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The sun sets through the center slots at the equinox. The winter and summer solstices are slots left and right.
The sun sets through the center slots at the equinox. The winter and summer solstices are slots left and right.

Mystical Horizons: Century 21 Stonehenge

Field review by the editors.

Bottineau, North Dakota

A sign at Mystical Horizons, the North Dakota Stonehenge, calls its creator, Jack Olson (1922-2001) -- who was born only a few miles away -- a "visionary," "a Renaissance Man," and "years ahead of his time."

Jack Olson didn't live long enough to see his Stonehenge.
Jack Olson didn't live long enough to see his Stonehenge.

During World War II, according to the sign, Jack landed a B-24 bomber after losing half of one wing in a midair collision, with no casualties. He designed the Boeing 929 Jetfoil and the Morgantown, West Virginia, monorail. His paintings of "advanced space concepts" such as rocket ships and Mars habitats are in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. He pioneered the technique of turning barren land beneath solar power arrays into greenhouses. He won a National Design in Plastics award for the Tupperware Pick-A-Deli Pickle Keeper (known informally as the "pickle plucker").

Entrance up to Mystical Horizons.

Explanation of the 21st Century Stonehenge.
Explanation of the 21st Century Stonehenge.

"He just had all these ideas," said Bottineau County Auditor Mae Streich, who was approached by Jack with his plans for what he called Century 21 Stonehenge. "He was a great man," Mae said. "And he invented the pickle plucker!"

(Despite his accomplishments Jack is somehow not in the North Dakota Hall of Fame, an oversight that Mae feels should be corrected).

Jack spent part of his retirement scouting the ideal location for his North Dakota Stonehenge. He found it just off of Highway 43, on a bluff at the western edge of the Turtle Mountains. He made detailed drawings that pinpointed the placement of its various monuments so that they would mark the daily and monthly movement of the sun.

And then Jack died.

"He told his wife, 'I don't think they're ever going to build it,'" said Mae, "which was very sad."

Stonehenge in England? No, Mystical Horizons in North Dakota.
Stonehenge in England? No, Mystical Horizons in North Dakota.

Jack may have been a visionary, but he failed to foresee the pluck of Mae and many other North Dakotans, who rallied to the cause of his Stonehenge. Funding for the monument was secured; land was leased; cooperation was forged between county, state, and federal agencies; a local engineer volunteered his own time to stake out the site on the equinox and solstices so that the monuments could be angled correctly (And on the summer solstice, the sun doesn't set here until nearly 10 o'clock at night).

On October 14, 2005, over four years after Jack's passing, Mystical Horizons opened to the public.

Mystical Horizons is technically a half-Stonehenge since it only marks the position of the setting sun, visible for miles across the western prairie. For daily use it includes a large sundial, set to the exact latitude of its almost-in-Canada location, and a "sighting tube" through which after-sunset visitors can always view the North Star. Curiously arched stone walls serve as the solar calendar, with precisely engineered slots through which the sun is only visible four times a year. On those evenings -- if it isn't cloudy -- Mystical Horizons draws a crowd, but Mae said that visitors seek it out year-round.

The sundial is set for Central Standard Time.
The sundial is set for Central Standard Time.

You can see the curvature of the earth from Mystical Horizons' panoramic vantage point, which is why it's Horizons with an "s." The name, in fact, was not coined by Jack -- he was a non-mystical nuts-and-bolts kind of guy -- but by Becky Leonard, who worked with Mae to get the Stonehenge built. "Mae and I were running through some ideas on the phone," said Becky, "and we were thinking about majestic or something like that. And I thought, 'Well, mystical has to do with the feeling that you get up there.'"

The sun sets through here only twice a year.
The sun sets through here only twice a year.

"We needed to have a catchy name to get attention," said Mae. "It is mystical. I think the name fits very well."

Mystical Horizons: Century 21 Stonehenge

106th St. NE, Bottineau, ND
From Bottineau drive west four miles on ND-5. Turn right (north) onto ND-14. Drive 9.5 miles. Turn right (east) onto ND-43. Drive 1.5 miles. Entrance on the left.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Iwo Jima Flag Raising in PipesIwo Jima Flag Raising in Pipes, Bottineau, ND - 7 mi.
Four Chaplains MemorialFour Chaplains Memorial, Bottineau, ND - 9 mi.
Tommy the TurtleTommy the Turtle, Bottineau, ND - 10 mi.
In the region:
International Peace Garden, Dunseith, ND - 22 mi.

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