North Dakota Before the Interstates and Garrison Dam

One of the more helpful techniques we’ve used in finding abandoned and out-of-the-way places to photograph is examining old maps. Abandonment frequently happens in the name of “progress.” When a highway was expanded, it frequently left places to wither. Similarly, the Garrison Dam project forced the abandonment of numerous places, like Sanish and Elbowoods (to name a few), and prompted the demolition of bridges and the abandonment of highways.

We recently found this Rand McNally World Atlas page that shows North Dakota in 1942, before the Interstates (actually, no roads are shown on this map, railroads only) and before Garrison Dam created Lake Sakakawea, and it’s fascinating. There are towns that no longer appear on the map, as well as some places that we’ve been planning to visit. Hopefully, we’ll have pictures of some of those places for you this summer. Until then, enjoy the map. Click on it to enlarge.

1942 map feature

1942 Map by Rand McNally, original content © Sonic Tremor Media

12 thoughts on “North Dakota Before the Interstates and Garrison Dam

  1. Those maps are really great to see. I have early memories of ND 200 being built and the boom in Turtle Lake following one of the later stages of construction of the Dam. School classes were being held in the churches nearest the school to accommodate the over flow.

    I also remember the Minuteman Missile Site construction boom. Haven’t heard much about that from this website.

    Thanks for sharing


  2. I have a map of Cass County from 1890’s that shows railroad development prior to development of some towns. Even a town that was established and later moved when the railroad took a slightly different path.


    1. I presume that what I see on Troy’s map is of railroads. Given that, if you look closely at central McLean County, you can see that the railroad (I believe Great Northern) branch ended at Turtle Lake. In 1905, there was a town called Wanamaker 4 miles or so due west of modern-day Turtle Lake. A Mr. Wanamaker got into a pissing contest with the railroad and the branch came in 4 miles short and in the fall, steam engines drug the buildings from Wanamaker to the Turtle Lake town site (where the branch ended). – written by Vernon Keel, author of “The Murdered Family”.


    2. Westby would be an example of that. It was originally the westernmost town in Divide County until it was moved a bit northwest taking it over the Montana line. Partly because of the railroad and partly because of the state being ‘dry’ then.


  3. I was poking around the internet looking at TB sanitoriums in North Dakota in the l930s, as my mother mentioned being sent to one for a time when she was a child. Interestingly, her mother was a Larson – Mabel Melruth Larson (Her last name was Kollmann after she married). I was intrigued when I saw your name as author. I am wondering if you have a suggestion where I might find old sanitorium records.


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