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Hunting for abandoned places in North Dakota? You’re in the right place. Below are 12 of my favorite abandoned places across the state!
Abandoned Places In North Dakota
1. Griffin Ghost Town
According to North Dakota Place Names, the post office and Milwaukee Road train station were formerly known as Atkinson until February 10, 1908, when the name was changed to Griffin in honor of Henry T. Griffin, the company’s Assistant General Passenger Agent.
This one-time village, located north of the train tracks that run parallel to the highway, was more of a business operation than a municipality and never had many residents. Griffin had a general store, lumber yard, and elevators, and was growing quickly, according to the North Dakota Magazine in 1911. It may have also had a gas station at one time.
It was also home to a school for area children. Unfortunately, like with the one-room schools, population loss from the countryside in subsequent years endangered these combined rural schools and added this incredible ruin into the list of abandoned places of North Dakota
Only the rapidly disintegrating old school building, a boxcar, a barn, and a few other decrepit buildings remain in Griffin today. According to legend, the town was visited by cowboys due to the stockyards, and a few gunfights purportedly occurred within the village.
2. Crystal Springs Ghost Town
The Northern Pacific Railroad established a station on the site in 1873, and the settlement was born to be added later into one of the renowned abandoned places of North Dakota. It was named after the neighboring Crystal Springs Lakes, although it would be years before it became a town.
Meanwhile, roughly 100 Polish families settled in Crystal Springs. In 1884, a post office was eventually established. Crystal Springs had a bank, two grain elevators, a depot, a grocery store, other mercantile establishments, a hatchery, a couple of churches, a pool hall, and a barbershop at various periods during its early years.
The brick school was built in 1916 and is one of the few buildings that still stand today. It was built for grade school students at first, but high school students were added in 1920.
Crystal Springs was destroyed by two terrible fires in its early years, and the town was never rebuilt after the second. When I-94 was built through the heart of town in the late 1950s, the town was already suffering. People did not stop even though the freeway had an exit. In 1993, the post office was permanently closed.
The Crystal Springs school is now positioned atop a hill overlooking the Interstate. The old church is across the street from the school and down the hill. A gas station and an ancient house can also be found here. Only a few residents remain in the region, which is nonetheless home to an active church.
3. The Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex
The Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex (SRMSC) was a collection of military installations near Langdon, North Dakota, that supported the Safeguard anti-ballistic missile program of the United States Army. President Nixon announced an anti-ballistic missile system to safeguard Minuteman nuclear missile silos from an enemy assault during the Cold War in the 1960s.
This system evolved from earlier systems designed to intercept and destroy incoming threats, giving the US time to respond. It was supposed to be deployed in three locations, but only the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex in North Dakota was constructed. These locations housed Sprint missile silos with a short-range.
They were one of the most advanced and top-secret weaponry available at the time. A Sprint missile reached Mach 10 in seconds, causing the air surrounding it to transform into plasma.
A piece of the land was purchased by the Cavalier County Job Development Authority in 2017. Their goal was to preserve the property and build a history center, but public tours were not possible.
The buildings have sustained considerable damage and are heavily contaminated. For the time being, it is kept behind locked gates and under constant video supervision as it is the most sought after abandoned place in North Dakota
It now serves as a memorial to military waste, a Cold War-era technology museum, and a possible survival bunker for one man and his family at the end of the world. Both the MSR and the RSL-3 are crumbling relics that are both creepy and fun to investigate. They’re an odd piece of history in an otherwise nondescript corner of the Midwest.
4. Ambrose Ghost Town
The Soo Railway laid out Ambrose in 1906. The city was named after a railroad employee. It’s a well-known ghost town that’s been the focus of countless media reports for a variety of reasons, the most prominent of which being its rapidly declining population.
As of July 1, 2021, the population of Ambrose was 30. When compared to the other cities, towns, and Census Designated Places (CDPs) in North Dakota, Ambrose is in the bottom percentile for Population Density and Diversity Index.
As far as near-ghost towns go in North Dakota, Ambrose is quite huge, spanning about twenty square blocks. It is highly forested (thanks in part to the efforts of early residents), necessitating a great deal of ‘adventure.’
5. San Haven Sanitorium
San Haven is a small town located northeast of Dunseith. It began as a Tuberculosis Sanatorium in 1909 and eventually evolved into a developmentally handicapped facility. San Haven evolved into a massive network of structures over time, with underground tunnels connecting it all. It was so big that it got its own zip code. San Haven once housed nearly 900 patients.
