Geography of McHenry County, North Dakota

McHenry County, located in the north-central part of the U.S. state of North Dakota, is a region known for its expansive prairies, agricultural landscapes, and rich natural resources. Encompassing an area of approximately 1,872 square miles, McHenry County is situated in the heart of the North Dakota prairie region and is characterized by its gently rolling hills, fertile farmland, and numerous lakes and rivers. In this comprehensive overview, we’ll explore the geography, climate, rivers, lakes, and other significant features of McHenry County. Check homethodology to learn more about the state of North Dakota.


McHenry County is bordered by Bottineau County to the north, Pierce County to the east, Sheridan County to the south, and Ward County to the west. The county’s geography is primarily characterized by its flat to rolling terrain, with elevations ranging from around 1,400 feet in the northern part of the county to 1,800 feet in the southern part. The county seat and largest city is Towner, located near the center of the county.


The climate of McHenry County is classified as continental, with four distinct seasons characterized by cold, snowy winters and warm, humid summers. The region experiences a wide range of temperatures throughout the year, with average high temperatures in the 20s°F to 80s°F range and average low temperatures in the -10s°F to 50s°F range. Precipitation is moderate, with most of the rainfall occurring during the summer months and snowfall during the winter months.


McHenry County is part of the Great Plains region of North America, characterized by its vast, open grasslands and prairies. The county’s prairies are home to a variety of native grasses and wildflowers, as well as wildlife such as deer, pronghorn antelope, and prairie dogs. These prairies are an important habitat for both resident and migratory bird species and provide valuable grazing land for livestock.


McHenry County is intersected by several rivers and streams that flow through its landscape, providing habitat for wildlife and opportunities for outdoor recreation. These rivers and streams also play a vital role in the region’s economy, providing water for agriculture, industry, and municipal use. Some of the notable rivers in McHenry County include:

  1. Souris River: The Souris River, also known as the Mouse River, flows through the northern part of McHenry County, forming part of its eastern boundary. The river is popular for fishing, particularly for walleye and northern pike, as well as canoeing and kayaking.
  2. Des Lacs River: The Des Lacs River flows through the western part of McHenry County, originating in Saskatchewan, Canada, and flowing southward into North Dakota. The river is known for its scenic beauty and provides opportunities for fishing, boating, and wildlife viewing.


McHenry County is home to several natural and man-made lakes that offer recreational opportunities for residents and visitors. These lakes vary in size and depth and provide habitat for fish and other wildlife. Some of the notable lakes in McHenry County include:

  1. Lake Metigoshe: Lake Metigoshe is located in the northeastern part of McHenry County, near the town of Bottineau. The lake is surrounded by Lake Metigoshe State Park and is popular for fishing, boating, swimming, and camping, as well as hiking and wildlife viewing.
  2. New Johns Lake: New Johns Lake is a man-made reservoir located in the southern part of McHenry County, near the town of Towner. The lake is popular for fishing, particularly for walleye and perch, as well as boating and picnicking.


Agriculture is the dominant industry in McHenry County, with vast expanses of farmland covering much of the county’s landscape. The fertile soils and favorable climate make it suitable for a variety of crops, including wheat, barley, corn, soybeans, and sunflowers. Livestock farming, including cattle and sheep ranching, is also common in the county.

Parks and Recreation Areas:

McHenry County is home to several parks, wildlife refuges, and recreational areas that showcase the region’s natural beauty and provide opportunities for outdoor recreation and leisure. These areas offer hiking trails, camping facilities, picnic areas, and other amenities for visitors to enjoy. Some of the notable parks and recreation areas in McHenry County include:

  1. Lake Metigoshe State Park: Lake Metigoshe State Park is located in the northeastern part of McHenry County and encompasses over 1,500 acres of protected land. The park offers a variety of outdoor activities, including camping, fishing, boating, and hiking, as well as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter months.
  2. Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge: Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge is located in the western part of McHenry County and provides habitat for a variety of wildlife, including waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds. The refuge offers opportunities for birdwatching, wildlife photography, and hiking along its scenic trails.


In conclusion, McHenry County, North Dakota, is a region of diverse geography, rich natural resources, and abundant outdoor recreational opportunities. From its expansive prairies and fertile farmland to its scenic rivers and lakes, the county offers a variety of landscapes and activities for residents and visitors to enjoy. Whether you’re fishing on Lake Metigoshe, hiking in Lake Metigoshe State Park, or birdwatching in Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge, McHenry County has something for everyone to experience and appreciate in the great outdoors.