North Dakota’s longest State Highway is Highway 200, and it stretches over 400 miles from the Red River near Halstad, Minnesota to the Montana border at Fairview. As we’ve been exploring North Dakota’s vanishing places since 2003, it’s a highway we’ve found ourselves on again and again, and we’re due to show appreciation for a road that will take you to so many amazing places. Places where you can get out of the car and enjoy some visions of our past. …
Fairview Lift Bridge is a place we’ve visited before, but the last time we were there, the sky was full of smoke from wildfires, so we promised ourselves we would go back again when we got another chance, and that chance came in July, 2017. We had just learned that the adjoining Cartwright Tunnel, the only railroad tunnel in the state of North Dakota, was in danger of implosion if funding couldn’t be raised for a restoration, so that became another excuse to visit this rusty beauty spanning the Yellowstone River. …
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. …
Lost Bridge was on the Little Missouri River, about 23 miles north of Killdeer in Dunn County. The name “Lost Bridge” holds a coincidental double meaning in this case, since the bridge no longer exists.
Above: An image from Google Earth. You can still see the missing swath of trees leading to the river’s edge, where the old Lost Bridge once stood.
Werner, North Dakota is in Dunn County, about 13 miles east of Killdeer. We’re unsure of the exact population, but in 1971, when residents voted to dissolve the town, the vote count was 7-2 in favor of dissolution, so the headcount is quite likely in the single digits these days. Although we were really a couple decades late in photographing the town as it once was, we decided to visit and shoot Werner, North Dakota and a bridge to nowhere.
Werner was a rare town in at least one respect — it was incorporated as a Northern Pacific Railroad town in 1917, but the Post Office wasn’t established until two years later. In most cases, the Post Office would have been established before, or concurrently with, a town’s founding.
The bridge shown here spans Spring Creek on the southwest edge of Werner.
We looked for a plaque on this bridge that would identify the builder, but we couldn’t see one anywhere. In the early days of North Dakota statehood, most bridges like this were built by out-of-state bridge builders like Gillette-Herzog Manufacturing Company out of Minneapolis, Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio, and the Milwaukee Bridge and Iron Works, but by the time Werner was founded, North Dakota bridge builders, like Fargo Bridge and Iron Company, had entered the market. If you know who built this bridge, please leave a comment below.
Visiting these places in modern day, sometimes nearly a century after they were built, it’s frequently hard to imagine how useful they were. This bridge spans Spring Creek as part of a road that doesn’t really seem to go anywhere, and its main purpose seems like it might have been to make access to the nearby fields easier.
Tire tracks in the long grass leading to this bridge made us think that someone occasionally still drives over this bridge–a brave someone. We got nervous just walking on it.
As for the town of Werner, it was like other places we sometimes encounter, where we were unsure if we were going to be seen as trespassers. On the west side of town, there were three deteriorating vacant homes down one seldom used “road,” abandoned so long ago that it was more like two rutted wheel tracks in the tall grass, and we weren’t sure if we could respectfully wander down the road without upsetting someone, so we stayed out.
The rest of Werner’s vacant properties are somewhat spread out around the town site, with open spaces in-between. When it had a population of over 200 residents, these vacant lots were full of homes and businesses. Werner even had its own newspaper at one time, the Werner Record. According to the out-of-print North Dakota Place Names by Douglas Wick, the last business in Werner was the service station, which closed when operator Arthur Kummer passed-on in 1970.
What do you know about Werner, North Dakota? Please leave a comment below.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media
A while back we posted a blog about the Nielsville/Cummings bridge over the Red River between Cummings, North Dakota and Nielsville, Minnesota. The bridge has deteriorated significantly and is presently closed pending replacement by a new bridge.
Max Schumacher (YouTube Channel here) recently visited and sent us an email to share the drone video he captured. It’s amazing footage of this historic Red River crossing, and it’s available in HD too, so if you have the capability, stream it to your largest TV for full effect. …
In May of 2014, I took a trip along the Red River to photograph a bunch of historic bridges for a potential future book, and found this place, a bridge I had never visited before.
Officially it is Traill County and North Dakota Highway Departments Project No. FAS 71A. Locals refer to it as the Nielsville Bridge, after Nielsville, Minnesota, the closest community to the bridge (Cummings, North Dakota is a few miles west).
