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Scenic Byway

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The Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway stretches 63 miles along the breathtaking Sheyenne River Valley, from Baldhill Dam to Lisbon, following ancient Native American foot paths and pioneer wagon trails.

Along the way you will find Little Yellowstone Park, two log cabins, 27 award winning interpretive panels, many unique bird species and 6 dams. We will provide step on guides for bus tours– check at the Rosebud Visitor Center.

Midwest Living magazine suggests this roadway as a "Fall Color Drive" and the route was also listed in National Geographic's Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways.

Dive Into the Rich History of the Sheyenne Valley

  • Northern Gateway 

  • Baldhilll Dam Overlook

  • Mel Rieman Visitor Center 

  • Faust Park 

  • Riparian Restoration 

  • King School 

  • Daily Historic Site 

  • Kathryn 

  • Clausen Springs Park

  • Walker Dam 

  • Wadeson Park State Historic Site 

  • Waldheim Church 

  • Little Yellowstone Park 

  • Standing Rock State Historic Site

  • Preston Church 

  • Slattum Cabin 

  • Fort Ransom State Park 

  • Standing Rock Church

  • T.J. Walker Historic District 

  • Pyramid Hill

  • Sheyenne State Forest Overlook 

  • Harris Ford Crossing

  • Southern Gateway 

Visitors at Fort Ransom
Visitors at Fort Ransom

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Scenic Byway Cabin
Scenic Byway Cabin

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Bikers on Scenic Byway
Bikers on Scenic Byway

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Visitors at Fort Ransom
Visitors at Fort Ransom

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More About the Interpretive Sites

Mel Reiman Recreation Area:

The Sheyenne River which forms the lake is home to a recorded 53 species of fish.  Although many of these species are smaller fish that would be categorized as “minnows”, the lake is also home to the more popular northern pike, walleye, white bass, yellow perch and black bullheads.

The Corps of Engineers actively manages 2500 acres of grassland, woodland and shrub land at the Lake Ashtabula Project.  Some wildlife management programs include waterfowl nesting surveys, maintenance of waterfowl nesting structures, renovation and maintenance of wooded areas and shelterbelts, construction of a waterfowl brood rearing pond, and winter-feeding of white-tailed deer.

Also highly visible is the white pelican which soars gracefully across the sky, gliding on the warm air currents and slowly spiraling down to the lake for a bite to eat.  It is one of the largest birds found in North America with a wingspan of nearly ten feet and measuring six feet from the tip of the bill to the end of their tail feathers.

The white pelican winters along the Gulf Coast and journeys back to their northern breeding grounds in early spring.  One of the largest such breeding ground is located about 60 miles west of here at the Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).  It is estimated that 1/3 to 1/2 of all white pelicans nest there.

​Getchell Township Hall

This building was originally known as Getchell school #1, built in 1880.  The school closed in 1948 and is still occasionally used for special events during the summer. 

Faust Park Recreational Area

Once the home of a Soo Line railroad station named Faust, the site boasted grain elevator, cattle corral with loading chute and a dam on the river.  This station was named for Aaron, Jacob, Charles, Otto and Peter Faust in 1898, five brothers who came here in 1882.  The grain elevator was removed in the mid-1930s, the station was removed in 1939 and all that remains is the remnants of the dam which is now a popular fishing, canoeing and picnicking spot created by the Barnes County Wildlife Federation.

Valley City National Fish Hatcheries

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the primary Federal agency responsible for stewardship of the nation’s fish and wildlife resources.  The main purpose of the Service is the welfare of migratory birds, endangered species, marine mammals, and freshwater fish.  Fish hatcheries play an important role in managing fish populations.  Most fisheries today cannot keep up with existing fishing pressure and habitat changes and fish hatcheries have the ability to provide the fish necessary to meet the growing needs of the resource and the angler.

The Valley City National Fish Hatchery was built from 1938 to 1940 and the Baldhill Dam National Fish Hatchery in 1952.  Stocking fish at the hatcheries include pike, walleye, muskellunge, Tiger muskie, large and smallmouth bass, channel catfish, blue gill, crappie, and yellow perch.

Medicine Wheel Park

This rock monument is a reconstruction of a Native American solar calendar made of rock and boulders also known as a “medicine wheel”.  Built in the fall of 1992 by the VCSU astronomy class, the medicine wheel works like a calendar by indicating the beginning of each season.  The sunrises and sunsets for the first day of each of the four seasons are marked by the spokes of the wheel.  The interpretive panel explains how to use the Medicine Wheel.

The Riparian Restoration Interpretive Site

The Riparian Restoration Interpretive Site is a river environment education site, sponsored by the Barnes County Soil Conservation District.  It is also a bio-engineering stream bank restoration demonstration site, native plant arboretum, picnic area and canoe landing.

