In July of 2015, we visited Marmarth, North Dakota and had plans to proceed from there to Ollie, Montana to photograph the former school (it was no longer standing) on the way to the prairie ghost town of Carlyle, Montana. Our route of choice was Old Highway 16, also referred to as Old Marmarth Road. It was a route that would take us through the Badlands north of Marmarth, where the views are fantastic.
Although Old Marmarth Road is in fairly nice condition these days, it is not your standard scenic drive. It is a minimum maintenance road, and a sign at the south entrance advises you drive at your own risk. Although there are a number of ranchers who graze cattle on land adjacent to the road, there are no homes, services or businesses of any kind on the stretch we drove, and cell service is hit and miss even with the best carrier. You’ll drive over a dozen or more cattle guards in the road along the route, and there are no fences in places, requiring a slower pace and attentive driving habits, because it’s not unusual to encounter some cattle right on the road. We saw rattlesnakes on the road too, so if you drive here, be careful.
There are places along the road where you can see abandoned remnants of the old road, where travelers traversed the rugged Badlands of Old Marmarth Road in the horse and wagon era, sometimes crossing paths with new fangled machines called “automobiles.”
If you’re feeling adventurous, and yearning for something a little more visceral than the standard scenic overlooks of the Interstate System, Old Highway 16 is a good place to take in some North Dakota Badlands vistas.
One of the narrower stretches of Old Highway 16 as it looked in July of 2015.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy