When we told our friends that we were headed toward the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, they said that we should not miss the Enchanted Highway. This remote part of North Dakota is just east of the town of Dickinson and west of Bismarck.
The Enchanted Highway is a 32-mile route south of Interstate Highway 94 that leads to the very small town of Regent, North Dakota. Along this route is a roadside collection of the largest metal sculptures in the world. They are impressive in that they are all made of scrap metal by one man.
That man is Gary Greff who years ago decided to create this prairie roadside artwork to help show the value and worth of small towns in America. Gary saw the declining population of his town and others like it and was inspired to do something about it. He is a retired school teacher who had no experience welding but has now created seven roadside attractions with more in progress. He has been tirelessly working for 30 plus years and has created these enchanting sculptures that lead to the once dying town of Regent, North Dakota.
The first sculpture you come to is visible from Interstate 94 and is in the Guinness World Book of Records as the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world. The Geese in Flight artwork is absolutely huge measuring 156 feet long and 110 feet tall. Just installing this 79 ton piece of art on top of a hill was a monumental task requiring a large construction crane. It has been welcoming travelers since 2001 and was the fifth installation on the Enchanted Highway. The road leading up to the turnaround is adorned with numerous metal birds on both sides and the view of the surrounding landscape stretches for miles.
Traveling south, the next installation is The Deer Family erected in 2002. This nature scene is built from old well tanks that have been cut apart and welded. The 75-foot tall buck is so large that it could not be transported down Regent’s main street so they had to cut off one of the legs of the sculpture and weld it back on once onsite.
At our next stop we saw the Grasshoppers in the Field which has multiple grasshoppers facing north toward the interstate as do all the installations. The largest grasshopper is 50 feet long and 40 feet tall. While not a friend of the farmer, nonetheless it is an impressive display.
The Fisherman’s Dream was installed in 2006 and features fish found in North Dakota. These sculptures include bass, walleye, catfish, northern pike, salmon, and bluegill. The largest fish is a 70-foot rainbow trout which towers over the display.
One of my favorites is the Pheasants of the Prairie. These large birds with their chicks took over three years to complete and tower over the nearby highway. The largest is 70 feet long.
Continuing the artist’s focus on North Dakota, there is a tribute to Theodore Roosevelt entitled Teddy Rides Again. The sculpture of the former president, who was a one-time North Dakota rancher, is an amazing 51 feet high and weighs over 9000 pounds. He is riding his favorite horse “Mulley” who is rearing up over the highway. There is also a wooden stagecoach on display.
The next turnout is also the first sculpture erected on the highway. The Tin Family is built of used farm equipment. Tin Pa is the largest at 45 feet tall. It required 16 telephone poles to stand it up straight. Even the son is 23 feet tall. The farming family is only 1.5 miles from Regent. The tour concludes at Gary Greff’s hometown.
The population of Regent is still less than 200 residents. A low point for Gary, however, was when they closed the Regent High School. Interestingly enough the town sold the school to him for $100. He is hoping one day to open an art school in the building. The town now has thousands of annual visitors who stop by to see the sculptures and end up in Regent.
Greff has had little help with fulfilling the dream of the Enchanted Highway. He works constantly planning, welding, repairing, building the parking areas, cutting the grass under the artwork, and sometimes can be found behind the counter at the town’s Enchanted Highway gift shop.
We decided to drive around and explore the little town and came upon some large sculptures at the end of town. Sure enough Gary was there welding under his next creation, a large dragon. He was happy to stop and chat with us before resuming his decades long passionate work of building the Enchanted Highway.
If you go to see the sculptures, there are large pullouts at each stop with most having picnic tables and some information. Each stop has a sign explaining how to hear the audio tour by calling the phone number and entering the location code. There are no amenities until you reach the town of Regent. Each stop has the mileage to the next installation. The town has a gas station, a grocery, a museum, a saloon, a gift shop (ice cream!), a basic spot to park the RV for the night, a Bed and Breakfast inn, and even the Enchanted Castle Hotel. Dickinson, ND is a much larger town with many amenities and is about 45 miles away.