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The Story of Elbowoods


For sixty years, Elbowoods, North Dakota was a hub along the Missouri River on the Fort Berthold Reservation. The town was located on a bend in the river and in the wooded bottoms, hence its name. The townsite started to develop in 1889, and on this date in 1893, its post office was established.

Elbowoods shares a sad story with a number of other towns along the river -- inundation by the rising waters of the reservoir created by the Garrison Dam in the 1950s. Other towns lost to Lake Sakakawea included Red Butte, Lucky Mound, Nishu, Beaver Creek, Independence, Shell Creek and Charging Eagle.

Elbowoods had been home to reservation headquarters, some miles east of the mouth of the Little Missouri River and along State Highway Eight. A Catholic mission and school served the community and the first Four Bears Bridge over the Missouri River came to Elbowoods in 1934. The bridge’s center span was later floated upriver and used in the second Four Bears Bridge to New Town.

New Town was created as a “new town” for residents of the communities lost to the lake. Located on the east river bluffs, New Town has become the new hub of activity for the Fort Berthold Reservation, and a busy spot in the Bakken oil field.

Elbowoods’s post office closed in the spring of 1954 as the floodwater rose. Townsfolk moved buildings and even cemeteries as their community sank away.

After the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, the territorial lands of the Three Tribes exceeded more than 12 million acres. Various allotment acts and the 1910 Homestead Act greatly reduced the reservation, and with additional losses to the Garrison Dam flooding, only 4% of that original acreage remained.

Dakota Datebook written by Jack Dura


Larson, T. (2016, March 27). Elbowoods memorial congregational church. Retrieved from: ""

Larson, T. (2013, Nov. 14). Building four bears bridge. Retrieved from: "

Wick, D.A. (1989). North Dakota place names. Bismarck, ND: Prairie House