A Sleepy Saturday in McGregor, North Dakota

A Sleepy Saturday in McGregor, North Dakota

The McGregor town site was established in 1910 and assumed the name of a nearby rural post office which had been established five years earlier. We visited McGregor, in Williams County about 45 miles northeast of Williston, in 2010, and we were somewhat surprised by the large number of vacant buildings. Although McGregor does not appear in the Census records (it’s an unincorporated community) a population of 250 was reported for 1920. We we roughly estimated the population at around 20…

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The Town That Never Was: Rival, North Dakota

The Town That Never Was: Rival, North Dakota

Rival, ND is a town that never was. It was established with the intent of being a “rival” to nearby Lignite, hence the name. However, no development of significance ever took place. Rival’s post office opened in 1907 and closed only two years later in 1909. Wylora Christianson contributed this photo with the following comments: All that is left of Rival is the elevator which is to be torn down soon, so went and got a picture of it. It…

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Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church

Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church

Officially, this church is now known as Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church. It once served Elbowoods, North Dakota, a town now-submerged under Lake Sakakawea, as part of the Fort Berthold Indian Mission which dates back to the 1870s. The church was organized in 1899 and this building was erected in Elbowoods in 1926.  It was relocated in 1953 to a spot on high ground, nearly eight miles north-northeast of Elbowoods, to escape the rising waters of Lake Sakakawea behind…

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The Legends of Tagus, North Dakota

The Legends of Tagus, North Dakota

Tagus was founded in 1900, on a rolling spot on the prairie, forty miles west of Minot, just off Highway 2. A railroad settlement town, it reached a peak population of 140 in 1940. It was originally named Wallace, but was later renamed Tagus to avoid confusion with the town of Wallace, Idaho. The origin of the name “Tagus” is still in dispute. It is now primarily abandoned with a handful of residents and numerous vacant structures. The Minot Daily…

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Vanishing Bremen, North Dakota

Vanishing Bremen, North Dakota

Bremen is a small, unincorporated town near Fessenden in Wells County.  This central part of the state is very sparsely populated and dotted with abandoned places like the Remains of Munster School and Hamberg.  These photos were taken in 2008, and we hope to revisit the area sometime soon for an update. Bremen supposedly had a population of 200 at one time, but it hasn’t had nearly that many for a very long time. Most of Bremen’s residents (there aren’t…

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8 More Lost North Dakota Places

8 More Lost North Dakota Places

Unfortunately, we have to do a post like this from time to time. As the years pass, many of the places we’ve photographed also pass… into history. Whether it be the wrecking ball, weathering, or disaster, many of the places we’ve photographed since 2003 are now gone. We documented some of the losses in 10 Lost North Dakota Places and 10 More Lost North Dakota Places, now, unfortunately, here are 8 More Lost North Dakota Places. Maza School A visitor…

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Fargo Moorhead Lost and Found Has Arrived

Fargo Moorhead Lost and Found Has Arrived

Fargo Moorhead Lost and Found, the latest book from Troy Larson, co-author of the Ghosts of North Dakota series, and Churches of the High Plains, has arrived! The book, and the website, are an in-depth look at the visual landscape of the Fargo-Moorhead metro, yesterday and today, through the use of vintage photographs and postcards juxtaposed with contemporary photographs from the same locations. (Grab the slider in the photo above and drag it back and forth!) What was the first…

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How to Find Places No Longer on the Map

How to Find Places No Longer on the Map

In our quest to find lonely, out-of-the-way places to photograph, we often get recommendations from people, and many times, the coordinates of those places are just a search away. However, we’ll occasionally run across the name of a place, and when we enter the name into mapping software, the search turns up zero results. Here’s one way to find places no longer on the map. Banks, North Dakota is shown on this Rand McNally railroad map from 1942, not far…

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Lonely and Abandoned Wolf Butte Church

Lonely and Abandoned Wolf Butte Church

The Wolf Butte Lutheran Church is in a remote part of Adams County, North Dakota, about 45 miles south of Dickinson. It was once part of a Lutheran Parish that also included another abandoned church we’ve photographed, the North Grand Lutheran Church, south of Bucyrus. Regular services ended at the Wolf Butte location in 1988. The Wolf Butte church was unusual for its finish. The exterior appeared to be stucco, or some other kind of applied finish over a wood…

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6 More North Dakota Sites You’ll Love

6 More North Dakota Sites You’ll Love

We got an email request from someone not too long ago to do another “More North Dakota Sites You’ll Love” post (the original is here), so we’ve gathered up another handful of North Dakota-related sites you should check out. Border Marker Project — We just discovered this one ourselves and it is really cool. The description of the Border Marker Project from their “About” page: In 1891 and 1892 the North and South Dakota state line was surveyed and marked with quartzite state…

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Niagara, North Dakota: Former Home of a Serial Killer

Niagara, North Dakota: Former Home of a Serial Killer

Niagara, North Dakota is just off US Highway 2, not quite forty miles west of Grand Forks. It was founded in 1882 by settlers from Niagara County, New York. According to the 2010 Census, Niagara has 53 residents. Niagara, North Dakota is the former home of a serial killer, a man named Eugene Butler, a recluse who lived on the edge of town. Butler was committed to the State Asylum in Jamestown in 1906, and he died there in 1913….

