There’s a 30-mile stretch of highway in North Dakota where you’ll encounter some of the world’s largest creatures. They’re not elephants, giraffes or even a pterodactyl. You’ll see some of the largest geese, grasshoppers and pheasants you’ve ever witnessed. You may even run into a giant farm family.
Poppycock, you say? Take a drive down the Enchanted Highway between Dickinson and Regent, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The highway begins at Exit 72 off of Interstate 94 in the western part of North Dakota.
Travelers are greeted by a large display of geese flying south. The metal sculpture stands 110 feet above ground. The base is a metal landscape. Nothing is left out of this attention-grabbing exhibit. The exhibit has been named the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records.
The sculpture was created using scrap oil well pipe and oil tanks. It weight more than 75 tons.
As you drive up the bumpy gravel road, you immediately notice the black metal geese on posts lining the route. “The Geese in Flight” is dedicated to former Senator Byron Dorgan, who helped arrange funding for the project. The geese were created in 2001.
Seven sets of giant metal sculptures stretch along the paved road, eventually leading people to the small village of Regent. The highway came about because of a man’s love for his community. Gary Greff wanted to find a way to keep the small town alive. Regent once had a population of about 400 people, he said. As of the 2010 census, it was down to about 130. Since then, it has grown to about 162 people.
In an effort to keep his town from fading into a ghost town, Greff came up with the idea to create a tourist attraction that would lead people to Regent. He thought maybe that would help the town financially and prevent its demise.
In 1989, Greff sought to make the project happen. The first piece would roll out two years later. The goal was to create a piece every three years.
A few tourist-related businesses have opened, but results are likely mixed. Greff owns and operates a gift shop. We bought a few souvenirs there. It was fairly busy on a Sunday afternoon.
As people make their way to Regent, the Enchanted Highway offers some great views. Besides the sculptures, travelers can take in the beauty of sunflower seeds in bloom. Sadly, we were too late for the beauty part’ it’s harvest season. LOL.
As you drive down the road, you’ll encounter the larger than life art pieces. Another thing you may notice is the number of people making the same drive. We saw 2-3 vehicles at each stop. We even ran into some of the people at the gift shop.
The Enchanted Highway has been named one of the top roadside attractions by “National Geographic.”
“Deer Crossing” features a couple of deer sculptures jumping a fence. The buck is 75 feet tall, while the doe stands 60 feet tall. It was unveiled to the public in 2002. In order to get the sculptures to their spot, the buck’s front leg had to be removed to make the trip on the highway. It was re-welded at the site.
Next up on the road was one of my favorites – “Grasshoppers in the Field.” The 1999 piece features several smaller grasshoppers led by the giant 40-foot tall sculpture. The grasshoppers are a reminder of the hardships farmers had to overcome in order to make a living off the land.
The amount of effort and detail put into these pieces of work is truly impressive. Each sculpture is professionally done. They were made from oil well and fuel tanks.
Lisa’s favorite stop was at the “Fisherman’s dream.” The most recent piece features a man in a boat snatching a fish out of the water. In the meantime, more fish are located throughout the acre of land – small mouth bass, walleye, catfish, northern, salmon and bluegill. A 70-foot long rainbow trout is jumping out of the water. I can see why she liked the 2006 3-D tin creation.
My next favorite was “Pheasants on the Prairie.” The 1996 piece features a pheasant family along the roadside. The birds were very tall. The first thing that struck me (after the size) was the color on the birds. It was very authentic. It took three years to complete this exhibit. The rooster is 40 feet tall and 70 feet long. The hen is 35 feet tall. The chicks are each 15 feet tall.
A tribute to President Theodore Roosevelt is located on the Enchanted Highway. Greff believed the project should honor the president who once lived in North Dakota.
The sculpture piece includes a 51-foot tall display of Roosevelt on his favorite horse, Mulley. In front is a stage-coach that emphasizes North Dakota’s western heritage. Teddy was put on display in 1993.
The final display along the road, just outside of town, is “Tin Family.” The stop features a farming family, with mom, dad and a son. This was the first piece created, in 1991. Tin Pa stands 45 feet tall, Tin Ma stands 44 feet tall. The son is 23 feet tall. The display was built from old farm equipment.
“Fisherman’s Dream” is the last piece completed. Financing the project is difficult for Greff. It costs money and a lot of time to create the pieces. He isn’t giving up though. He launched a successful “Go Fund me” project earlier in the year for a new project.
“Spider’s Web” is ready to be created. He needs to find a farmer willing to donate an acre of land for the project. It’s not always easy, he said. He is confident someone will donate the land and Regent’s art/tourism project will continue.
As for Greff completing a sculpture piece to sit every three miles on the 30-mile stretch? He’s not sure of his future. He’d like to see the state step in and either take over the project or help with the funding and production. He has been handling the maintenance of each exhibit, too.
As for Regent, we hope it continues to build on the success of the Enchanted Highway. Greff opened the “Enchanted castle” as a town attraction.
Remember Senator Dorgan? He was born in Regent. His former home has been turned into a bed and breakfast. There are opportunities for Regent to enjoy the economic success of the Enchanted Highway, but a few more local attractions may need to be developed. That will help lure people to stay in town and spend a few nights at the local inns and B&B.
We strongly recommend people take the trip off Interstate 94 and travel down the Enchanted Highway to Regent. The drive is enjoyable and the attractions are outstanding.