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North Dakota Water Science Center

Pembina Gorge

Photo Courtesy North Dakota Tourism Departement

The Pembina River originates north of La Riviere, Manitoba, Canada, flows southeast, and enters the United States northeast of Langdon, North Dakota. From the international border, it flows southeast to Walhalla and east to Neche and Pembina, finally emptying into the Red River of the North.

The scenic Pembina Hills, historically also known as the Hair Hills, Pembina Mountain, Pembina Mountains, Sainte Marie Mountains, or Saint Mary's Mountains (see, rise just to the west of Walhalla and extend to the international border. Various geological terms including cuestas, escarpment, and scarp, are used to describe the hills. The hills mark the boundary between the glacial Lake Agassiz plain (what we think of as the Red River Valley) and the Pembina Delta (where the ancient Pembina River flowed into Lake Agassiz). The river valley winding through the hills is known as the Pembina Gorge. The gorge was carved by the ancient Pembina River, which was much larger than the present-day Pembina River, as the ancient river carried meltwater from glacial Lake Souris in north-central North Dakota and southern Manitoba. (Upham, 1896)

The Pembina Hills form a unique ecoregion, the Pembina Escarpment, within North Dakota and encompass one of the largest woodland blocks in the State of North Dakota. Woodland trees and shrubs in the area include Burr Oak, Aspen, Paper Burch, Beaked Hazel, Highbush Cranberry, Service Berry, and Red Osier Dogwood (Bryce, 1998).

Pembina River at Walhalla Floodtracking Chart       Pembina River at Neche Floodtracking Chart

Visit the Pembina River at the Canoeing North Dakota's Rivers web site. Click on the description button for more pictures of the Pembina Gorge.

Bryce, Sandra. James M. Omernik, David E. Pater, Michael Ulmer, Jerome Schaar, Jerry Freeouf, Rex Johnson, Pat Kuck, and Sandra H. Azevedo. 1998. Ecoregions of North Dakota and South Dakota. Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online. (Version 30NOV1998).

Upham, W., 1896, The glacial Lake Agassiz: U.S. Geological Survey Monograph, No. M 0025, 658 p. -- URL

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