Pulling over the small rise you could see the camping area off to the side and a tall brown building that turns out to be the Visitor and Interpretive Center. The camps are nice, well groomed and surrounded by trees and bushes. A rare site in some areas of North Dakota.
I’m just kidding, about the trees. The camp is nestled at the lower end of Lake Ashtabula. It is adjacent to the Baldhill Dam, that was built in the late 1940’s and completed in 1951 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The dam was built to help with flooding and water conservation with the added benefit of recreation and wildlife refuges. Over the years the area has seen more recreational areas being built due to the increased demand for camping and fishing.
The camp is located north of Valley City, travel north from Valley City along county road 19 and you can’t miss the signs. Getting there is also part of the fun, a very nice view of the railroad bridge that is a great site in the Valley City area can be seen as you pass under it on the way to the camp.
The Highline bridge is one of the longest and highest single track railroad bridges in the nation. It is 3,860 feet long and 162 feet above the Sheyenne River bed.
The Mel Reiman Recreation area has in the past few years seen a makeover as has many of the North Dakota parks and recreation areas. The state has been putting a great deal of funding into the parks system and we get to benefit from that.
The park has camping at 21 sites with 10 of these having electrical hookups. The camp is open from May to September and costs $12-$14 a night. You should reserve your site two days in advance. There are of course facilities such as showers, toilets, shelters and a very nice swimming beach.
At a website where you can reserve the sites for camping they say this about the camp, “The Day Use Area which is located in a close proximity to the campground offers a visitor center with flush toilets, showers, swimming beach, volleyball, horseshoe and playground areas, picnic shelter, concessionaire, fish cleaning station, and a boat ramp and courtesy dock.”
I don’t know why they do this, at websites that talk about these camps for state and local recreation areas they are pretty bland. The area is gorgeous.
The state of North Dakota is for the most part a lot of farm land and there are parts that are pretty flat. Then there are areas around the large lakes such as Lake Ashtabula and Lake Sakakawea that are beautiful. The farm lands turn to trees and sometimes wetlands that are full of wildlife.
And of course there are the areas in the western part of the state, the Badlands, simply fantastic. I camped there a few years ago and am taking a trip again soon. Some of the most gorgeous areas in the northern states.
The state of North Dakota has gone out of it’s way to promote these areas and spend a lot of money to make recreation areas that have a lot of amenities for campers and others just out for a day or a longer stay such as a weekend. There are seven areas with fishing camping or other amenities surrounding the lake that is managed by the corps of engineers.
The camping area is down the hill and a short walk from the recreation area that has the visitor center and beach. The beach is a very nice sandy area with the usual roped off areas to keep boats out and swimmers in. There are showers and change rooms and the concession stand where you purchase snacks and assorted sundries.
I did not visit the Interpretive center when we were there but the camping and other attractions are well worth the stay without anything else. There is a playground and one of the best amenities for these types of places, real flush toilets. You have to go to the visitor center to use them, pit toilets are at the camping sites, but it’s worth the quick walk to use regular toilets if you so desire.
I am and have been an outdoors type person, I taught wilderness survival to boys at a Boy Scout summer camp two summers and know about roughing it. But it is also nice to have the chance to use facilities such as flush toilets and showers, too.
The Army Corp of Engineers maintains 14 separate wildlife areas in the vicinity of the lake, so there is a wide range of wildlife in the area that can be enjoyed on hikes and such. The lake has fishing, boating and of course swimming. Not far from the beach and camping areas is a dock for fishing with a cleaning station with running water. You can chuck your fish parts into the station and grind away, or toss those carp in that you do not catch and release.
The dock is pretty new and the area has a lot of spots that are accessible for fishing from the shore. Since I do not own a boat, this is how we fish and is a main point we look for in places for fishing, lake accessibility. Our kids had a great time fishing, swimming and playing on the playground.
There is also the boat ramp for those who do own a boat and want to use it. The area has some great fishing. Lake Ashtabula is a large lake that is stocked from the Federal Fish Hatchery that is near the recreation area.
The Valley City Federal Fish Hatchery is one of two fish hatcheries in the state that help maintain the lakes of the state. They provide not only fish stocking but management and monitoring of the lakes to promote the health and continued enjoyment of the lakes.
There is a website here that you can reserve the sites for camping and get more information and driving directions:
The Mel Reiman Recreation Area is a great place whether your having a picnic for the afternoon or a weekend camping trip. The area is attractive and there is a lot of outdoor recreational activities for all to enjoy.