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8 Questions with Photojournalist Jack Dura

8 Questions with Photojournalist Jack Dura

At Ghosts of North Dakota, we occasionally like to check-in with artists and photographers (like Mariah Masilko and John Piepkorn) who’ve shown a passion for North Dakota and its vanishing, forgotten places and Jack Dura certainly qualifies. We caught up with Watford City journalist, photographer, and frequent explorer “Travelin’ Jack” between road trips to find out more about his background, his thirst for adventure, his favorite bird dog, and favorite places, from the Badlands to the North Dakota prairie.

Q: I first became aware of your work when you were still at NDSU in Fargo. Tell us about your background. Where are you from, where have you been, and what are you doing now? 

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy

Postcards from the Edge of North Dakota

Postcards from the Edge of North Dakota

This is a simple truth. There is no greater pleasure per penny than searching through a box of old postcards in an antique store. A little hard on the lower back if you’re wearing the wrong pair of shoes, but pleasurable none-the-less. Here are a few old postcards featuring scenes from Marmarth.

Marmarth, North Dakota

Year of the above photo is unknown but I’m guessing early 1930s. Look closely — on the left, behind the grassy median, several black sedans are parked. And on the right, a horse waits for it’s rider to return. This photo postcard provides some insight into the original location of the depot, and the 1st National Bank/Barber Auditorium building we photographed on our first trip to Marmarth is visible on the left.

Marmarth, North Dakota

A great slice of life from old Marmarth. Everybody’s dressed to the nines, the fountain is going, and there are trains in the background.  The effort that went into this photo!

Marmarth, North Dakota

Above: Marmarth High School. It no longer stands.

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Original content copyright © Sonic Tremor Media 2017

Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy

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 nails to step on (and cheap is always good). So, gas up the family truckster. Here are eleven North Dakota attractions you can visit for free

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy

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 or national parks.

We opted not to include any narration on this one, just the beautiful view from the summit of North Dakota’s highest point.

Stream this one to your TV if you have the capability. It looks great on a big screen.

Original content copyright © 2015 Sonic Tremor Media

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy

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 beginning of the video (on the rolling prairie) and the end (in the badlands), particularly interesting.

We uploaded this in HD, so if you have a Chromecast or Roku, or some other streaming TV capability, try watching this on a bigger screen. It looks really nice. Enjoy.

Photos and Video by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp copyright © 2015 Sonic Tremor Media

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy

The Badlands of Old Marmarth Road

The Badlands of Old Marmarth Road

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.

Old Marmarth Road

Although Old Marmarth Road is in fairly nice condition these days, it is not your standard scenic drive.

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy

Cartwright Tunnel and Fairview Lift Bridge

Cartwright Tunnel and Fairview Lift Bridge

This is a small sampling of photos from our visit to Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel in July of 2014.

If you’re interested in the history of this lift bridge, which was only raised once, you can check out our previous gallery featuring photos and captions from our friend R. David Adams, or you can read more about it at the MidRivers page, which has nice background on both Fairview and its twin, Snowden Lift Bridge.

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy

Grasslands Ghost Town: Trotters, North Dakota

Grasslands Ghost Town: Trotters, North Dakota

You’ll find Trotters nearly thirty miles north of Beach, North Dakota in Golden Valley County, just outside the official boundary of the Little Missouri National Grasslands — a boundary visible only on maps. On the ground it’s clear, this part of the prairie is nearly pristine. Trees are nearly as scarce as people, and prairie grasses with blooms of yellow and purple rule the landscape.

Trotters, North Dakota

Trotters was settled in 1903 near the source of Smith Creek and Francis “Lee” Trotters became the first Postmaster one year later. In his book “North Dakota: Every Town on the Map and More,” Vernel Johnson says Lee had to carry the mail every day from Wibaux, Montana, twenty-five miles to the southwest, without pay for an entire year to get a Post Office assigned to Trotters.

Trotters, North Dakota

In 1959, Leonard Hall took over as Postmaster, becoming the final person to hold the position and the last resident of Trotters. The town site shown here has been empty for over a decade, but the church is still used by area residents. Someone once told us that Mr. Hall would leave the gas pump unlocked at night and locals who needed gas could fill up on the honor system.

Trotters, North Dakota



Trotters, North Dakota

Trotters, North Dakota

Hi, fill ‘er up and check the oil, please.

Trotters, North Dakota

Trotters, North Dakota was featured in our hardcover coffee table book, Churches of the High Plains.

Trotters, North Dakota

In his book, “North Dakota Place Names,” Doug Wick says Trotters is one of North Dakota’s most remote towns. In terms of highway driving, it certainly is. County Road 16 is a two lane blacktop and runs north-south through Trotters, and it’s virtually the only link to the rest of the state with no intersecting highways, railroads or rivers. Grassy Butte, a similarly remote town just thirty miles to the east, is more than ninety minutes away by car, requiring a trip around the rugged and beautiful valleys surrounding Beaver Creek and the Little Missouri River.

