Two RV Gypsies: Full-Time RVers
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The two RV Gypsies
took a day trip into
Grand Forks, North Dakota
and East Grand Forks, Minnesota
August 26, 2015

USA map showing loation of North Dakoga USA map showing Grand Forks and East Grand Forks Location of Grand Forks in North Dakota

Grand Forks is the third-largest city in the State of North Dakota (after Fargo and Bismarck). Grand Forks, along with its twin city of East Grand Forks, Minnesota, forms the center of the Grand Forks, ND-MN Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is often called Greater Grand Forks or The Grand Cities. The two RV Gypsies visited both cities.

Located on the western banks of the Red River of the North in a flat region known as the Red River Valley, the city is prone to flooding and was struck by the devastating Red River Flood of 1997. Originally called Les Grandes Fourches by French fur traders, Grand Forks was founded in 1870 by steamboat captain Alexander Griggs and incorporated on February 22, 1881.

The term "forks" refers to the forking of the Red River with the Red Lake River located near downtown Grand Forks. The city has a total area of 20.09 square miles of which, 19.91 square miles is land and 0.18 square miles is water. Since it is in one of the flattest parts of the world, the city has few differences in elevation. There are no lakes in the city limits of Grand Forks, but the meandering Red River and the English Coulee flow through the community and provide some break in the terrain. The Red River Valley is the result of an ancient glacier carving its way south during the last Ice Age. Once the glacier receded, it formed a glacial lake called Lake Agassiz. The ancient beaches can still be seen as rolling hills west of the city.

Welcome to Grand Forks sign welcome to downtown Grand Forks flag

Below: A grand fork in the Grand Forks Visitor Center.

A grand fork grand fork plaque

history bookThe Red River Flood of 1997 was a major flood that occurred in April and May 1997, along the Red River of the North in North Dakota, Minnesota, and Southern Manitoba, Canada. It was the most severe flood of the river since 1826. The flood reached throughout the Red River Valley, affecting the cities of Fargo and Winnipeg, but none so greatly as in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, where floodwaters reached over 3 miles inland, inundating virtually everything in the twin communities. Total damages for the Red River region were US $3.5 Billion. The flood was the result of abundant snowfall and extreme temperatures.

Flooding in Manitoba resulted in over $500 million in damages, although the Red River Floodway, an artificial waterway affectionately known as "Duff's Ditch" saved Winnipeg from flooding. This flood stimulated improvements to the flood protection system.

In Grand Forks, thousands of people prepared for the flood by building sandbag dikes. These dikes were constructed based on a 49-foot estimate of flooding set by the National Weather Service, but the river crested at 54 feet in Grand Forks. Grand Forks evacuated over 50,000 people as a large portion of the city was flooded. A large fire started in Grand Forks, engulfing eleven buildings and sixty apartment units before being extinguished.

Those affected by the flood in the U.S. received donations from across the nation, along with billions in federal aid. City officials and flood-forecasters were criticized for the difference in estimates and actual flood levels. Grand Forks and East Grand Forks built new dikes to prevent damages from future floods and began to rebuild around the river, developing a campground recreation area, park, and shopping districts where homes once stood.

flood monument and Lee Duquette

Below: See how far below the monument the river usually is. As stated above, the river rose 54 feet in 1997 and extended 3 miles inland. The second picture below shows the new flood gate located up by the buildings shown in the first photo below.

Floood Monumnet and the Red River flood gate

Below: Another perspective to show the present river level and how high up the river came.

Lee Duquette and the flood monument the flood monument
sign - Red River of the North

Looking down over the railing
to see the level of the river.

The confluence of the Red
and Red Lake Rivers.

Red River and the railing by the monument Confluence of the Red and Red Lake Rivers

The Red River in Manitoba and the U.S. States of Minnesota and North Dakota has flooded repeatedly through the centuries, endangering lives and property. The river is highly prone to flooding because of its northward flow. As spring approaches, the snow is melted from south to north alongside the river flow. There is also the possibility that the surplus water can hit unmelted ice on the river and back up. The flatness of the terrain and small slope of the river is a significant factor.

Floods occurred in both 1948 and 1950. The 1950 flood reached a high of 30 feet at Winnipeg causing the largest evacuation in Canada's history of 100,000 people and $606 million CAD (1997) of damage, prompting the government of Manitoba to set up flood safety measures.

The first known records of floods along the Red River appeared in the 1770s. Severe floods occurred throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, with one of the most recent major floods occurring in 1979. Homes not damaged in that flood were incorrectly assumed to be safe from a future flood.


Below: a panorama and two other photos showing the river and how far from the river the flood wall was built.

Panorama showing how far river is from the flood wall
The Red River the flood wall as seen from the river bank

Below: Signs along the Red River about the Development of the Red River Valley, the local Communities, and the Region's railways.

sign about the Development of the Red River Valley sign about the local Communities, and the Region's railways.

Below: A sign about the Northern Pacific Railway Bridge and a leftover piling still in the river.

sign about the Northern Pacific Railway Bridge leftover piling in Red River

Below: Downtown Grand Forks' Town Square

Downtown Grand Forks' Town Square Downtown Grand Forks' Town Square

Below: OOPS! Karen Duquette lost the sunglass contest. Mr. Blue Head won.

Karen Duquette and the Big Blue Planter Head Karen Duquette and the Big Blue Planter Head
sculpture in front of an apartment ped detour sign
divider bar

The two RV Gypsies walked across the bridge to East Grand Forks, Minnesota.

welcome to Minnesota sign on bridge welcome to Minnesota sign
welcome to Minnesota flags East Grand Forks sign
wall with outline of Minnesota on it moose statues
Welcome East Grand Forks wall

The only thing the two RV Gypsies did in East Grand Forks was shop at the sporting goods store. Karen Duquette liked the brightly colored kayaks and the faucet in the sink in the wash rooms.

lime green and bright orange canoes washroom faucet on the sink
look below

go back to the North Dakota menu Return to the North Dakota menu to visit the Scandinavian Heritage Center, Minot Riverwalk, International Peace Garden and more.


please continue on to travel adventures of the two RV Gypsies If you have already seen all of the North Dakota sections, please continue on to Manitoba, Canada: Boissevain, Tommy The Turtle, Brandon Riverbank Discovery Center, and Canada's largest pedestrian Bridge in Souris.