Aug 31 2009
By now you’ve seen my entries on Sims, Curlew, North Almont, and Glen Ullin, North Dakota. These towns made a definite impression on my during our North Dakota travels. They were places of history, with stories to tell, in a beautiful part of a beautiful state.
And perhaps most striking is the fact that I never would have seen these places, or heard their stories, if I’d traveled I-94 from Bismarck to Dickinson.
My plan for that day was to take I-94 west, stopping to snap a photo of New Salem Sue, drive the Enchanted Highway, and end up in Dickinson to see some things there and spend time with friends.
While in Bismarck, however, I came across a brochure for the Old Red/Old Ten Scenic Byway. The route roughly paralleled I-94, but instead of zooming around the small towns, the old trail went through them. Its mention of the ghost town of Sims piqued my curiosity, and our alternate route was set in place.
Known in days gone by as the Custer Trail, the Old Red Trail, Highway 23, and then U.S. 10, the byway is now a series of county roads and city streets. This newest designated Scenic Byway in North Dakota officially opened on July 4. We drove it on June 2, 2009.
With a rough map from the brochure, I moved to Google maps to find the actual route. It wasn’t too hard to find if I followed the road from town to town, and I made notes to myself about what the new county road names were. (The byway route was not marked when we drove the road, although I hope this is done in the future.)
We started out in downtown Bismarck, just a few blocks from our hotel, then crossed the river into Mandan and drove through the heart of that city as well.
Out in the country, the road was straight and well-maintained. Only one section, from Almont to near Glen Ullin, was gravel. We drove through several small towns: New Salem, Glen Ullin, Hebron, Richardton, Taylor, Gladstone. Each had its own personality. Sometimes we drove right through, and sometimes we pulled off to snap a photo or explore the business district.
Along the way, I learned things I hadn’t known about my home state. A brick factory remains in Hebron, but other communities had brick-making facilities as well. Fort Sauerkraut tells of a feared Indian attack that never happened. And of course, Sims, the “ghost town” that First Lady Laura Bush visited in 2008.
The terrain is varied and beautiful, from hills to grasslands to buttes. Sometimes the route crosses creeks and rivers, and at other times it parallels railroad tracks, which were so essential to the life or death of a frontier town.
Yes, it took twice as long to drive the Old Red Trail as it would have to drive the Interstate, but that’s because we took time to explore. For those with limited time, it’s easy enough to jump on and off the old road at any of the nearby I-94 exits.
Interstate highways are good for making time, but they do nothing for learning of an area’s history, culture, or beauty. If you’re driving through North Dakota, pull off I-94 and take some time to explore Old Ten.
Below are my notes for following Old Red/Old Ten from Bismarck to Mandan.
- Bismarck/Mandan: Memorial Highway across Missouri River. West on Main Street in Mandan.
- When 25/Bus Rt 94 turns north, keep going straight (west).
- Detour to see Salem Sue in New Salem, then return to road.
- Turn south at North Almont. (Stop sign; grain elevators used to be here, but there is no other marking of the town. Interstate exit to the north.)
- If you want to visit Sims, turn left at Sims Road. It’s the first or second left turn after going south at North Almont.
- Return back to the paved road and continue south to Almont. There’s a museum in Almont, as well as a gas station and a few other businesses.
- From the north side of Almont, go west on the gravel road CR 138. It curves into 52nd Ave, then becomes 45th Street.
- Turn left at the T road to Glen Ullin (CR 139 to CR 87).
- Hint: follow “business district” signs to see the towns.
- Go straight through Glen Ullin; parallel the railroad tracks west of town.
- Cross I-94 to Hebron. Time change to Mountain Time Zone.
- Hebron has brick company and Fort Sauerkraut.
- Continue through Richardton and Taylor.
- To detour onto the Enchanted Highway, turn left (south) at 100 1/2 Ave SW. (I think the actual road sign said something like 100M.) You can see the “Geese in Flight” sculpture to your left as you approach the turn.
- Return to the road and continue into Dickinson.
Have you veered off the Interstate to explore the Old Red Trail or another scenic byway? Tell us about it in the comments.