Midwest Oddities: The Giant Animals of the High Plains
It is easy for me to get caught up in the idea that I live in the most boring corner of the planet. Yes, I sometimes refer to my region as the armpit of the U.S. But, a closer inspection reveals a strange obsession of my people that borders on disturbing, but also quite interesting… We really like to build statues of giant animals. Oh yes. It is something of a phenomenon here. In North Dakota alone, you will find the World’s Largest Cow, the World’s Largest Buffalo, the World’s Largest Sandhill Crane… that’s not even mentioning Tommy the Snowmobiling Turtle. This post will only feature statues that I’ve actually seen with my own two fortunate eyes.
So, as a celebration of my unique geographic claim to fame, I present you with the Gigantic animals of the North.
Ah yes. Salem Sue. I’ve seen her majestic form looming over the landscape many times. I’ve walked up to her and beheld her majesty first hand, and I am in awe of her still. Standing 38 ft tall, 50 ft wide, and weighing in at 6 tons, she is truly a sight to behold.
New Salem is a tiny little town in ND, but their claim to fame will always live on in the hearts of passers by as they marvel at the gigantic cow that sits atop a hill and blots out the sun.
When passing through Jamestown, ND, you may notice a distinctly large Bison on the horizon. Don’t be fooled. This isn’t just any buffalo. This is the World’s biggest, and I pass by this monstrosity every time I drive from my home to my parent’s house 300 miles away. Whenever I see it, I think, “Wow. Big Buffalo.”
The buffalo’s name is “Dakota Thunder.” The coolest thing about this statue is that it sits on a hill overlooking an actual herd of Bison that roam right up to the interstate. In this herd, you will find the famous White Cloud, an albino buffalo born right there in Jamestown.
A peaceful jaunt along I-94 gets wacky as you pass by Steele, ND. Here you’ll see a giganto bird, known as a Sandhill Crane. It’s likely that many of you have never heard of a Sandhill Crane. Well, now you have. And you now also know where you can find the largest statue of a Sandhill Crane in the whole wide world.
A very nifty side note is that the area around Steele is one of the top birding areas in the nation, and it is not unlikely that if you pull over to take a gander at “Sandy the Sandhill” (Not her official name, but that’s what I’m calling her) you’ll likely see a wide array of real birds that will capture your fancy.
Bottineau is known for it’s winter sports. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Bottineaunians celebrate their love of snowy activities with a giant statue of a turtle riding a snowmobile.
The turtle is affectionately named Tommy, and although the claim has not been officially made, I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that this is the World’s Largest Turtle on a Snowmobile statue.
If you are passing through Bottineau, be sure to swing by and say hello to Tommy, who resides in City Park.
If nothing else, it will be a fun story to share with your friends!
I don’t mean to steal Tommy’s thunder, but he’s not the only turtle capturing the hearts and minds of Nodaks.
Built as a salute to the Turtle Mountains, this is the Largest man made Turtle in the World. Heck yes! He’s made out of over 2,000 wheels, and stands two stories tall.
Fun fact, his head actually moves. Super cool.
When Natalina was a wee lass, she actually lived in Gladstone, ND for a spell. We affectionately named our little town “Happy Rock” (get it?) and we were filled with small town pride. Sadly, it wasn’t until after I moved away that the beautiful monuments on the Enchanted Highway nearby were built.
Pheasants on the Prairie (1996) is only one of the series of statues and artistic accomplishments you’ll find along the drive. You’ll also witness Tin Family (1991), Roosevelt Rides Again (1993), Grasshoppers in the Field (1999), Geese in Flight (2001), and Deer Crossing (2002). A labor of love by ND resident Gary Greff, a self-taught sculptor and onetime schoolteacher, these marvelous structures stand in tribute to small towns and big dreams.
And there you have it! This is not an exhaustive list of giant animals in North Dakota, but it should give you some idea of how awesome and creepy we are when it comes to huge animal statues. Dream Big, Nodaks!