Bottineau County Highpoint Trip Report

Boundary Butte (2,541 ft)

Date: December 28, 2006
Authors: Betty and Jerry Brekhus

We chose to go to this one in winter; no bugs, no mud. We did not have to deal with ticks. The ponds and bogs and lakes were frozen over. This route is different from previous trip reports.

Driving directions begin at Bottineau, the county seat. At the east edge of town, 0.2 mile east of the Super 8 Motel is the junction of Lake Road and ND State Highway 5. Take Lake Road north for 10.4 miles where you cross Highway 43. Continue north about 2 more miles. T he main road curves right but you turn left, go 0.1 mile and turn left again to head west. Follow this road for 1 mile, going by Lake Francis. At the T, turn right and go 1/4 mile to park at the corner where the road turns west again. When we were there, snow cover was not much, so we were able to park completely off the road with no fear of getting stuck. A reasonably flat area there, clear of trees, had been used before for parking, as evidenced by tracks. The land just northwest of this point is part of the Turtle Mountain State Forest.

We headed into the woods wearing our Sorel boots and in about 30 smoots picked up an old jeep road heading west. I don't know what a smoot is but that is one of the units that Google Earth displayed. If you prefer more familiar units, look for the old jeep road about 60 yards north of the parking spot. The jeep trail heads west for about 300 yards before turning north. We worked our way north following a variety of jeep trail, game trail, and frozen marsh. Finally, with GPS indicating we were getting close to the 49th parallel, we bushwhacked less than a quarter-mile to the international border. We did not encounter any "No Trespassing" signs.

We reached the United States-Canadian border at a point 0.85 mile east of Boundary Butte. No signs, no fence, no markers delineate the border here, just the 20-foot-wide strip clear of trees. This strip, called a vista, is clearly visible for miles east or west. We walked the vista to the top of Boundary Butte, finding the going much easier than through the thick woods. I wondered what questions the Border Patrol would have for us as I noted the snowmobile tracks running east-west in the clear-cut but we saw no one while we there.

The last stretch to the top of the butte was quite steep in the few inches of snow on the ground but we made it without putting on our snowshoes. At the summit, we found an unmanned guard shack, Boundary Monument 699, and a chunk of concrete which I suppose to be the remains of SUMMIT benchmark, described by the National Geodetic Survey (NGS) as about 12 feet north of Boundary Monument 699. NGS described this as the highest point in the Turtle Mountains. When we visited the site, Boundary Monumenet 699 was on the highest remaining ground. See for links to some photos taken at the summit. It appears to me that North Dakota can reasonably claim to share the precise summit of Boundary Butte as it presently exists. The border here is defined by survey, not by natural features. Naturally, in such cases, any summits generally fall on one side or the other.

(However, a similar situation exists with the Bighorn County, Montana high point. It is at the precise summit, as far as I could tell, of unnamed 9257. The border in that case is the Montana-Wyoming state line, surveyed along the 45th parallel. These liners are unlike the usual case of liners that are on a slope where one step into a neighboring county puts you on higher ground.)

So, I list the following distinctions for Boundary Butte:

Our hiking time was 4.5 hours for the round trip. Our parking spot was only 1.4 air miles from the border but our distance on the ground was some considerable unknown distance greater. At times, we were actually getting farther away from our destination but aspen, bur oak, green ash, balsam poplar, paper birch, hazel, red dogwood, chokecherry, and highbush cranberry make hiking on tracks and trails worth adding distance in exchange for easier going. We knew that as long as we made northward progress we would eventually intersect the border. This densely wooded landscape is uncharacteristic of North Dakota, where open prairies and plains are the rule. I enjoyed this North Dakota high point excursion very much and if I go back it will likely be in winter again with no mosquitoes and with ice to make crossing wetlands feasible. Be warned, though, that Bottineau's record low temperature was minus 49° F on February 12, 1936. The high temperature that day was 18 degrees below zero. On the day of our visit the low at Bottineau was 24° F with a high of 33.