Built in 1939, the bridge was in pretty bad shape when I visited in 2014–it had been repaired a number of times, and asphalt patches were visible in the road deck in several places. In 2015, a hole opened up in the deck and the bridge was closed. It has been closed ever since, and the question remains–What will become of this historic bridge? …
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.
A visitor recently commented to tell us the Maza School apparently burned sometime in 2015 or 2016. As one of the few remaining structures from Maza, the end of this school effectively spells the end for Maza.
Bluegrass Store and Gas Station
Bluegrass, North Dakota, is a true ghost town, population zero, in Morton County, about thirty-five miles northwest of Mandan. Bluegrass is a former rural community that had a population of 20 in the 1920 Census, a relatively small peak population, but not surprising considering the railroad never came to Bluegrass. Sadly, this former store and gas station burned down in 2014.
Northgate Port of Entry
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. This building was once the Port of Entry Station, but was abandoned when a new Port was built. A person commented on our Facebook page to say the building has since been demolished.
Much of Leith, North Dakota
Leith‘s troubles have been highly publicized, so we don’t have to say much except that numerous vacant structures were demolished after a white supremacist bought up the property in an attempt to take over the town. This creamery is one of the buildings which no longer stands in Leith.
Lost Bridge was so named because in 1930 when it was originally constructed over the Little Missouri River, about 23 miles north of Killdeer, there were no quality roads leading to the site, and the bridge was seldom used. Paved roads came in the sixties, but Lost Bridge was demolished in 1994 and replaced with a modern highway bridge.
Brantford Public School
Brantford Public School still stands in this Eddy County ghost town, but not for long. One of the classrooms has collapsed and cracks can be seen throughout the exterior walls. Soon, Brantford Public School will be no more.
This church, known as Augustana Lutheran Church (and other names over the years) would have been a fantastic place for a business. It stood in a high traffic location, at the foot of Broadway, across from Sammy’s Pizza in Minot. Sadly, after years of dereliction, mold, and a close call in the 2011 flood, the church was demolished.
Most of Bucyrus
Bucyrus, North Dakota was struck by a wind-driven grassfire in 2010 and many of the abandoned structures in town, as well as a number of family homes, were destroyed. This home, on the west side of town, was one of the casualties. Thankfully, nobody lost their life in the fire, but Bucyrus will never be the same.
After being driven out of Leith, the same white supremacist allegedly tried to buy vacant properties in Antler, North Dakota. The city bought up a number of properties to prevent the takeover, and this former bank building was one of them. In early 2016, it was demolished.
Original content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media
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 …
This is part two in our series about historic North Dakota automobile bridges. In part one, we focused on Sheyenne River crossings in southeast North Dakota. This time, we’ve photographed historic steel bridges in East-Central North Dakota, on the Sheyenne, Goose, and James Rivers.
Some of these bridges are closed and abandoned, others are still in use, and one has been restored, but they will all share the same fate without human intervention, so we’ve chosen to document them here. …
If you’ve followed this site for any length of time, you know we occasionally like to photograph bridges, for a number of reasons. Sometimes it’s for their historic significance (like Caledonia and Romness Township bridges), and other times it’s because the bridge is huge and awe-inspiring, as is the case with the High Line, Karnak, and Gassman Coulee railroad trestles.
In this case, we’ve decided to photograph most of the historic automobile bridges of the Sheyenne River Valley, some abandoned but many still in use, while they still exist …
We revisited Haley, North Dakota in July of 2015, eight years after our first visit in 2007. We had mentioned to a convenience store clerk that we were out photographing ghost towns and abandoned buildings, and she said, “You guys need to go to Haley.” We weren’t far away, so we stopped in for a visit and some photos, and discovered Haley had a population of two, going on three.
When we returned to Haley in 2015, we found it to be a little less “town,” and a little more farm. We had hoped to speak with the residents again, but we were visiting on a weekday this time, and they may have been busy at work because nobody seemed to be around. There were quite a few vehicles around, though, and it had a much more lived-in atmosphere than we remember in 2007.
Haley is in southeast Bowman County, just over a mile from the South Dakota border.
The drive through Haley is a blink and you’ll miss it kind of thing.
