Couple buys North Dakota's topographical giant
By JAMES MacPHERSON Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press - Thursday, November 11, 2004
Access to North Dakota's topmost point is no longer up in the air.
Daryle and Mary Dennis have purchased White Butte in Amidon, and they are allowing unlimited access to it.
The couple bought the butte and about 1,000 acres of farm and ranch land from the heirs of Angeline Van Daele, who owned White Butte for 45 years. After she died in October 2003, the sale of the land ended up in probate court, which handles wills and estates.
A year of uncertainly over access to the state's highest peak had troubled the 2,700 members of the Highpointers Club, said Don Holmes, the group's president. The club's members have a goal of reaching the tallest points in all 50 states.
"We are very relieved that we got it resolved," Holmes said Thursday.
If new owners had denied access to the butte, it would become the only state high peak closed to climbers, Holmes said. Only five of the peaks are privately owned, he said.
Mary Dennis said she and her husband leased ranch land from Van Daele for years.
"We already had been renting from Angie, so buying it made sense," Mary Dennis said. The couple would not disclose terms of the deal or say when it was finalized.
Mary Dennis said she and her husband bought the property to give their cattle room to graze, not to tout the state's topographical giant.
"We're not going to get rich off of it," she said.
Van Daele used to charge $20 a carload for climbers. The new owners will accept donations.
"If some of them want to leave a donation, they can," Mary Dennis said. "It's the honor system."
White Butte, which measures 3,506 feet above sea level, rises only 400 feet from its base, and it takes about an hour to reach the summit.
"I don't mind the climbers as long as they don't abuse nothing," Daryle Dennis said.
The couple live 3 miles east of White Butte, so monitoring climbers is not realistic, Mary Dennis said.
"We're not going to sit out there in lawn chairs and watch people climb it," she said.
Holmes said he plans to visit the couple this year and climb the butte again. He is one of about 110 people who have climbed the highest peak in each state, including White Butte.
Holmes said he is working on getting money from his group for trail maintenance, and for an "Iron Ranger," a lockbox on a post where people can drop off donations.
Daryle Dennis said he plans on keeping the butte in his family indefinitely.
"We didn't plan on speculating," he said.