US 85 in North Dakota


US 85
Get started Bowman
End fortune
Length 255 mi
Length 410 km
South DakotaBowman


Watford City



US 85 is a US Highway in the US state of North Dakota. The road forms a north-south route through the west of the state, through a sparsely populated prairie area. The largest town on the route is Williston in northwestern North Dakota. The route is 410 kilometers long.

  • Topschoolsoflaw: State overview and brief history of North Dakota, including its geography and popular cities.

Travel directions

US 85 around Alexander.

A little south of Bowman, US 85 in South Dakota enters the state of North Dakota from Belle Fourche at about 850 meters above sea level through a flat prairie area. The road then runs straight to Bowman, 25 kilometers north, where there is an intersection with US 12, the road from Miles City in Montana to Mobridge in South Dakota. The road then begins a 60-mile route to I-94, passing through prairies and right past the highest point in North Dakota, which is, however, little more than a low elevation in the landscape. This area is virtually deserted, and one passes through one hamlet with a few houses over 100 kilometers.

At the village of Belfield, it connects with Interstate 94, the highway from Billings in Montana to Bismarck and Fargo in the east. After Belfield, the lonely route continues for 170 kilometers to Williston. This area is bare and flat, there are hardly any trees in sight. Further north there are some more valleys, shallow river gorges. The Little Missouri River leads through the Badlands, an eroded area of ​​narrow valleys. At Watford City, a village, the road jumps to the west for about 25 kilometers, and then heads north again. Just before Williston, the road crosses the Missouri River, which is still quite wide here.

Shortly thereafter, US 85 merges with US 2, which comes from Glasgow in Montana. Together, both roads pass Williston, a town of 25,000, by far the largest town in hundreds of miles. A little way north of Williston, US 2 exits to Minot in the east, and US 85 continues north on its own. There are many small lakes in this area, but the area is still just as remote and lonely. Just before Fortuna, the road again jumps a bit to the west, after which the last kilometers follow to the border with Canada. US 85 then continues as Highway 35 in Saskatchewan to Weyburn.

  • thembaprograms: Geography information of North Dakota, including animals and plants. Also covers brief history and major cities of the state.


US 85 was created in 1926. The northern terminus was then another border crossing with Canada, namely at Ambrose, about 20 kilometers east of the current border crossing at Fortuna. Since 1940, the route ends at this border crossing. US 85 is not a major route, but since there are few roads that cross the Missouri River in western North Dakota, US 85 has some through importance, especially as it also serves the city of Williston, the only larger town. enroute. In 1991, the route up to Williston was designated as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway.

Its importance increased sharply after 2005 due to oil extraction in the Bakken Formation in North Dakota. Therefore, in 2013 a start was made to double US 85 over longer distances to a 2×2 divided highway. On August 8, 2014, the first 20-kilometer double-lane section opened between Watford City and Alexander, and later in 2014, a section of double-lane opened from Alexander to Williston. On September 29, 2014, Alexander’s 2×2 bypass opened to traffic and on October 28, 2014, Watford City’s 2×2 bypass opened to traffic. In October 2015, a 21-kilometer bypass from Williston opened to traffic, which has 2×2 lanes. After 2020, 100 kilometers of US 85 between I-94 and Watford City will be widened to a 2×2 divided highway .

In 2020-2021, the Long X Bridge over the Little Missouri River south of Watford City will be replaced by a new 2×2 lane bridge. The new bridge opened on October 30, 2020.

Traffic intensities

With the growth of the oil and gas industry in northwestern North Dakota, traffic in that region has greatly increased, especially the amount of freight traffic. Between 2010 and 2013, traffic south of Williston doubled from 4,000 to 8,500 vehicles.

1,400 vehicles drive daily at the South Dakota border, which remains stable until I-94. North of it, 4,000 vehicles drive as far as Watford City. After that, 10,000 to 11,000 vehicles will drive to Alexander and 8,500 vehicles to Williston. Up to 30,000 vehicles operate in Williston. North of Williston, the road is very quiet, dropping from 3,600 to just 70 vehicles on the Canadian border.

US 85 in North Dakota

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