Barnes County experienced several years of sporadic flooding in the 1990’s and several residential homes were purchased through the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) buyout program. The property was then turned back to the county.

The Barnes County Soil Conservation District purchased two neighboring residential sites from the county for the sum of $2 dollars. The Soil Conservation District had a vision of restoring the property back to its original landscape and using the site for educational purposes.  With partnering agencies and sponsors, the Soil Conservation District developed a plan, which would: 

  • Remove restricting dikes off the riverbanks to allow floodwater to expand over a greater area.  Placed rootwads along the riverbanks to deflect the water back towards the stream channel.  This will relieve pressure off the streambanks, preventing erosion.

  • Plant different varieties of grasses, shrubs and trees.  The root systems help anchor the soil.  The stem and vegetation of the plants slow down the velocity of floodwaters, which will slow erosion further down the channel.

  • A canoe launch was developed.  Before that time, no riverbank was accessible south of Valley City for recreational purposes.  Now people are able to enjoy the scenic Sheyenne River from afloat.

  • A native grass planting was established, also for educational purposes.  Developments, cropping, overgrazing of cattle, and introduction of tame grass species has reduced our states native grasses.  Education, awareness, proper management and identification of native species will help improve the quantity and quality of native grasses left on the North Dakota Prairie.

Country Junction at King School

King School was the last one-room schoolhouse in Barnes County to close its doors. School has been out since 1967 but the feeling of the little local schoolhouse is still there.  Once the one-room schoolhouse dotted every township in Barnes County with a total of 75 of them in the county.  Now very few of them remain.  Country Junction at King School now serves as a country store of sorts, offering crafts and collectibles for sale.  But they also have a miniature museum allowing a peek into the past of the life and times of the rural one-room schoolhouse.

The first school district organized in Barnes County was the Daily school district a few miles south of here in the winter of 1878-79.  The students met in an attic with no heat.  The school house was not built until three years later. By 1908 there were 144 school houses in the county.  Eight were built of brick or stone and 136 were frame houses similar to this one.  Many schools had banks of windows on one side only as it was the thinking of the day that cross-illumination was harmful to the students’ eyes.

Church meetings, political meetings and entertainments such as suppers, social, dances and debates were often held in the school house.  These events were allowed by state law.  However, it was illegal to unfasten the seats from the floor.  The seats could only be removed when the school was cleaned, or for repair.  There was a fine of $5-10 for illegally removing the seats. 

Schools in Barnes County held longer terms than the rest of North Dakota.  More school districts purchased text books with public funds allowing students access to uniform textbooks provided to their students free of charge.  Barnes County teachers received higher wages than the state average.  The percentage of women teachers was also higher in Barnes County than statewide.

Marsh’s Mill

This flour and grist mill was built in 1879-1880 by George Marsh. Construction was delayed by the difficulty of obtaining machinery so actual operation did not begin until December 9, 1881.  The mill produced “Pride of the Sheyenne” flour.  Fluctuations in river level which made continuous operation impossible and competition from the larger Russell-Miller Mill in Valley City eventually caused the Marsh Mill to close around 1910.  After it closed, the mill building was moved slightly away from the river and converted into a barn.  The dam is still visible in the river below the barn.     Across the road to the east, on top of the hill are the graves of Marsh’s parents.

Sheyenne Valley Church:

The congregation was organized in 1878, one of the first congregations in the area.   In that year, a large influx of Norwegian settlers arrived and the Lutheran Church sent the Reverend Nils Forde to take care of their religious needs.  Reverend Forde was a missionary pastor and was instrumental in starting many Lutheran parishes between Valley City and Lisbon.  The church building was constructed in 1897 and was destroyed by fire in 1976.

Daily:

The town of Daily was named for an early settler and bridge builder by the name of James Daily. It was the site of the first school in Barnes County, organized in 1879, with classes taught in James Daily’s attic until a school house could be built near here in 1880.  A man named Ole Hjelde was a carpenter from Norway whom James Sorenson hired to build his mill which was located a short distance to the South along the river.  As soon as he had finished his work with Sorenson he decided he like the territory and started to build his country store in the vicinity of the Daily School which had been built the year before.  He handled groceries, dry goods, tobacco, hardware, rope, harness leather, kerosene, patent medicines and just about anything a homesteader might need.  A library or reading circle was organized by the Norwegian people of the community and the books were kept in Hjelde’s store.  In the spring of 1882, Hjelde, with the help of two other men made use of the high water in the Sheyenne River by piloting a raft load of goods from Valley City to the Sorenson mill dam.  This cargo consisted of lumber, farm machinery, groceries and merchandise of all kinds.  A big boat was used for the most valuable part of the cargo.  It took two days to make the trip down the river and fourteen trips had to be made with a team and wagon to transport the goods from the mill to the store.

