I posted a ton of photos from my Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway trip between Valley City and Lisbon, North Dakota last month and I’m still getting messages about the yurt we stayed in on our first night.
Jo and I got a ridiculous kick out of Rockstad’s River Inn and Yurt in Fort Ransom. (We may have actually squealed a little bit when we got the keys…) The address is just listed as “Main Street” and that’s absolutely all you need to know to find it. If you can’t find a 30-foot yurt with a wraparound deck in a town of 77 souls, then you should really consider traveling with a guide.
Fort Ransom is a tiny little town nestled along the banks of the Sheyenne River, right next to Fort Ransom State Park, so it’s beautifully wooded and green and surprisingly hilly for North Dakota. Jo lived in Washington for a few years and the scenery reminded her of the Pacific Northwest — and not just because it poured ridiculous buckets of rain for the majority of our trip.
The yurt was inspired by yurts the owner saw on a hunting trip to Mongolia, but it’s not exactly a traditional dwelling. It’s a bit more rustic than a standard hotel room, but I really don’t think you can say you’re camping — or even glamping — in a place with handmade quilts, a bathtub and cable TV.
There’s also a small kitchenette with a fridge, microwave and coffeemaker that comes stocked with dishes and utensils. This definitely comes in handy in a town that currently only has one dining option. (Thor’s and the Old Mill Grill serves dinner starting around 5 p.m. until around 9 p.m. seven days a week, although the antique shops in the nearby T.J. Walker Historic District serve snacks and coffee on the weekends during the summer season, May through September.)
There’s also a dining room table that gave Jo a vision of a long overdue road trip with friends. We’re thinking canoeing and hiking by day, beer and poker by night. There are four single beds and two double futons so the space sleeps eight by my count, although the website says there’s space for ten. We’re just going to have to bring earplugs, because good Lord, those boys snore.
In summer you can open up the flaps over the windows (the outside is covered with a sort of tarp) and let the air move through the screens. But the rain and unseasonably cold temperatures during our trip meant that was not happening.
Instead, we dried out our clothes and boots (our plan to hike was muddy and short-lived), read a decade-old National Geographic on the night stand (still relevant, in case you were wondering) and made two cups of instant hot cocoa and the local history that the caretaker who lives next door had rescued from a sale at the local library.
I assumed I’d look through them, jot down a few notes and then chill with the new issue of Marie Claire. Wrong. They were fascinating. And Quarter Sections and Wide Horizons by Angela Boleyn was the best.
We actually read passages out loud to each other. It seemed strangely right to be cuddled up on an icy May night with the prairie wind whipping against the walls, hearing stories about the lives of the region’s first white homesteaders, tales of ocean voyages, sod houses, prairie grass fires, the babies, farms and the husbands that didn’t make it and the ones that, against all odds, somehow did. It’s so rare to hear about local history — or history in general — from a female perspective and two volumes written by a female author seemed like a double win.
We woke up the next morning, ready for better weather and fresh coffee on the yurt’s gracious deck. Nope. We woke up to this.
I guess we’re going to have to come back.
Rockstad’s River Inn and Yurt
Fort Ransom, ND
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The #PrairiePeople, #PrairiePlaces project is sponsored in part by a grant from North Dakota Tourism. All opinions are my own — always.