You are on page 1of 24

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape

Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Preface
This book is meant to be several things at once. First, it is a genuine guide to the sights
and sites of the Bakken oil patch. Inspired by European travel guides like the Blue Guide and
Baedeckers as well as myriad locally-authored guides it gives visitors an opportunity to
explore a new place and the related cultural life. Following the tradition of these guides, this
volume privileges an archaeological reading of the Bakken landscape and foregrounds the
material culture and the industrial picturesque. Reflecting four years of visits to the Bakken,
this book presents an encounter with a region informed by conversations with scholars,
journalists, long-time residents, temporary workers, and new North Dakotans. So while the
book primarily focuses on the archaeological and material world, we contend that the
archaeological and the material embodies the people who made the Bakkens early 21stcentury oil boom an intriguing and dynamic time in both the history of North Dakota and
the United States.
This guide is also committed to the historical context and significance of the Bakken
Boom, its monuments, and its people. We intentionally selected the genre of the tourist
guide as a way to emphasize the dynamism of the Bakken oil boom against the backdrop of
tourism and travel. We did this because the wide-spread use of fossil fuels, first coal and
then petroleum, fostered the emergence of an industrial middle-class who then relied upon
fossil fuels to travel the world. By the late-19th and early 20th century, tourism and
recreational travel began to offer a controlled respite from the stability of suburban life
through repackaged adventure which celebrated and validated the privilege of the middle
class condition. Today, however, the mobility and instability visible in the Bakken has
emerged not as a respite from the routine life of the settled middle class suburb, but a the
daily condition of the working life of a significant segment of the middle class who work
just-in-time, work in extractive industries, or are otherwise buffeted by the eddying flow of
global capital. The 21st-century transformation of the middle class, positions the venerable
tourist guide in a challenging place. On the one hand, the tourist guide locates the worker in
the Bakken oil patch and the traveler in the same space within a dynamic landscape. In this
way, it is consistent with the classic view of tourism as a method for creating a cohesive
modern world understandable to the tourist, even if not entirely familiar.
On the other hand, the use of the tourist guide as a way to present the dynamic world of
the Bakken has obvious, if superficial, limits. The tourist guide freezes the Bakken in time. A
static book cannot represent thoroughly the dynamic character of the changing Bakken
landscape. Because of this shortcoming, we have taken the liberty of recording as
contemporary various sites observed over multiple trips to the Bakken. This is consistent
with our interest in using the tourist guide as a way to document, and offer a kind of
Geertzian thick description of the landscape and history of the first 21st century Bakken oil

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

boom. The composite landscape presented in this guide includes ephemera that are
momentary or will vanish before the end of the decade. Some landmarks in this book will
almost certainly be hidden as part of efforts to return the region to a romanticized vision of
a pre-boom state or as different economic priorities continue to reshape the landscape. Our
tourist guide draws attention to workforce housing sites, fragile roadside memorials, oil wells
destined to be drained and capped, and bustling businesses poised to follow the crowds of
workers to the next boom site.
There are several themes that run through this tourist guide. We sought to describe
movement of people and resources throughout the oil patch by highlighting infrastructure
ranging from truck stops to pipeline hubs. We set movement in the Bakken against sites of
both very recent and more distant historical significance to the industrial past of the region
with particular attention to extractive industries. Through the guide, we direct visitors to sites
of recent environmental catastrophes and the locations of prominent accident
commemorated by communities and loved ones. Finally, we periodically leavened the guide
with some of the individuals we have met throughout our research in the oil patch. We have,
as much as possible, avoided direct criticism of the oil industry, communities, or, in most
cases, the mass media, but at times a thorough consideration of the Bakken as a living
landscape makes this unavoidable.
This epilogue of the guide provides a framework for reading this book as a piece of
scholarship. It addresses the challenge of using archaeological tools to document a
contemporary industrial landscape and locates our effort at the intersection of industrial
tourism, human landscapes, and oil. We hope that the academic apparatus will allow the
reader to appreciate the guide on a different, if not necessarily higher, level as a piece of
engaging and useful writing.
The guide would not be possible without the assistance of a vast number of individuals.
Richard Rothaus accompanied us on most of our trips to the Bakken, encouraged our work,
read drafts of the guide, and provided a running and mostly welcomed commentary on the
Bakken. Aaron Barth, Kostis Kourelis, Bob Caulkins, Carenlee Barkdull, John Holmgren,
Kyle Cassidy, and Ryan Stander are members of the North Dakota Man Camp Project and
knowingly or not supported the development of this guide. Journalists covering the Bakken
offered helpful insights throughout our work with special thanks going to Amy Dalrymple
and Emily Guerin, and photographers Andy Cullen and Chad Ziemendorf. Tom Isern
encouraged us to publish this book in his new Heritage Guide Series at the North Dakota
State University Press and read a complete draft and offered substantive commentary.
Suzzanne Kelly shepherded this book through the publishing process. The two peer
reviewers ensured that we avoid the most egregious errors of fact and judgment. All other
errors, of course, are ours alone.

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

Finally, this guide would not have been possible without the willingness of the residents
of the Bakken, various municipal officials, employees of Bakken businesses who found time
to answer our queries, and other busy people who decided to take a few minutes (and
sometimes more) to talk with us about their experiences, their landscapes, and their history.
Without their help this guide would not be possible.

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

Introduction
The Bakken oil patch ranks among the great achievements of the contemporary age. The
arrival of fracking technology in Western North Dakota led to an industrial renaissance that
transformed sleepy farm communities into crucial cogs in the global extractive economy.
Fracking technology made the area a global destination for roughnecks, petroleum engineers,
pipeline cats, fishers (who fish for tools and other objects accidentally dropped down
wells), truck drivers, carpenters, contractors, and electricians as well as journalists, adventure
scientists, academic scholars, photographers, and filmmakers. Low-unemployment, the
bustle of heavy industry, and a landscape of dramatic contrasts present a magnetic attraction
for the adventurous traveler. Pack your camera, your sulfur dioxide sensor, a pair of steeltoed boots, and your flame resistant Carhartt clothing as you get ready for a unique journey
to a frontier landscape forged by industry.
The patch itself is a bewildering sight to the unprepared visitor. Its vast area (over 100
sq. miles) and complexity can quickly overwhelm any effort to apprehend its significance or
to identify the most meaningful sites. This short guide is meant to direct the industrial tourist
in sampling the many remarkable sites in the Bakken with a particular emphasis on the
work and life of both the various new, and the historic, communities in the area. As with any
tourist guide, this is not meant to be exhaustive, but to identify characteristic types of sites
and to provide easily navigated itineraries across the region. The kind of industrial tourism
proposed by this volume remains in its infancy: This guide seeks to provide the educated
visitor to the Bakken thought points to stimulate conversation, puzzles to ponder, and clues
to guide your explorations. Welcome to a region of industrial, historical, and natural beauty
that is at once unique, and simultaneously emblematic of an essential aspect of modernity
upon which we are all dependent . . . though few experience.

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

A Brief Industrial History of the Bakken Counties


This is a guide to the industrial history of western North Dakota. This region, was largely
created for the benefit of outside influences and has been shaped by boom-bust cycles. As
you travel from town to town, you will trace a settlement structure intentionally created by
the Great Northern Railway Company to maximize freight revenues. The famous Empire
Builder passenger train that continues to traverse The Highline originated with the Great
Northern and shared a nickname with its founder and president, James J. Hill. In a similar
fashion, the western North Dakota town of Ray took its name from Al G. Ray, a railroad
executive, and Williston from, Daniel Willis James, a friend of Hill. Outsiders often provided
names in the region, as in the case of Wheelock, ND, named for a newspaper editor in
Minneapolis who encouraged the settlement of the town on behalf of the Great Northern
Railway. Rail access and the availability of land were key components behind the growth of
Williams and McKenzie counties and set off the first industrial population boom in the
region as settlers came looking for economic opportunities.
Farming for eastern markets was the primary industry in the area for most of the 20th
century with grain elevators forming the dominant landmark at settlements throughout the
region. Towns not situated directly on the route of the Great Northern Railway frequently
had spur lines to move agricultural produce to the Great Northern trunk. Williston was a
market center for the regions cattle and grain, and the largest railroad terminal in the area
for shipping produce east to Minnesota, the Great Lakes, and beyond. Despite the
infrastructure, farming proved challenging for many settlers in western North Dakota. The
peripheral location of the western prairie and the dependence on rails to connect with the
mills and markets concentrated hundreds of miles away in Minnesota made North Dakota a
colony of the eastern urban areas. Protectionist policies put in place by the agrarian socialists
of the Non-Partisan League did little to buffer farmers from the agricultural depression of
the 1920s and the Great Depression of the 1930s. Dependence on global markets slowed the
growth of the region with many departing the area for greener pastures and better
opportunities elsewhere.
While agricultural production drove the early 20th century economy of the region, lignite
mining, particularly in northern Williams County, hinted at the potential of wealth below the
surface of the ground. This soft coal soon heated homes and produced electricity both in the
area and across the state. Short-lived and largely illusory gold rushes (mostly sparked by
the discover of pyrite or fools gold) likewise drew attention to the mineral wealth of the
area. The first decades of the 20th century included geologists and hucksters alike
prospecting for oil all across North Dakota. Of particular significance, the state geologist, A.
J. Collier offered suggestions that led to petroleum prospecting in the 1920s. In his 1919,
Unites States Geological Survey report Collier originally cautioned that chances of finding

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

oil in the Nesson anticline are very small.1 The next line in his report attracted greater
attention; he wrote that if reports of samples at a similar site near Minot prove true, this
would demonstrate the possibility of oil in the Nesson anticline.2 This led to prospecting
in Williams County, and local attention from both western North Dakota companies like the
Williston based Big Viking Oil Company, along with national attention from Standard Oil of
California. Both companies sunk deep wells along the Nesson Anticline, near the banks of
the Missouri River south of Tioga and Ray. A 1928 newspaper report quoted a Big Viking
employee claiming the Nesson dome had excellent prospects of being a source of oil and
gas.3 While lignite mines and oil wells did not produce vast or immediate benefits to the
region in the first third of the 20th century, they foreshadowed later activities in the area.
Oil prospecting finally paid off after World War II. After three decades of decline, the
region saw its first oil boom in the 1950s when the first systematic efforts occurred to
exploit the Bakken oil fields. Famously started by the No. 1 Clarence Iverson Well near
Tioga, most of the activity centered on a north-south line extending 100 miles centered on
this small farming community. By the mid-1950s Tioga and Williston both saw their first
man camps with hundreds of people living in trailers and other ad hoc accommodations.
This boom, which lasted for most of the decade, saw a 30 percent increase in population in
Williams County and a smaller, but no less obvious uptick in the population of McKenzie
County. In fact, the oil boom drew more workers and economic growth to the region than
the decade long construction project associated with the Garrison Dam across the Missouri
River. The gradual decline of oil production in the 1960s had as much to do with the
declining price of oil as difficulties in moving oil from the Bakken to refineries and markets
elsewhere. Even the construction of a refinery at Mandan (across the river from Bismarck)
fed by a pipeline from Tioga and another delivering to Moorhead, Minnesota did not allow
North Dakota oil to remain competitive in the global market. Production, drilling, and
populations declined across the western part of the state throughout the 1960s.
The second boom started in the mid-1970s when the political rise of OPEC and the
threats and realities of embargoes made exploration in North Dakota once again profitable
and reopened markets for North Dakota oil. Unlike the focus of the 1950s, when leases were
taken in every county in the state, this boom was a much more concentrated phenomenon
focused on what would later be broadly recognized as the Bakken oil patch. Once again,
both McKenzie and Williams counties saw significant bumps in population. But then
production increases by OPEC countries in the mid-1980s, and the accompanying drop in
prices, led to a decline in both oil exploration and production in North Dakota. The lower
A.J. Collier The Nesson Anticline, Williams County, North Dakota. U.S. Geological Survey Report Series
691. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1918): 216.
2 Collier, The Nesson Anticline, 216.
3 L. Peters Fractured Land: The Price of Inheriting Oil. (Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota State Historical
Society, 2014).
1

