The Long X Ranch, the largest and most famous cattle ranch in McKenzie County, is synonymous with cattle drives and the era of open range in Dakota Territory. William D. and George T. Reynolds, brothers from Texas, purchased land from Hall and Braden, who had intended to operate a sheep ranch on Squaw Creek.
The brothers established the ranch at the north end of Squaw Creek in the mid-1880s, now near the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. In the spring of 1884, they moved their 4,000 Longhorns into the Badlands, said to be the first to come into the area. By 1888, the Reynolds brothers were bringing three herds a year into Dakota Territory.
They named their ranch for their official brand, the ‘Long X,’ which descendants still use today. The Long X is said to be one of the first two brands recorded in North Dakota. During the early years, the Long X had the reputation of doing business in the most economical way of any ranching concern in the West.
The Long X employed a large number of cowboys, especially for spring brandings and fall roundups. The men on the roundups worked seven days a week in all kinds of weather.
During the severe winter of 1886-87, the Reynolds brothers had about 11,000 head grazing in the fall, but by spring only 7,000 remained. The operation never fully recovered and they sold the entire McKenzie County business to the Converse Cattle Company with much of the land now part of the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
The Long X name lives on in the U.S. Highway 85 bridge over the Little Missouri River south of Watford City and a sign in the North Unit of TRNP that tells about the Long X Trail. A new Long X Visitor Center and Museum in Watford City, opening the summer 2005, features exhibits and information about the historic ranch and trail.