Discover the Untamed Beauty: 16 Captivating Wildlife Viewing Spots from a Paddle Board in North Dakota!


North Dakota, a treasure trove of stunning landscapes and rich biodiversity, beckons wildlife enthusiasts to explore its untamed beauty. For an exhilarating and immersive experience, paddleboarding offers a unique vantage point to witness the diverse flora and fauna that call this state home. Picture yourself gliding across tranquil waters, surrounded by breathtaking scenery, as you marvel at the array of wildlife on shore, in the water, and in the air. In this article, we will embark on an extensive journey to 16 exceptional locations that promise unforgettable encounters with nature's wonders. Let us delve into each location's captivating description, painting vivid pictures in the minds of our readers.

group on paddle boards in south dakota
  1. Theodore Roosevelt National Park:

Nestled amidst the rugged Badlands, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a sanctuary of natural beauty and abundant wildlife. As you embark on a paddle boarding adventure along the Little Missouri River, be prepared to witness the awe-inspiring sight of majestic bison grazing along the riverbanks. Amongst the lush vegetation, keep a keen eye out for the graceful movements of white-tailed deer as they navigate their way through the landscape. Above you, prairie falcons soar with impressive agility, while golden eagles scan the vast expanse below, creating an atmosphere of untamed wilderness.

Best Time to Visit: Late spring to early fall.

  1. Lake Sakakawea

Enter the realm of tranquility as you paddle along the serene waters of Lake Sakakawea, a sprawling reservoir on the mighty Missouri River. Glide through its calm surface and witness the captivating dance of American white pelicans as they skim gracefully over the water. Look skyward to spot bald eagles perched regally atop cottonwood trees, their keen eyes surveying the aquatic realm beneath. Don't be surprised if you catch a glimpse of a playful river otter, darting in and out of the water with joyous abandon.

Best Time to Visit: Spring and early summer.

  1. Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site:

Step back in time at the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, where history intertwines with natural splendor. As you paddle along the meandering Knife River, the rustling of wild turkeys in the underbrush may catch your attention. On the riverbanks, mule deer graze peacefully, their elegant presence adding to the serene atmosphere. Witness the impressive hunting skills of ospreys as they swoop down to snatch fish from the glistening waters, a sight that reflects the intricate balance of nature.

Best Time to Visit: Late spring to early fall.

  1. Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge:

Immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge, a haven for migratory birds and serene wetlands. Launch your paddleboard onto the tranquil waters and prepare to be mesmerized by the enchanting presence of white pelicans, sandhill cranes, and great blue herons. As you navigate through the pristine wetlands, the air becomes alive with the melodious songs of warblers and sparrows, offering a symphony of nature's finest.

Best Time to Visit: Spring and fall.

  1. Lake Metigoshe:

Experience a hidden gem on the U.S.-Canada border as you explore the pristine waters of Lake Metigoshe. Drift along its crystal-clear surface and witness the graceful movements of moose foraging along the shoreline, their majestic presence leaving you in awe. Delight in the vibrant colors of wood ducks and the haunting calls of common loons as they glide effortlessly beside your paddleboard. In the surrounding woodlands, keep an eye out for white-tailed deer and red foxes, adding to the tapestry of North Dakota's wildlife.

Best Time to Visit: Late spring to early fall.

  1. Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge:

Prepare to be captivated by the mesmerizing spectacle at Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge. As you paddle across the calm waters of Chase Lake, you will witness a breathtaking gathering of American white pelicans, converging for their annual breeding ritual. The air fills with their cacophonous calls, and the sight of thousands taking flight in unison creates a visual symphony that will leave you in awe, forever etched in your memory. The secret to this area is to check with the rangers, as the refuge it's self is off limits although adjoining waterways are open and they have great viewing as well as allowing observation of the refuge's breeding area (the closed section). Depending on the season will determine what portions are open so be sure to check with them. For bird watching this is one of the best places to view wildlife from a sup in North Dakota.

Best Time to Visit: Late spring to early summer.

  1. Lake Tschida:

Embark on a journey of discovery as you paddle along the tranquil shores of Lake Tschida. Against a backdrop of picturesque grassy meadows, keep a watchful eye for the graceful mule deer as they traverse the landscape, embodying the true essence of North Dakota's wild beauty. Above, red-tailed hawks soar effortlessly, their keen eyes ever vigilant. Take a moment to observe western painted turtles basking lazily on logs, reminding us of the tranquility that nature provides.

Best Time to Visit: Spring and early summer.

  1. Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge:

For an immersive wildlife experience, navigate your paddleboard through the vast wetlands of Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge. As you explore the refuge's expansive waterways, you'll encounter a plethora of waterfowl species. Canvasbacks, teal, and snow geese grace the scene, their vibrant plumage adding splashes of color to the tranquil surroundings. Amidst the cattails, marsh wrens and yellow-headed blackbirds serenade you with their melodious tunes, creating a harmonious symphony of nature.

Best Time to Visit: Paddlecraft and small boats may be used from May 1 through September 30 only on Long Lake Creek. Boat ramps are not available, so boat access is “lift in, lift out.”