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North Dakota Before the Interstates and Garrison Dam

North Dakota Before the Interstates and Garrison Dam

One of the more helpful techniques we’ve used in finding abandoned and out-of-the-way places to photograph is examining old maps. Abandonment frequently happens in the name of “progress.” When a highway was expanded, it frequently left places to wither. Similarly, the Garrison Dam project forced the abandonment of numerous places, like Sanish and Elbowoods (to name a few), and prompted the demolition of bridges and the abandonment of highways. We recently found this Rand McNally World Atlas page that shows North…

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Passing Through Merricourt

Passing Through Merricourt

Merricourt is a very remote town in Dickey County, about fifty miles south of Jamestown. There are fewer than a handful of residents in Merricourt — just one family remains in this near-ghost town. We didn’t intend to visit Merricourt when we went on an adventure in October of 2014, but some last minute route changes took us right through town, so we stopped to snap a few shots, nine years after our first visit. Our first visit to Merricourt was…

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An Abandoned Port of Entry in Northgate, North Dakota

An Abandoned Port of Entry in Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate is a fascinating near-ghost town right on the Canadian border, about 70 miles northwest of Minot. It was originally founded one mile to the north, but moved one mile south to its present site. While the original town site retained the name North Gate (with a space) this town was renamed North Gate South, and then re-dubbed Northgate (without the space) when the post office was established in 1914. Above: The former Northgate Port of Entry building. The road to…

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Abandoned: Freda, North Dakota

Abandoned: Freda, North Dakota

Freda, North Dakota is a true ghost town in Grant County about 35 miles southwest of Bismarck.  Freda started out as a Milwaukee Railroad town, and once had a population  of 50 plus its own bank. Today it is totally abandoned with the remains of its depot crumbling in the elements. There is one other structure next to the depot, and the ruins of several other buildings on the town site. The depot originally stood about a half mile to…

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8 Terrible Fates Our Ancestors Faced

8 Terrible Fates Our Ancestors Faced

We’ve all heard the stories from our parents and grandparents about having to walk to school with no shoes, uphill (both ways), and there’s certainly an air of humorous exaggeration in many of those tales, but not too much exaggeration. The truth is, daily existence as a pioneer on the prairie was a hard life, and the people who came to the northern plains were taking their lives in their hands, and facing dangers we can scarcely imagine today. Yes,…

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A Lonesome View on Barton Street

A Lonesome View on Barton Street

Originally called Denney, this unincorporated community was founded along the Great Northern Railroad in 1887.  The name was changed to Barton in 1893. Barton is in Pierce County, about twelve miles northwest of Rugby.  In the 2010 Census, it was listed as having 20 residents. We chose to visit Barton after a vocal visitor to our Facebook page suggested it on more than one occasion.  It turned out to be a great suggestion — Barton has abandoned buildings on both…

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11 North Dakota Attractions You Can Visit for Free

11 North Dakota Attractions You Can Visit for Free

One of the things we’ve always loved about photographing North Dakota’s abandoned places and roadside attractions is that it feels like an alternative form of tourism–that is to say, most of these places are interesting and fun to visit, but there are generally no crowds and no admission fees.  However, when you have the kids in the car, or Grandma and Grandpa tagging along on a day trip, sometimes you need something a little more family friendly, with fewer rusty…

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Raleigh, North Dakota, Population 9

Raleigh, North Dakota, Population 9

Raleigh is a secluded little town in Grant County, just a short drive southwest of Mandan. The population is nine, and there are exactly two businesses in operation. The grain elevator does a brisk business, and the local tavern is called The Dogtooth — named after the hills which cut a ragged swath through the township. We visited Raleigh at the suggestion of Karla, the owner of the Dogtooth, Raleigh’s only watering hole, and we’re glad we did. There are…

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Nanson: A North Dakota Ghost Town

Nanson: A North Dakota Ghost Town

As we set out to photograph ghost towns in early May of 2012, we had Nanson in mind as our ultimate destination.  We’ve known about Nanson for quite some time but somehow we just never managed to make it there — it was time. After driving all day through an array of locations, we reached US Highway 2 and drove into Rugby for some lunch — huge double cheeseburgers at the Cornerstone Cafe (now closed). After lunch, we departed for…

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The Shadow of Lunds Valley, North Dakota

