Plein Air Painting Sites North Dakota

These recommended plein air painting sites in North Dakota were visited by traveling artist Suzanne Elliott.  We hope these recommendations save you time so you can drive less and paint a lot more on your plein air painting trip.

Painting Sites Near Bismarck, North Dakota - Missouri River Overlook and Historic Sites

Chief Looking's Village Historic Site.  Near the Missouri River in Bismarck.

Directions: Take Burnt Boat Road from downtown going towards the river.  Chief Looking's Village is on the left.  Great views of the Missouri River.  Morning Painting is best at this spot as the sun is behind you as you look at the river.  Bathrooms available. Open from early Spring to late Fall.  Free admission.  Walking trail.  For more info call Bismarck Parks & Rec. at (701)222-6455.

Pioneer Park - in Bismarck - Just down the hill from Chief Looking's Village on Burnt Boat Road.  Public park right on the bank of the Missouri River in Bismarck.  Bathrooms available.  Free Entry.  Cottonwood trees, river trail.

Double Ditch Indian Village State Historic Site/Missouri Overlook

About 8 miles from Bismarck on Route 1804 (River Road). 

This site covers about 24 acres on a bluff above the Missouri River valley - 8 miles outside of Bismarck, going North on SR1804 (River Road) - Coming from Bismarck on SR 1804 you will see the sign on the Left (west) side of the road.  To check for opening times go to

No Facilities (bathrooms) available at this historic site.

Missouri River - Just South of Lake Sakakawea - Route 200A West

Take Route 200A West from Washburn.  The road runs close to the river and at several spots one can get an excellent overview of the river.   We found a pull off a mile or two past Cross Ranch State Park and were able to paint undisturbed.  View of the Missouri after it leaves the hydro-electric facility at Lake Sakakawea.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Located in the western part of North Dakota, Theodore Roosevelt National Park has 2 segments - the North Unit is about 50 miles North of Medora. Medora is a small western town right at the entrance of the South Unit of the park. Due to its more remote location, the North Unit has a lot less visitors than the South Unit.  We recommend artists and visitors visit both as they each have their own unique geology and landscape. 

If you are 62 years old or older you can use your Senior Pass - Lifetime pass to our U.S. National parks - one time cost - $10 - such a deal! If you don't have one yet you can get one the next time you are at any National park or apply on-line - Here is the link for you -

I used mine a number of times on this trip.

North Unit - Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Due to the remote location of the North Unit we suggest making this a day trip, visit the park and paint.  Take your own food and water.  No restaurants or facilities other than toilets.  We recommend driving the scenic route through the park and stopping at the River Bend Overlook.  During the 1930s a wonderful stone shelter was built on the overlook - this is a safe place to paint with shelter and views all at once.  No toilets at this spot however.  Here is a photo from that spot.  I'm also including this link to a video I made at this spot.  The audio quality is a little weird due to the wind howling while I was making it - but it will give you a feeling for the place - and why you may want to use the shelter we mentioned.

South Unit - Medora - Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

How to Get There: The South Unit is 130 Miles West of Bismarck and 24 miles east of the Montana state line.  The entrance is in Medora. Take the Medora exit from Interstate 94.  Painters can get food and lodging in Medora which is right at the entrance to the park and very convenient.

Wind Canyon - the Park Ranger's favorite spot in the park, we painted at this amazing spot.  Take the left fork of the Scenic Loop - go about 6 miles and then park at the Wind Canyon trail.  Take the nature trail a short distance and this is what you will see.  Video of your painting spot - check it out. No bathrooms at this spot. 

North Dakota Badlands Overlook - South Unit

Take the right fork of the Scenic Loop Drive to get to the Badlands Overlook - early morning or evening light is best at this spot due to complex landforms that need the shadows to help with composing your painting.  Noon light will flatten out everything and make your painting experience difficult and frustrating.  Also, take Deet insect repellent - we could not have painted at this spot in the evening without the Deet.  Swarms of "no see'ems" and mosquitoes.  Deet does the trick!

Painted Canyon Overlook and Visitor Center

Outside the park and right off Interstate 94 - take Exit 32 - East of Medora.  This is a spectacular spot with bathrooms, picnic tables and shelters - no need to pay the Park entry fee and right off the freeway.

Here is a short video of this spot - Evening and early morning are optimal painting times at this spot of course.

Plein Air Painting Sites - South Dakota (Black Hills and Custer State Park included)

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