Saturday, June 25, 2022

Temperature 69 Degrees, rain than clearing later in the day

Fort Mandan, Washburn ND

This is a post regarding a Fort we went to while in Bismarck, ND. It is associated with the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.

Yesterday’s blog centered around Captains Lewis and Clark and their winter stay at Fort Mandan. Today we’re going to take a look at the replica of that Fort that was completed by the McLean County Historical Society in 1972. It is constructed using the same dimensions and materials as the original.

Unfortunately, the exact location of the original Fort has never been determined. By the time Lewis and Clark passed through on their return journey in 1806, Fort Mandan had burned down. The current Fort gives a view of the river valley where it is believed the original Fort had been built.

Let’s take a tour of the Fort.

We’ve just entered the Fort through the front gate. Standing here you can see the triangular shape of the Fort. Also visible in the center of the courtyard is a swivel gun that could be loaded with a dozen or more musket balls and fired as a last defense. Fortunately, it was never used.

This is a typical soldier’s quarters. Note the rifles and other hunting accessories along the back wall. With over 40 residents, Fort Mandan would have needed a bison or more a day to stay fed, and hunting was known to be poor in this area. Thus, hunting parties would often have to travel 30 or more miles before they would come to a good hunting ground.

Again a soldiers quarters this time with wood working – saws, axes, shaving horse (bench) – tools. Unfortunately, wood was also scarce around the Fort. The area had been so long settled that fire wood could only be found a great distance from the Fort.

Again a soldiers quarters, this time displaying musical instruments, games, drinking and dining utensils. When expedition members had free time, they most often spent it with their neighbors, either hosting them at the Fort or going over to the Mandan town, Mitutanka. A journal entry mentions that the Mandan Nation found the dancing of expedition members most interesting.

This storeroom would be where barrels of survival rations and corn, beans, squash and sunflowers were kept. The expedition also frequently made dried meat here.

This storeroom was were boxes, barrels, bundles and gifts were kept. The storeroom held all kinds of supplies, but especially gifts for Native tribes. Lewis spent more of his supply budget on gifts than anything else. Giving these gifts to the Native tribes was perhaps the single biggest reason the expedition earned approval from them and got to travel safely through.

The quarters of Captain Lewis and Clark. Here Lewis and Clark entertained chiefs from the various tribes. The hoped to form relationships for future trade, to learn about the route ahead, and to persuade at least one chief to accompany them back and meet President Jefferson. One chief did indeed return with them, Chief Sheheke who was also known as White Coyote.

The quarters of Toussaint Charbonneau and his wives Sacagawea and Otter Woman. They were used by Lewis and Clark to interpret and translate Hidatsa and Mandan. Their insistence on having interpreters throughout the expedition is another reason they were so successful.

The blacksmith’s shop. Here the Mandans and Hidatsas gladly traded corn and other food in exchange for tool repairs and custom weapons.

Well, our time at Fort Mandan has come to an end.

The expedition greatly benefited from their time at Fort Mandan. They gained food, talent like Sacagawea, intelligence about the route ahead, and the enjoyment of human company.

I hope our time here was also of benefit for all who took the tour with us. I came away with a new understanding of the conditions that the expedition faced and what it took to make the expedition a success. And any day that I learn something new, I consider it to be a great day. So, the day we spent at the Fort was, indeed, a great day.

Now, about that big guy in the beginning.

He was a Newfoundland.

His name was Seaman and he accompanied Captain Lewis from start to finish. More than once Lewis talked of his attachment to this fine dog. Recent evidence shows that when Lewis died, Seaman spent his remaining days living at his grave site.

Well, so much for our sightseeing in Bismarck. Now, if we could only get the weather here to cooperate with us we’ll go back out again and see what is about. However, so far rain has kept us in. That, and the fact that there have been odds and ends that needed doing around the rig. Such as a leak in the bathroom from the ceiling. Ms. Barbara found that one the hard way! Tomorrow, no matter what I have declared that we are going out. Wish me well.

Thanks again for spending some time with us.  It’s always great to be able to share our story with family and friends. Comments? Feel free to share them with me. And always remember, cherish every moment of every day that God gives you and live those moments to the fullest.

Our continuing mission remains the same: to explore as many new states as possible, to seek out new acquaintances and make new friends, to boldly go where we have not been before.


  1. Very interesting! I did not realize Charbonneau had two wives. St. Charles has a statue of Seaman with Lewis and Clark in our Frontier Park. I remember reading about Fort Mandan – but that has been a while back. Even the fact that they built a fort like this is very impressive. Hope you made it out to sight see and hope it was a fun day. Rain, rain go away!


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