It’s a microcosm of many different cultures, brought by immigrants from all around the world, nestled in the rugged, enchanting and wild landscape at the edge of the North Dakota Badlands. As you travel the 64 miles of the Killdeer Mountain Four Bears Scenic Byway, the traditions of many nations unfold as the landscape ranges from shapely carved formations to vast prairie grasslands. Native Americans have prospered in the area for millenniums, ultimately congregating into the Three Affiliated Tribes of Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara. They were joined with Crimean Bohemians (from Bohemia), Ukrainians, Russian Germans, Scandinavians, Czechoslovakians, Germans, western cowboys, Texans, and Yankees from the East Coast.
The original Mandan nation were peaceful farmers and traders, thriving in what was known as the “Marketplace of the Central Plains.” After an early smallpox epidemic, they banded with the Hidatsa to survive. The Arikara soon joined after they were forced northward by wars with the Lakota. In 1861, the Dakota Territory began to promote the “Myth of North Dakota” to attract immigrants who were promised the ability to own land.
As you drive north, you’ll be treated to stunning landscape views of the rolling prairie hills of cattle country along a gently winding road. The influence of Ukrainian and Bohemian heritage in the architecture is quite apparent. Further north, buildings are reminiscent of the architectural styles of the Black Sea region of Russia. When you reach Killdeer, in the most rugged region of the North Dakota Badlands, you’ll be in the cowboy capital of North Dakota where ranchers trace their roots back to the mid-1800’s. As you travel past the Killdeer Mountains the famous Badland pinnacles come into view at Little Missouri State Park, where the most recent configurations of the Badlands that are the most rugged.
Make time to savor the scenic beauty and picturesque natural wonders of the highly eroded hills, the unique foodways all up and down the route, historic buildings constructed from the only materials available, yet stylized to resemble the old country, and all the other heritage and culture you’ll find along the very scenic route.