Trotters, North Dakota

Trotters, North Dakota

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Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp copyright © 2015 Sonic Tremor Media

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy

Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

We set out from Fargo to photograph some abandoned places shortly after six in the morning on this day, so it was early afternoon by the time we found ourselves all the way out in Sentinel Butte. We were getting hungry and we decided to shoot a few quick things before heading back to Beach, North Dakota for lunch.Sentinel Butte, ND

Sentinel Butte is in Golden Valley County near the Montana border, just a few miles east of Beach, North Dakota, situated in a gorgeous green carpet of prairie grass, broken in places by ragged patches of badland and alkaline earth — a middle ground between inhabitable and inhospitable.  According to the 2010 Census, Sentinel Butte has 56 residents, down from 62 in 2000. They have their own website here.

Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

This school is on the National Register of Historic Places, and it’s also home to a time capsule buried in 1976, scheduled to be opened in 2076.

Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

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Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

Thank you for your service.

Sentinel Butte, North Dakota
Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

The grounds also make a great place to play horseshoes.

Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

Someone is converting this old Post Office to a residence.

This trip took place in July of 2014, and we saw a lot of this on this trip — old buildings appropriated for housing due to the oil industry. We don’t know if that’s the case here, but we did see a lot of it in various places. Schools, churches, and old abandoned homes, now re-inhabited, and frequently with RVs or 18-wheelers parked in the yard. In this housing shortage, people are using all kinds of old structures as dwellings.

Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy

Dust Bowl Grassy Butte

Dust Bowl Grassy Butte

Grassy Butte, North Dakota is a very remote Badlands settlement in McKenzie County near the Montana border, an unincorporated community with a population in the dozens. In the 1930s, Grassy Butte was one of a multitude of places where the locals who’d arrived in search of the American dream faced sad realities and hard choices. The population was in the hundreds then, and knowing that, you now understand the choice that many eventually made.  They left. 

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy

More North American Bison

More North American Bison

We visited Theodore Roosevelt National Park in August of 2013 and photographed much of the scenery and the North American Bison that roam the park. This is just an additional batch of photos that we didn’t include in the original post.

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy

The Badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

The Badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

The North Dakota Badlands cover the southwestern third of the state and are part of a larger range of badlands which stretch south to White Butte and into South Dakota’s Badlands National Park.  These photos were taken in the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, near Medora, North Dakota.

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy

The Old West of Medora, North Dakota

The Old West of Medora, North Dakota

Medora, North Dakota is the leading tourist attraction in the state, so perhaps it’s apropos the population is only 112.  This is the biggest, most diverse little town you’ll ever visit — the hotel rooms outnumber the bedrooms in this town, and the streets are chock full — complete with antique and gift shops, saloons, museums, wildlife, scenery… the list is endless.  But don’t expect the typical, there’s not a McDonalds or any other franchise joint for miles.

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy

Badlands Part One: Painted Canyon

Badlands Part One: Painted Canyon

Painted Canyon Visitor Center is right off the north side of Interstate 94, a few miles east of Medora.  If you’re entering the Badlands from the east, this is your first chance to get a look at them from a scenic overlook, and it is amazing.

A more extensive gallery of the badlands as you see them from inside Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora is here.  Further south is White Butte, the highest point in North Dakota, where hints of a similar landscape crop up in the middle of green farmland.

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy

Driving Through a Herd of North American Bison in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Driving Through a Herd of North American Bison in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

On our recent visit to North Dakota’s southwest corner, we spent some time in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, and we were reminded of the magic of the Badlands.

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy

White Butte

White Butte

White Butte is the highest point in the state of North Dakota at 3,506 feet above sea level. The peak is on private land and is not staffed. Of the 50 state highpoints, only seven are on private land — North Dakota, Nebraska, Maryland, Louisiana, Kansas, Indiana and Illinois. There is no development of any kind at White Butte. The closest town, Amidon, had a population of 26 in the 2000 Census, and is the smallest county seat in the nation as the seat of Slope County. According to the 2010 Census, Slope is one of only two counties in the state with a population density of less than one person per square mile… a lot of wide open space out here.

The hike to the top of White Butte is fairly easy if you follow the path up the ridgeline to the summit.

White Butte

White Butte

White Butte

White Butte

White Butte

White Butte

White Butte

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White Butte

White Butte

White Butte

White Butte

 

White Butte

At the summit. The memorial at lower right is a tribute to the former property owner, Lawrence Buzalsky, who died in 1990.

White Butte

There is a summit log notebook in this box. We signed it and left a stack of postcards in the box, but we have yet to hear from anyone who got one.

White Butte

White Butte

White Butte

White Butte

White Butte

White Butte

White Butte

White Butte

White Butte

White Butte

White Butte

White Butte

White Butte

White Butte

White Butte

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

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

Thank you to R. David Adams for submitting these photos of the Fairview Lift Bridge and the accompanying Cartwright Tunnel, between Cartwright, North Dakota and Fairview, Montana.  This bridge is frequently confused with the Snowden Bridge, a few miles away in Montana, partly due to a similar history (each bridge has only been raised once) and construction. However, this bridge is distinct from the Snowden bridge when the Cartwright tunnel is taken into account.  To our knowledge, the tunnel is the only train tunnel in the state of North Dakota.

