The Killdeer Mountain Four Bears Scenic Byway
There’s nowhere in North Dakota like the Badlands and only scenic Highway 22 gets you in to the most rugged region. The drive from south to north builds the anticipation of that rugged region ahead.
Highway 22 is called the Killdeer Mountain Four Bears Scenic Byway and there are plenty of historical, cultural, architectural and visual reasons to drive the highway. You can do it in a few hours with less than a tank of gas. Or you can stretch out the exploration to a full day.
In spring, the variant shades of greens soothe the eyes. In the fall, turning leaves colors the landscape with warm earth tones.
Officially, the “Scenic Byway” begins at Manning, but unofficially, we recommend starting at New Hradec, 15 miles north of Dickinson, just barely across the county line into Dunn County.
New Hradec (aka “New Castle”)
New Hradec is the only documented community of Bohemians in the United States who came here from the Crimea between 1861 and 1887.
Settlers established the historic Saints Peter and Paul Church is 101 years old. It is an example of Gothic and Tudor architecture. That’s part of why it’s on the National Registry of Historic Places. The grotto outside the church is an elaborate structure.
The label of “bohemian” doesn’t mean what it used to mean. Today it connotes an alternative lifestyle, artistic, carefree, hippie-like That is far from the case of its original application when the “Bohemians” who settled here could not be topped for their hard work ethic, their dedication to family, the soil and to the community.
“Bohemia” is another name for the western region of Czechoslovakia. Sort of like saying “Dakotas” when referring to the northern plains states. https://ndczechheritage.com/history/
Here’s more: https://ndczechheritage.com/history/
Next stop, 20 miles north, Manning, the county seat of Dunn County. Legend has it that the county seat was to have been Dunn Center, but in a deciding election, Dunn Center did not get the required 60% of the vote, so Manning kept its designation. The new courthouse unites scattered offices in Killdeer and Manning in a modern and efficient building.
Across the street, you can stop in at the famous Dog House for a bite to eat. It has irregular hours of operation, so it may not be open when you drive through town. That’s okay, there’s plenty of good food just up the road.
More cultural history is a drive west and north of Manning. Germans from Russia settled the region and the Hutmacher farm is an example of their hard-working ethics. Historic architectural enthusiasts like to wander the site inspecting what remains of the buildings. They’re sturdy as built from only locally available building material such as cedar, rock, sod, and dirt. Their style is reminiscent of the building styles of the Black Sea region of Russia and Ukraine.
Keep going north
North of Manning the drive gets more rugged. This isn’t the flat Red River Valley or the prairie pothole region of the state. This rocky, hilly land is good for ranching; you’ll drive by hundreds of ranches, and thousands of cattle. The USDA says there’s a reason you’ll see lots of cattle on the drive: Dunn County has 82,000 head in 2018, the third most cattle-populated county in ND.
The pastures around highway 22 make Dunn County one of the top three cattle-producing counties in the state. The scenery here is pastoral and gives visitors a view of ranch life.
The big city of Killdeer
Ten miles north of Manning is the largest town on Highway 22: Killdeer. It is the cowboy capital of the region. Its annual rodeo goes back almost 100 years. 2018 marks the introduction of the newest rodeo grounds, the third or fourth site of the annual Roundup in its 100-year history. This is where people on the scenic route pause to gas up, eat up or rest up.
In town, you’ll find at least three great places to eat, and a cozy city park for a picnic or a nap. (We’ve done both). Come in from the south, follow Main Street and continue north. At the top of the hill is the aquatic center and across the street to the east is a grocery store to get picnic items. You may want those because the next few stops will give you an outstanding chance to explore the beauty of the Badlands. But that’s next week. Subscribe to get a note in your inbox when the next travel tips are posted.
Are there other stops between Dickinson and Killdeer you recommend?
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