Sheyenne National Grassland

Area Status: Open

Sheyenne National Grassland is located in southeastern North Dakota, comprising 70,180 acres (28,400 ha) of public land amid 64,769 acres (26,211 ha) of privately owned land.  It is characterized by sandy soils, originally deposited as the delta of an ancient river as it emptied into glacial Lake Agassiz.  Since that time, wind and rain have shaped the topography into a unique landscape ranging from flat deltaic plains to choppy sand dunes.

It is the only National Grassland in the tallgrass prairie region of the United States.  The grassland provides habitat for greater prairie chickens in North Dakota as well as several other sensitive species such as the Dakota skipper and Regal Fritillary.  It also contains one of largest populations of the western prairie fringed orchid, which has been placed on the list of Threatened Species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Other unique plants found on the grassland include other orchids and ferns.

The grassland is managed with prescribed grazing, fire, and mowing.  These programs are all managed in cooperation with the local grazing association.  Treatment of noxious weeds is also very important and is accomplished through herbicide application, biocontrol, and sheep grazing.

Recreation opportunities abound throughout the grassland.  Visitors can enjoy activities such as hiking, hunting, camping, horseback riding, photography, and backpacking.  See Activities section below for detailed descriptions.  Some points of interest to visit while on the grassland include:  Iron Springs creek, the Horseshoe Hills, Old Bridges, Owego Pioneer Cemetery, and an Old Fire Lookout Tower.

The grassland is located in eastern Ransom and western Richland counties, about 12 miles (19km) east of the city of Lisbon.  The grassland is administered by the Forest Service as part of the Dakota Prairie Grasslands from the Supervisor’s office in Bismarck, North Dakota.  The local Sheyenne Ranger District office is located in Lisbon, North Dakota.

Other places of interest in the vicinity of  Sheyenne National Grassland include:

The town of McLeod, North Dakota.  Visitors can learn about the area’s history, including some of the Grassland’s history at the McLeod Museum Complex.  The museum complex includes a Presbyterian Church built in 1909, the Soo Line Depot, a homestead house built in the late 1800s, and a one-room school house which operated from 1904-2002.  McLeod is located three miles south of Highway 27 on County Road 54 or 149th Avenue SE. 

The Nature Conservancy operates Brown Ranch through their Sheyenne Delta office located just a few miles southwest of McLeod, ND.  Some of this land is managed in conjunction with the Sheyenne National Grassland. 

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Mountain Biking

There are several trails to bike on the Sheyenne National Grassland.  They include the 8 mile loop Hankinson Hills Trail, the 4 mile loop Oak Leaf Trail, and 30 miles of the North Country National Scenic Trail.

Areas for Mountain Biking at Sheyenne National Grassland

Campground Camping

Campground Rules:

  • Camping is limited to 14 consecutive days at camp sites on National Forest land.
  • Please follow the “Pack It In, Pack It Out” rule when disposing of garbage.
  • Fires are allowed, but may be limited or prohibited at certain times of the year. 
  • Never leave a fire unattended and always make sure the fire is dead-out when you leave.
  • Fireworks are prohibited.
  • Pets must on a leash at all times in the developed campground.

Areas for Campground Camping at Sheyenne National Grassland

Group Camping

Areas for Group Camping at Sheyenne National Grassland

Dispersed Camping

Camping is allowed anywhere on the Grassland, except at trailheads.  Campers need to follow all travel management policies.  Along certain roads, vehicles may drive up to 300 feet off road to camp. 

Camping is limited to 14 consecutive days at any particular location. The term “location” means the occupied undeveloped or developed campsite and the lands within a 5 mile radius. After leaving the location, a minimum of 5 days is required before any group or persons from that group may reoccupy the original location.

River and Stream Fishing

The Sheyenne National Grassland does not have any designated fishing areas.  However, the Sheyenne River does border areas of the grassland and provides fishing.  Mirror Pool Wildlife Management Area borders the grassland and offers small ponds for fishing.

Day Hiking

Areas for Day Hiking at Sheyenne National Grassland


Areas for Backpacking at Sheyenne National Grassland

Horse Camping

All forage used on NFS lands must be certified weed seed free. Weed Seed Free Forage Information.


The Hankinson Hills Campground offers campsites for visitors with horses.  When camping with horses, please remember the PACK IT IN, PACK IT OUT rule which refers to cleaning up after your horse(s) as well.  Also remember that feed and straw must be certified as being free of noxious weed seed and stock cannot be tied to trees or the jack-leg fence surrounding the Hankinson Hills Campground. 

Areas for Horse Camping at Sheyenne National Grassland

Horse Riding

All forage used on NFS lands must be certified weed seed free. Weed Seed Free Forage Information.

Horseback riding is a favorite activity amongst visitors to the Sheyenne National Grassland.  Riders can enjoy riding across the open prairie throughout the grassland or can use any of the three established trails which include the 8 mile loop Hankinson Hills Trail, the 4 mile loop Oak Leaf Trail, and 30 miles of the North Country National Scenic Trail. 

Please note, horseback riding is not allowed in Management Area 3.64 which has been designated as Special Plant and Wildlife Habitat.  Please contact the Sheyenne Ranger District office or purchase a Visitor Use Map which shows these areas. 

Areas for Horse Riding at Sheyenne National Grassland

Big Game Hunting

Hunting is allowed consistent with North Dakota Game & Fish Hunting Regulations.