The Shadow of Lunds Valley, North Dakota

Lunds Valley is a beautiful near-ghost town nestled in a valley in Mountrail County, about fifty-four miles northeast of Williston.  It is one of those towns where we showed up a little too late, because there aren’t many of the original buildings still standing.  It is a mere shadow of its former self. Lunds Valley was considered a rural post office and the population of the town never exceeded 100. Terry’s photo of this elevator is featured on the cover…

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13 People and 3 Churches in Kief, North Dakota

13 People and 3 Churches in Kief, North Dakota

Kief is a near-ghost town in McHenry county, and is home to the first Russian Baptist Church ever established in the United States. Although only listed as having a population of 13 in the 2010 census, the amount of activity we saw on our visit to Kief seemed to suggest a larger population, perhaps twenty?  Kief has a bar which was open for business on the day we visited. Update: we’ve been told the bar has since closed. Kief has a…

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Ghost Town Griffin, North Dakota

Ghost Town Griffin, North Dakota

Griffin is a true ghost town in Bowman County, along Highway 12, about halfway between Bowman and Rhame, North Dakota. Although there are some working farms and ranches in the area, there’s barely a town any more, and no apparent residents in the actual townsite. A maximum population of 67 was reported in 1930, but the post office closed that same year and the town quickly vanished. This old schoolhouse is the most prominent remaining structure from Griffin. Above: a…

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Backoo’s Lonely One Room School

Backoo’s Lonely One Room School

Backoo, North Dakota was founded in Pembina County in 1887 along the Great Northern railroad line, about five miles northwest of Cavalier, but little development occurred and the population never exceeded fifty. This lonely one-room school stands alongside the highway, just miles from the incredible beauty of the Pembina Gorge. Although it was an unincporporated community, a post office in Backoo operated from September 26th, 1887 until October 11th, 1988. This schoolhouse now sits among a loose cluster of farmsteads and…

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9 Questions with Artist Mariah Masilko

9 Questions with Artist Mariah Masilko

Mariah (MJ) Masilko is a talented artist and photographer, a kindred spirit who has shared a number of places with us over the years, including ghost town Stady, North Dakota, the end of the Masonic Lodge in Calvin, and others. We caught up with Mariah in between artist and mom activities, and she was kind enough to give us some insight on her work. Q: Where do you live, and what is your connection to North Dakota? I’m currently in…

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Vintage Views of Devils Lake

Vintage Views of Devils Lake

We’ve been collecting postcards and vintage photos for years with the intention of doing a book one day. Today, I discovered a couple postcards depicting vintage views of Devils Lake, and thought we should share these on the site.  The quality of the first postcard was so good, we were able to zoom and bring out some interesting details. This street scene depicts Fourth Street in Devils Lake, circa 1937.  There was no postmark on the card, but I was…

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8 Questions with Photographer John Piepkorn

8 Questions with Photographer John Piepkorn

Ghosts of North Dakota has been lucky over the years to make the acquaintance of a number of talented artists and photographers who share our passion for the history and austere beauty of the prairie. One of those artists is John Piepkorn, who has contributed photos of Hanks, North Dakota (population one), the Hamlet School, and the Wheelock School, among others. John took a few minutes from a busy schedule of photography, fat tire biking, and holiday festivities to answer…

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Video: White Butte — The Highest Point in North Dakota

Video: White Butte — The Highest Point in North Dakota

Last summer, we had the opportunity to go back to White Butte for the first time since 2007, so we couldn’t resist the chance to go to the summit and get some GoPro video in HD. White Butte is in Slope County, and of the fifty state high points, it is one of only seven that is on private land — North Dakota, Nebraska, Maryland, Louisiana, Kansas, Indiana and Illinois. The rest of the states’ high points lie mainly within state…

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Legend of Miniwashitu: Missouri River Monster

Legend of Miniwashitu: Missouri River Monster

The pseudo-scientific field of cryptozoology deals with theories of creatures unknown to science, many of which have their origins in Native American lore. Stories of Sasquatch in the Pacific Northwest, and the Wendigo in Minnesota and the Great Lakes region, originated with native people. Even North Dakota has a mysterious but little-known monster. A legend of the Dakota nation tells the story of Miniwashitu; a Missouri River monster of terrifying appearance and effect.  Author Melvin Randolph Gilmore, one-time curator for…

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Video: Driving the Badlands of Old Marmarth Road

Video: Driving the Badlands of Old Marmarth Road

We’ve visited Marmarth, North Dakota on several occasions, but it wasn’t until this past summer that we had the opportunity to drive the badlands of Old Marmarth Road, also known as Old Highway 16. We took quite a few photos while we were there, and shot some GoPro video too. This is our look at a scenic drive you just won’t experience by sticking to the interstate and the standard scenic overlooks. We found the change in landscape between the…

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