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

oil prices and the challenges of extracting oil from North Dakotas fields discouraged
sustained, boom-style activity in the Bakken through the rest of the century.
The oil boom of the second decade of the 21st century dwarfed the previous booms.
The introduction of hydraulic fracturing, advances in drilling techniques, and higher oil
prices spurred drilling in the Bakken at an unprecedented scale. While hydraulic fracturing
had been used in Alberta, Canada as early as 1953, its first sustained use did not occur till the
1970s and was primarily focused on recovering gas from low-permeability sandstone
formations. By 2003, Harold Hamms, Oklahoma-based Continental Resources was drilling
and fracking the western most portions of the Middle Bakken formation at the Elm Coulee
oil field near Sidney Montana. After a series of less than successful wells, Lyco Energy
Resources teamed up with the American multinational oil field services company
Halliburton. With Halliburtons cash and expertise in the relatively new horizontal drilling
technique, the partnership drilled the Burning Tree State horizontally for about 500 meters
through the narrow Middle Bakken formation and then fracked it to create a producing well.
By 2006, the new oil field was the highest-producing onshore field found in the lower 48
states since the first half of the 20th century.4 While the boom years had not yet begun, the
technology that would feed it was in place.
Crucial to the development of the Bakken was the combination of horizontal drilling
with multistage fracking where a well is fracked multiple times rather than just once. This
technique reopened the Nesson Anticline to large-scale oil production and allowed the
thicker Middle Bakken levels throughout the entire Bakken formation to become productive.
EOG Resources pioneered this method much earlier, but, in the Bakken, Governor Jack
Dalrymple celebrated the technique in his dedication of Continental Resources 2004
completion of the Robert Heuer 1-17R in Divide County. Dalrymple recognized that this
approach ushered in a new era in the American oil industry by unleashing the development
of the enormous Bakken oil field using horizontal drilling and fracture-stimulation
technology.5 In 2006, the Parshall Oil Field, with Parshall 1-36, produced over 500 barrels
per day. Russell Golds 2014-book, The Boom attributes the start of the North Dakota Bakken
oil boom to the well-publicized results of a well drilled by Brigham Exploration in early 2009
just west of Williston: Olson 10-15 #1H.6 Using technology developed by EOG Resources,
it became possible to frack a well multiple times by using oil pressure to seal already fracked
sections of the well. The Olson 10-15 #1H had a 3 km horizontal section that they fracked
20 times and by completion this well produced over 1200 barrels of oil per day. While the
amount of oil produced by wells in the Bakken tends to taper off rather quickly after two or
John J. Fialka, Wildcat producer sparks oil boom on Montana plains. The Wall Street Journal,
(2006) http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB114420151900517294
5 Jack Dalrymple, Robert Heuer 1-17R Well Dedication. Bismarck, ND: State of North Dakota,
October 27, 2011.
6 Russell Gold, The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World.
(New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014).
4

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

three months, most wells produce over 1000 barrels per day in their first week or so of
production. Olson 10-15 #1H was representative of the kinds of wells that would inaugurate
the 21st century Bakken Oil Boom. While landmark wells are significant, they do not
guarantee future results. It remains difficult to pinpoint the precise beginning of a
phenomena like an oil boom, which probably has more to do with the large numbers of
companies coming into the state to take leases, rather than the frenetic drilling activity. At
any rate, the combination of fracking and horizontal drilling activity, along with the
necessary market opportunities, at least in retrospect, poised western North Dakota for an
unprecedented oil economy.
From 1922-2009, the first 90 years of oil exploration activity in North Dakota, there had
only been 16,000 spuds (or well-starts). In the short period from 2010-2014, there were over
8,000. This increase in drilling, pumping, piping, and processing oil and natural gas created a
massive surge in population and industrial activity. Much of that focused on Williams and
McKenzie counties, but petroleum production extended across a total of nineteen of the
states fifty-three counties (including Adams, Billings, Bottineau, Bowman, Burke, Divide,
Dunn, Golden Valley, Hettinger, McHenry, McLean, Mercer, Mountrail, Renville, Slope,
Stark, and Ward counties), along with Richland County in Montana. In 2014, North Dakota
produced over a million barrels of oil today and ranked second only to Texas in oil
production in the U.S. The USGS estimated that North Dakotas Bakken oil patch, with 7.4
billion barrels of oil, held more than Alaska and most of the OPEC countries. This book
provides an accessible guide to visiting this remote, yet heavily industrialized area and aims
to facilitate the readers understanding of the character of this vigorously productive
landscape from a tourist perspective.

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

Practical Notes on Travel, Roads, and Weather in the Bakken


Roads and Travel
Travel to and from the Bakken has become much easier in the past half-decade. Both
Williston and Minot have regular flights on both major and budget airlines, and service on
Amtraks Empire Builder maintains its charmingly unreliable character to Minot, Stanley,
and Willistons newly renovated train station. To see and experience the Bakken in the most
engaging and exciting way requires a vehicle. Because some of the tourist itinerary will
involve unpaved and unimproved roads, we recommend a four-wheel drive vehicle with
good ground clearance. To experience the Bakken in the most authentic way possible
involves a pickup truck. As distances between points of interest in the Bakken tend to be
rather long, we also recommend a substantial budget for gas.
The backbone of this region consists of US Route 2 and US Route 85. Much of US 2
follows the old Theodore Roosevelt International Highway, an auto trail organized in 1919
to connect Portland, Maine with Portland, Oregon. In North Dakota, US Route 2 follows
the Highline of the Great Northern Railway, from Minot to Williston and then on to
Everett, Washington. The current US Route 2 runs slightly to the south of railway and the
original route. At 13-Mile Corner, US Route 2 arcs south for about twenty miles before
returning on its westward journey. This stretch of Route 2 joins with US Route 85, which
stretches south from Torch River, Saskatchewan to El Paso, Texas. In the US and Canada
this route is part of the CanAm Highway; in Mexico it joins the Pan-American Highway,
extending all the way to the southern tip of South America..
The roads of the Bakken have been a topic of considerable debate since the earliest
booms. The increase in volume and heavy truck traffic throughout the region has left even
paved roads rutted. Unimproved roads have suffered even more grievously as the state has
only reluctantly released funds necessary for the communities to keep up with regular
maintenance on roads transformed from sleepy country lanes to busy thoroughfares almost
overnight. Expect delays for road work and traffic and anticipate bad roads throughout the
region, although state investment resulted in marked improvement since the chaotic early
years of the boom.
Travel in rural areas presents some general challenges as well. The region has numerous
ungated rail crossings that should be approached with caution. Mobile phone service is
(depending on ones carrier) generally good along the US Route 2 and US Route 85 corridor,
but quickly becomes spotty off the main routes through the area. Speed limits tend to be
higher than people might expect on paved rural roads which until the most recent boom saw
little regular traffic. More than that, people drive quickly on dirt roads because they have
long experience navigating rural byways. This can be disconcerting to folks unfamiliar with
these conditions.

