Lewis and Clark
Expedition wintered on the
in 1804-1805, they built a log fort, made of cottonwood trees, that they
called Fort Mandan. The men in the expedition cut the lumber from the
riverbanks in November, 1804, building a triangular shaped fort facing the
river just down stream from the nearby Mandan
Hidatsa tribesí villages.
Finding the Mandan
Indians extremely hospitable, they named the fort for
them. For the next five months, the fort was a beehive of activity, as the
expedition made preparations for heading westward to the Pacific Ocean.
While there, Lewis and Clark
interviewed several trappers who could assist as guides and interpreters.
They quickly hired
Toussaint Charbonneau as an interpreter when they discovered his wife Sacagawea
Shoshone language, knowing they would need the help of the
Shoshone tribes at the headwaters of the
River. Sacagawea would end up being essential to the
success of the expedition.
The expedition stayed
at Fort Mandan until April 7, 1805, when they set out westward along the
Missouri River. Over a year later, on their return in August, 1806, they would once
again stop, only to find that the fort had been destroyed by a fire.
At that point, Lewis and Clark
continued their journey back to
while Charbonneau and Sacagawea
remained with the
Over the years, the Missouri River slowly eroded its bank and
shifted to the east, covering up what remained of the charred fort.
However, in the early
1970's, a local historical group constructed a replica of the original
fort on the shores of the Missouri River two miles west of Washburn,
Currently managed by the Lewis and Clark Foundation, the re-created
fort is one of a number of stops on the Lewis and Clark National
Historic Trail. A visitorís center at the site provides information
Just a mile and a half south of the fort is the Lewis & Clark
Interpretive Center, which provides yet, more historical information.
Also nearby is the
Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, a 1,759 acre
national park that preserves the historic and archeological remnants
of the culture and agricultural lifestyle of the Northern Plains
Indians. Here, can be seen a visitor center and museum, reconstruction
of earth lodges, and a self-guided walking tours of three historic
village sites that date back as far as 8,000 years. The 11 miles of
trails also provide visitors with opportunities for bird watching,
wildlife viewing, fishing, and picnicking.
Fort Mandan is located two miles west of
the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center on McLean County Highway 17,
near Washburn, North Dakota.
of America, March 2010, last updated April 2016.
Lewis & Clark Fort Mandan Foundation
PO Box 607
Washburn, North Dakota