North Dakota’s Historic Landmarks Draw Reader’s Attention

It seems like the odder, the better.

You can read about the top spots here, and find Badlands landmarks like these on a road trip.

I was surprised when I found out the other day what attracts readers. It wasn’t what I expected. Things changed since the bizarre pandemic year of 2020 boosted a different set of stories into the top ten.

When I reviewed the popularity of subjects on the website, I found that old, historic landmarks in North Dakota’s Badlands draw the most attention.  The places in the badlands to visit include a flooded monument, railcar, abandoned wild west town, and a flooded Badlands town. Plan your road trip. Here’s  where to find badlands landmarks

historic landmark rail car

Imagine standing on the deck of this rail car, traveling 40-mph across America to Yellowstone.

#1 See How It Rots

You sure don’t see many of these any more, unless you drive west of Minot on Highway 2.  Lots of people told us they drove by the rail car, but never knew its story. 

We found the story. In fact it caught the attention of rail car enthusiasts across the U.S. so that they began trading and swapping parts to restore their own similar car.

The abandoned rail car  once was an elegant tour coach, it ended up rotting in the prairie. It transported tourists across the mid-section of the U.S. from Chicago to Yellowstone Park.  From such a glamorous role it became a rotted shell of itself outside of Minot, near Blaisdell.

Where to find badlands landmarks like thisL the rail car on private property, in a gravel pit east of Blasdell on the south side of Highway 2.

#2 The Four Bears Monument under Water

You sure don’t see this every day. It’s underwater. But we hiked out to it on the ice on day when the lake level was low. It is an amazing piece of history of the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation. 

The story of finding a 1925 statue of Four Bears that once marked the original Four Bears Bridge grabbed a lot of interest. It was the second most popular story in 2021.  It’s such an interesting topic, we will be pursuing more of the story in 2022.  See Number 4, below.

Where to find badlands landmarks like this: Wait until water is low, perhaps in 2022 the water may be low enough to walk down the abandoned Highway 8 west of Twin Buttes. At the water, head southeast.  You may find it poking out of the ice.

Note: Elbowoods is a hot topic, and we’ve been researching the old town to give readers more of what they want from the old Badlands town now underwater.

#3 The Town with a Split Personality

Monday sat on the border of North Dakota and Montana . The Missouri River was to the south of the frontier town, the Snowden Bridge to the southwest.

Mondak sat on the border of North Dakota and Montana. The Missouri River was to the south of the frontier town, the Snowden Bridge to the southwest.

The ruins of Mondak sit where it stood when it was a bustling shipping town.  But it was booze and even a kegger that gave the town its character. 

The town sat on the Montana-North Dakota border. Montana allowed drinking but North Dakota did not.  So, the western half of any bar on the state line was divided – drinking on one side, but not the other.

The remnants of the town are on private property across the road from Four Union Trading Post, downstream of a lift bridge that once was used by both cars and trains. That’s where a gruesome murder and lynching took place 100 years ago.

Where to find badlands landmarks like this: the abandoned town north across the road from the Fort Union Trading Post on private property.

#4 The Big Busy Little Town that was Flooded

Flood waters begin to creep up on Elbowoods in this 1953 photo from the North Dakota Historical Society.

Elbowoods is always a popular topic. We’ve written about our efforts to get as close as we could to the historic town, and readers like that.

Elbowoods was our fourth most popular topic in 2021.  I had never heard of it until I moved to New Town. The MHA Museum Director, Marilyn Hudson, often told me stories from her home town of Elbowoods. It caught my interest enough to get as close as we could to the flooded town.

Before it was flooded in 1953, Elbowoods boasted a state basketball championship team, a medical clinic, schools and a bustling main street.   When the government took the river valley for a lake, Elbowoods became a casualty.

Sadly, one of the last major relics of the town, the Susan Web Memorial Church Building was torched by an arsonist a few years ago.  Now Elbowoods has passed into the land of myths and legends.  Still, we like to revisit the history and so do readers.

Where to find badlands landmarks like this: the best place to look out on the water, and read memorial story boards on the south edge of the lake near Indian Hills Resort.


What was Next Most Popular?

I hinted at it here, but the second most popular subject to attract readers is mystery, murder and mayhem.  I’ll tell you about that in this post of wild west murders and lynchings...and of course tell you where to find badlands landmarks that are spooky and haunted.

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