The Badlands of Old Marmarth Road

Old Marmarth Road

In July of 2015, we visited Marmarth, North Dakota and had plans to proceed from there to Ollie, Montana to photograph the former school (it was no longer standing) on the way to the prairie ghost town of Carlyle, Montana. Our route of choice was Old Highway 16, also referred to as Old Marmarth Road. It was a route that would take us through the Badlands north of Marmarth, where the views are fantastic.

Old Marmarth Road

Although Old Marmarth Road is in fairly nice condition these days, it is not your standard scenic drive. It is a minimum maintenance road, and a sign at the south entrance advises you drive at your own risk. Although there are a number of ranchers who graze cattle on land adjacent to the road, there are no homes, services or businesses of any kind on the stretch we drove, and cell service is hit and miss even with the best carrier. You’ll drive over a dozen or more cattle guards in the road along the route, and there are no fences in places, requiring a slower pace and attentive driving habits, because it’s not unusual to encounter some cattle right on the road. We saw rattlesnakes on the road too, so if you drive here, be careful.

Old Marmarth Road

Old Marmarth Road

There are places along the road where you can see abandoned remnants of the old road, where travelers traversed the rugged Badlands of Old Marmarth Road in the horse and wagon era, sometimes crossing paths with new fangled machines called “automobiles.”

Old Marmarth Road

Old Marmarth Road

Old Marmarth Road

If you’re feeling adventurous, and yearning for something a little more visceral than the standard scenic overlooks of the Interstate System, Old Highway 16 is a good place to take in some North Dakota Badlands vistas.

Old Marmarth Road

One of the narrower stretches of Old Highway 16 as it looked in July of 2015.

Old Marmarth Road

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC


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16 Comments on “The Badlands of Old Marmarth Road

  1. These shots are amazing! Most beautiful! Would it be OK if I attempted to water color one of them?

    • Thanks for the tip, Carl. And good point about the road… I didn’t even think to mention the conditions in bad weather, which are probably not good.

    • The Ollie school was torn down and burned.
      The ‘bridges’ are stone culverts.

  2. I love your posts! This is on my bucket list, now! And the sign is awesome! For you to take a pix of it and post it tells me we’re in the same family! =D

  3. You maybe have not traveled that road in the last few is a secondary highway now. New bridges, culverts and very well to travel on..

    • No it isn’t. These photos were taken two weeks ago. You may be confusing it with something else, perhaps. There aren’t any bridges on this road.

  4. We traveled the Bad Lands last year on our way to Grenora, Wish we knew about highway 16 then. Love your articles, pictures and descriptions of the areas you are visiting. My wife (decreased) was born and raised up by Alkabo, Northwest corner of the state. Again really appreciate all the work you and your company do

  5. In the book, ” For the Love of North Dakota ” by Clay S. Jenkinson, Sheila Schafer mentions Marmarth, ND in her forward. I haven’t finished reading the book but the forward was enough to peak my interest. It is interesting to see pictures of this area which allows my imagination to take me back to the good old days of Teddy Roosevelt and times that were simple or simply beautiful. They were also times that were hard and survival was a daily challenge.

  6. Wow.. I lived in Marmarth up to the seventh grade. Occasionally, my dad, Eilef would give rides in his modified Willys Jeep on old 16 and then veer off into the badlands. Thank you for the beautiful photos that bought back a flood of memories. I would like to take my family on a tour but I believe we’ll stick to the highway!

  7. I enjoy this road very much and try to find an excuse to drive it a few times each year. The road has been improved quite a bit. When I first moved to this area 10 years ago, the road had 2 low water crossings and some rickety wooden bridges across some of the water. Now, as another poster says, it has decent culverts in place and no low water crossings.

    Here are some photos from my old Flickr account. You’ll see a few of the improvements in progress.

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