The school and store were the social and economic center of the area until the railroad came and Kathryn was founded just a few miles south in 1900.  The post office was discontinued in 1908, the Sorenson mill burned in 1910 but the village continued to struggle until 1923 when the school was closed.  Ole Hjelde closed his store around 1925 and the town of Daily ceased to exist.

Sorenson’s Mill

a.k.a. Walker mill #2.  The 30 x 40 foot, 3 1/2 story mill was built by James Sorenson in 1880-1881. The six 2,000 pound mill stones and other heavy mill machinery were floated to the mill location on rafts taking three weeks to cover 17 miles.  Opening in the fall of 1881, the mill soon became a busy place sometimes running around the clock to keep up with business.  When the railroad was built several miles south instead of going through Daily, James Sorenson sold out to Myron Walker, owner of the mill at Oakville.

Despite the fact that the mill was never served by the railroad, business prospered.  To take care of the growing business a steam engine and boiler were installed and later a round brick elevator was built to store the wheat.  Later legal difficulties involving flooding of farmland upriver caused by the mill dam arose.  Mr. Walker appeared victorious when he won the suit against him in a trial in Valley City and again in the state Supreme Court but the decision had hardly been handed down when a fire of mysterious origin burned the mill to the ground on October 10, 1910.  The stone foundation, bricks from the elevator and the mill dam can still be seen at the site.

Clauson Springs:

Clauson Springs—The first written history of the Clauson Springs area begins in 1839 when General Charles Fremont and Joseph Nicolas Nicollet camped here for two days in July of that year.  A large group of Indians and half-breeds were camped here hunting buffalo.  It was well known among Indians, fur trappers, and hunters from Pembina as a prime camping spot known as Birch Creek.

 

In 1853, a large meeting of approximately 5,000 Sioux gathered here to discuss the U.S. government’s promises and broken treaties which were the cause of some discontent.  The Indians gave the place the name “The place where we ate many dogs” and renamed the creek “Shanka” or Dog Creek in reference to the many prairie dogs there at that time whose meat they considered a delicacy.

 

Colonel Samuel McPhail, of General Sibley’s 1863 punitive expedition against the Sioux, stopped here with five companies of the Minnesota Mounted Rangers on their way back to Minnesota.  The Colonel named the spot “Camp Johnson” in honor of one of his officers.

 

In 1867, the government moved to establish a line of forts from Minnesota, through North Dakota and into Montana to protect the wagon trains on the way to the gold fields of Montana, the workers on the westward moving railroad, and the settlers which would follow close behind.  General Terry was ordered to survey the area for the location of the forts.  He began at Fort Abercrombie on the Red River.  His party consisted of one company of infantry, a troop of cavalry, and 25 wagons pulled by six-mule teams.  On the route, Fort Ransom was established and the survey continued north.  They stopped to camp at Birch Creek on their way to Fort Totten near Devils Lake.  This was the beginning of what became known as the Fort Ransom to Fort Totten Trail.  Birch Creek was a regular camp site for the supply trains, dispatch riders and cattle drivers which supplied the fort system of Forts Ransom, Totten, Stevenson and Buford.  The sod was dug up about two feet wide in a circle about 9 feet in diameter.  The sod was heaped up in the center around a pole which was used as one of several markers along the trail.  The old trail crossed Birch Creek to the south southeast up a rather steep coulee and the ruts may still be seen in spots along the trail, one of which is here at Clausen Springs.

 

After Fort Ransom was discontinued, it still remained a popular camping spot for Indians, trappers, and now new settlers.  In 1879, three brothers by the name of Clausen settled here.  They were Norwegian immigrants by the name of Ludvig, Gustav, and Nels.  They filed on the land and built a “dugout” home in the side of a hill and then a small house and a barn by the creek. When the brothers passed away, the land was bought by Torger Syvertson, who owned the land to the west of the Clausen’s.  Mr. Syvertson tore down the small house and dugout home and the property became a popular picnic spot.  The area was known for recreation during the Prohibition years.  It became so popular that Mr. Syvertson built a small dance pavilion and dances were held during the 1930s.   The Barnes County Park Board purchased the land in 1967 and with the cooperation of numerous government agencies succeeded in creating a new county park named Clausen Springs Recreational Area.  A rolled earth-filled dam was built at the lower end of the valley and water from the springs created a 50 acre lake with a maximum depth of 39 feet.  It remains a popular camping spot for hundreds of people each year.

