It’s been called “Chimney Butte” for more than 200 years, but I’m not sure why; it doesn’t look like a smokestack. Lewis and Clark used it as one of their markers when they trekked the Missouri River a few miles north. You can find it between Mandaree and Keane between Highways 22 and 23 in McKenzie County.
It was our target for the Sunday hike because for one reason, it’s public-access land. We didn’t have much time because the sunshine we’d enjoyed all day disappeared; rain clouds moved in at the same time we parked along the road on the south side of the butte — a well-maintained road.
We’ve been adding to our Beautiful Bakken Facebook page and thought this Sunday photo hike would help add to the collection of images displaying the beauty of the Badlands, the Bakken oil field.
Here’s the address –https://www.facebook.com/beautifulbakken
and our gallery of Beautiful Bakken photos on our website at this address —
We packed only our cameras and something to drink, then crossed the prairie and up the slope toward the base of the rocks. There, we stopped long enough to survey the incoming rain behind us to the south.
Our mission was to photograph a seasonal transition, capturing the change from early spring’s dormant brown to the more lively green. A few hints of spring met us along the slope such as the wildflowers sprouting ahead of the green grass.
Once at the base of the rocks, we followed the grass line around to the opposite side where we could more easily follow a switchback to the top.
At our destination, the top, we could survey the entire region of the heart of the Bakken Oil Field, eastern McKenzie County and western Mountrail County. To the east Chimney Butte’s partner, Table Butte invited us to hike and climb to the top, but we declined. It’s private property and we thought we’d first get the rancher’s permission to climb Table Butte.
While at the top, we could see where we’d started and there, a mile or so away, was what looked like dogs running across the region. I used my telephoto (as low-power as it is) to try to get a better glimpse. It wasn’t dogs, it was a pair of colts. I zoomed in on one when it ran back to its mother at water’s edge.
After resting a bit, we hiked back down the easy side. It would have been faster to go down the rock side, but that would mean a jump of 70 or 80 feet.
At the bottom, we hiked back across the grassland base. Over the hill, a different sign of spring watched us — a mare and her colt. This was not the same ones we had watched when we were up on top.
We stopped to see if the white mare and black cold would get closer. We were between them and the water — their apparent goal. Mom protected her babe, so they skirted around us. We stopped, watched and photographed their patient easy stroll past us. They disappeared over the hill.
Oh, and those first two colts we spotted? They had moved on, but not far. We looked around for them, but they were safely out of sight. We got back in to our pickup and drove around Chimney Butte to the east side. There they were! The mares and their colts didn’t mind us driving by. We stopped long enough to grab a shot or two of spring’s new life.
We’d met our goal. We’d captured signs of spring in the beautiful Bakken region of North Dakota where nature underground is yielding a harvest of plenty and where nature above the ground displays the beauty we’ve come to see.