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

Weather
Theres a popular saying in the Bakken that there are three seasons: snow, mud, and
dust. Technically, the weather is impacted by the regions mid-continent location with cold
winters and hot summers; indeed, North Dakota experiences some of the widest variety of
weather in the United States. Few places in the world host temperature extremes from well
below zero to over 100 F. Sitting at the geographic center of North America, the
continental climate weather patterns can be wickedly unpredictable with Alberta Clippers
(winter storms characterized by sudden drops in temperature and sharp winds), possible in
either spring or fall.
Winters often bring the dry, bright sunshine of the Arctic dessert, with the drama of
sparkling bright clean snow and brutally crisp temperatures lingering below 0 F for weeks on
end. Between the intensely sunny days, travel can be far more difficult and dangerous as
blizzards are not unusual and low temperatures make any time outside without good winter
clothing risky. Traveling in the winter should not be done without a winter weather kit in the
vehicle including extra clothing and food, and appropriate safety gear. If you drive a diesel
vehicle, be sure to fill up with winter blend diesel fuel or #1 diesel which has a significantly
lower gelling temperature than traditional blends. Many drivers will leave their diesel vehicles
running overnight to prevent problems with the fuel lines.
Springtime has its challenges as well. Spring tends to come rather late to the northern
plains with the last frost most frequently occurring in mid-May. Spring thaws and rains can
make unpaved and unimproved roads difficult for travel and cover the entire region with a
thin layer of rich brown mud. July, August, and September provide the easiest months for
touring. Most of the mud has dried up and the first frost usually holds off until the last
weeks of September. The temperature in the summer months can be quite warm, but
humidity tends to be rather low, evenings are cool, and at 48 latitude, daylight is plentiful.
Rural roads can be dusty, but many are watered regularly, and while road construction work
is almost inevitable during the short season when it is possible, it is an exciting time to visit
the Bakken.
Finally, no discussion of Bakken weather is complete without some mention of the wind.
The Bakken, like most of North Dakota, is windy. Winter, spring, summer, and fall are all
windy. Situated in the middle of the continent, impacted by continental divides and major
headwaters, the wind primarily gusts west from across the Rockies, but it also pounds down
from the Arctic in the north, blusters east from the Great Lakes, and sweeps humid winds
south from the Gulf of Mexico travelling up the Mississippi and the Missouri. The wind
carries dust in the summer, rain in the spring and fall, and snow in the winter.

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

Food
Food options in the oil patch change seasonally with plenty of options served at food
trucks. These trucks offer a surprising range of fares including the ubiquitous burgers, fries,
and burritos, to Cajun and other southern cooking brought north by the large number of oil
workers from Gulf of Mexico. one particularly interesting feature of food in the patch is its
southern inflection. Brisket, fried chicken, biscuits, and barbecue of various descriptions can
show up on menus across the region. Be warned, your meal is not likely to be cheap.
Stopping where you see a line of idling semis or pickup trucks is often the best available
review in the ephemeral restaurant scene. Truck stops are another food option with most
offering hot food and various frozen entrees. The continuous nature of activity in the patch
makes these truck stops appealing places for quick lunches on the go between sites. For a
cheaper meal and some local color, visit the main street of any of the larger towns in the
region and enjoy some conversation with your coffee and patty melt. Tioga, Watford City,
Crosby, and Alexander have decent diners, and Williston has a growing range of chain
restaurants as well as some decent eats with a more regional flavor and ambiance.
Clothing
When traveling in the Bakken it is essential to dress the part. Most of the necessary gear
can be purchased at the Home of Economy in Minot, Williston, or Watford City (or, in a
pinch, at various truck stops throughout the patch). To some extent your dress will depend
on whether you have made arrangements to visit working sites, or simply plan to take on the
dramatic scenery. In either case, a sturdy pair of boots are the best start to any Bakken outfit.
Visits to work sites generally require steel toe books with solid, composite, or steel shanks
and even the casual tourist might consider rugged looking footwear to blend in with the hard
working population of the patch. Many longtime residents of the Northern Plains swear by
Red Wing boots produced by Red Wing Shoes in either their Red Wing, Minnesota or
Potosi, Missouri plants. There are now Red Wing stores in Watford City and Williston.
Carhartt or similarly ruggedized pants, shirts, and jackets are the order of the day for
outwear. For extra authenticity consider FR rated clothing which is fire retardant and
required by many worksites. Most folks dress in layers, even in the summer, to accommodate
the cool mornings and sometimes sweltering afternoons. A solid colored hoodie or
hooded sweatshirt is an appealing and appropriate option for touring the Bakken. A
common accessory especially among truck drivers, is an SO2 detector. Sulfur dioxide is a
highly toxic gas associated with oil extraction and natural gas processing that can pool
dangerously in natural depressions. Workers in the Bakken who spend extended periods of
time around wells, pipelines, and other places where various gases are present, wear SO2
detectors as a safety precaution.

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

One interesting aspect of Bakken dress is the appearance of American flags on shoulder
patches of coveralls, along with other heavy-duty clothing bearing corporate logos. This
practice almost certainly derived from the military and perhaps served to identify American
employees of oil companies and contractors while working in difficult political environments
in the Middle East and Africa. It also speaks to the growing conflation of the military and
extractive industries in the U.S. Many workers in the Bakken live in barrack-style camps and
serve fixed length tours in the region. The companies themselves often couch their work in
the patriotic language of energy independence. Michigan-based Carhartt and Minnesotabased Red Wing boots present an Americanized wardrobe appropriate for the region.
In North Dakota, the region west of the Missouri river is cowboy hat country. While the
workers who have streamed to the Bakken come from all over the country, many residents
of western North Dakota who consider themselves Westerners will wear traditional cowboystyle hats without irony. Many folks in the Bakken, however, do not associate with the
American west in particular, and remain more at home with traditional baseball-style hats.
Of course, hardhats are required on worksites, with the hard plastic shells presenting further
opportunity for self-expression in an environment where that can be otherwise challenging.