As you’ll learn from Mr. Adams’ comments below each photo, this lift bridge was built to accommodate steamboat traffic on the Yellowstone River, but the steamboats stopped steaming the Yellowstone River before the bridge was complete.  Thus the lift was only used one time.  The last car crossed the bridge in 1955, and the trains ended in the 1980’s.   Since the bridge and tunnel were so narrow, travelers were required to pick up a phone at one end and call to ensure no traffic was coming from the other side!

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

On ramp west end of Fairview Lift Bridge just a couple of miles East of Fairview Montana. This Bridge was finished in 1913 and was a bridge used for rail and automobile traffic until 1955.

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

Looking east as we walk on the rail bed. You can see the Cartwright tunnel at the end of the bridge.

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

Approaching the bridge support from the west looking east.

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

The center section or “draw” weighs in at 1.14 Million Pounds. At each end of the span large concrete counterweights are hung to assist in the lifting of the span.

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

Platform that contains a three cylinder kerosene engine that lifts the bridge span.

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

Closer look at the lift mechanism. this lift operated one time to test the bridge and never again. It seems that steamship travel on the Yellowstone ended during the construction of the bridge in 1912!

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

Looking up at one of the two counterweights. Held up by several 2 inch cables. I was thinking they have been there for almost a hundred years and decided to move… just in case!

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

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Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

On the east end approach showing the west tunnel opening.

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

Notice the size of the treated lumber used around the opening! Cars traveled across the top to gain access to the bridge on the right just behind where I was standing.

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

Inside the tunnel.

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

The road that used to allow cars to use the bridge until 1955. right behind me the road slopes down to the bridge and also branches off to get down to the bridge abutments.

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

Looking west from the tunnel to the bridge.

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

Looking west.

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

I climbed up the small hill on the south of the rail bed to get a better picture of the engine and tower houses that move the center span of the bridge up and down.

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

Just around the bend is the east entrance to the Tunnel but is now on private lands. Cartwright is just a mile to my back. To read more about this bridge, visit this site.

All photos by R. David Adams, copyright RDA Enterprises. Original content 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

Marmarth, ND

Marmarth, ND

Slope County
Inhabited as of 5-07

Marmarth, ND is a Badlands town in Slope County in the extreme southwest corner of the state.

Marmarth is one of the more populous towns we’ve photographed with 130 people according to the 2010 Census, but minimum conveniences. Marmarth has lost 190 residents since 1960.

There’s an exhilarating old west ambience in this part of the state… 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 sometimes elude the car radio as the highway winds past the occasional butte.  There’s a gas station, a bar/steakhouse (with excellent food), and a railroad bunkhouse where you can rent a room with a double bed for $15 per night.  At the time we visited, we were told they had dial-up internet in Marmarth, and satellite was the only way to get TV programming.

The most prominent abandoned structure in Marmarth is Barber Auditorium. It’s actually two buildings, Barber Auditorium and First National Bank of Marmarth.

The train depot has been cut in two pieces and relocated to a stretch of grass along the highway as you enter from the east.

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Marmarth, North Dakota

The 1st National Bank and Barber Auditorium in downtown Marmarth, built in 1918.

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

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Marmarth, North Dakota

In the basement of Barber auditorium.

Marmarth, North Dakota

The red velvet theater seats still wait in the murky black.

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

The staircase on the main floor of the auditorium.

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

A former storefront, now only storage.

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

The former Mystic Theatre

Marmarth, North Dakota

These were the first two jail cells ever installed in Marmarth.

Marmarth, North Dakota

The Pastime Bar has cold drinks, and the food in the steakhouse at the rear is excellent.

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

One former filling station.

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

Another former filling station.

Marmarth, North Dakota

The depot has been moved.

Marmarth, North Dakota

It now rests on blocks alongside the road in downtown Marmarth.

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

A boarded-up school.

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

We rented rooms at this former railroad bunkhouse for $15 bucks a night.

Marmarth, North Dakota

See more photos of Marmarth here.

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

Badlands of the High Plains

Badlands of the High Plains

haney-badlandsBadlands of the High Plains by Chuck Haney is a 120 page, hardcover book, “An appreciation, in color photography, of the subtle and dramatic beauties of the badlands of the northern plains. Included are: The Monuments, Toadstool Geological Park, Oglala National Grasslands, and Fort Robinson State Park, Nebraska; Badlands National Park, South Dakota; Little Missouri National Grasslands and Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota; Hells Half Acre and Vedauwoo Rocks, Wyoming; Wild and Scenic Missouri River, Missouri Breaks, Makoshika State Park, Medicine Rocks State Park, Terry Badlands, and Jerusalem Rocks, Montana; Drumheller, Dinosaur Provincial Park, and Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park, Alberta.”

$19.95 Order today.









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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy