World’s Largest Buffalo – a 60-ton Giant in North Dakota

Jamestown, North Dakota.

Travel along the southern edge of our home state and unless you shun Interstates, you’ll find yourself on I-94. Crossing the Red River from Minnesota to North Dakota at Fargo, I-94 travels through Valley City, Jamestown, Bismarck, Dickinson and finally the small town of Beach where in just a few miles, it travels across the Montana border. Many years ago, we were westbound with the family and we noticed the giant buffalo on the southern edge of Jamestown. We pulled off the highway so our children could see the giant concrete sculpture. standing 26 feet (8 m) above the ground and high on a hill, it is an imposing work of art.

Until a couple of weeks ago, we traveled by the statue many times and didn’t stop again. Created in 1959, it wasn’t until 2010 that the sculpture was given a name, “Dakota Thunder”. Created by sculptor Elmer Petersen, the Dakota Thunder Monument became a popular roadside attraction bringing many visitors from across the country off I-94 to spend a few minutes in the shadow of the giant. Of course, where there is an attraction, it generates interest in developing the location to multiply the visitors who might be interested in stopping and maybe spending some cash in the local businesses. Today there is a frontier village and a live herd of bison nearby drawing folks to visit the sculpture.

It wasn’t the best of times to get a photogenic view of the giant bison. Early morning on a bright, sunny day, finds the wrong end of the sculpture bathed in sunlight. The above detail of the bison’s face suffers from much lens flaring due to the strong sunlight just off the left edge of the image. Of course, we were passing through and had business in Bismarck later that morning so we couldn’t wait for a better time to capture the statue.

Looking south, in the background you can see I-94. Between the highway and the giant buffalo, a real buffalo herd lives. Today, they were some distance from the fenced area that keeps them from approaching Dakota Thunder too closely for visitor safety.

We also got a glimpse of a rare white (albino) bison. In 1996, news was made in the herd when an albino buffalo was born. Born at Michigan, North Dakota, the bison known as White Cloud lived a full life among the herd in the 200 acre compound here at Jamestown. In 2007, White Cloud calved another albino given the name Dakota Miracle. In 2016, White Cloud passed away at the age of 20. In 2008, a brown buffalo gave birth to Dakota Legend, another albino bison. Both Dakota Miracle and Dakota Legend can be seen in the compound at Jamestown living with their herd.

Next week we will spend some time and share some images from the Frontier Village and take a moment to share some information about Louis L’Amour, one of Jamestown’s favorite sons.

John Steiner

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