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

Technical Notes and Key Terms about the Bakken


If one word characterizes the industrial boom in the Bakken above all others: fracking.
Fracking is the short term for hydraulic fracturing, a technology employed to extract oil and
gas trapped in narrow layers of porous rocks. Fracking is only one step in the complex
process of extracting oil and the gas from the ground, and fracking itself involves multiple
steps and materials. In fact, from a tourist perspective, fracking is typically the least visually
dramatic aspect of oil and gas extraction. Most of it occurs underground and active fracking
sites show little more than mazes of highly pressurized pipes, various tank trucks, and large
pumps. Specialized fracking teams complete process is completed in a matter of just days.
Long before an oil company fracks a well, they must acquire the right to drill by leasing
the mineral rights to an area. In North Dakota, surface right and mineral rights can be held
separately so it is not uncommon for farmers to own land, often for generations, but not
have the right to lease the mineral rights. Generally companies have a limited amount of time
to drill a well after they acquire a lease and typically the lessor receives some royalties on
their share of the mineral rights. Once a company has acquired a lease, they hold certain
rights concerning access to the subsurface deposits. Leasing the land for a well pad and a
road from the surface right owner is common practice and frequently a source of tension
between oil companies and farmers (and other surface rights owners) in the region.
In practice, this process can become quite complex with the most common complication
being oil companies frequently bundling mineral rights holders together as the horizontal
legs of wells can cut through numerous leases. The process of attempting to create greater
efficiencies is known as unitization. Unitization describes the consolidation of two or more
leasehold interests into a common unit, and is a legal effort to overcome the inconsistencies
between the non-linear, organic geological realities underground with the manmade, linear,
surface property lines. It can refer to the process of exploration. The right to explore and
produce oil and gas is considered a matter of private property, but a view of oil and gas
extraction as a public interest exerts influence over the law. It more frequently, however,
refers to production processes. In this context, unitization also offers a way to streamline
both facilities above ground (pumping stations, roads, pipelines, etc.), and work
underground so that, for example, so that multiple rights holders along a lateral leg of a well
can all earn appropriate royalties. While this all sounds fairly positive and even necessary in
terms of enhancing oil recovery, the reality is far more complex. Unitization includes both
voluntary and forced unitization affecting property and mineral owners rights, difficulties in
determining shares of revenue among various lease holders, and the interface with different
state laws. In North Dakota, a minimum of 60 percent of the owners must agree to engage
in unitization, and this can be extremely difficult when there are many people and companies
included in the ownership of a single tract. Additionally, unitization primarily concerns
petroleum production, which can negatively impact farming and ranching operations on the
surface.

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

These complications of ownership are illustrated in particularly dramatic fashion on the


Ft. Berthold Indian Reservation where surface and mineral rights ownership frequently
include multiple parties (the tribe, individual tribal members, non-tribal members, and even
the federal government). This stems from the Dawes Severalty or General Allotment Act of
1887. The Act took reservation lands held in common by the tribes, and subdivided
property into allotments of 160 acres for farming. The intention was to turn tribal members
into individual property owning farmers. In addition to intentionally undermining traditional
views of land rights, the process of fractionation created a bewildering puzzle in relation to
mineral rights: as original allottees died, their heirs were bequeathed equal shares, and the
number of owners grew exponentially with each generation, so that, in many cases,
thousands hold mineral rights to any given plot of land. Additionally, some owners may have
previously sold off mineral rights while holding on to surface rights.
Enter the landman. Petroleum landmen are the men and women who help to identify the
property owners, negotiate contracts, take care of various title details, and work to unitize oil
pools. For some, the landman is the friendly businessman who brought wealth by wading
through complicated legal and property records at county courthouses to identify rights
holders. To others, landmen are the lawyers and others who wrought irreconcilable change.
The ranks of landmen include the legendary T. Boone Pickens, and even former President
George W. Bush spent some time in his career as a landman.
Unitization of leases, fractionation of property ownership, and the patchwork of
changing state and federal laws complicate production. Before production can begin, it is
first necessary to drill. This is a precision task in the Bakken because the oil-rich middle
Bakken formation is a narrow band of shale that lies approximately 2 miles below the surface
of the ground. The process of drilling begins with a vertical borehole and then involves
turning the drill bit horizontally for up to 2 km through the narrow band of oil rich Middle
Bakken shale. As the well is drilled, the hole is lined with metal pipes called casing meant to
both stabilizing the well-hole and also prevent fluids used in drilling or fracking from
contaminating levels (including ground water) that do not produce oil. While the drilling rigs
are often remarkable structures that tower above the surrounding prairie festooned with
lights and cables, and bound to the earth by counterweights, the business end of the drill is
deep underground. They are also busy sites with numerous workers tending the equipment
and precisely positioning the drill in a layer that is sometimes less than 20 m thick. The
drilling process is the most labor-intensive portion of petroleum production, with hundreds
of workers laboring for weeks to drill a well, and this part of the process accounts for a good
proportion of the associated population boom. Riggers come into an area to do the risky
job of drilling, and then moving on to the next oil play once the exploration phase is over.
Each drill rig stands on a level, gravel pad designed both to provide a level base for the
tower and also to control any spills that might occur during the drilling or fracking process.
The need for gravel in the Bakken is substantial. Once the well has been drilled, the massive
rig tower comes down and these can sometimes be seen traveling down the roads in the