  1. Audubon National Wildlife Refuge:

Journey to the Audubon National Wildlife Refuge, nestled within the prairie pothole region, and prepare to be enchanted by its abundant birdlife. Launch your paddleboard onto Lake Audubon and witness the mesmerizing sight of pintails, mallards, and grebes as they gracefully navigate the water's surface. Look skyward and marvel at the elegance of white pelicans, their soaring flight leaving a lasting impression on your senses.

Best Time to Visit: Spring and fall. May be restricted to Lake Audubon

  1. Pembina Gorge State Recreation Area:

Embark on a paddle boarding adventure along the Pembina River, nestled within the Pembina Gorge State Recreation Area, and immerse yourself in the wonders of North Dakota's wildlife. Along the riverbanks, you may spot the playful antics of river otters, as they frolic and dive in the pristine waters. Above, the red-tailed hawks and bald eagles soar, their wingspan a testament to their power and grace. Amidst the lush meadows of the river valley, white-tailed deer graze serenely, completing the picturesque scene.

Best Time to Visit: Late spring to early fall.

  1. Lake Oahe:

Venture to Lake Oahe, one of North Dakota's largest reservoirs, and be captivated by its natural splendor. As you launch your paddleboard onto its expansive waters, prepare to witness the regal beauty of American bald eagles, which nest along the shoreline. Pronghorn antelope may roam the adjacent grasslands, offering a unique sight as you paddle along the lake's edges, immersed in the breathtaking scenery.

Best Time to Visit: Spring and early summer.

  1. Little Missouri State Park:

In the heart of the picturesque Badlands lies Little Missouri State Park, a true haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Paddle along the meandering Little Missouri River and witness the industrious nature of beavers as they construct their intricate lodges. Traverse the rugged cliffs and catch sight of bighorn sheep navigating their rocky habitat, a testament to their adaptability. Amidst the towering ponderosa pines, colorful western tanagers flit with elegance, completing the immersive experience.

Best Time to Visit: Late spring to early fall.

  1. Lake Ashtabula:

Lake Ashtabula, a reservoir on the Sheyenne River, unveils its scenic wonders to those who venture onto its calm waters. As you paddle along its pristine surface, witness the captivating sight of American white pelicans diving with precision to catch fish, creating ripples that dance in the sunlight. Above, ospreys nest atop towering power line poles, offering a front-row seat to their exceptional fishing skills, a true spectacle of nature.

Best Time to Visit: Spring and early summer.

  1. J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge:

Indulge in a paddleboarding excursion at the J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge, an oasis of wetlands and diverse birdlife. As you launch your paddleboard onto the refuge's tranquil waters, an abundance of waterfowl species awaits your discovery. Pintails, wigeons, and canvasbacks create a kaleidoscope of color against the serene backdrop. Along the shoreline, sandpipers and killdeer dart with agility, while muskrats gracefully navigate the water, adding to the refuge's tapestry of wildlife.

Best Time to Visit: Spring and fall.

  1. Devils Lake:

Prepare to be spellbound by the breathtaking majesty of Devils Lake, North Dakota's largest natural lake. Embark on a paddleboarding journey across its expansive waters and witness the incredible sight of white pelicans diving in unison, their synchronized movements a testament to their precision and skill. Common terns grace the scene, skimming the water's surface with effortless grace. Meanwhile, on the shoreline, white-tailed deer may make an appearance, adding a touch of serenity to this captivating tableau.

Best Time to Visit: Late spring to early fall.

  1. Lake Darling:

    Find solace in the scenic beauty of Lake Darling, nestled within the Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge. Launch your paddleboard onto its peaceful waters and witness the elegance of white-tailed deer as they browse leisurely on the lush vegetation. Above, bald eagles and red-tailed hawks soar with effortless grace, their flight patterns mirroring the tranquility of the surroundings. Eastern bluebirds flit between tree branches, their vibrant colors providing a delightful contrast against the natural landscape.

Best Time to Visit: Spring and early summer.


North Dakota beckons with its untamed landscapes and thriving wildlife, inviting adventurers to explore its captivating beauty. Paddleboarding offers an unparalleled opportunity to immerse oneself in nature, providing a unique perspective and up-close encounters with a diverse array of wildlife. From the breathtaking presence of bison in Theodore Roosevelt National Park to the mesmerizing displays of American white pelicans at Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge, each of these 20 locations showcases the unparalleled beauty of North Dakota's wildlife. So, embrace the tranquility, grab your paddleboard, and embark on a remarkable journey through North Dakota's untamed wilderness—a journey that promises to leave you with lasting memories of awe and wonder.

Tips, Tricks, and Fun Articles await.

Here are a few quick links to help you keep going, don't forget to check our blog out for more tips and expert advice. For wildlife tips check out our blog and this article on Beginners Guide To Bird Watching. And don't forget to read our article on Stand Up Paddle Boarding and Wildlife Encounters. For a complete guide of where to paddle board in every state, this one is for you! The best places to paddle board in the United States a state by state tour of where to paddle board with Glide Paddle Boards.

Or perhaps something international is what you are looking for, then these two articles will help out. Check out the ultimate guide on finding places to paddle board near you for tips and tricks on finding new and exciting places near you! And for international spots Epic Spots Globally To Paddle Board is for you! And check out the Glide O2 Angler and why it makes an incredible platform for birding and wildlife viewing.