Knowing we were going to be in this area for a few days we decided to do a few car trips and see the sights. Other than agriculture there are not a lot of sights over here! But we thought the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers might be interesting since we have seen the Yellowstone River near it’s origins in the National Park and we had been following the Yellowstone River since Livingston. We knew that the Missouri apparently began near Three Forks. We hadn’t even thought about the fact that we would be seeing the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers in September. But that makes our decision to drive almost to Williston North Dakota a good one!
We scored by going here! First we learned a great deal about the importance of these two rivers to Lewis and Clark, the exploration of the frontier, the fur traders and the Native Americans. Adjacent to the interpretative center was Fort Buford, established by the US Army in approximately 1866 as a major supply depot for military field operations, to protect overland and river routes of the westward bound settlers. We were able to walk the grounds of Ft. Buford, and see several of the original buildings, had our own personal tour guide. Although it was hot outside, it appears that the breeze in North Dakota seems to be fairly constant!
Also adjacent to Ft. Buford was the cemetery where soldiers, civilians, (family of soldiers and laundresses) and Indians were buried, each had a marker with their names, date of death, and cause of death (illness, suicide, murder, etc.) Out of the several hundred that were buried there, eight remain, the others having been moved to the cemetery at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, or back east where their families were.
Nearby were the remains of the first Masonic Temple built in North Dakota. Not much remains other than the four corner markers. But in the works is a memorial to commemorate this.
As we drove toward the interpretative center earlier in the day we had passed a sign about historic Fort Union so on our way home we detoured down that road and stopped there. What a treasure. This old Fort Union had been restored by the National Park Service, no entry fee, and as there were no other visitors we had, once again, free rein of the fort and the employees were available to answer our unending questions. This was a trading post, established by John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company, to supply the local settlers, trade with the local Tribes and buy from the fur trappers and hunters.
As we were leaving Ft. Union we saw the signs denoting the Montana-North Dakota state line and just couldn’t resist taking pictures of us straddling the state line!
We returned home exhausted and happy from our adventure. Tomorrow on to Theodore Roosevelt National Park!