South of I-94, beginning at exit 72 lies the Enchanted Highway. At the end of the highway is a castle. And living in that castle is a man with a dream, a big dream, an enchanted dream.
Sounds kind of like a fairy tale, doesn’t it? But the Enchanted Highway is no fairy tale. Instead, it is an intriguing stretch of road made special by the dream of one man.
In 1989 local artist Gary Greff was concerned that his home town of Regent, North Dakota, was dying. Every census recorded fewer people living in the farming community and young people didn’t see any opportunity in town. Gary decided he needed to do something to try to revitalize Regent. He started collecting scrap metal and turning it into giant sculptures along the road running from the interstate to Regent. Each of the sculptures has a parking lot and some have picnic tables and vault toilets.
Today there are seven giant metal sculptures along the 32 mile road to Regent. I had been wanting to drive the Enchanted Highway to see all of them ever since we first got to North Dakota. Tom wasn’t as keen, but he agreed to do it on our way from Bismarck.
The first sculpture is one that can be seen from I-94, “Geese in Flight.” There are 10 geese held in the air on a metal webbing that represents the sun. It is in the Guiness World Book of Records as the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world. It was built out of oil well pipe and oil tanks. This sculpture was erected in 2001 and weighs over 75 tons. The entire sculpture measures 156 feet by 110 feet. The largest goose has a 30-foot wing span and is 19 feet long.
As you head south, the second sculpture is “Deer Crossing,” built in 2002. The deer are made from old oil well tanks cut apart and welded. The buck is 75 feet tall. Next to the sculpture is an enchanted maze.
The third sculpture is “Grasshoppers in the Field,” built in 1999. I guess this sculpture was controversial when Greff put it up because the farmers in the area think they have enough grasshoppers. Greff explained that the sculpture is a reminder of the hardships farmers have overcome making their living off the land. The large grasshopper is 50 feet long and 40 feet tall.
My favorite sculpture was the next one south and the most recent. “Fisherman’s Dream” was built in 2006 and is very detailed. If you look at it from the right perspective, you can see that most of the fish are below the waterline, but the rainbow trout is jumping out of the water. All the fish are made out of tin and most of them are 30 feet long. The rainbow trout is 70 feet long.
The fifth sculpture is “Pheasants on the Prairie,” completed in 1996. The pheasants are made out of wire mesh and took Greff three years to complete. The rooster is 40 feet tall and the chicks are each 15 feet tall.
The sixth sculpture is “Teddy Rides Again,” completed in 1993. This sculpture is a tribute to the role that Teddy Roosevelt played in North Dakota’s history. The sculpture is built of used well pipe and stands 51 feet tall. The stagecoach and horses in front of it are life-sized, which means they felt really small compared to everything else.
The final sculpture along the Enchanted Highway was also the first one built. “Tin Family” was completed in 1991 and is the closest to Regent. The sculpture is built out of used farm equipment. Tin Pa stands 45 feet tall and is held up by 16 telephone poles. They were especially impressive when you viewed them up close.
You don’t really get the feel of how big these sculptures are until you stand beside one. As I mentioned, Tom wasn’t really excited about visiting all of them, but after a couple he started to get into it. Starting with the third sculpture, he began finding funny ways of posing with the sculptures. His presence in the pictures gives you a better sense of scale of the size of the sculptures.
In 2012 Greff opened a hotel in Regent, the Enchanted Castle. The façade looked like a castle, but the more interesting thing was all the pieces of sculpture around it. The pictures of the hotel online, however, look interesting and it gets 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor. Excalibur Steakhouse serves as the restaurant for the hotel.
We had a great time finding and admiring all the sculptures and were sad when we got to Regent. For all artist Gary Greff’s efforts, the town didn’t look very lively. We checked out the Enchanted Highway gift shop, buying some fudge and a set of notecards with pictures of each of the sculptures. We also got gas in town. We would have supported more businesses but there weren’t any we wanted to check out. The antique store and the museum were closed.
The centerpiece of town is a sculpture of a family in a house. When you press a button, the person in each room moves.
If you are driving west on I-94, take time to make the Enchanted Highway loop through Regent. About 6,000 cars drive the Enchanted Highway each year to see the sculptures. The sculptures are worth it and I like to support a man with a dream.