Through the Buffalo Commons

US 2, ND

US 2 in ND

In the Buffalo Commons, things widen out.
Geographic Center of North America, Rugby, ND

Geographic Center of North America, Rugby, ND

Eventually, one feels he has reached the middle of the continent and discovers a road marker to that effect.

Rugby, ND, is located at the geographic center of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. This fact was overlooked when the town was platted, but, since then, residents have let lapse no opportunity advantageously to point this out.

Oil Well, ND

Oil Well near Williston, ND

The year 1951 commenced with a snowstorm. A drill had been busy since August in the Williston Basin at the Clarence Iverson farm south of Tioga, ND. At 10,500 feet on January 4, weather shut down the operation. Operations resumed on April 4, and the well came in that day at about 9:30 p.m. A new industry was born in North Dakota. This was the first major discovery in a new geologic basin since before World War II. By May 20, 30 million acres of North Dakota were under lease out of a total 44.8 million acres in the whole state!

[Key, James. "The History of Oil in the Williston Basin." Williston ND on the Web N. vol. (3 June 2003): 19 pars. Online. Internet. 26 Aug. 2004. Available

Boat-Launch Channel, Lake Sakakawea, Lewis & Clark State Park, ND

Marina, Lake Sakakawea, Lewis & Clark State Park, ND

The reservoir level is low because water flow is wanted to keep shipping afloat on the Mississippi River -- especially in a dry spell.
I camped at:
Lewis & Clark State Park
4904 119th Road NW
Epping, ND 58843
Phone 701-859-3071
That evening, I drove straight west into Williston, ND, about 20 miles away on SR 1804, which is numbered for the year of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. It was too late to do laundry. To console myself, I ate a fine buffet supper at:
Trapper's Kettle
3901 2nd Ave W
Williston, ND 58801
There is a sister operation at:
Trapper's Kettle
I 94 and US 85
PO Box 398
Belfield, ND 58622
... where I stopped years ago on another trip west.

It was a chilly night. I did laundry the next morning after lazing around waiting for the tent to dry. At Walmart, I printed some pictures to send as postcards, refueled the bike, and headed down the road to the nearby historic sites at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers:
Fort Buford State Historic Site
Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center
15349 39th Lane NW
Williston, ND 58801

Fort Union Trading Post NHS
15550 Hwy 1804
Williston, ND 58801
I spent a lot of time at Fort Union.

Exploring these sites took all afternoon. Even traveling at the legal limit of 70 mph, I didn't believe I could make Devils Lake, MT, before dark, but I rode on west, anyway. I stopped quite a bit short at Culbertson, MT, because rain threatened and took refuge in:
Culbertson Museum
PO Box 95
Culbertson, MT 59218
I received the Guided Tour. There is much to see, to appreciate, to ogle at, to boggle at, and to exclaim over, including the Great Northern caboose. This caboose was retired to a yard where it was inhabited by an anonymous hobo before being acquired by the museum. His legacy is an illustrated and annotated interpretation of the Revelation to St. John, inscribed on every interior space with colored felt-tip markers. Doing justice to that amount of culture took some time, too. When I was ready to leave, it was much too late to seek accommodations elsewhere. In hindsight, I suppose that was the plan all along.

I ate at the town bar (and casino) and stayed at:
Diamond Willow Inn
104 East 6th
PO Box 603
Culbertson, MT 59218
... because, of all things, they offered a DSL Internet connection. The next morning, having caught up on eMail and newsgroups, I was off again into the wild blue yonder.
Poplar Pride Ferry, Poplar, MT

Poplar Pride Ferry, Poplar, MT

The Poplar Pride Ferry made its maiden voyage across the Missouri River in 1949. Some say it was preceded by a cable ferry that started in the late 1920 or early 1930. It ran from April to November unless an early freeze up put it into dry dock.

It was established primarily to transport agricultural products from McCone and Richland Counties to the Great Northern Rail Line. To the cattlemen during calving time -- with a north storm threatening -- it meant the difference between livelihood and disaster -- and to the people who were sick it meant life and hope!

Before the present Missouri River bridge was opened in 1969, Poplar Pride averaged 276 crossings each month. It was pulled from the river in 1969 and was transported to its present site.

