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Category: Sanish, ND

Mountrail County
Abandoned in 1953

Sanish Rises from Beneath the Waves

Sanish Rises from Beneath the Waves

Sanish was a thriving North Dakota town until 1953, when residents began to evacuate to higher ground. The construction of Garrison Dam, a project to provide hydroelectric power and flood control, would turn the Missouri River Valley in this part of North Dakota into a large reservoir to be named Lake Sakakawea. Sanish succumbed to the rising waters soon after the Garrison Dam embankments were closed in April of 1953, and the townsite disappeared beneath the waves of Lake Sakakawea.

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Underwater Ghost Towns of the North Dakota Missouri River

Underwater Ghost Towns of the North Dakota Missouri River

The construction of Garrison Dam flooded the Missouri River Valley and created Lake Sakakawea, something we’ve covered before in posts about Sanish and Four Bears Bridge.  We’ve photographed both a church and a home that once stood in Elbowoods — structures that were moved to higher ground to avoid the flood.

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Sanish Rodeo and More

Sanish Rodeo and More

Sanish is no more.  It disappeared beneath the waves when the Garrison Dam created Lake Sakakawea and we’ve spent some time collecting photos of old Sanish when it still existed.  These photos were sent in by Don Hammer, scans he got from a friend’s scrap book years ago. These are mostly in the 1950 to ’53 era.

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Before the Flood: Leaving Sanish, North Dakota

Before the Flood: Leaving Sanish, North Dakota

We’ve posted several galleries dedicated to Sanish, North Dakota, the former Missouri River town that was dismantled timber and brick and dispersed to higher ground when the Garrison Dam was erected, flooding this part of the Missouri River Valley.  There’s a gallery dedicated to the construction of Four Bears Bridge, our visit to the crumbling remains during historic low water levels in 2005, a Christmas in Sanish gallery, and a look down the street in front of the school and church, but no two photos we’ve seen so far capture this time in our history as these two photos submitted by Don Hammer.

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Christmas in Sanish

Christmas in Sanish

These photos of Christmas in Sanish, North Dakota come from Staci Roe, who came upon them in a hospital rummage sale and saved them from the trash. They are from the estate of Marvin L Knapp and the photographer is unknown.  Photos of the construction of the footings for Four Bears Bridge were in the same collection.

These photos were taken almost seven decades ago

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Building Four Bears Bridge

Building Four Bears Bridge

Mighty rivers require mighty bridges and several impressive examples have spanned the North Dakota stretch of the Missouri River.  The river valley near the former town of Sanish has been home to several.  First, the Verendrye Bridge, a steel truss bridge completed in 1927, crossed the Missouri at Sanish.  In 1934, the first bridge to be known as Four Bears Bridge was built downstream near the town of Elbowoods.  They served North Dakota dependably through the thirties and forties. 

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Lost Beneath the Lake: Sanish, North Dakota

Lost Beneath the Lake: Sanish, North Dakota

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.

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Ten Lost North Dakota Places

Ten Lost North Dakota Places

It’s always a thrill to see enthusiastic residents get involved in saving historically and culturally significant places in their communities, but in North Dakota’s vanishing small towns, the losses frequently outnumber the wins by a significant margin. It’s something we’ve seen time and again in over ten years of photographing North Dakota.

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