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. …
During their historic journey to the Pacific, Lewis and Clark reported enormous herds of North American Bison in the midwest, so large that they “darkened the whole plains.” Wagon trains sometimes waited days for passage through herds numbering in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. But by the early 1900’s the bison were reaching their low-point. Over-hunting, drought, and encroachment on their natural habitat by humans and cattle drove the population of bison down to only several hundred animals (the actual number is disputed) — the bison were almost extinct. …
If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know “ghosts” is a metaphor that refers to the ghosts of our past, and most of the time, that manifests itself here in the form of photos of our vanishing places. Sometimes though, we run across a story so interesting, a piece of forgotten history or local lore so fascinating, that we feel compelled to write about it. This is one of those instances …
The Hutmacher farm is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is considered the midwest’s finest still-standing example of the earthen abodes built by Germans from Russia. Believe it or not, Alex Hutmacher lived here until 1979.
The Hutmacher farm has been undergoing restoration. You can get more information here. These photos contributed by Kim Dvorak.
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. …
The original Fort Abercrombie was constructed in 1858, and it was the first military settlement in what would become North Dakota. Fort Abercrombie was a relic of the first transportation boom in the Dakota Territory — riverboats. Before the railroads, riverboats were one of the most efficient means of hauling cargo, and the Red River became a highway between Fort Abercrombie and Winnipeg. Due to flooding concerns, the fort was rebuilt in 1860 on higher ground, at its present location. …
Long before the arrival of the settlers brought by the Homestead Act of 1862, this part of North Dakota was a center of commerce in the fur trade. The Metis people, a mixed-race culture of Native Americans and French, English, and Scottish explorers, lived and traded in this area throughout the 18th and 19th centuries (French explorer Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye, arrived in what is now North Dakota in 1738). …
The International Peace Garden, first opened in 1932, is a hidden treasure within the United States and Canada. Photographer Kari Barchenger brings her 35 years experience of capturing unique subjects to a new height in this journey through the International Peace Garden. Take a walk with her through the gardens and observe the beauty and splendor of it all. Experience through her lens the butterflies and bees and lush gardens. Roam the cacti and tropical gardens in the conservatory. Wander through the large variety of plants from around the world. You may be lucky enough to see one of the cacti in bloom during your visit.
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Go Back to the Ghosts of North Dakota store.
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 1904, and he died there in 1911. Four years after he died, an excavation at Butler’s home uncovered a hidden trap door leading to a crawlspace. Inside, authorities found the remains of six people. All had been bludgeoned to death with blows to the back of the head.
Since Butler was already dead, he never saw the inside of a prison for his crimes. There weren’t any local people reported missing, so there are many theories about who the victims were–transient farmhands for instance. Their identities remain a mystery today.
An update on the mystery came from WDAY-TV in Fargo in February, 2016. Case files have been lost over the years, and an effort to perform DNA testing on the victims’ remains depends on the authorities ability to acquire bones stolen by looters in the aftermath of the discovery.
The Butler murders are a chapter of Niagara’s history that many have forgotten. Today, Niagara has a nice historical complex in their town square but there is understandably no mention of Eugene Butler’s crimes. Butler’s home was demolished and a workshop (not shown) stands on the site today.
Just as we pulled into town, the wind started to really blow and a light drizzle began… so we didn’t spend quite as much time photographing Niagara as we would have liked. We’ll definitely go back sometime when the weather is better.
There was once an impressive building on the corner of the intersection shown above. It would have stood where the nose of the pickup is sticking out from behind the fire garage.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, © 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 …
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.
