Old Sanish, North Dakota came to an end in 1953, when the river valley it occupied for over half a century became the bottom of North Dakota’s newest reservoir, Lake Sakakawea. Sanish’s residents left for higher ground, as did the residents of other low-lying towns like Van Hook and Elbowoods. Buildings were demolished and the land flooded as the reservoir filled behind Garrison Dam. A new Sanish was founded up the hill, but most residents settled elsewhere.
We photographed some of the remaining foundations in Sanish back in 2005 when the lake levels were very low, ruins which had again slipped beneath the lake as of summer 2012.
We are actively seeking old photos and postcards of Sanish, Elbowoods, and Van Hook. If you have any to share, please contact us.
The postcard shown above is a scene from 1926. It was sent in by Sanish-born John Morris Benson who says:
I was born in Sanish in 1936 but left before memories of the physical appearance of Sanish was imbedded in memory.
The valley you see in the photo above would eventually fill with water to become Lake Sakakawea, necessitating a new Four Bears Bridge.
The photo above shows the famed Sanish rodeo, an event that drew people from miles around. Tom Jorgenson of Williston says it was taken by a family friend and he dates it somewhere in the late-forties to early-fifties. The arches of Verendrye Bridge can be seen just above the treeline, right of center.