Cross Ranch State Park — Fort Mandan

July 2018 – This state park is way off the beaten path in central North Dakota, north of Bismarck. But it’s a great location from which to view both the Missouri River and Fort Mandan (where Lewis and Clark spent their first winter). The campsite had electric only, and mosquitoes were definitely a problem here, but that shouldn’t deter historians or nature lovers.

From the campground we explored the Matah Trail, right along the Missouri River, feeling honored to walk where Lewis and Clark and their men almost certainly traveled.

The state park adjoins land owned by the Nature Conservancy, and the park was created largely as a result of donations from them. It made us proud to be donors to that wonderful non-profit. A short drive away was more Nature Conservancy property, a bison preserve. On the way back we got to see some fawns and does prancing among the crops, and a friendly little snake.

Sunrise over the Missouri River the next morning was a treat we don’t often get to see.

Fort Mandan is part of the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn, ND. 

The fort is a re-creation based on documents from the Corps of Discovery. Historians don’t know the exact location of the fort because the Missouri River has changed paths over the years. Both sites were informative and worth exploring, especially since this was where Lewis and Clark added Sacagawea and her family to the expedition, greatly enhancing the Corps’ ability to communicate with indigenous tribes and navigate unfamiliar territory.

Leave a Comment