Scenic Highway 22 – Six stops Dickinson to New Town — 4 Different Cultures in the Badlands
95 miles. 4 hours with stops.
A paved highway takes you through at least 4 different cultures in the Badlands: Oil, Ranching, Bohemian and Native American. It’s good driving any time it’s not blizzarding. You will find textbook examples of grasslands, rangeland and finally Badlands. They give you rich rewards on this road trip — both visual and active.
Start in Dickinson
Fuel up your car and grab a bite to eat on the way out of town. Dickinson is famous for eateries such as the Brickhouse and the Wurst Shop.
Dickinson energizes visitors and the pulse of the town seems to beat rapidly – both downtown or north town.
New Hradec Is one of the Different Cultures in the Badlands
Just north of town, New Hradec is historic and provides a rare and different culture in the Badlands – the history of the Bohemians who came here from Crimea between 1861 and 1887.
Point of Interest: That’s where you’ll find a Catholic Church building, for those who are architecturally minded, and the grotto.
Cowboy Culture at Killdeer
Killdeer is the largest town between Dickinson and New Town. In town, you’ll find great places to eat, and a cozy city park for a picnic or a nap. As expected, the cowboy culture here is one of the most distinct of the different cultures in the Badlands.
Point of Interest: Little Killdeer Mountains Battlefield, Little Missouri State Park, (see below) and the annual Killdeer Mountain Roundup Rodeo. The annual Killdeer Mountain Roundup Rodeo is as authentic as you can get. It’s about 100 years running and features local and national professional cowboys. The rodeo grounds are just west of town off of Highway 200 on the Highway 22 bypass west of town.
Find it under the mammoth U.S. flag on the hill.
Continue North on Highway 22
Along Highway 22, pass many working oil wells, pump jacks or “dipping donkeys” of the world famous Bakken Oil field.
This is where, from here on up north, you will encounter many semis servicing the oil rigs. So traffic can be heavy at times.
This region of the Bakken is the largest oil play in the U.S and puts North Dakota #2 in oil production states.
It is said there’s more oil between Mandaree and Williston than in Saudi Arabia. They’ll drill for oil for another 50 years, at least.
That’s why you may see some work-over rigs where workers are updating existing wells. You may also pass a working drill sight, with lots of trailers parked around the perimeter, and a large well-lit at night working rig.
Thanks to the available jobs in the oil field, many other different cultures in the Badlands are growing — especially the Mexican culture.
North of Killdeer, yes, they are geologically considered “mountains.”
Points of Interest: Visit the Killdeer Mountain Battlefield of 1864. Follow the signs from Highway 22. Signs along the way lead to a parking area and the battlegrounds. It was a bloody day for the Sioux. You can read a good overview of the encounter and what lead to it by clicking here.
I enjoy just a scenic drive through the winding roads, and a visit to the wildlife management area. It is good for deer, hawks, and coyotes.
Little Missouri State Park
Get lost in the visual layers on display – visually attractive and geologically revealing. These are some of the deepest cuts of Badland’s valleys in this part of the U.S. They can be up to 650 feet deep.
Point of Interest: The park is open for hiking on different levels. Pass through varied rock formations and plateaus. Just follow the markers.
Wildlife here includes mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep, porcupines, hawks, buzzards, and of course, the very prolific rattlesnake.
I’ve gone rattlesnake hunting in the Killdeer Mountains with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We captured 66 that day.
Just north of the Little Missouri State Park, down the hill is the famous lost bridge, (replaced in 1994).The winding road down the south slope of the valley and up the other side begins a scenic curving drive north.
A bridge built near the current crossing was abandoned during the war. It stood unconnected and lost until the road was built to it and became Highway 22.
At one time, Highway 22 was to be a major highway in state — but the war effort was a greater concern. So, manpower and steel went to the war effort.
Point of Interest: The pull off and signboard telling the story.
Little Missouri River
The river crossing is your entrance into the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, home of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara tribes. This has been their ancestral home for ages, long before explorers and trappers came here in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
Point of Interests: A now-gone lady who lived here told me that the hill to the northeast of the bridge is rattlesnake hill. When the river is low, a short hike up and back down the river bank is good exercise. Late in the season, it is easy to cross without getting your knees wet. When high, it can be floated, so, this is the place to get out of your kayak
East on Highway 23 – Two stops
Four Bears Peninsula
South of the Four Bears Casino is a large peninsula where dancers gather in August for the annual Little Shell Powwow – one of the largest in the state. Tourists are warmly welcomed.
Like the cowboy culture at Killdeer, the Indian culture on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation is one of the most splendid of the different cultures in the Badlands.
Powwow season provides opportunities to visit a traditional ceremony that was illegal until about 50 years ago.
Points of Interests: Like Sakakawea shoreline and boat launch. MHA Interpretive center. Earth Lodge Village.
Four Bears Bridge
The Four Bears Bridge is a world-class, award-winning bridge.
Point of Interest: The plaza on the west side with fascinating and interesting history stories of how it came to be. (Full disclosure: I helped write it and took many of the current photos.) The paved trail leads under the bridge on the west end.
Ending the Road Trip Through the Different Cultures of the Badlands
- From here it is 60 miles to Minot. Follow Highway 23 east to Highway 83, then go north. Or turn south to got to Bismarck. It’s 75 miles from New Town.
- From here, you can return to Watford City for a large variety of eateries and lodging. To get to Watford City from New Town, follow highways 23 west. It is 50 miles from New Town.
From here, to return to Dickinson, retrace your route west on Highway 23, then south on Highway 22.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Where are the North Dakota Badlands?
The North Dakota Badlands is a region bout 60 miles wide and 150 miles long. They begin at the North Dakota South Dakota Border near Marmarth and follow the Little Missouri River north to Watford City, then east to Killdeer and Mandaree.
Where can I buy gas in the Badlands?
A full tank of gas is a safe thing to have when touring the Badlands. The luxury of a convince stores nearby is unheard of. So, gas up in Dickinson, Watford City, Killdeer or New Town.
Is there cell phone reception in the Badlands?
It depends on your carrier and your elevation. If you have a carrier who services North Dakota and you are on a hill top, you may have reception. Otherwise no, cell phone coverage is undependable.
Are there snakes and spiders in the Badlands?
Most certainly yes there are, but it’s no like a forested infestation. Your biggest insect problem is in the summer when wood ticks are laying in wait for a blood meal.
Lewis and Clark Trail Museum Alexander North Dakota Memorial Day to Labor Day
Thanks. That will be a good inclusion in our itinerary for a McKenzie County road trip.
What happened to the rattlesnakes that you captured? I’m terrified of them and for that reason I have never hiked in the badger.
Good question. Thanks!
With the US Fish and Wildlife, each snake was stretched out against a tape measure to get its length. Then, coiled into a bucket sitting on a scale to weigh it. Then it was turned over on its back, tagged by clipping a scale on it’s belly, recording the information. Then, next year do it all over again, hoping to catch one of the snakes that got weighed measured and tagged the previous year. Odds were against a repeat catch because there are hundreds of rattlers in the rocks on Killdeer Mountain.