San Haven is no longer open to the public and is now known more because of its stature as an abandoned place in North Dakota. A trespasser died recently after falling down an elevator shaft. The WPA Guide to 1930s North Dakota, as observed by site visitor Mariah Masilko, says that it was officially designated a “Sanatorium” rather than a “Sanitarium.”
The shattered glass lining the floors, empty rooms with just a single chair in the corner, gaping windows letting in a soft summer breeze or icy North Dakota winter winds, a forsaken suitcase tossed carelessly to the ground, and thick vines ominously snaking their way through the corridors give the place an otherworldly feel.
6. Alkabo Ghost Town
Alkabo is without a doubt one of the most intriguing distant towns, doing justice to its name being added to the list of abandoned places in North Dakota. The name is a combination of the words alkali and gumbo, which refer to two types of soil present in the area. It is the most northern community in North Dakota, about six miles from Montana and eight miles from Canada.
Alkabo has a small population (just 19 people lived there in 1976) and is located on the side of a hill with the school at the top. The former Alkabo School has been converted into a museum that is open by appointment only.
After the structures in Fillmore, North Dakota were destroyed, Alkabo’s Main Street remains one of the most impressive examples of an abandoned business area, with historic derelict buildings standing side by side.
The majority of the buildings east of Main Street have been abandoned, while the surviving people of Alkabo live on the west side of town. The railroad that gave birth to Alkabo still runs through town, but there is no longer a depot, and trains no longer stop. The townsite is littered with open basements, structural ruins, and abandoned structures.
7. Arena Ghost Town
The Patterson Land Company of Minnesota built the town in 1906 after purchasing more than one million acres of railroad land between Bismarck and Jamestown in 1905. On January 23, 1906, a rural post office was created, with Harry A. Mutchler as the first postmaster.
The Pingree-Wilton line, which ran through Arena, was built by the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1910. A one-room schoolhouse, a train depot, St. John’s Lutheran Church, twin grain elevators, two general stores, a hardware store, five creameries, a butcher shop, a pool hall, a bank, a sale barn, and livery, telephone pay station, and several dwellings were all there at one time or another.
Arena, like the rest of the country, was suffering from the Great Depression by 1930. The Dust Bowl hit it considerably harder throughout that decade. Businesses were forced to close as the farmers departed the area. It had a population of only 35 people by 1935. In 1961, the school was shuttered, and children were bussed to Wing, North Dakota. It was demolished in the 1990s after becoming a hazard while vacant. Arena’s post office was decommissioned on September 23, 1996 and now has its name as a reknown abandoned place in North Dakota.
Only the former St. John’s Lutheran Church, the grain elevators, an old wooden building, and a few residences survive today as reminders of the town’s past. The last occupied structure was a little yellow home.
Of all the abandoned places in North Dakota, the simple little wooden church here makes this one my favorite.
8. Knife River Indian Villages
Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site in North Dakota was created in 1974 to protect the historic and archaeological relics of Hidatsa, Northern Plains Indians. This was a significant commercial and agricultural region.
The Knife area was known to have three communities. These three settlements are together known as Hidatsa villages. The Knife River is a Missouri River tributary. Because of its tremendous sedimentation loads, the Missouri River is known as the “Big Muddy.” Approximately one-sixth of the United States is drained by the Missouri River.
Sakakawea (Sacagawea) lived in one of the Knife River’s settlements making this as the most famous abandoned place in North Dakota. The Knife River towns thrived until 1837, when a series of smallpox outbreaks nearly wiped them out, they lost half of their population.
The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara communities gradually relocated north, forming the village of Like-a-Fishhook. When the Mandan villages were empty, neighbors attacked the village for commodities, but they were sick after transporting the virus back on blankets, horses, and household utensils.
Earth-lodge homes, cache pits, and travois pathways can all be seen in the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site. Large circular depressions in the ground are the ruins of the earth-lodge homes. These structures had a diameter of up to 40 feet (12 meters). Many used to be large enough to house up to 20 families, along with a few horses and pets.
