I’m sure by now you know that the Red River can be a machine of impressive destruction and heartache. After all in the spring of 1997 very few people in the Red River Valley were spared from the path of destruction left by the Mighty Red River of the North. Those memories and images make it hard to think of the Red as a valuable resource that has not even had the surface scratched in the realm of tourism and angling potential.
Did you know that catfish are the second most sought after fish in the United States (just after bass) or that the Red River is the fourth most fished body of water in North Dakota? This information matched with the fact that eco-tourism is the fastest growing outdoor activity in the US. Statistics like these make for a compelling argument to promote the Red as a tourist destination. With a little effort, investment, and marketing the area could be an outdoor vacation paradise.
My business, Brad Durick Outdoors LLC is a company specializes in utilizing the Red River for what it has to offer, hopefully with minimal impact on the environment. I offer customers eco-tours to experience the Red River first hand from the river perspective allowing people to take in the sites and sounds or watch birds along the river from the boat. This all makes for good opportunity, but my real business is what makes the Red River famous, THE CATFISH.
It is the catfishing that led me to acquire the required Coast Guard license to begin operations on the Red. While I was working to complete my license, I was researching what anglers from around the country thought of the catfish in the Red River. What I discovered is that the Red River of the North is literally a world famous fishery that has been deemed “the channel catfish trip of a lifetime.” Digging a little deeper by asking anglers from other states what they knew about the Red, the answer all over was that is was the Mecca of channel cats but other than Manitoba as far as they knew there were no services or places available to them in the US.
It turns out that the Red River has all of the needed services and amenities to support the tourism that comes with promoting the fishery. What is lacking is the initiative and marketing to invite these people to come to North Dakota and Minnesota to enjoy the Red. With the exception of a few communities with small web sites promoting the fishing, there have been little or no marketing efforts in place to promote tourism of the Red River to the rest of the world.
With just a little marketing (mostly internet) my company was able to have an outstanding season in 2008. (Exceeding expectations by about 300 percent) In fact, my clients represented 13 states and 1 Canadian province. Rest assured, I am well aware of the market potential of the Red River of the North with success like that.
With a combined effort of businesses, community organization, and some key individuals, the Red River can be an angler’s or eco-tourist’s key destination. What needs to happen first is to make sure there are ample services available. There needs to be quality, clean, and safe river access. The community must have plenty of camping, hotels; bait shops and restaurants available for people when they arrive. Most importantly there needs to be a fund and comprehensive marketing plan set up to tell potential customers of the “world famous” river and its fishery that we have right here. We need to invite them to our river and more importantly our town. This isn’t the proverbial “If you build it they will come”, but rather “If you tell them its here and they are welcome they will come.”
I know the Red River has huge potential. Possibly more than any of us know. It is simply a matter of do we as a community to promote it. Do we want to find that potential and make it happen? If the answer is YES, then it is time to form marketing committees and action groups to begin the process. I am always willing to help and be involved in such discussion and action.
Don’t let the Mighty Red River be just a Mighty flood machine, see it for what it really is, an economic engine that we all can be proud of.