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

Bakken in segments, though recent technology enables the towers to walk to nearby sites.
With the slowdown in drilling in 2015
The next step to bring a Bakken well into production is fracking. This involves forcing a
combination of water and chemicals down into a well at such immense pressure that the
surrounding rock cracks and fractures. Once the rock is fractured, pumps force either sand
or a synthetic proppant down into the still-pressurized well. The proppant travels down the
well suspended in a viscous gell which flows into the cracks in the rocks. A chemical is then
added that causes the gell to dissipate leaving behind the proppant to keep the cracks in the
rock open. Oil and gas flow through these fissures. This process can be repeated multiple
times in a well with a series of pressure sensitive valves separating the length of horizontal
pipe into sections that can be fractured individually. It is this multiple fracking that made the
Bakken particularly productive.
The best visual indicators of active fracking at a well are the rows of frack tanks
aligned along the gravel pad surrounding the well hole. These square tanks with a single set
of wheels at their rear carry water and chemicals to the well site. Depending on the well, this
might involve hundreds of tanks being transported and removed from the fracking site
requiring numerous truck drivers. The amount of fluid needed to frack a well in the Bakken
varies significantly, with some wells requiring millions of gallons of water to frack. Once
fracking begins, the water used in the process is contaminated both with fracking chemicals,
many of which are trade secrets, and various naturally occurring salts and radioactive rocks
present deep beneath the earth. Oil companies dispose of this contaminated, or, or, in the
language of the state of North Dakota, produced water, by injecting it back into the ground at
salt-water or waste-water disposal wells. These wells are meant to prevent the chemical- and
salt-laden water from contaminating the surface of the ground or fresh water aquifers.
Once the well is fracked, oil runs free for varying periods of time, but then pumps are
installed that continue to draw the oil from the fractured rock to the surface of the ground.
The most common form of well pump in the Bakken are traditional pump-jacks which look
like nodding donkeys. With the oil typically comes natural gas, particularly methane. In some
cases, this is burned off at the pump site resulting in dramatic flares. In other cases, pipelines
take this gas to a compression station and then a refinery. Like any mechanical process,
every oil well requires various kinds of maintenance to ensure its continued output. Filling
this role are the workover rigs and their crewsthe bulldogs of the Bakkenwho arrive to
repair broken pieces, deal with accumulations of non-oil fluid, and other maintenance
functions. Workover rigs look like small drilling rigs with tall tower designed to
accommodate the long lengths of casing inserted or removed from the wells. With the
exception of the ongoing maintenance of the workover rigs, most of the activity around a
well is limited to the mechanical bobbing of the well pump itself.
The drilling, fracking, and pump preparation take a tremendous amount of manpower
from teams responsible for rigging the well, fracking it, and maintaining the electrical and
hydraulic systems, to the truck drivers who bring equipment, fluids, and structures to the

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

site. According to the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, the typical well
requires over 1200 truckloads of gear and involves over 400 different jobs.
The drilling and fracking process can often be viewed from Bakken roads. It is an
industrial treat to see a convoy of trucks pulling frack tanks down rural roads or lines of
these tanks arranged in trucking yards waiting to be deployed. Pump trucks are another
exciting sight on North Dakota highways. These trucks carry large pumps, massive engines
that propel fracking fluids deep beneath the earth.

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

Controversy and Conflicts


The Bakkens first 21st-century oil boom operated in a continuous buzz of controversy
and criticism. Most of this has centered on environmental and social concerns disseminated
and amplified by the national media. As with most modern responses to intensive industrial
activities, some of the criticism of the Bakken assumed classist overtones as middle class
sensitivities projected moral judgment on the supposedly less civilized working classes.
Despite the national media hype and the thinly veiled disdain of the dirty work of extractive
industries, there are legitimate concerns regarding the rapid expansion of boom sites like the
Bakken, which often lacked sufficient social and industrial infrastructure to ensure that all
involved parties enjoy the benefits and cope with the challenges of booms in a responsible
way.
Environmental Concerns
Fracking represents one of the most controversial aspects of the Bakken oil boom. Some
of the controversy undoubtedly stems from the subterranean and invisible violence of
fracking where pressurized water, chemicals, and grit literally crack the crust of the earth.
This image provides a powerful platform for those with sincere environmental concerns.
Their biggest specific concern stems from the tremendous amount of water used to frack
wells and the historical scarcity of water for agriculture in the semiarid region of western
North Dakota. The disposal of water produced both during fracking and naturally occurring
deep below the surface has also worried both residents of the Bakken and environmentalists
who voice concerns that salt water disposal wells could leak fracking fluids into either the
water table, or that poorly prepared well casing could allow fracking fluid to leech into
porous rocks surrounding the well hole. Because the exact constitution of fracking fluids is
often protected as trade secrets, it has been difficult to associate particular spills with
particular companies in the Bakken, and industry experts have assured residents and state
officials that everything is safe. There is also a concern about radioactivity derived from
naturally occurring radioactive rock that is drawn to the surface by drilling and fracking. For
instance, in the process of straining wastewater from wells, the industry in North Dakota
alone, at the peak of the boom, was producing 27 tons per day of filter socks. The state
simply did not have sufficient monitoring mechanisms in place to either control where these
were dumped, or to even manage legal disposal in landfills.7
Moving Bakken oil to market has also generated controversy. A deadly explosion from a
tank car derailment in the town of Lac-Mgantic in Quebec, Canada brought national
attention to the possible volatility of Bakken oil. An explosion less than a year later in
Alex Nussbaum, Radioactive Waste Booms With Fracking as New Rules Mulled, BloombergBusiness
April 16, 2014. Accessed on February 15, 2016. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/201404-15/radioactive-waste-booms-with-oil-as-new-rules-mulled
7

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

Casselton, North Dakota, near Fargo, reinforced public fears about moving Bakken oil by
rail. Pipelines have not been without their problems, with a major spill from a Tesoro
pipeline in September 2013 dumping close to a million gallons of oil in a wheat field near
Tiogaone of the largest onshore spills in U.S. history. Finally, the movement of oil
through the Bakken has created problems with the traditional agricultural economy in the
region. Long transportation delays brought about by the increase in Bakken oil traffic have
plugged grain elevators, hampered the delivery of fertilizers, caused farmers to invest in
additional storage, and in some cases left piles of grain and hay to remain in fields. The
development of rail infrastructure, such as unit yards and terminals for moving equipment
into the region and oil out, and pipelines to transport crude and natural gas has lagged
behind production. The ongoing development of sufficient infrastructure will depend on
stable, high prices of oil, factors that are never guaranteed in the boom-bust cycles of
extractive industries.
Finally, residents of the Bakken have complained about the noise pollution, air pollution,
and light pollution near drill rigs. Because some farmers do not own mineral rights that
correspond with the surface rights, they often find themselves at odds with oil companies.
Despite laws that require that both surface and mineral rights owners respect each others
rights of access and use, there continue to be disputes over the interpretation of these laws
and the willingness of large corporate holders of mineral rights to respect surface rights
holders.
Social Concerns
Perhaps equal to environmental concerns are the social concerns involving not only
rapid population growth in Western North Dakota but also the arrival of people who intend
only to live in the region for a short period of time. The larger population has made crime
more visible, put pressure on social services, and upset the small-town life style enjoyed by
many long-time residents. The media has paid particular attention to the rise in drug related
crime in the Bakken as well as prostitution, human trafficking, and violence against women.
Residents have complained about the increase in petty-theft and a general feeling of
insecurity. Some of the rhetoric about crime and violence in the Bakken evokes images of
the Wild West or even 19th century stories of industrial districts where working class men
labored to enter the middle class. Media coverage aside, there is no doubt that many small
communities have struggled to adapt to the rapidly changing situation in the Bakken and
some have been critical of the response from the state of North Dakota for being slow to
help small towns facing unprecedented challenges.
Perhaps the best known of these social challenges was the increase in the cost of living in
Bakken communities. Rents in Williston, Dickinson, and Watford City equaled those in
major urban areas like New York and Los Angeles. The scarcity of labor drove prices up for
goods throughout the patch and incited claims of price gouging and profiteering at the