9. Sherbrooke Ghost Town
The community of Sherbrooke, North Dakota, lies concealed behind the overgrowth along a sandy road. Steele County is where the town is located, and it was once the county seat. Finley lost the title because Sherbrooke was not on a railroad and was considered an inconvenient location. There are buildings hidden among the lush grass and trees. Houses, garages, and even the foundation and crumbling brick walls of the county courthouse.
Even though it is now deserted and left abandoned, it was once bustling with activity. It was not only the county seat, but it also had a notable hotel, the Sherbrooke House Hotel. During a visit to North Dakota in 1896, former president William McKinley stayed there. Sherbrooke has been vacant for a long time, and it is withering away. The only remaining structures are scary abandoned houses, buildings, and a cemetery.
It is now surrounded by acres of fields, with only dirt roads linking it to the rest of the world. Almost the entire town has reverted to being little more than the structures depicted. Many of the other old structures have been entirely destroyed. The town’s little cemetery is the sole location that is still kept up to date. Although the site is quite huge, there aren’t many graves to fill it.
10. Hartland Ghost Town
Hartland is a ghost town located west of Carpio and north of Berthold in Ward County, North Dakota, United States. Martin D. Johnson, a local resident, is credited for naming the village after his birthplace in Worth County, Iowa. A Machinery & Implement Building, Blacksmith Shop, Pool Hall, General Store, Bank, Hardware Store, Lumber Yard, M.D.
Johnson home, Iver Canton home, Livery & Feed Stable, later Vedvig Garage), Grocery Store & Post Office, Hotel, An Office, Zion Lutheran Church, One-Room School house”, and several private homes were among the structures in the Village of Hartland in 1912.
Hartland’s post office was established on March 23, 1908. According to legend, the name was chosen to represent the town as the center of the county.
The highest population of 150 was claimed in 1920, but by 1940, the population had dropped to less than 100, and by 2000, it had dropped to less than 10. The post office ceased operations on May 6, 1966 and this town now is left abandoned in the diverse and old land of North Dakota.
The building of a grocery shop was relocated from Foxholm, Ward County, North Dakota to Hartland, where it was converted into a home and eventually transferred to Berthold, North Dakota, where it is currently occupied.
11. Temple Ghost Town
Temple Township was founded on July 16, 1906 and was initially named Haarstad after the township postmaster and townsite owner, Ole G. Haarstad. Officials of the Great Northern Railway later christened the town “Temple.”
The post office in Temple opened on March 12, 1908, and closed on April 30, 1965 naming it as an abandoned place in North Dakota.
A little garage, a handful of modest outbuildings, and a few of caved-in dwellings are among the remaining structures. One of the final two company buildings was either demolished or burned down in 2003.
The school was apparently relocated in 2010 and utilized as an extension to a home. The last commercial structure fell in 2010 and was demolished by 2012. In 2015, one of the few surviving abandoned houses was demolished. The church was also torched and dismantled in 2015, allegedly because “it had deteriorated to the point that it had become dangerous.”
A little garage, a handful of modest outbuildings, and a few of caved-in dwellings are among the remaining structures. On the site where the school used to be, there is currently an occupied camper.
12. Gingras Trading Post
The Gingras Trading Post State Historic Site, located in Walhalla, North Dakota, is a North Dakota State Historic Site. It houses the trading post and home of Antoine Blanc Gingras (1821–1877), a Metis lawmaker and fur merchant.
Antoine Gingras was born in Red River in 1821, the son of North West Company voyageur Antoine Cuthbert Gingras and Marguerite Madeleine Trottier.
He started off as a hunter and trapper. In the 1840s, Gingras built a two-story exposed-log trading post and a clapboard house on his property. Gingras was elected to the Minnesota Territorial House of Representatives in 1851 to represent the area.
Gingras took part in the 1869 Red River Rebellion, which was led by Louis Riel (1844–1885). Gingras was there when the city of Winnipeg was chartered in 1873. Gingras died at Walhalla, North Dakota, on September 26, 1877 and left this place in North Dakota, abandoned.
The National Register of Historic Places recognizes Gingras Trading Post. The site is run by the North Dakota State Historical Society. It has displays regarding Antoine Blanc Gingras, Metis culture, and the Red River Valley fur trade, as well as the original structures. A replica of the Gingras Store is also included.
Go out and explore!
That concludes our list of abandoned places in North Dakota, but that doesn’t mean that’s all there is to find. Take the back roads, follow train tracks, and find some places for yourself. There are plenty of places I kept off this list so get out there and explore.