Kathryn

The town of Kathryn was founded in 1900, when the Casselton branch of the Northern Pacific Railroad was built to Marion.  The town was named for one of the daughters of C. S. Mellon, president of the railroad.  The building on the corner was Mrs. Johnson’s Millinery Shop.  The next building was moved in from the former town site of Preston, to be used for a general store, later it was sold to Mrs. Myron Walker as a grocery store.  The Dew Drop Inn was formerly Johan Johanson’s hotel.  The building identified as a laundromat was once E. G. Strom’s Meat Market.  Then came the Kathryn Recorder and print shop.  Carl Lewison had a harness shop and living quarters next.  Next in line is the present post office, built in 1916 to serve as a bank while the brick Sheyenne Valley Bank building was being constructed.  In the early days of Kathryn Louis Larson and his family came to Kathryn to start a hardware store.  He also began a lumber yard about the same time in the west part of town. 

Next to the hardware store was a bank.  Then there was a general merchandise store and a drug store.  In 1916 these buildings burned, and were replaced by large brick building housing the Sheyenne Valley Bank, Anderson’s Drug Store and Louis Larson’s General Store and Hardware Store combined.  In 1941 the Hardware and General Store burned, leaving only the Drug Store and the Sheyenne Valley Bank.  The Bank building is now the property of the Kathryn Park Department and plans are to use it as a museum and handicapped accessibly bathrooms for the pretty little park right next to it.  They also have restored the old jail which is located behind the old bank building.

The “Old Round House” of the Kathryn elevator is a concrete structure built on a patented design called the “Brahtz Perfection” after its architect-designer, J. H. A. Brahtz..  It is 48 feet in diameter and 94.7 feet high.  There were 20 bins included in the structure.  It was the first of the kind to be erected in the United States.  Volunteers poured the concrete for the 10 inch thick walls which still hold the impressions of the wood which was used to form them.  Reinforcing the structure is 5/8 inch square twisted rebar.  The loading area was designed for the draft horses which the farmers used at that time to haul their grain.  An air compressor was used to lift the wagons.

Wadeson Park State Historic Site

Carl Jensen and his nephew John Bjerke built this hand-hewn log home in 1878 from the stately oaks which line the banks of the Sheyenne River.   Carl came with his father, Jens, and his brothers, Hans and Ole, from Minnesota in 1878.  Ole homesteaded on land to the west, which eventually became part of Kathryn and Hans farmed south of here.

Logs for building a cabin must be straight and tall with slow, even tapers and no large branches.  Wood is easier to work with when it’s green, but weighs about half as much when it’s dry.  Green timbers of this size can weigh as much as a small car. 

Many of the log cabins in this area are built using approximately the same technique.  Log houses have only two real sills, the bottom logs on the long sides of the house.  These are the heaviest logs of the building and support and tie together the entire building. The sills are left round and protruding on their inside faces to support the floor and the floor joists.  The joists are the main beams which support the floor. The sills are placed on the foundation of uncut stone, the joists are hung from notches cut in the sills and are then hewn level.  Sometimes pioneer cabins had packed dirt floors instead of wooden floors.  These floors were rough sawn at a saw mill.  Hewing plank from logs was very hard work and seldom done in this area.   

The walls are started by laying out the first log up on the building where it is to go.  The notches are cut one by one to fit snugly against the next.  These are called dovetail notches because they are in the shape of a dove’s tail.  Their outward facing slope sheds water well and prevents it from seeping into the joints and causing rot.  Each course, or layer, is fitted together, around and around.  These walls are 10 logs high.

You will notice that about a foot from the sides of the doors and windows there are small hewn timbers placed between each course of logs.  These are placed to hold the logs together so that the doors and windows may be cut.  The larger beams between the eighth and ninth course of logs on the long side are the second-floor joists.  These hold the top of the cabin together.  These can be left round or they can be flattened to lay a floor for an attic or loft. Notches are cut in the top log or plate to hold the roof rafters.  The shingled roof is set at a good steep pitch in order to shed rain.

The last step is chinking and daubing.  Chinking is the split branches or saplings or boards that get put between the logs to make the cracks small enough to fill in with the daubing and seal them up.  Daubing was usually made up of a mixture of clay and straw, hay or grass and sometimes lime.  The cracks between the logs in this cabin have been recently daubed with concrete which would have never been done in a pioneer cabin but is more permanent than a clay mixture.

63 Miles and 40 Historic Sites

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"Passing through rolling hills, charming towns, notable historic sites and quaint farms, the route reveals the story of the hardy people who settled and tamed the land. There’s a sense of timelessness in this valley, revealed in a story intertwined with Native Americans, homesteading, sodbuster pioneers, the railroad, and agriculture, once the frontier and now on farms that feed the nation and the world."

- National Travel Center