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North Dakota became an offshore drilling state in 1957 when Investors Oil Inc. began drilling the U.S.A. #1 near what is now Beaver Bay, making it the only marine and offshore drilling operation for thousands of miles.
The well was spud in February 22, 1957, just four years after the Garrison Dam was completed. Although the Missouri River still hadn’t backfilled behind the dam to create Lake Sakakawea by that time, the river had begun to expand as the photo above shows. According to the William E. Shemorry Photograph Collection archives, “During the summertime, personnel of Investors Oil [would] take the company cabin cruiser, sail down Beaver Creek to the Missouri River, then navigate a devious channel between trees and other obstructions to the mound [where]they open valves that [allowed] the oil to flow to a tank battery on higher ground.”
The mound, washed away by waves and wind, was reinforced with an enclosure made of piling, rock and cement in 1964.
The USA #1 produced a total of 318,618 barrels from 1957 until 1974. The well was plugged February 7, 1989. Today, the remaining infrastructure on the location has become a habitat for walleyes, and the popular fishing spot is known simply as “the Oilwell.”