Since last April protesters called the banks of the Cannon Ball River home.
Now, nearly three dozen of them call the Morton County jail home.
As the 9 a.m. deadline approached, about 50 protesters could be seen milling about the camp.
Authorities hoped they would turn themselves in, as they watched from the air and from hilltops.
Captain Tom Iverson, North Dakota Highway Patrol: “There were negotiations this morning. There have been negotiations for months and months and months and sometimes things just need to come to an end.”
After giving them an extra hour and a half to surrender, more than a hundred officers along with the North Dakota national guard moved in, for the first time entering the camp.
“Obviously showing they wanted to be arrested, they weren’t going to come out to the road and just give up,” says Iverson.
They were greeted by nearly two dozen protesters near the main gate.
Iverson: “They told us they weren’t going to put up a fight, they were going to be peaceful and engage in passive resistance.”
However, some were not so easy to arrest.
Iverson: “Our officers needed to be prepared for everything and anything.”
As protesters were hauled out, a methodical sweep of the camp took place.
Law enforcement tells us they had intel there could be violence hiding in the camp or on hillsides.
“It’s something we need to keep in the back of our minds that there could be a booby trap and we need to be prepared for that maybe even a barricaded subject,” says Iverson.
Another challenge was keeping the land clear of protesters, especially with the frozen cannonball river so close, allowing people to walk across it.
Iverson: “Law enforcement will need to maintain a presence here to prevent it from being reoccupied. Where those barriers are setup or law enforcement line is something we need to setup and make sure people can’t come across.”
As the cleanup equipment finally moved in to clear thousands of tons of junk left behind from a camp once filled with 10-thousand protesters, law enforcement calls this a stepping stone to normalcy for this usually quiet southern part of the state.
Iverson: “Today is a day is a day we didn’t want this, this is not something we wanted, we don’t want to be down here removing people from this area, unfortunately there’s bad actors that force us into this position.”
Thursday’s arrest count pushed the total to nearly 750, almost all of those arrests were from out of state.
The Army Corps of Engineers hopes to have the land cleaned up by the middle of next month.
It’s a race against time, because the cannon ball river is expected to flood.
If any of the debris gets in the river, many say it will create an environment disaster.