The question was “How tall is Sentinel Butte.  Is it close to being as tall as White Butte?”  Yes, it close to the same elevation.

White Butte

White Butte, ND

White Butte near Amidon is 3, 506 feet high.

Even Michael J. Fox knows about the state’s highest point, White Butte. He climbed it.  But did you know a few miles away are three more of the state’s highest points: Sentinel Butte, Square Butte, and Camel Hump Butte?

Sentinel Butte

Sentinel Butte in the summer

At 3,428 feet, Sentinel Butte is the second highest point in the state, 78 feet shorter than White Butte. The mountain climbing group Peakery lists Sentinel Butte as a climbing destination. The area is privately owned and climbers are discouraged from climbing.

Sentinel Butte is a major landmark in the region.  Theodore Roosevelt used it to mark his travels from Elkhorn Ranch to Medora and Dickinson. 

Pointing at Sentinel Buitte, Square Butte and Camel Hump from Devils Pass.

From Devils Pass near Grassy Butte, the tall points of Square Butte, Sentinel Butte and Camels Hump can be seen as ripples on the horizon some 20 miles away.

We use it to mark where we are in at any one of the high points in the North Dakota  Badlands.

It’s just 3 miles from the shrinking town by the same name, Sentinel Butte, just up the road from the lost town of DeMores. 

The Northern Pacific Railroad reached here in late 1880 and built a station in the southeast quarter of section 19-140-104, Sentinel Township which was named for the flat-topped butte three miles to the southeast, elevation 3430, which was named to honor two Arikara Indian sentinels who were killed here in 1864 by the Sioux. 


In 1914 the U.S. Geological Survey conducted field examinations of the entire route of the Northern Pacific to aid in the preparation of a book, “Guidebook of the Western United States”. The following entry on Sentinel Butte is taken from that book. “Near milepost 160 (Demores Station) a flat-topped butte can be seen on the left (south) that stands far above most of the other surface features. This is known as Square Butte. An irregular, two-crested butte. which is about as high as Square Butte and visible on the right (north), is called Camels Hump. The most prominent and best known of the high knobs in this vicinity is Sentinel Butte which has an altitude of 3,350 feet, or 620 feet above the town of the same name, and was considered the highest point of land in North Dakota.”            

Golden Valley County Pioneers Book
Copyright 1976 Sentinel Butte Bicentennial Group

Square Butte and Camels Hump

Camel Hump Butte in the winter with a gravel road

As a winter storm builds to the north, a break in the clouds allows Camel Hump to shine against the dark sky.

From Square Butte, a winter sunset showing sentinel butte on the horizon.

From Square Butte, Sentinel Butte is visible on the horizon, 15 miles away, making it part of a recognizable route before explorers had Google Maps installed on their smart phones.

We climbed (hiked) Square Butte one winter’s day to get this shot.  On the horizon is Sentinel Butte.  It looks relatively close, but that would be a long up and down meandering hike from one Butte to the other.  Yet, they are the landmarks used by people 100 years ago.

Square Butte is in the history books, too. The North Dakota Tourism Department writes, “In 1876, Custer scanned the horizon in search of Square Butte and other landmarks that would identify the route he followed with Stanley and the 1873 survey expedition.”

It’s our understanding that both White Butte is off limits to visitors because it is privately owned.  A reader of this blog informed us, after it was first published, that Golden Valley County built and maintains a public access road to the top of Sentinel Butte where a historic marker tells some of the stories.  So, we updated the blog.Thanks!



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