It began as a Native American footpath, widened by the wagon tracks of pioneers heading west, and prairie farmers bringing crops to market. Today, the beautiful 63-mile route winding along the Sheyenne River in the southeastern corner of North Dakota, is the Sheyenne River National Scenic Byway. Passing through rolling hills, charming towns, notable historic sites and quaint farms, the route reveals the story of the hardy people who settled and tamed the land. There’s a sense of timelessness in this valley, revealed in a story intertwined with Native Americans, homesteading, sodbuster pioneers, the railroad, and agriculture, once the frontier and now on farms that feed the nation and the world. Over 40 award-winning interpretive panels and 10 kiosks revealing the heritage, span the Byway from end to end
The first farmers who worked land where herds of bison, elk, antelope, and deer roamed, tried to farm like their European ancestors. The land had other ideas. New methods specifically suited to the northern Great Plains produced great bounty from the rich glacial soil. Today, if you use honey or canola oil, it probably came from North Dakota. Amazingly the state produces more than half of all the spring wheat grown in the United States for flour. Ranchers are re-discovering the bison’s supreme ability to withstand any weather, as farms once again grow to the size they were during bonanza days.
When you meet the hardy descendants of the Native Americans, Scottish tenant farmers who immigrated from Canada, Norwegians, Dutch (or Hollanders as they were called), Swedes, Finnish, Danes and more, you’ll experience genuine Midwestern hospitality. If you hear a bit of a brogue, that’s the Scandinavian coming through. Summers are the best time to enjoy the Byway, generally temperate with a gentle breeze, allowing you to take time to savor this beautiful land. Take your time to stop at each of the interpretive panels to learn the full story and savor the slower pace of life in towns that have not changed much in over a century. Over the next hill, there’s another story to be told.