nd.gov - The Official Portal for North Dakota State Government
North Dakota: Legendary. Follow the trail of legends
North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department



Geocaching basically started in 2000, when 24 satellites were reassigned. According to geocaching.com, tens of thousands Global Positioning System (GPS) users got an instant upgrade as their GPS unit’s accuracy increased tenfold. A man by the name of Dave Ulmer decided to hide a bucket of items in the woods near his house, posting the coordinates of it on a website to see when and if people would find it. Within a month, Mike Teague was the first to find the bucket and began to gather online postings of coordinates. Matt Stum first coined the term “geocaching”, geo meaning Earth and cache meaning a hiding place to temporarily store items. Jeremy Irish stumbled upon Teague’s website and later launched the Geocaching.com website. At the time, there were only 75 known caches worldwide. All of these events took place within only four months. This popular new hobby grew as a result of the media, making the New York Times and CNN that fall.

GPS Lesson

It didn’t take long before people were biking, hiking, swimming, climbing, driving or canoeing to caches all over the world. Today, Jeremy Irish, Elias Alvord and Bryan Roth and all work full-time at Groundspeak Inc., which operates the geocaching website. They are supported by a small team and over 100 geocaching volunteers worldwide. As of April 2011, the number of geocaches approached 1.4 million geocaches. That figure constantly changes with thousands of caches being added on a daily basis.

Getting started

To start geocaching, participants need to visit http://www.geocaching.com to create a profile and search for geocache coordinates within the area they want to explore. Coordinates need to be transferred into a GPS unit and participants can seek caches from there. Traditional caches can be in a variety of forms, including film canisters, ammo cans and other sealed containers. They may contain maps, key chains, fishing tackle, stickers, rain ponchos, stickers and many other trinkets. Once you find a geocache, the basic rules are to take something from it, contribute to it and log it within the provided notebook and/or online. To find out further, more detailed information on how to hide or seek a cache, please visit geocaching.com.

Geocaching in North Dakota State Parks

Over the last several years, geocaching became yet another way for people to enjoy the outdoors by exploring scenic trails and historic aspects of our North Dakota State Parks. Utilizing a Global Positioning System (GPS), technology savvy visitors can be taken to a unique trail, historic place, an interesting structure, a beautiful view or a natural wonder. This high-tech treasure hunt provides outdoor adventure that all ages can enjoy. Park users armed with a GPS unit can hunt caches while exploring the parks and their recreational opportunities.

Geocaching within the North Dakota State Parks officially started in July 2002 with the placement of the first geocache, which was located at Cross Ranch State Park. Marv Erhardt, a geocaching enthusiast from Bismarck, approached our department, formed a collaborative effort and produced a project that would mutually benefit both the parks and geocachers. Geocaching within the state parks brought the parks a new user group and the state parks could provide unique areas and additional places for all to enjoy geocaching. In 2003, additional geocaches were placed at Fort Abraham Lincoln, Fort Stevenson and Lewis and Clark State Parks. These first several caches that were placed within the state parks celebrated the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial as they contained journal entries written by Lewis and Clark with passages referring to their experiences within such areas of present day North Dakota.


In previous years, geocaching enthusiasts could obtain a permit that validated placing and owning a cache within a state park. Recent policy changes dictate that the parks themselves will own any new geocaches placed within the state parks, through a park profile on the geocaching website. Despite the recent changes, there are still many opportunities where geocaching enthusiasts can partner with the state parks. Those interested should contact the state park and work with their resident geocacher to perhaps suggest places to hide a cache within the park, propose names for new cache(s), assist in developing text for the new cache(s) descriptions, help relocate parks’ caches every 2 years or assist with facilitating geocaching meetings, programs and events within the state parks. Everyone is welcomed and encouraged to seek geocaches in any and all of our state parks. Many parks are in the process of setting up additional caches that will be posted over the next few months.

North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department Geocaching Policy (pdf 200k)