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

expense of new arrivals. The rising cost of living made it difficult for older residents on fixed
incomes or state employees with salaries based on pre-boom cost of living calculations to
survive in the Bakken. As a result, communities struggled to retain and attract teachers,
social service providers, and police needed to face the challenges of the boom.
The rapid expansion of short-term housing initially helped communities manage the
influx in workers to the reason. The building of permanent home and apartments in the
cities of Williston and Watford City gained momentum just as the price of began to decline.
This has led to Williston to implement a man camp ban in the city beginning in June 2016
in an effort to move more of the workforce into permanent residences. Watford City has a
massive inventory of newly built, but vacant homes and apartments that speak to the
challenges of providing housing amidst the vagaries of the global economy.
Working in the Bakken has proven to be hazardous as the number of workplace injuries
outpaces the national average by a significant margin. The use of heavy equipment, the
amount of traffic on the roads, and the long hours add to the intrinsic risks of working
around flammable and dangerous chemicals. There are various claims about the dangerrelated rankings of different occupations, and these are often either anecdotal or based on
very specific factors. In this context, it is worth noting that Department of Labor statistics
count truck drivers and construction laborers among the three occupations (along with
farming) with the highest fatality counts and rates.8 When one couples those occupations
which describe much of the work in the oil patchwith the additional risks related to the
petroleum industry, the unavoidable reality is that this is hazardous work. Navigating the
Bakkens highways, byways, and back roads will likely provide opportunity to witness some
of these risks. The roadside memorials to both local residents and newcomers who have died
are a reminder of the risks of moving through a region that has profound similarities to an
industrial site. Adventurers are forewarned!
Political Concerns
The geography of the Bakken boom has exacerbated political tensions between the
western and eastern parts of the state. Traditionally the eastern part of the state, particularly
the fertile, Red River Valley is the home to most of North Dakotas population in the cities
of Fargo and Grand Forks. The western part of the state, in contrast, is more rural, less
densely populated, and generally had less political and economic power. The rapid growth of
oil production in the Bakken has tipped the economic balance toward the western counties
and legislative districts and forced the entire state to critically examine the allocation of funds
for education, infrastructure, and other daily needs. These political compromises do not
come easy even in a legislature dominated by a single political party.

Guy Toscano, Dangerous Jobs, Compensation and Working Conditions 2 (1997): 57-60.

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

Disputes over the taxing of oil production have also created rancorous debates in
political circles. The desire to create a political and economic culture friendly to extractive
industry has led the state to maintain a gross production tax of 5% per well. More
controversial, however, is the extraction tax of around 10% but contained triggers to drop
lower when the price of oil declined on global markets. While times were good, even the
modest production and extraction tax generated substantial revenues for the state, and
allowed North Dakota to fortify a substantial Legacy Fund that can not be spent until
June 30, 2017. In January 2016 this funds balance was nearly $3.5 Billion. The drop in oil
prices since 2014 has forced the state to adjust its revenue projections and cut funding to
institutions and services across the state. Since the North Dakota legislature meets only every
two years, many of the political conflicts relating to the drop in oil prices since 2015 remain
unresolved.

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

North Dakota Man Camp Project


This guide developed from our experience in the Bakken as part of the North Dakota
Man Camp Project. Since 2012, this project has worked to document and understand
workforce housing in the Bakken, and prompted the authors to make numerous trips to
Williams and McKenzie counties with a range of collaborators. These trips introduced new
members of our project to the Bakken, and we frequently found ourselves taking them to
some of the more dramatic views for photographic opportunities, visiting workforce housing
sites, speculating on various commercial enterprises, and discussing the nature of our work
while barreling down dirt roads or stuck on traffic on major arteries. We have also talked
with dozens of journalists, scholars, and public officials about our work and helped to
unofficially guide their engagement with the Bakken.
This guide then derives from our own encounters with the Bakken and represents a set
of experiences that both made us familiar with the flow of movement in the region and
drawn to the regular challenges associated with navigating its constantly changing landscape.
To be clear: we are not petroleum engineers, truck drivers, riggers, pipeline cats, landmen,
roughnecks, or roustabouts. Our view of the Bakken will tend to emphasize the highly
visible, big picture characteristics of the oil patch. While our research brought us to the
region with focused goals in mind, it also opened our eyes to the larger complexities of the
oil patch and raised far more questions than it answered. This experience has made us both
Bakken insiders with specialized knowledge of certain aspects of the patch, but we also
remain outsiders who are drawn to the constant wonder that the place invokes. In particular,
our research on workforce housing has exposed us to the more subtle, human side of the
industrial landscape developing in the North Dakota west. This is consistent with the
archaeological nature of the North Dakota Man Camp Project which has privileged the
social, cultural, and historical change rather than technical industrial knowledge.

