BISMARCK -- Work began on the first segment of the Great Western Trail in North Dakota on Sunday, July 12.
A work crew with Bowman area volunteers began at the North Dakota/South Dakota state line heading north. Another crew, with volunteers from the Dickinson/Medora area, began by heading south from Belfield, according to a release.
Trail project manager Darrell Dorgan says 13 concrete obelisks marking the trail route along U.S. Highway 85 were set in concrete marking the North Dakota segment of the Texas to Canada Trail.
Three black marble plaques detailing the trail’s western history were also installed. The markers explaining the trail history are at the North Dakota/South Dakota border, the courthouse in Amidon and at the Trappers Kettle in Belfield. Another plaque will be placed at Bowman’s visitor center.
The work crews were made up of nearly 30 ranchers, historians, Rotarians and members of the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, the release said.
The trail, which runs for more than 2,000 miles through eight states from Mexico to Canada, has already been marked all the way through Texas and Oklahoma and other states are organizing to mark the route that was used to move millions of cattle and horses north in the 1870s to the 1890s.
“We hope to organize and mark the trail from Belfield to Watford City, the end of September and then from Watford to Fort Buford next spring,” Dorgan said in the release.
Anyone interested in having a marker on their land along Highway 85 or helping with the effort, should go to the group’s website at www.ndgreatwesterncattletrail.com and sign-up.
“Many of the cattle from the Great Western Trail reached North Dakota in the early 1880s and 90s and became the foundation for the state’s vibrant ranching industry that exists today,” Dorgan said.
Others who’ve joined the North Dakota effort include Bowman tourism promotion groups and local Rotary Clubs. Rotary organizations from Texas and Oklahoma began the project and Rotary clubs along the trail are continuing to participate.
Dorgan, who was the first director of the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame and spearheaded the effort to build the western heritage center in Medora, insisted Jim Ozbun be part of the ongoing effort. The former North Dakota State University president, who’s maternal grandfather came up the trail in the 1890s as a young drover, said the trail is “an irreplaceable part of our history that could have been lost if it hadn’t been formally marked.”
Dickinson Ready Mix Co. built and donated more than 50 obelisks to mark the trail.
Area ranchers Steve Brooks and John Hanson of Amidon also stepped forward and signed-up other ranchers who allowed trail makers on their land along Highway 85 and headed the two work crews, the release said.
A barbecue was held at Hanson’s famous Logging Camp Ranch west of Medora following completion of the first 80-mile segment.
Anyone interested in participating in the project with financial contributions or setting posts can go to the group’s website at www.ndgreatwesterncattletrail.com and view the project’s history and plans.