  • Tree stands are allowed and may be placed for durations consistent with the time periods provided in the ND Game and Fish Deer Hunting Guide (currently Aug. 20 to Jan. 31) .  However, trees must not be damaged by things such as nailing, cutting of limbs, or use of screw in steps or spikes. Stands and steps not removed by January 31, 2017, are considered abandoned property and are subject to removal and confiscation by the Unites States Forest Service. Tree stands left unattended on National Forest System lands require an identification tag displaying the owner's name, address and telephone number.
  • Hunting over bait on National Forest System lands is prohibited. Hunting over bait is defined as the placement and/or use of bait(s) for attracting big game and other wildlife to a specific location for the purpose of hunting. Baits include but are not limited to grains, minerals, salts, fruits, vegetables, hay or other natural or manufactured foods.
  • See Passes & Permit for Firearm Information.

Viewing Wildlife

The Sheyenne National Grassland boasts of its diverse bird populations.  During the annual migration periods, there are swans, geese, ducks, and cranes passing through daily.  Nearly 300 bird species have been seen on the Grassland.  Some of the more unique nesting species include pileated woodpecker, barred owl, whip-poor-will, yellow rail, and scarlet tanager.  A Bird Status and Distribution on the Sheyenne National Grassland (2010) publication is available at the Sheyenne Ranger District Office.

The grassland is home to the greater prairie chicken and also sharp-tailed grouse.  Both of these species can be viewed on their booming grounds in early spring.

Other common wildlife species include badgers, coyote, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, skunks, and on rare occasions moose, elk, and wolves.

Areas for Viewing Wildlife at Sheyenne National Grassland

Viewing Plants

The Sheyenne National Grassland has hundreds of plant species, including several sensitive species and the federally listed threatened western prairie fringed orchid.  Plant species vary with the landscape.  The Sheyenne River bottom and valley was dominated by American elm and basswood and is the most westerly extent of the hardwood type forest found in the eastern United States.  As elsewhere, American elm has been greatly reduced due to Dutch elm disease.  This area also contains rare fen wetlands within the river terraces.  The deltaic plains offer the best areas to find remnant tallgrass prairie.  The hummock and swale landform is an undulating landscape with small knolls dominated by mixed grass prairie species, which transitions to tallgrass prairie species as you move down the landscape and then into wet meadow species in the swales.  The choppy sand dunes contain oak savanna interspersed with mixed grass prairie and oak woodlands.  Unfortunately, much of the prairie has been invaded by leafy spurge, a noxious weed and Kentucky bluegrass, an introduced cool season grass.  Management plans are currently being developed to restore these special places.

Wildflowers can be found throughout the prairie.  Common flowers that bloom throughout the spring and summer include:

May-June:  Beardstongue, puccoons, western wallflower, prairie smoke, anemones, spiderwort and columbine.

July:  Brown-eyed Susan's, wood lily, western prairie fringed orchid, lady-slippers, prairie rose, blazing stars, leadplant and purple coneflowers.

August-September:  Goldenrods, sunflowers, gentians and asters.

The western prairie fringed orchid is a federally listed threatened plant and is one of several orchids that can be found on the Grassland.  It prefers the somewhat wet conditions found in the swales of the hummock and swale landform.  It usually blooms around the Fourth of July.  The population found on the grassland is one of the largest in the United States.  Please do not pick or disturb this plant.

Areas for Viewing Plants at Sheyenne National Grassland

Viewing Scenery

The Sheyenne National Grassland offers different scenery throughout the various landforms.  The river bottom and valleys allow for spectacular sights along the Sheyenne River.  Outreaching from the Sheyenne River are several small riparian areas that frequently support beaver activity.  The largest of these small streams is Iron Springs which can be accessed via the North Country National Scenic Trail.  The hummock and swale landform offers undulating prairie that is ever-changing, while the deltaic plains have expanses of wide open, flat prairies.  The scenic, woodland savanna is located in the choppy sand dunes and in the fall this area is an array of beautiful autumn colors. 

Areas for Viewing Scenery at Sheyenne National Grassland

Geocaching & Letterboxing

Geocaching and Earth caching are welcome throughout MOST of the Sheyenne National Grassland.  Geocaches and Earthcaches require approval from the Sheyenne District Ranger prior to the cache being placed.

Geocachers should only attempt hunting for sites according to their experience level. Off-road motorized travel is not allowed on National Grasslands. If a cache is located away from a road, you cannot drive to it.

HOW TO APPLY: Print and Complete the form.

WHERE TO APPLY: Mail the complete form to the Sheyenne Ranger District office with attention to the District Ranger.

Sheyenne Ranger District, P.O. Box 946, Lisbon, ND 58054; 701-683-4342

Target Shooting

Users may target shoot on the Grassland, but please be aware of your surroundings.  Clay pigeon shooting is not allowed.  Please follow the Pack It In, Pack It Out rule. 


Areas for Picnicking at Sheyenne National Grassland

Group Picnicking

Areas for Group Picnicking at Sheyenne National Grassland

Boating - Non-Motorized

The Sheyenne National Grassland does not have any established areas for water activities.  The grassland does provide limited access to the Sheyenne River which can be used for canoeing and fishing.

XC Skiing/Snowshoeing

Winter does not stop activity on the Sheyenne National Grassland.  You can continue to hike, cross-country ski, snowmobile, or even take out horses for a sleigh ride.  The sun, wind, and snow create scenic views throughout the grassland. 

Areas for XC Skiing/Snowshoeing at Sheyenne National Grassland


Snowmobiling is not allowed on the North Country Trail and within Non-Motorized Areas on the Sheyenne National Grassland. Recreationists can pick up a free  motor-vehicle use map at the local District Office located in Lisbon, ND. Travel by snowmobile is allowed on the remaining portions of the Sheyenne National Grasslands once a minimum of 8 inches of snowpack is present on the landscape.

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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