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

Further Reading
There is an immense body of popular literature on the North Dakota oil boom, fracking,
and rural life making it difficult to know to start. This work was largely inspired by the
Works Progress Administrations Federal Writers Project Guide to North Dakota: The
Northern Prairie State (1938), which leads tourists and travelers through the largely agricultural
North Dakota landscape of the late 1930s.9 Elwyn B. Robinsons magisterial History of North
Dakota (1966) is also required reading although his research concludes amid the first North
Dakota oil boom.10 Much of his analysis of that boom derives from the 1962 M.A. Thesis of
Dominic Schaff who diligently compiled newspaper articles, geological reports, and industry
statements from the first decade of the first boom; more recently Clarence Herz 2013 M.A.
Thesis from North Dakota State University provides a history of the early days for oil
exploration in the state.11 John P. Bluemles The 50th Anniversary of the Discovery of Oil in North
Dakota, published by the North Dakota Geological Survey in 2001, provides geological and
historical perspectives on the first two booms.12 Kimberly Porters North Dakota: 1960 to the
Millennium appeared in 2009 and catches the first years of the most recent boom.13
For perspectives on North Dakotas landscape prior to the boom, you could do far
worse than looking toward Kathleen Norriss 2001 book, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography which
has exerted a substantial impact on how people have understood the state as a landscape.14
Troy Larsons and Terry Hinnenkamps three volume photo essays on Ghosts of North Dakota
provides a dramatic if romanticized image of the states non-industrial landscape.15 Richard
Edwards, Natives of a Dry Place: Stories of Dakota Before the Oil Boom and Debra Marquart, The
Horizontal World: Growing up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere. A Memoir offer compelling views of
life in North Dakota before the most recent boom.16
The web provides a vast quantity of information on the Bakken oil boom and western
North Dakota. Alex Prudhommes 2014 book titled Hydrofracking in Oxfords Everything You
Need to Know series serves as an accessible start to the technologies and controversies around
Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of North Dakota. North
Dakota: The Northern Prairie State. (Fargo, ND: Knight Print Co., 1938).
10 E. Robinson, History of North Dakota. (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1966).
11 C. Herz, Petroleum Exploration History in North Dakota to 1951. Unpublished M.A. Thesis.
North Dakota State University. Fargo, ND. 2013; D. Schaff, The History of the North Dakota Oil
Industry, Unpublished M.A. Thesis. University of North Dakota. Grand Forks, ND. 1962.
12 P. Bluemle, The 50th Anniversary of the Discovery of Oil in North Dakota. (Bismarck, ND: North Dakota
Geological Survey, 2001).
13 K. Porter, North Dakota: 1960 to the Millennium. (Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing 2009).
14 K. Norris, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography. (New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1993).
15 T. Larson and T. Hinnenkamp, Ghosts of North Dakota: North Dakotas Ghost Towns and Abandoned
Places. Vols. 1-3. (Fargo, ND: Sonic Tremor Media, 2013).
16 Richard Edwards, Natives of a Dry Place: Stories of Dakota Before the Oil Boom (Pierre, SD: South
Dakota Historical Society Press, 2015); Debra Marquart, The Horizontal World: Growing up Wild in the
Middle of Nowhere. A Memoir. (New York: Counterpoint Books, 2006).
9

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

fracking globally.17 The state provides interactive maps locating nearly every well in the
Bakken and including their horizontal legs.18 The federal government provides a somewhat
less elegant county-by-county map of gas and oil pipelines through the state.19 Fracfocus
provides information on particular wells that have undergone hydraulic fracturing during the
recent boom, but relies on companies to report their procedure and process.20 The best way
to learn about a particular well is to locate the well using North Dakotas oil and gas map
and then referencing the well, by name, on the Fracfocus page. The North Dakota
Petroleum Council, a statewide advocacy group for Bakken businesses, has an informative
website providing the perspective of industry issues related to the boom.21 Finally, the
Million Dollar Way blog provides multiple, daily updates on the oil industry in the Bakken
including detailed discussion of particular wells, oil fields, and corporate strategies.22 The
blog is leavened with political and, less frequently, pop culture commentary.
For more personal views of the oil boom, Lisa Peters memoir, Fractured Land, provides
an intimate portrait of a familys history as the backdrop for the authors struggle to come to
terms with profits from oil leases arranged by her late father.23 Russell Golds very accessible
book on fracking, The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the
World (2014) starts with a similar story about a familys experience with gas industry in
Pennsylvania before telling the story of fracking and its role in the US energy industry.24
Taylor Brorbys and Stefanie Trouts collection of essays, poems, and non-fiction on
fracking, titled Fracture, has several contributions with a North Dakota focus.25 Bill Caraher
and Kyle Conway has recently published an edited volume, The Bakken Goes Boom: Oil and the
Changing Geographies of Western North Dakota, which presents a series of scholarly and creative
works focused specifically on the Bakken.26
There are several documentary films that deal with the Bakken. The most famous is
perhaps Jesse Mosss The Overnighters which won a Special Jury Award at the 2014 Sundance
Film Festival. Of note are North Dakota entries into this increasingly crowded field: Prairie
Public Media has released a documentary called Faces of the Boom, and Black Gold Boom: How
Oil Changed North Dakota grew from a series of radio documentaries to web and TV
A. Prudhomme, Hydrofracking. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
North Dakota Oil and Gas: ArcIMS Viewer. Accessed February 15, 2016
https://www.dmr.nd.gov/OaGIMS/viewer.htm.
19 National Pipeline Mapping System. Accessed February 15, 2016.
https://www.npms.phmsa.dot.gov/
20 FracFocus: Chemical Disclosure Registry. Accessed February 15, 2016. https://fracfocus.org.
21 North Dakota Petroleum Council. Accessed February 15, 2016. https://www.ndoil.org
22 The Million Dollar Way. Accessed February 15, 2016. http://themilliondollarway.blogspot.com/
23 Peters, Fractured Land.
24 Gold, The Boom.
25 T. Brorby and S. Trout, Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America. North Liberty,
Iowa: Ice Cube Books, 2016).
26 W. Caraher and K. Conway, The Bakken Goes Boom: Oil and the Changing Geographies of Western North
Dakota. (Grand Forks, ND: The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota 2016).
17
18

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape


Working Draft |W. Caraher and B. Weber | Do Not Cite without Permission of Authors

documentary to provide a regional perspective on the boom. Forum Communications Oil


Patch Dispatches blog offers another series of local perspective. 27

Bob Dambach and Wayne Gudmundson, Faces of the Oil Patch. 2012. Fargo, ND: Prairie Public
Broadcasting; Todd Melby, Black Gold Boom: How Oil Changed North Dakota. 2012. AIR and
Prairie Public Radio. Accessed February 15, 2016. http://blackgoldboom.com; Oil Patch Dispatches.
Accessed February 15, 2016. http://oilpatchdispatch.areavoices.com/
27