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Camping in Central North Dakota: Chain of Lakes Recreation Area

Camping in Central North Dakota: Chain of Lakes Recreation Area

Camp North Dakota: I’m talking with Walt Fairbanks today. He’s the Natural Resource Specialist at Chain of Lakes Recreation Area in North Dakota. Walt, why don’t you get us started by telling us about how long that area has been a recreation area and how it got started?

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Our Campfire at Chain of Lakes Recreation Area

Walt Fairbanks: The Chain of Lakes area got started in early ’70s, when the McClusky Canal was being developed, and they ran the canal through four large saline wetlands and, at that time, it brought freshwater in and expanded the wetlands. So, somewhere around 1974, people started showing up to camp along the area and either in ’74 or ’75, the Game and Fish stocked fish into these lakes. So, people have been using it for quite a while now.

Camp North Dakota: Okay. Now, what types of camping do you offer there today?

Walt Fairbanks: It’s all primitive. There’s no electricity. There are 55 designated camping areas along this chain of lakes, which is 11 miles long. And each site will accommodate multiple campers. Most of them will allow five or more.

Camp North Dakota: Okay. And what are the most popular activities for campers there?

Walt Fairbanks: There’s a lot of fishing going on, and then people just camping and hanging out. There are fishing piers. There are three boat ramps. Not a lot of other activities than fishing.

Camp North Dakota: Okay. And what are some of the other attractions in and around that area outside of the Chain of Lakes Recreation Area?

Walt Fairbanks: The only other activity that’s in that area during most of the year is there is the North Country Hiking Trail that runs from Lake (Unclear 2:06.1) clear to the east coast of the United States. It doesn’t get used much in North Dakota, but it’s popular in other parts of the nation. Really there isn’t a whole lot of activity other than outside the hunting season.

Camp North Dakota: Okay, sure. Just two more questions for you, Walt. If you were just going to spend one hour at the Chain of Lakes Recreation Area, how would you spend your time there?

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Fishing at Chain of Lakes Recreation Area

Walt Fairbanks: One hour. I guess I would throw a fishing pole in the water and see if I can catch a musky.

Camp North Dakota: Ooh. Is that something people catch there on a regular basis?

Walt Fairbanks: Yeah, most. In fact, several State records have been taking out of there for musky. I think it has the current State record.

Camp North Dakota: Wow.

Walt Fairbanks: They’re not caught very often, but they are big.

Camp North Dakota: Have you caught one before?

Walt Fairbanks: No.

Camp North Dakota: Yeah, I haven’t either. I have spent plenty hours trying it. It’s pretty rare. It’s pretty rare to hook into one.

Walt Fairbanks: Yeah. I was just reading an article here where one, a few years ago, was 33 pounds caught out of there.

Camp North Dakota: Wow. And last question: if you could spend just one night at the Chain of Lakes Recreation Area there in North Dakota, which specific site would you stay at and why?

Walt Fairbanks: They’re all similar. Let’s see. There’s seven vault toilets up there, so I would probably stay somewhere on New Johns. Probably on the south side.

Camp North Dakota: Okay, perfect. Well, thanks for that little tip there and thanks for taking some time out of your day, Walt, to chat with us about Chain of Lakes Recreation Area in North Dakota.

Walt Fairbanks: Okay, thank you.

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