Our Advice:
Go ahead. Get outside!

You know it. I know it. Everyone who has endured another winter knows they’re itching to get outside, get fresh air and sunshine. And yesterday, we advised three points to visit this spring. We advised one for driving, one for hiking, and one for camping. 

We took the hiking tip. It was worth it, and 24 hours later, our bodies are still thanking us for it.

Little Missouri River and willow bar

What we did, is this:

We didn’t make it.  But we were close.

We headed out to the Long X Trail south of Watford City, on the south side of the Little Missouri River. Our goal: the Roosevelt Bridge.

Like we wrote here: It’s a challenge to cross.

Our motivation this fall has been to track and retrace the older roads through the Badlands. They make great short hiking trails, such as the one overlooking Devils Pass.

This weekend, we stopped in at the Long X Visitor Center in Watford City to say hi to the lovable staff.


Then, to Cash Wise to get a few edibles for when we were done with our hike. 

 We packed a backpack, but decided our short little effort (3 miles) wouldn’t require all the gear we carry.   So, we stuck bottles of water in our hiking vest pockets and off we went in search of the Roosevelt Bridge location.

Our ultimate destination is right where the river bends to the left, at the end of the trees. That is where the Roosevelt Bridge once crossed the Little Missouri River.

Bismarck Tribune May, 1928

Roosevelt Bridge

Bismarck Tribune story on Roosevelt Bridge

Bismarck Tribune declares ferry days are over, July 1928

In 1928 the Chaloner ferry was updated to the Roosevelt Bridge.  It was big doin’s. Lots of celebrations.

It was said the bridge demonstrated “nature’s sovereignty was tottering.” “Civilization advanced over the majestic Badlands” (Bismarck Tribune, June 1928). And 15,000 people turned out to see the start of a new way to get to and from Watford City.  A U.S. Senate Committee came to the dedication, then toured the region as they considered a Roosevelt National Park in the Badlands. So, that’s where we were headed. We wanted to find what may still remain from that historic bridge. 

On the west side (the river runs north and south at this point) we slipped and slid down embankments to get to where I thought it was.

I was wrong. Mary was right. 

So, off we went to her identified location.  The old Highway came down the Badlands hills, across the valley floor and on a raised roadbed to reach the elevated west side. That’s the edge of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit.

East side of where Roosevelt Bridge once stood

A culvert and a bit of the bridge abutment on the East side, (or north side) of where the Roosevelt Bridge once stood.
Imagine crossing here on a ferry!


A woody view

From that raised road bed, Mary shot a 360 degree video:

YouTube player

The ground is frozen, but the snow has melted. So the entire area is covered in water on top of the frozen ground.

Muddy and wet

We took some time to absorb the location.  (Jay Goodvin, the Iowa Gallivant taught us this ritual, to absorb the location where history was made. One place like that is where Theodore Roosevelt sat and wrote at the Elkhorn Ranch.)

Then, we hiked back on what we thought was a short cut. We sloshed through ankle-deep water for about a quarter mile.  (She may know maps, but at least I don’t make us walk in icy water. Ha!)

On the way to the Roosevelt Bridge site, we caught a few glimpses of the soon to die Long X bridge.  The sun broke through evening clouds just long enough to light up the valley.Long X Bridge replaced the Roosevelt Bridge

So, if you’re going to the Long X Trail and the CCC Campground. Be prepared. It is muddy, but then, that’s spring!  Right?

Watch the weather forecast. It’s going to warm up. The ground is going to dry up. And you can get out to shake off the cobwebs of the winter’s hibernation. Oh, and the story on the Roosevelt Bridge is going to be awesome. We’ve scrounged up a library of information.  What a story!  

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