The one-room school in Haley looks a little more weathered than the last time we were there.
The Haley Lutheran Church is part of the Scranton Lutheran Parish. It was originally organized as a congregation in nearby Pennville, South Dakota, then moved to Haley, on December 4th, 1946. If you love prairie churches, please check out our book, Churches of the High Plains.
The sign in front of the church reads “St John’s Lutheran Church, Haley, ND. 8:00 AM Sunday Worship. Pastor Mary Peterson.”
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media
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. …
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. …
High Line Bridge in Valley City is the longest railroad bridge in the state and like the Gassman-Coulee Trestle in Minot and the Sheyenne River Bridge near Karnak, we chose to photograph it and feature it here due to the railroads’ pivotal role in settling North Dakota. All three of these bridges are still used daily. …
Someone suggested this place to us last fall, we waited all winter to visit, and it was worth the wait. Ringsaker Lutheran Church and School are about seven and half miles north of Cooperstown, and they’re rich in history dating back to what is claimed to be the first Christian religious service in Griggs County, in 1879 or 1880. …
This is the Sheyenne River Bridge, a railroad trestle at the north end of Lake Ashtabula, in the marshy transition between the lake and the Sheyenne River. Built in 1912, it is 2,736 feet long, making it a little shorter than High Line Bridge in Valley City and a little longer than the Gassman Coulee Trestle in Minot. Railroad bridges played such a crucial role in the settlement of our state that we’ve chosen to occasionally feature some of them here, even if they’re not abandoned. …
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. …
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. …
We first visited the Caledonia Bridge in 2006 and found it closed to all but foot traffic. We think it’s the second oldest still-standing bridge in North Dakota, having been built in 1895, and second only to the Viking Bridge near Portland. The Viking Bridge was built in 1885 and was restored in 2006, and we definitely think Caledonia Bridge should be high on the list for a restoration in the near-future. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.
We returned for another visit in September of 2013 and found the bridge much the same, albeit with a few more weeds and overgrowth. Crossing Caledonia Bridge is peaceful, especially on a gorgeous late-summer night like the night of our visit.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
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!
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.
Looking east as we walk on the rail bed. You can see the Cartwright tunnel at the end of the bridge.
Approaching the bridge support from the west looking east.
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.
Platform that contains a three cylinder kerosene engine that lifts the bridge span.
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!
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!
On the east end approach showing the west tunnel opening.
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.
Inside the 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.
Looking west from the tunnel to the bridge.
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.
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
Our May 2010 trip took us through Minot, so we stopped to take some photos of this — the Gassman Coulee Trestle in Trestle Valley, just outside of town. It’s not abandoned, but it’s a really nice place to be outside with your camera on a hot summer night.
The bridge is 1792 feet long and 117 feet tall at its highest point. When a train crosses, you can hear the rumble miles away.
Years ago, there was a ski resort in this valley called the Trestle Valley Ski Resort and this was the lodge.
UPDATE: Site visitor Jeff snapped these photos of the former lodge, today a private residence.
Trestle photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, original copyright Sonic Tremor Media
This is the Caledonia Bridge in Caledonia, North Dakota, in Traill County, about twenty miles east of Mayville. It is closed to all but foot traffic. It is one of the oldest bridges in North Dakota, second to the Viking Bridge in nearby Portland. Viking Bridge has been restored in recent years, and we believe that makes Caledonia Bridge the oldest unrestored bridge in North Dakota. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.
This bridge was constructed by Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio, in 1895. The company built nearly five thousand bridges in the United States and Canada before it was consolidated into the American Bridge Company by JP Morgan in 1900.
There’s a noticeable tweak in the bridge deck.
Caledonia Bridge spans the Goose River.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, © 2015 Sonic Tremor Media
Haley, North Dakota is a near-ghost town in Bowman County, southwest of Bismarck. We first visited Haley in 2007 after we talked to some locals at an area gas station. We told them we were photographing ghost towns and abandoned places and someone said, “You guys need to go see Haley.” Earlier in the day, we had struggled through a vehicle breakdown, and when we got our Jeep back from a repair shop in Bowman, we were eager to make up for lost time, so we were thrilled to get the recommendation to visit Haley, a place we had never previously heard of. …