Poplar Pride -- It served us well!
The Big Sky West of Glasgow, MT

US 2 West of Glasgow, MT

There is a big sky in Montana.
Chet Huntley One-Room School House, Saco, MT

One-Room School House, Saco, MT

This is a test: If you don't recognize the news anchorman, pictured below, who went to school here, you're younger than I. If you do, you're not.
Chester Robert Huntley (1911 - 1974)
Chester "Chet" Robert Huntley (1911 - 1974) was one of the most recognized and respected news reporters ever to appear on radio or television. Raised on a sheep ranch near Saco, Montana, Huntley applied frontier values to his 37-year broadcasting career. After two decades reporting for network West Coast outlets, Huntley was assigned by NBC to the 1956 political conventions where he began a 14-year association with David Brinkley. The Huntley-Brinkley Report won every award available to television news. Huntley's often controversial commentaries championed minority rights and attacked demagoguery and wrongdoing. "Good night, Chet" -- "Good night, David" became American idiom.

["Chester Robert Huntley (1911 - 1974)." MBA Hall of Fame N. vol. (28 June 2004): 1 par. Online. Internet. 27 Aug. 2004. Available]
Chet Huntley One-Room School House, Saco, MT

Chet Huntley's Grade School Class, Saco, MT

He's the one at the far left.

In most places, the roadbed of US 2 has been built up a lot since old photographs were taken, giving historians vertigo comparing them to perspectives that are available today.

Sleeping Buffalo Rock, Jct US-2 and MT-243

Sleeping Buffalo Rock

The Sleeping Buffalo Rock resides in its corral under a shed at the junction of US 2 and MT 243. Its shape is suggestive of a buffalo with its legs tucked up resting its chin on the ground. Carvings highlight the outline of ribs and backbone and probably are prehistoric.

Sleeping Buffalo Rock, Jct US-2 and MT-243 You should approach the rock with respect. It will tell you what it wants. It appreciates coins (Canadian currency is OK.) and is especially fond of tobacco -- judging from the unsmoked cigarettes that people have left for it.
Montana has hysterical wayside historical markers. Here I reproduce the text of a couple for your edification and enjoyment:


Marker Detailowpunchers, miners, and soldiers are tolerably virile persons as a rule. When they went to town in the frontier days seeking surcease from vocational cares and solace in the cup that cheers, it was just as well for the urbanites to either brace themselves or take to cover. The citizens of any town willing and able to be host city for a combination of the above diamonds in the rough had to be quick on the draw and used to inhaling powder smoke.

Havre came into existence as a division point when the Great Northern Railroad was built and purveyed pastime to cowboys, doughboys, and miners on the side. It is hard to believe now, but as a frontier camp she was wild and hard to curry.

The Oily Boid Gets the Woim

A narrow gauge railroad, nicknamed the "turkey track," used to connect Great Falls, Montana, and Lethbridge, Alberta. When the main line of the Great Northern crossed it in 1891, Shelby Junction came into existence. The hills and plains around here were cow country. The Junction became an oasis where parched cow-punchers cauterized their tonsils with forty-rod and grew plumb irresponsible and ebullient.

In 1910 the dry-landers began homesteading. They built fences and plowed under the native grass. The days of open range were gone. Shelby quit her swaggering frontier ways and became concrete sidewalk and sewer system conscious.

Dry-land farming didn't turn out to be such a profitable endeavor, but in 1921 geologists discovered that this country had an ace in the hole. Oil was struck between here and the Canadian line, and the town boomed again.

The Big Sky West of Havre, MT

The Big Sky West of Havre, MT

Forest fires in Washington were making a lot of smoke as I headed west. The opaque atmosphere impacted most of this trip's photos.
American Monet, US 2, MT

American Monet

The campground I had hoped to use at Havre, MT, was closed, so I rode on farther than I had planned. This picture was taken about 09:00 pm just east of Shelby, MT. I spent the night at:
Crossroads Inn
US 2 and I 15
PO Box 926
Shelby, MT 56474
The twilight comes late and lasts long on the land near the northern borderline with Canada.

Rhode, Chuck. "Through the Buffalo Commons." The Hi-Line and the Yellowstone Trail: To Glacier Park and Back Again. 1 Sept. 2004. Lacus Veris. 20 Jun. 2024 < Hi-Line and the Yellowstone Trail/The Buffalo Commons/Through the Buffalo Commons.shtml>. Last modified 6 Oct. 2015. Served 16520 times between 16 May. 2010 and 20 Jun. 2024. Contact