On Hwy 83 between Bismarck and Minot lies the town of Washburn, ND. We have stopped there often to use the modern, clean rest area just off the highway (for example). It's part of a large building that is the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, but we seem never to arrive during business hours, so we had not been able to look around . . . until today. I planned our departure from Lake Sakakawea State Park to allow us a few hours to explore the interpretive center in Washburn.
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark's expedition to chart the Louisiana Purchase at the request of President Jefferson took them through what is now North Dakota as they traveled along the Missouri River. Near modern-day Washburn, they built a fort at which to spend the winter of 1804 with members of the hospitable Mandan nation. (I had always wondered why Fort Mandan was so called if it wasn't located at the city of Mandan, ND.)
The interpretive center has informative wall panels, artifacts from the period, and replicas of items that might have been used for transportation, scientific exploration, trade, and survival during the expedition. It's very child-friendly--for example, each panel has questions for kids to consider, such as, "What items would you have brought along for trade with the people you might meet on the journey?"; and there are some items to touch and try on, such as a cradle-board like that which Sakakawea may have used to carry her baby Jean-Baptiste while traveling, and a buffalo hide like that which would have kept members of the expedition and Mandan people warm in cold weather:
That thing was heavy for me, so imagine how heavy it was for the girls:
The center also has several rooms containing art galleries, some meeting rooms with shelves of reference materials, and a very nice gift shop. I could easily have spent a lot longer at the center reading the panels and looking at the paintings and browsing the shop for possible souvenirs to purchase, but we did have to leave early enough to get to one more place before it closed for the day.
And now it's time for our next destination . . .