Mystical Horizons – A Modern Stonehenge in North Dakota

Bottineau, North Dakota.

For centuries people have marveled at the mysteries of Stonehenge. Jack Olson of Bottineau was a pilot and aerospace engineer. He envisioned a 21st-century version of Stonehenge, and he even selected a point in the Turtle Mountains to bring it to fruition. Unfortunately, he passed on about four years before its completion in 2005.

Located on North Dakota Highway 43 at 791-795 106th St NE, Bottineau, the place Jack Olson found is about 15 minutes north and west of the city. After visiting the International Peace Garden, we opted to go westbound on ND-43 which happens to be the western half of the Turtle Mountain Scenic Byway, a worthy journey in itself.

Mystical Horizons is open year-round and is usually quite uncrowded, except during the solstices and equinoxes when the solar calendar demonstrates its worth.

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These three slotted pillars are lined up with slots in the curved wall in the image below. On the appropriate days of the year, the sun is visible through the combined slots as sunset approaches.

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Our visit didn’t correspond with one of those specific days, nor were we there at sunset, but you can see by the image above that the slot in the wall and the space between pillars behind would line up, in this case on a direct westerly heading.

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Nearby, a large sundial told us that we were in the park at around 3:45 PM CST. No, there is no way to turn the dial forward or back to accommodate for daylight savings time, obviously. Our watches and phones told us it was 4:48 PM CDT when this photo was captured.

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This plaque memorializes the vision of Jack Olson and notes the completion of the park in October 2005. One more astronomical tool, a permanently mounted telescope points directly at the North Star.

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Traveling along ND-43, you can easily find the turnoff as it’s marked by this beautiful sign. Turn north at the access road which winds around a hill to the parking area near the top of the hill where the astronomical calendar is located.

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In the parking area, a kiosk describes the features of the park and introduces visitors to the visionary who created the design, Jack Olson. Once the design was brought to fruition and planning started, engineers realized that this vantage point in the Turtle Mountains was the only place in the area that could have provided the elevation and coordinates that would provide the necessary viewpoint required.

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To top it off, the view of the surrounding area from the top of the hill is expansive. You can view a 2K HD version of any of the images by clicking on it. From there you can scroll through the gallery on my Flickr site. You can also visit the entire Flickr album here.

John Steiner

19 comments

    • It is an interesting place to visit. It is a bit out of the way for tourists on the Interstate, but for those who are willing to make a short side trip, it is one of several attractions not too far from the Canadian border.

  1. These are all fascinating, John! Great photos and commentary that really bring North Dakota to life in a way I hadn’t expected. Maybe your next gig could be with the N.D. Tourism Board!

  2. What an interesting post, John. These qualify as interesting objects for sure. I had no idea there was anything like this anywhere in the world. Thanks for sharing.

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