Crystal Springs, North Dakota

Return to Crystal Springs

We first visited Crystal Springs in 2005, primarily to photograph the abandoned school which is quite visible from the Interstate.  We didn’t find out until later that we had neglected to photograph a portion of Crystal Springs which waits just north of the highway.  So, on Memorial Weekend of 2013, we returned to Crystal Springs.

While many towns suffered when they were bypassed by an interstate, Crystal Springs’ decline was hastened when it was bisected by the interstate, effectively cutting the town in two.

Crystal Springs, ND

The roof of the school has collapsed in places and the elements pour in.

Crystal Springs, ND

Crystal Springs’ church and school are featured in our third book.

Crystal Springs, ND

North Dakota Postcards

Crystal Springs, ND

Crystal Springs, North Dakota

The re-painting that someone began on the old church was never finished, and now the church is deteriorating again, the boarded-up front door kicked-in by vandals.

Crystal Springs, ND

On the north side of the Interstate rests the former spring — a stopping off point for tourists in the pre-interstate era.  We’ve heard many accounts from travelers who enjoyed a drink of cold water from the spring on a family trip through Crystal Springs.

UPDATE: A visitor to our Facebook page reports the spring has been restored with a grant and is running once again.

Crystal Springs, ND

Crystal Springs, ND

Crystal Springs, ND

This abandoned house sits across the road from the fountain.

Crystal Springs, ND

Crystal Springs, ND

This is a former service station near the fountain.

Crystal Springs, ND

Ghosts of North Dakota, Volume 3

Crystal Springs, ND

Near the green house shown above, the wreckage of another home.

Crystal Springs, ND

A close examination of this photo shows what happened to Crystal Springs. The road I stood on when taking this photo once connected to the road in the distance, just above the detour sign. Today, the interstate cuts through the middle.

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

17 Responses to “Return to Crystal Springs”
  1. Jan Hobbs says:

    It sort of makes one wonder if progress really IS progress. The school building is beautiful in my opinion, what a waste, as well as the other buildings going to waste, it breaks my heart.

    • Maureen says:

      Jan – this would be the longest shot in the world – but is your family from ND? If so, what part?

  2. Karen Huso says:

    One only has to close their eyes to imagine how beautiful the house was that was across from the spring. The old school is eerily similar to the school I attended as a child. Love your FB posts.

  3. Sonja Olson Johnston says:

    Our family used to be one of those that stopped for a drink of that cool water. It was always so refreshing since those were the days before air conditioning. Hot summer trips in a sedan filled with 8 and sometimes 9 people could get uncomfortable. I love the stories your pictures tell.

  4. Bodil says:

    It´s so sad to see all the buildings that are going back to nature! So many people moving from so beautiful places and buildings. What I know is that USA has millions of unemployed people, and almost no farmers back. Just BIG cooperations… Why not let those who want a farm, want to live in small villages or towns, want to teach at a small school, want to write books, do internet home work, live quite lives, get a new home if they do the work to build the house up again when they get the building materials from the goverment ( however they are the owner of the house when its ready to move in there) ? And why not instead of have so much people in prison, jsut for a small mistake in life, get the opportunity to work on these small towns, and make them liveable again? People are wasting away so many opportunities for people just becasue of the bureaucrazy and no new way to think and make changes there. What about all the agreculture areas? USA citizense need to get rid of GMO and the big cooperasian to get healthy food back, WHy can`t people start organic food producing here? These areas have been laying there for years ..I think the farmer areas are clean enough to do that now? For me this looks really strange. We have some small farms in norway too where people are moving from, its too small to make a living from…a few of them have been sold to people from Netherland and they get a LIFE instead of a small apartment in a BIG city where they see people every single meter they walk… Take the small cities back and the small farmers, create small villages and towns instead of people wating their time on living on the streets :-)
    Greetingsfrom Bodil in Norway :-)

    • Angela S. says:

      Bodil, the family farm is alive and well in ND. My brother is the 4th generation to run his farm and my husband is the 3rd. Our way of life is so different than that of people in more densely populated areas. They only see corporate farms and see progress in modern farming practices as evil. You asked about organic farming. We can’t do it on a large scale (our family’s farm is 6000 acres) because it isn’t sustainable. We would be wiped out by bugs, disease, and due to our location in the Devils Lake Basin, fungus.
      ND’s economy is growing and our population is growing! We aren’t suffering the effects of the economic depression like California and Minnesota. I think you need to visit us in ND!!!

    • Sue says:

      I agree Bodil. North Dakota is really cold and windy, however….so it would be a real adjustment for most people. USA used to have a “Homestead Act”, where if a person lived on a piece of property and farmed it for 7 years, it would belong to them. Too bad we still don’t have this Act.

  5. Sharon Klemm says:

    Bodil, I am sure many Americans ask themselves the same questions, I know I do. However, you have answered most of those questions yourself: all of this hinges on money and what you suggest is not economically sound. The small American family farm is a thing of our past; the small farmer simply cannot compete in the marketplace with the mega-corporate farm industry. You mention that this same thing is happening in your own country, so you get the problem. And I agree, it is too bad, as what we have have traded is quality of life. Jan states it most astutely: is progress really progress? Sometimes it is not.

    North Dakota is a beautiful state with a demanding environment. I hope it never becomes completely urbanized although I fear for it everyday. The gas/oil industry is a powerful motivational force for development, but I hope that the good people of North Dakota realize that their land, their beautiful state, their quality of life is worth more than money any day of the week. There is something admirable about rural life, hard as it may be at times. Those wide open plains, unobstructed views, watching the sun sink into the horizon is something city folk never get to see. Keep that, it is the most important thing.

    • Melanie says:

      “Those wide open plains, unobstructed views, watching the sun sink into the horizon is something city folk never get to see.” Plus REAL darkness at night and being able to see the stars, which you cannot see in big cities.

  6. Randy says:

    I have had the opportunity to drive past Crystal Springs several times over the past month, always curious about that beautiful school and trying to come up with an idea to revitalize it. I think it would make a lovely Bed and Breakfast, with your choice of sunrise or sunset view. Next time I drive by I will stop and explore.

  7. Norm Hoffman says:

    I used to travel between our family farm just east of Hawknest (SW of Carrington) to Bismarck and would always take the back roads and stop at Crystal Springs for a drink of the best tasting water in North Dakota. It’s a shame it’s gone dry.

  8. David Herrmann says:

    I grew up going to Crystal Springs Baptist Camp down the road from here. We would often times go exploring around there at all the old buildings and that spring. I’d love to see what this town looked like in it’s “glory days”

    David Herrmann
    Los Angeles, CA

  9. Liberty says:

    Has anyone been inside that beautiful green house? I stopped by and took some pictures of the smaller service station that is across from the that house. I also climbed inside of that brick structer — wasnt sure what it was at the time until I seen your posts about it!

  10. Jason says:

    I used to live in Tappen back when I was a young child in the late 80s and remember going with my mom to get water out of the spring there so seeing these pictures brings back childhood memories

  11. Joe says:

    I had my senior class picture taken at the fountain.

  12. Dave Sharp says:

    I rented the house across from the spring from 1978-95. We used it for hunting waterfowl in the fall. Ray Heitimeyer from Bismarck owned the house. This was the last time that it was inhabited. Mice moved in and we decided it time to give up the place that was very special in all our hearts. Lots of memories…

  13. Curt Walz says:

    Love seeing all these photos on the Facebook page, but doing some research back through the family brought up the name Crystal Springs for me. You have mentioned a second church in the area and that it might still be used, but I can’t find any info on it. Anyone know of any details around this church:

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