Sunday, September 05, 2010

Labor Day Weekend, Day 3: Fort Mandan

(See also Days 1-2: Jerrett's Birthday | Day 2: Audubon Nat'l Wildlife Refuge | Day 2: Garrison Dam and Power Plant | Day 2: Downstream Campground Rec. Area | Day 2: Garrison Dam Nat'l Fish Hatchery | Day 2: Spillway Pond Day-Use Area | Day 2: Riverdale High Lodge | Day 3: Lake Sakakawea State Park | Day 3: Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center)

The entrance fee for the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center grants a person admission to Fort Mandan, too, located just a couple miles north of the center.  It's a reconstruction of Fort Mandan, actually, because the original burnt down, and its remains are believed to be in the Missouri River, which over time has come to cover the land on which Lewis and Clark first built the fort.  Shortly after starting to build Fort Mandan, Lewis and Clark met Sakakawea, who joined their expedition as a guide and interpreter.  We arrived at the site just in time to catch a guided tour of the fort replica and to play in the children's area inside the visitor center before closing.

The tour of the fort had just started when we arrived, so we half-jogged to catch up with the group and forgot to take photos of the structure while we were touring it.  The reconstruction looks authentic enough, and the rooms are furnished to look the way they might have when Lewis, Clark, and their men stayed at Fort Mandan 200 years ago: bunk beds made from branches from local trees, blankets made of bison hides, bare essentials in terms of supplies and personal items . . . and a blacksmith shop inside one of the rooms of the wooden structure!  No wonder it burned down.  In the photo above, we're posing at the sign leading up to the fort.

The visitor center at the base of the sidewalk leading to the fort has a large gift shop (naturally), but there's also an area in it for children to play with items appropriate to the time period.  Here are the girls playing dress-up.  Apparently Suzanna and Hillary felt that Lewis and Clark's men would be serious about their work, but Abigail seems to enjoy taking a drink of water in the early 1800s.

Just a few steps away were more costumes, kitchen utensils, and a big fireplace for preparing meals.  Hillary and Abigail enjoy early 19th-century cuisine, but Suzanna's food seems to disagree with her.

Ah, finally something that makes them all happy: sleeping on a bison-skin rug in a canvas tent on the cold soil of the Missouri River riverbank in the dead of winter.

Why should the kids have all the fun?  (Adult sizes were not available.)

The girls travel the Missouri River accompanied by the unfortunately named Seaman, the Newfoundland dog that Lewis purchased before the expedition and that accompanied the crew during its travels across the continent.

This gigantic statue of Seaman stands outside the visitor center at Seaman Outlook.  The trees behind the girls are on the east bank of the Missouri River; the water is just a few yards behind them.

Suzanna snapped this pic of Susan and me together on one of the hiking trails along the river.  We started to go for a walk, but the beautiful weekend weather was turning overcast and cool, and we could feel sprinkles and were swatting at mosquitoes.  So we called it a day and got back in the vehicle.

The last item on my agenda for our weekend vacation was to stop in Bismarck for supper before heading home.  The girls chose Red Lobster, and I had a delicious meal of crab legs, lobster, and two kinds of shrimp.  Now we're home with plenty of time to unpack and unwind before heading to bed.  It was a great weekend, and the girls enjoyed all the surprises, happily waiting for us to arrive at each new location so that they could deduce what was in store for them next.  They "got into" the history of the sites as well as the nature exploration opportunities, and of course the great food everywhere was a big hit.  And it was another affordable day:
  • breakfast at Knights Bar and Grill in Riverdale, dinner at Lago Vista Cantina outside Pick City, and supper at Red Lobster in Bismarck: delicious and priced just fine (I could have ordered a more affordable seafood dish for supper, but what the heck)
  • Lake Sakakawea State Park: $5 for a day pass that admitted us all
  • Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and Fort Mandan: $30 for the five of us ($7.50 per adult, $5 per student)
I'm so glad that my family is adventurous, trusting, and cooperative . . . and that they (report having) had such a great time on this vacation!


  1. It was a fantastic weekend! You did a wonderful job of planning everything, and it was so much fun to see the girls enjoying everything. Thank you for your work in planning it all! :-)

  2. You could always get a second job, if needed, as a travel agent. What d'ya think?