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We left Montana and just roamed through North and South Dakota. We checked out many of the old forts and Lewis & Clark exhibits, some of which are shown below.

Bourgeois House at Fort Union

WILLISTON - Fort Union

Fort Union was built in 1828 by John Jacob Aster's American Fur Company. It was a fur trading post near the junction of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers. It became the headquarters for trading with the Assiniboin, the Crow and the Blackfeet indians.

During its heydays the trading post was very busy, employing up to 100 people, many of which were married to indian women. The pay for the various occupations varied widely. A craftsman would make about $250 per year and his assistant $120; a hunter $400 along with any hides and horns from the animals he killed; an interpreter got $500; Clerks and traders who spoke indian languages would get $800 - $1000. All employees were provided room and board without charge.

The Bourgeois House, shown in the picture, was the fort's most imposing structure and its administrative center.

The Assiniboin claimed the land the fort was built on and occupied an area that straddled the Canadian border. They therefore had the choice of trading with the fort or the Hudson's Bay Company in Canada. The Crow lived on the upper Yellowstone and its tributaries and were considered the richest tribe west of the Rocky Mountains. The Blackfeet also straddled the border and considered the American whites their enemies, since the Lewis & Clark expedition had killed one of their braves. This was finally resolved and the Blackfeet became good, but not always trusted, customers of the trading post.


BISMARCK - Fort Abraham Lincoln

The picture shows the current day reconstruction of the commanding officer's house originally built for General George Custer in 1873. It burned down in February of 1874 and was rebuilt by Custer at that time. General Custer designed the original house and supervised its reconstruction in 1874. The house at the fort today was built in 1989 to Custer's the exact plans.

Custer House piano Custer House pool table

Left: The Custers were musical and had a piano in their home.
Right: They even had a pool table which became a kind of rec center for the officers.

Descriptive plaque at the village site


The On-A-Slant village is adjacent to Fort Lincoln and is situated on a sloping plateau on the Missouri River. It originally contained more than 75 earth lodges which were defended by the cliff walls of the plateau and moats and fences constructed by the villagers. The village was occupied for 200 years until 1781.

The Mandan, or the Nu’Eta (The People) called the Missouri River “home“ and for a 1000 years they lived in several earth lodge communities. Rich in culture and tradition, the Mandan hunted buffalo, grew several varieties of corn, beans, and squash, which enabled them to establish a vast trading network with other tribes and visitors to their villages.

Five of the earth lodges have been reconstructed to provide the visitors a way to see what life in the village was like.

Earth lodges Structure of the earth lodges

Left: Two of the earth lodges, a drying and lookout structure, and the religious "Lone Man" in the center of the village
Right: This shows how the lodges were constructed. They were built mostly by the women of the village.

A lodge's fire pit area Some of a lodge's sitting and sleeping areas

Left: The fire pit area of the lodge where meals were cooked and the women did there chores.
Right: The area around the side of the lodge is used for sleeping and sitting and, a small portion, for livestock.

Fort Mandan


During the winter of 1804-05, the Lewis and Clark Expedition made camp on a section of the Missouri River about 12 miles west of present day Washburn, ND. The group constructed a log fort a short distance from five Indian villages occupied by Mandan and Hidatsa Indians. The structure was named Fort Mandan in honor of one of the local Indian tribes. The fort served as home for the Expedition during the cold, long winter. The actual site of the fort is disputed and since it was burned, the site was likely lost forever when it was eroded by the meandering Missouri River. Click here for a description of L&C activities during this period.

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, ND. The site is currently managed by the Lewis and Clark Foundation and work is underway to restore it to the period which the old fort was occupied. A visitor's center was recently constructed on the site with design details inspired by a Mandan earth lodge. The center is home to modern restroom facilities, a gift shop, an orientation area and a classroom.

The fort was constructed in the form of a truncated "V". The front gate is the opening of the "V" and the rear is the truncated point of the "V". Rooms were provided for sleeping, storage, a guard quarters and a blacksmith's shop. These are shown in the pictures below proceeding counter clockwise from the room to the left as you face into the fort from its gate as shown in the first picture.

Looking to the storage rooms in the rear of the fort Sleeping quarters with additional sleeping space above

Left: Looking to the storage rooms in the rear of the fort from just inside the front gate
Right: Sleeping quarters with additional sleeping space above. Each room accommodated 9-10 men.

Storage room at the rear of the fort Storage room at the rear of the fort

Storage rooms at the rear of the fort.

Lewis & Clark's room Sakakawea and Charbonneau's room

Left: Lewis & Clark's room.
Right: Sakakawea and Charbonneau's room.

Guard's quarters Blacksmith's shop

Left: Guard's quarters.
Right: Blacksmith's shop.

The range at the balloon shoot


We went to Fort Pierre (pronounced "peer") to get our drivers licenses renewed and while there, Ted took the opportunity to meet up with some of his shooting buddies from Tucson. They were there to participate in a large balloon shoot.

The balloon shoot is held each year at the Varmint Hunters Association's range.

The shoot requires you to break 4-5 inch balloons at 107(4), 246(4), 365(5), and 492(5) yards. There are 18 balloons in all (distributed as shown in parens next to the yardages above) and you have 20 shots and 15 minutes to break as many as you can. The balloons have different point values assigned with the farthest having the highest point value. This is very similar to the shoots that we have in Tucson with the exception that there, we have to knock medal silhouettes of prairie dogs off stands at 200, 300, 400, and 500 meters.

We all had a great time but none of us finished in the money.

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