Located along the Missouri River in the heart of the state, the area near Washburn was important to both Native Americans and to early explorers. Today, travelers can visit several excellent historic sites there.
The North Dakota Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn (open year-round) focuses on the explorers' passage through North Dakota—especially their winter stay of 1804-05, when they camped at a spot just west of Washburn. (A replica of their quarters—Fort Mandan—is located a short distance from the center.) A complete set of aquatints by artist Karl Bodmer, who passed through North Dakota in the 1830s and documented the tribes and wildlife that he found there, is also on display at the center. Other exhibits highlight the Native Americans who inhabited the region at the time Lewis and Clark arrived.
Native American life is also the focus of the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site in Stanton, 24 mi/39 km west of Washburn on the opposite bank of the Missouri. This must-see attraction contains ruins of prehistoric Native American villages, and the interpretive center documents life as it was then. You will also find trails for hiking and cross-country skiing, as well as places for picnics and fishing.
Cross Ranch State Park, 8 mi/13 km south of Washburn near Hensler, also contains Native American archaeological sites, as well as spots for hiking, fishing, boating, cross-country skiing and backcountry camping. Cross Ranch Nature Preserve, managed by The Nature Conservatory, is across from the state park. The preserve protects plants and animals native to the Missouri River Valley—bison, white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, owls, hawks and bald eagles. There are hiking trails through the preserve. The forest and prairie landscapes there are well worth seeing, too. Washburn is 40 mi/65 km north of Bismarck.
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