North Dakota May 02, 2018
The Longest Tunnel In North Dakota Has A Truly Fascinating Backstory
North Dakota’s longest tunnel, and only tunnel for that matter, has quite the fascinating story. There is probably no or very few other tunnels with a similar history, and it happens to be a walkable trail you can visit yourself. You’ll have to head over to the very western edge of the Peace Garden State and there you can see it for yourself. Here is its history:
Out in the small town of Cartwright, North Dakota as far west as you can go in the state, is the longest and only tunnel here.
Cartwright is a small unincorporated community in McKenzie County near Watford City. It is unique in that it is the only place in the entire state of North Dakota with an actual tunnel.
Crossing the Yellowstone River next to the town is the Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel.
The Fairview Lift Bridge was constructed for a railroad in 1912 and 1913. They are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge was built to accommodate steam boats going down the river, but unfortunately it was built slightly too late - steam boats had already started to become obsolete. It was only ever lifted once after construction, and it was just for a test instead of an actual boat. By the 1980s the bridge was put out of commission and became the walking trail it is today.
The tunnel was dug out mostly by hand.
The Cartwright Tunnel was also built in 1912 and 1913 and while it was a complete tunnel with a beginning and an end, it was never actually used for the railroad or finished in that sense. It was dug out mostly by hand but also had the help of horses and mules. Blasting powder was also used to start construction. When the tunnel was completely dug, it was 1,458 feet long.
The bridge and tunnel are used as a walking trail today.
The time for the railroad to have used these has long since passed, but foot traffic remains steady. There is a park right next to the bridge that has access to it. Once you cross the bridge, you'll reach the tunnel and can take the long, dark trek through it. There is no lights in the tunnel and because it goes at a slight curve there are sections in the middle where it is nearly pitch black because you can't see the end. It is truly fascinating!
In this awesome aerial video taken of the bridge, you can see the tunnel at the end going into the hill and the spectacular view of the river you’ll get from the bridge:
Isn’t that neat? This is the only tunnel North Dakota has, but as far as bridges go, there are many! You can even take a
historic bridge trail through the state’s own “City of Bridges.”