Fort Buford dates back to the days of the Dakota Territory, decades before the map was crisscrossed by a spiderweb of railroad lines. Founded in 1866, Fort Buford was a strategically chosen point near the best highways of the day — the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers. The original fort was reportedly constructed using some recycled parts from Fort Union and Fort William. …
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. …
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. …
On Theodore Roosevelt’s first trip to North Dakota in 1883, before he made Elkhorn Ranch his home, he stayed in a modest frontier cabin about seven miles south of Medora at Chimney Butte. It was still the Dakota Territory then and the future President was bolstering his rawhide credentials. The National Park Service has a nice page on the cabin here. …
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. …
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. …
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.
Medora is the epicenter of North Dakota Old West lore, boasting historic figures from Theodore Roosevelt, who came to Medora in 1883 to hunt bison, to General Custer, who spent some of his final days here. Painted Canyon is just down the Interstate. The badlands scenery in Medora is incredible, and there’s a little something for everyone, from the musical to the pitchfork steak fondue. There’s another gallery of badlands photos here. We will likely visit many more times, because there is waaaayyyy more to see.
Above: The Rough Riders (spelled with a space, like the sign above the door) Hotel in 2013. Below: that’s the same hotel, on the left, 99 years earlier in 1914.
Theodore Roosevelt once rented the room upstairs.
Board sidewalks in Medora.
Marquis de Mores
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media
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. …
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.
At the summit. The memorial at lower right is a tribute to the former property owner, Lawrence Buzalsky, who died in 1990.
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.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
Dresden is a small town in Cavalier County, home to the Cavalier County Museum at Dresden, about six miles northwest of Langdon. The museum is housed in the former Holy Trinity Church, an incredible field-stone structure erected in 1936.
Dresden is home to numerous historic structures in varying states of restoration, including the Dyer School which was moved to the site from Milton, the former Langdon Jail, and more. The crew at the Cavalier County Historical Society is doing quite a job up there. They have their own blog where you can learn a lot more about Dresden and the attractions.
Hopes for a boom spurred by the railroad were a longshot for many communities near the Canadian border. Many of the railroad lines just petered out without actually crossing into Canada.
There’s a collector out there who would pay good money for that truck.
Luxury accommodations in this 1896 jail cell from Langdon.
Photos by Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
This is the Standing Rock Hill Historic Site, south of Kathryn and west of Enderlin, just up the hill from Little Yellowstone Park, right off Highway 46. It is also just a short drive from Jensen Cabin at Wadeson Park. Standing Rock Hill Historic Site consists of four Native American burial mounds, the largest of which is marked with the small standing rock shown below.
There is a fairly serious grade up a minimally maintained road to get to the parking lot at the top of the hill, but in dry conditions, you shouldn’t have any trouble in the typical car. Read more about it here.
Photos by Troy Larson, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media
This cabin was built in 1878 by Norwegian immigrant Carl Bjerke Jensen, made from hand-hewn oak. The cabin and the land were donated to the State Historical Society by the Wadeson family in 1957. This cabin was in pretty bad shape until it was restored in 1981.
I stumbled upon this place while taking a drive near Kathryn.
This is the Wadeson Park Spillway, right across the road from the Jensen Cabin.
Photos by Troy Larson, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media
Frontier Village is a tourist attraction just off Interstate 94 in Jamestown and includes a number of attractions including the “World’s Largest Buffalo” (a concrete bison statue named Dakota Thunder,) Frontier Village (a re-creation of a pioneer town featuring actual historic buildings which have been moved to the site from all over the state,) and the National Buffalo Museum.
The photo doesn’t quite do justice to the scale of Dakota Thunder… a tall person can stand beneath the two front legs of this statue with a couple feet to spare. It’s big, and really a thrill to see in person.
The store on the right is a working souvenir and snack shop with an ATM.
Do you have our hardcover coffee table book Churches of the High Plains?
There is no admission charge to get into Frontier Village or to see Dakota Thunder, and a small fee to the National Buffalo Museum, totally worth the price for the opportunity to see North American Bison in a family-friendly environment. You can even get a ride in a real stagecoach. Next time you’re driving by on Interstate 94, stop in for a visit!
Photos by Troy Larson, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC