Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Fort Mandan and Knife River Indian Villages

Fort Mandan (replica)
We left Detroit Lakes and headed west into North Dakota. We made a one night stop in Bismarck so that we could visit the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, Fort Mandan replica,  and the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site. All of these were between 30 and 60 miles north of Bismarck. The Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center and Fort Mandan replica are managed by one foundation, both are included in one price and both are very well done. They are about 2 miles apart.

Fort Mandan through gate
The interpretive center is a small, but very well done, museum that briefly goes through the Lewis & Clark expedition. Fort Mandan was built by the Lewis & Clark expedition for a place to spend the winter of 1804-1805. The original fort, built right on the Missouri River, lasted less than one year as part of it was washed away by the river and more burned before the expedition passed by on their return trip late the summer of 1806. The replica was built based on descriptions in journals of the various expedition members. The site of the replica isn't on the site of the original fort because the river has changed course and it is believed the river now flows over the original site. Follow the link above for more details. BTW - if you haven't read the book "Undaunted Courage" about the Lewis & Clark expedition, it is a great read.

The Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site (link to wiki) is at the confluence of the Knife

Inside the earthlodge
River and the Missouri River. This was the site of a large community of Earthlodge people for centuries (at least back to 1300). At the time Lewis & Clark went through it was the home of the Mandan and Hidatsa who helped the expedition survive the winter at Fort Mandan (they may not have survived without them). It is in one of these villages that they met Sacagawea. Today you can still see dirt mounds and depressions where the earthlodges were built. At NPS visitor center there is a replica earthlodge which is very impressive.

We thoroughly enjoyed visiting all of the locations.

Knife River Villages interpretive sign

Knife River Villages interpretive sign

Site of earthlodges

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