe, obscuring everything past the reeds out in front of a rusted dock.

The sun shone through the colored trees, hitting the lake as more mist rose up and out. The same happened on hay bales, in cattails and fields of grass; mist rose and rolled into the air before the sun ascended high with an absent wind, bringing back the autumnal reflections of trees on still, dark water.

Frost smoke rolls off Lake Metigoshe to gather in the middle of the lake at sunrise. Photo by Jack Dura.

A pair of Canada geese called to each loudly while flying the south rim of Sand Lake. Three wood ducks flew quickly from the east into the sun from their spot in the shoreline cattails.

A young loon paddled around Pelican Lake, occasionally letting out its famous, haunting call in the early morning light.
Orange and golden trees circled these lakes under a piercingly blue sky without any trace of clouds. State Highway 43 winds just north of the two lakes, skirting around other ponds, marshes and lakes as its travels east-west through the heart of North Dakota’s Turtle Mountains.

Activity was light on another north woods road. Lake Loop Road around Lake Metigoshe saw quiet traffic as most visitors and cabin inhabitants had shut up for the season.

An old couple fished from a dock at Lake Metigoshe State Park. A man flew a powered parachute car over Lake Metigoshe, cutting the now windy noon hour with his whirring motor, his rainbow parachute stark against the sharp blue sky.

To the west, the Turtle Mountain State Forest shook its trees and bushes in the steady winds, towering aspens of light green fading to yellow, gold, brown then gone from their stems.

Strawberry Lake’s blue waters spread between its shorelines as autumn takes hold of its trees. Photo by Jack Dura.

Clouds obscured a sunset that would likely have been as amber and explosive as the night before, but a wisp of golden light sliced through a few blue clouds to cast a glow on a small bay in Lake Metigoshe.

Light rain came in the early morning, giving everything that thinly perceptible layer of dampness again. No mist rose from the lake, but the waters of Lords Lake shown crystal clear as patches of blue sky shot through fragmented clouds that overcast the morning. Pelicans and dabbling ducks paddled about on the water surrounded by cattails.

The morning brought a strong wind rustling the leaves and grass of the Turtle Mountains, changing color every day until every tree will stand bare and the snow settles in.

What about you?
What do you love about the Turtle Mountains and Lake Metigoshe State Park?
What do you love about fall?
What’s your favorite season and why?
Want to contribute your own fall story? Comment below!

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