Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The Red Trail


On this date in 1916, Bismarck and Mandan were working to join forces to bring their cities closer together – travel-wise. They were trying to make the Red Trail a better highway and a more effective method to get from one city to the other.

Although settlers were in the Bismarck-Mandan area by 1872, and several decades of settlement and growth had taken place, the Missouri river continued to make travel between the two cities difficult and time-consuming.

In fact, Bismarck did not have a good path going to the river. What the city did have was vividly described in the Bismarck Tribune: "The present winding, twisting cow path runs over private lands for a greater part of the way and has been partially fenced up. Turns are so frequent and so abrupt as to constitute a real danger; the grades are poor, and the crossing over the Northern Pacific tracks, at the crest of a steep rise, and approached from the east after a sharp turn, has frequently placed lives in jeopardy."

The plan was to create a real road that would run straight to the river. They would get rid of the dangerous crossing over the railroad by establishing a viaduct under the tracks, install permanent ferry landings on both sides of the river, and ensure ferry service "every day during the season."

The Mandan side of the path had already reaped the benefit of some improvement, with a new road graded through the bottoms that would soon be completed. Some Mandan citizens of enterprising spirit were even investing in a ferry boat that could carry eight cars at a time.

The Bismarck and Mandan commercial clubs were hard at work on these plans, and drew up their ideas, which the city expected would garner "the hearty support of every citizen of Bismarck."

Today, that segment of the old red trail has become much easier, with multiple bridges. Private boats also dot the water all summer long thanks to easy river access. And for those continuing west, the Old Red Old Ten Scenic Byway runs from Mandan to Dickinson, offering a historic alternative along the old Red Trail.

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker


The Bismarck Tribune, December 1, 1916, p1