Mountain Removal Project | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Mountain Removal Project

Jan 9, 2021


Some of you longtime North Dakota residents may recall the old North Dakota tourism campaign, North Dakota-Mountain Removal Project Completed.  That campaign, back in the day, was complete with highway billboards.  But any knowledge of the present-day North Dakota geography would indicate that the mountain removal project was not completed.  

I was thinking about that recently when I noticed the town of Mountain on my North Dakota highway map.  Mountain, located in Pembina County was named for its proximity to the nearby Pembina Mountain.  Some references from the 1800’s called the Pembina Mountains the Hair Hills.  These days, of course, most everyone knows the area as the Pembina Hills. 

The term mountain gets used and misused a lot, and the name of an area can even change over time.  I happen to live in one of those areas.  Most people call my home area the Turtle Mountains, but I have seen several historical references to Turtle Mountain (singular), Turtle Hills, and even Beckoning Hills.  The highest point in Turtle Mountain is 2541 feet above sea level at Boundary Butte, which, as the name implies is on the border with Manitoba.  That is 904 feet above Bottineau, which is often listed as 1637 feet above sea level.  

North Dakota also has the Killdeer Mountains, which are higher.   I am not sure about the peak elevation there, and there are two notable peaks to them, but I have read it is over 3200 feet.  The highest point in the state is 3507 feet, but that, of course, is White Butte. 

We also have Devils Lake Mountain in Ramsey County, Blue Mountain in Nelson County, Lookout Mountain in Eddy County, and Tracy Mountain south of Medora. With all the impressive buttes in the western part of the state, Sentinel, Bullion, and others, I cannot help but wonder why Tracy Mountain was so named.  Maybe Tracy Mountain just sounded better.   

Perhaps a new tourism campaign is in order to inform and entice tourists that the mountains are still here. The use of the term mountain may be relative, but they are officially mountains!

-Chuck Lura