Marmarth, North Dakota

The 10 Most Intriguing Abandoned North Dakota Places

North Dakota has hundreds of beautiful and captivating abandoned places of all kinds. Churches, schools, military installations and more. We recently went through the stats from and compiled this list of North Dakota’s ten most intriguing abandoned places based on website visits. In some cases, the results were obvious, but in others, even we were surprised.

10. Sarles School

At the time of our visit in 2006, this school was undergoing renovation by a lady who wanted to turn it into a hunting lodge. She was doing a very nice job of it. Unfortunately, we’re told the restoration project ended before completion and the school is once again abandoned.

9. Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth is far from a ghost town, but there are a number of very impressive abandoned structures here. Montana is only five miles west and it’s just a three hour drive to Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. The landscape is a harder, chalkier badland than the more pastoral lands to the east and radio signals battle to elude the car radio as the highway winds past the occasional butte. See our original Marmarth gallery here, or check out the whole category.

8. Nekoma Safeguard Complex

The Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex near Nekoma, North Dakota is the only facility of its kind ever to become operational in the United States, and one of our most popular galleries.  It’s a former anti-ballistic missile facility and multiple nuclear-tipped missiles once stood at the ready here, in the event of an attack by the Soviets from beyond the North Pole.

7. Minot AFS

Minot AFS is a former radar base about ten minutes south of Minot. It was the first major Air Force installation in North Dakota, predating the other Minot and Grand Forks bases. It was originally a radar base intended to detect and identify unidentified aircraft in American airspace — a relic of the age before ballistic missiles, when the Soviet threat was from long-range bombers. The former administrative and radar structures are now abandoned with the former housing units functioning as private residences.

6. Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

Fairview Lift Bridge

R. David Adams contributed a great batch of photos of one of North Dakota’s most unique transportation relics, the Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel, between Fairview, Montana and Cartwright, North Dakota. The gallery is now the 6th most visited on the entire site.

5. Devils Lake Ski Jump

This former ski jump still stands atop Sully’s hill south of Devils Lake, but just barely. We visited for the first time in 2012 after a site visitor tipped us off to its existence and the photo gallery is one of our most visited.

4. Fortuna AFS

Fortuna Air Force Station

Fortuna Air Force Station is the largest of the former Air Force radar installations in North Dakota and will soon fall victim to the wrecking ball. We have multiple galleries dedicated to Fortuna AFS, and it will also be prominently featured in the forthcoming Ghosts of North Dakota, Volume 3 book.

3. Leith, North Dakota

Leith, North Dakota has shot to prominence on this website largely due to the national publicity related to a white supremacist who wanted to turn it into an all-white enclave, but our photos were taken in 2007, before the ruckus began.  Sadly, many of the structures in these galleries will soon fall victim to the bulldozer.

2. Sanish, North Dakota

Sanish is intriguing primarily due to its absence.  The town once stood on the banks of the Missouri River but was erased from the North Dakota landscape when the river valley was flooded to create the Lake Sakakawea reservoir. We photographed the remaining foundations at low water levels in 2005 and we’ve added some historical galleries too.

1. San Haven Sanatorium

San Haven is far and away the most popular place featured on this website. It is a former tuberculosis sanatorium in the foothills of the Turtle Mountains, a few minutes north of Dunseith. Thousands of TB patients received treatment here between 1909 and the end of the TB endemic in the 1940′s. Visits to our San Haven galleries outpace visits to our next most visited gallery by more than double.

Honorable Mention:

Just barely missing the cut to make this list — Sims, North Dakota, Nanson, North Dakota, and Sheyenne River Academy.

This year we posted a few galleries dealing with some North Dakota lore and although they don’t specifically deal with abandoned places, they’ve been visited more than enough times to make this list. Check out The Wolf Family Murders and The Tappen Visitations.

Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

4 Responses to “The 10 Most Intriguing Abandoned North Dakota Places”
  1. Lucille Gould says:

    I live in Alfred, North Dakota, which is one of the ghost towns. Only about 10 people living here now. Every summer my granddaughter and I do roadtrips visiting and exploring as many abandoned farmsteads as we can. I just love doing that. It’s like visiting the past. We find a lot of old relics too. Old newspapers, magazines, letters, and pictures are among the things we have found. I’m sure that someday, someone will be finding old stuff of mine and wondering, like I do, about my life out here and what it was like.

  2. Jane Kangas says:

    Just be careful! Many of these buildings are unsafe for entry due to collapsed floors, etc. Many contain asbestos, which is in poor shape and very dangerous.

  3. Terry LUkan says:

    Luv this kind of history!

  4. Terry Lukan says:

    Would like to ride motorcycles to these locations someday in the near future.

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