Trip Planner: USA / North Dakota / Washburn / Fort Mandan State Historic Site
Fort Mandan was the name of the encampment which the Lewis and Clark Expedition built for wintering over in 1804-1805. The encampment was located on the Missouri River approximately twelve miles from the site of present-day Washburn, North Dakota, which developed later. The precise location is not known for certain and is believed now to be under the water of the river. A replica of the fort has been constructed near the original site.
The fort was built of cottonwood lumber cut from the riverbanks. It was triangular in shape, with high walls on all sides, an interior open space between structures, and a gate facing the Missouri River, by which the party would normally travel. Storage rooms provided a safe place to keep supplies. Lewis and Clark shared a room. The men of the Corps of Discovery started the fort on November 2, 1804. They wintered there until April 6, 1805. According to the journals, they built the fort slightly downriver from the five villages of the Mandan and Hidatsa nations.
The winter was very cold, with temperatures sometimes dipping to minus 45 degrees Fahrenheit (-43°C), but the fort provided some protection from the elements. Several of the men of the expedition suffered frostbite due to the severely cold conditions, which affected them even with brief exposure. Using our custom trip planner, Washburn attractions like Fort Mandan State Historic Site can form part of a personalized travel itinerary.
Fort Mandan State Historic Site reviews
Lots of interesting information at the Visitors Center, and our tour guide, Shannon, gave us an excellent tour of the replica fort, which is a few miles from the Visitor Center. I highly recommend...
Lots of interesting information at the Visitors Center, and our tour guide, Shannon, gave us an excellent tour of the replica fort, which is a few miles from the Visitor Center. I highly recommend... more »
Disappointed that the Visitor Center is closed, but we enjoyed walking the grounds. I was disappointed (but certainly understand) that this is a replica built in the 1970s, but we still got a feel...
Disappointed that the Visitor Center is closed, but we enjoyed walking the grounds. I was disappointed (but certainly understand) that this is a replica built in the 1970s, but we still got a feel... more »
Sadly the fort is not open except for tours arranged in advance, but we walked around and got a feel for the place. We had read the state website that said they opened at 9, but there is no staff...
Sadly the fort is not open except for tours arranged in advance, but we walked around and got a feel for the place. We had read the state website that said they opened at 9, but there is no staff... more »
Impressive site to visit the history of Lewis and Clark with their expedition. The Fort Mandan is a recreation of the original fort that was located a little more up river and now underwater or otherwise not accessible. This site definitely gives the impression of how the expedition lived. Each room of the fort is a particular topic for the tour guide to discuss and illustrate the life of expedition members. The rooms were very well laid out with re-created artifacts that demonstrate life in the fort. My 8 year old thought this was the highlight of our vacation. The tour guide was exciting, knowledgeable, and patient with questions. I believe there are several tours per day. We visited on Saturday (last tour?) with only one other party participating in the tour. There are bathroom facilities that were open and perhaps more that was closed perhaps due to a slow day.
We visited Fort Mandan with our 8 and 10 year old daughters. Our guide was fantastic! He opened all of the rooms in the fort, then took out various artifacts and explained how the expedition would have used them. Touching is very encouraged, as everything is a replica. Nothing of the original fort survived the harsh North Dakota weather. The original Fort burned to the ground. Using Lewis and Clark's diaries, the fort was rebuilt so that later generations can understand this part of their voyage. Everyone we encountered at the Fort and the interpretive center were very knowledgeable, friendly, and eager to share their knowledge. If you visit with kids, make sure they ask for the junior rangers program book. Our girls had a blast and earned their really cool badge.
For Lewis & Clark fans, this is a required stop. The tour guide was very knowledgeable and entertaining. The fort itself is quite rundown, but gives a good idea of the conditions the L&C group faced. There are many good examples of tools, weapons, and clothing from that period. Be sure to visit the nearby L&C Interpretive Center before going to the fort. It contains a great timeline of the expedition and many additional exhibits.
Very interesting piece of American history. The guides are very informative and don’t melt in 90+degree weather. Lol. You get to see how the fort was set up. In the museum area, there are copies of the maps that were made on the journey. With the tour and looking through the museum, it took about an hour. (This was in the extreme heat of summer) It is not a long walk from the museum to the fort. There are benches in the fort for those that need them. One price gets you in the Louis and Clark interpretive center as well as fort Mandan.
Lots of interesting information at the Visitors Center, and our tour guide, Shannon, gave us an excellent tour of the replica fort, which is a few miles from the Visitor Center. I highly recommend stopping at both.
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