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Pembina State Museum - History

exhibit, early sea life in Pembina region

North Dakota during the Cretaceous Period

In the Pembina area there are fossil remains and deposits from the Cretaceous Period.  During this time, North Dakota was covered by warm, subtropical seas.  Many types of marine life inhabited North Dakota during the Cretaceous.  Sharks, bony fish, squid, and giant marine reptiles lived in the water.  Snails, clams, sea urchins, and crabs lived along the shorelines.  Enormous, flightless seabirds nested on the water’s edge.

The Ice Age

For more than 500 million years, North Dakota’s climate was very warm.  About 2.5 million years ago, the climate became cooler and cooler, leading into the Ice Age, when much of the earth’s water was frozen into glaciers.  The Ice Age consisted of several 100,000-year cycles of cooling and heating.  During cool times, glaciers formed and moved south into North America (and Europe and Asia).  During warm cycles, the glaciers melted and retreated to the north.

As glaciers melted at the end of the Ice Age 10,000 to 11,000 years ago, huge lakes were created.  Lake Agassiz was the largest glacial lake, covering Pembina and parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Ontario.  Fluctuating in size and shape over an approximately 2000-year period, glacial Lake Agassiz covered 350,000 square miles at its greatest peak.

Pembina is part of the area called the Red River Valley.  Technically, this region is a lake bed, not a valley.  The Red River cuts a slow, winding path through the flat, northward-sloping plain of former Lake Agassiz’s eastern and western shores.

The Red River Valley is known as the “Breadbasket of the World.”  The rich soil of the region was deposited by Lake Agassiz.

May 16- Sept. 15, 9 am - 6 pm, Mon.-Sat., 1 pm - 6 pm., Sun.
Sept. 16 - May 15, 9 am - 5 pm, Mon. - Sat., 1 pm - 5 pm, Sun.
The Museum Store closes one half-hour before the museum closes.
Closed New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

Contact Us:
805 Highway 59
PO Box 456
Pembina, ND 58271
Phone: 701-825-6840
Fax: 701-825-6383