America’s Scenic Byways – Sheyenne River Valley

Getchell Township, Barnes County, North Dakota.

Always ready for a road trip, a chance encounter with a Facebook post taught me about the America’s Byways program. North Dakota features one byway in its entirety and another it shares with South Dakota. These are two of around 150 specific roads designated by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. The first of these byways is only about an hour from our house in Fargo and last week, my Travel Tuesday post featured several stops along the way, the bridges of Valley City. This summer, expect to see more of this 63-mile (101 km) trek through the beautiful Sheyenne River Valley. The byway is well marked and is comprised of a collection of roads leading from Lisbon to a few miles north of Valley City. The Federal Highway Administration features a short description of the trip here. You won’t find any Interstate Highways. You’ll be traveling on both gravel and paved roads that wind through a very rural and photogenic landscape.


The map above is reproduced from the Federal Highway Administration website. The blue arrow at the top indicates where we are on the byway. You can start the drive from either end, but since we live near I-94, it made the most efficient way for us to start at the north end and venture south toward Lisbon. For those who want to explore every location fully, the estimate given on the national byways webpage recommends 9 hours. We elected to plan an early morning drive to the city, and finish at Lisbon for a late lunch. In all, the 9-hour estimate was pretty close, starting a bit before 7 AM and arriving at Lisbon around 2 PM. Had we spent a bit more time at Fort Ransom State Park, we could have easily exceeded 9 hours.

The opening photo features the first stop on the route. The large placard describes the byways concept and features a map similar to the one above. The smaller placard features a description of the specific historic element. Along the way, each stop features a similar small descriptive placard.

On the drive, the turns are well marked with descriptive signs like the one in the image above and there was only once where we were unsure of the exact turn to visit a site leaving us to skip that marker visit. Normally on my travels, I take photos with identifying shots and do the research on the Internet to find details about the places visited. That may turn out to be a bad deal for me in this trip. I didn’t always take photos of the placards with enough detail to read the descriptions.

Our first stop, the historical significance of Getchell Township Hall, in use from 1883 to 1983, is described on the placards. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much of anything describing the town hall on the Internet. Wikipedia’s entry talks only of Getchell Township in Barnes County, ND and notes that in the 2000 census, the population of the township was 68. Next time, I’ll be more careful to grab photos of placards in enough detail to share the specific details of the site.

We enjoyed our day trip on this, my first trip down an America’s Scenic Byway. I expect we’ll be doing more of these travels. This unassuming beginning of the route will give way to some of the larger parks and attractions along the way. Stay tuned for future Travel Tuesday adventures in North Dakota.

John Steiner

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