BISMARCK â€“ Most of North Dakotaâ€™s tourist attractions are open as usual this summer, but flooding in the western part of the state is hitting some destinations hard.
Medora, the stateâ€™s top attraction, faced Little Missouri River flooding this spring, but is now â€œin better shape than anybodyâ€™s ever seen it,â€ said Randy Hatzenbuhler, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.
â€œItâ€™s almost like you brought Ireland and set it on top of the Badlands. Itâ€™s so lush and green,â€ he said.
Bully Pulpit Golf Course opened nine holes this week and continues cleanup on the remaining nine. The open holes offer â€œa real flavorâ€ of the courseâ€™s scenery, Hatzenbuhler said. (Golfers, click the Bully Pulpit link to see which holes are open.)
He said heâ€™s received phone calls from people saying theyâ€™re sorry Medora is closed for the summer. But the town and attractions are ready for visitors, he said.
â€œItâ€™s up and running,â€ Hatzenbuhler said. â€œEvery activity that anybodyâ€™s ever done in Medora, theyâ€™re doing it.â€
Other attractions arenâ€™t so lucky. The Minot zoo is still closed because of Souris River flooding, and the Bismarck zoo and the Lewis and Clark Riverboat in Bismarck remain closed because of Missouri River flooding.
Fort Mandan in Washburn also faces Missouri River flooding problems, said David Borlaug, president of the Lewis & Clark Fort Mandan Foundation. Workers built a 9-foot berm around the visitor center and sandbagged Fort Mandan. Both are expected to become islands.
The Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center along U.S. Highway 83 is high and dry.
â€œHowever, the fort is lost for the season and, who knows, perhaps much of next year as well,â€ Borlaug said.
He hopes tourists still come to the interpretive center and support the site even if they canâ€™t go to Fort Mandan. Borlaug is hoping for the best this summer, but said the flooding will be a financial hit for tourist attractions in the western part of the state.
â€œThe cumulative impact of this is certainly going to be in the millions of dollars,â€ he said.
In Mandan, Fort Abraham Lincoln and its attractions are open, with the exception of the campground, said Executive Director Tracy Potter.
But the Lewis and Clark Riverboat in Bismarck isnâ€™t open, likely resulting in at least a $100,000 loss in revenue, Potter said.
â€œLosing an entire season, itâ€™s devastating,â€ he said. â€œThis is a huge hit to a nonprofit organization.â€
The riverboat had more weddings and charters booked than ever before this year, Potter said. Heâ€™s now looking into alternative options to bring in revenue.
Minot Zoo Director David Merritt also doesnâ€™t know when his attraction will open again. The staff is spread thin taking care of animals distributed to various locations, he said. Most of the animals are within the county, but some are housed at zoos in other states.
â€œOur ability to open hinges really on the river,â€ Merritt said.
North Dakota Tourism Director Sara Otte Coleman said they donâ€™t know yet what assistance there may be for attractions hit hard financially this season.
The state is trying to get information out to the public to encourage them to still travel.
â€œThe bulk of the attractions throughout the state are still opened and ready and receiving lots of visitors on a daily basis,â€ she said. â€œNorth Dakota is not closed. Thereâ€™s a lot to do and see.â€
She advises travelers to plan ahead this summer and look for travel updates at ndtourism.com.