Monday, September 7, 2009

Lewis and Clark, etc.

For Labor Day weekend, we arrived on Saturday at a Corps of Engineers campground and grabbed the very last available space. Even at that, it was right on the lake, so how bad could it be?

Since the lake was east of us, I thought it would be nice to get a sunrise shot. However, with me being me, I didn't get up in time and Ron kindly snapped this picture for me. What a guy!

On Sunday, we went into the little town of Garrison for breakfast and came across the town mascot. That's a really big fish.

We were near Lake Sakakawea, named after the Shoshone girl who traveled with Lewis and Clark as part of their Corps of Discovery. I'm not sure when it happened, but sometime I wasn't paying attention, this girl, who I learned in school was named Sacagawea, became Sakakawea. I'm sure she never anticipated the confusion her name would cause me.

Since Lake Sakakawea was formed by damming up the Missouri River, this area is rich in Lewis and Clark history. We hit a few of the related sites.

First we stopped at the North Dakota Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn. They had lots of information and even some hands-on exhibits, but my favorite was this 30 foot keelboat made (mostly) the old-fashioned way. It seems the residents of Washburn figured that if Lewis and Clark could make a keelboat out of a cottonwood tree, so could they. I thought they did an impressive job.

The accompanying pictures did make me laugh. They had to locate a cottonwood tree with a straight trunk, at least 30 feet long and 3 feet in diameter. I loved this picture showing the heavy equipment requited to move the 22,300 pound log. You have to wonder how the Corps of Discovery did it.

Then we moved on to the nearby recreated Fort Mandan where the Lewis and Clark expedition spent the winter of 1804/1805. It actually looked pretty comfortable.

Oh look! There's Captain Lewis himself.

Finally we visited the Knife River Indian Villages, a National Historic Site, home of the Hidatsa. This is where Lewis and Clark hired Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian trader, as an interpreter for the trip. Charbonneau had been living with the Hidatsa where he had taken as his wives Sakakawea and Otter Woman, both Shoshone who had been captured by the Hidatsa years earlier. Lewis and Clark knew a Shoshone interpreter would be valuable at the headwaters of the Missouri and told Charbonneau to bring one of his wives. Charbonneau and Sakakawea moved into the fort where she had her first child two months before the expedition left the fort and headed up the Missouri. It is thought that she was 16 at the time.

I digress, but Sakakawea's story is amazing. Although her feats have been exaggerated in some accounts, just imagining this young girl managing a young baby and her part in the project is just mind boggling.

The Hidatsa lived in round earthlodges in close communities. This recreation was at the visitor center.

They were excellent gardeners - actually the women were. I liked this rake and hoe. (Just ignore my foot in the picture.)

When the earthlodges collapsed, they left circular mounds of earth around hardened, saucer-like floors. Since I didn't have a plane, I'm glad they provided an aerial view.

At ground level, the circles are harder to see.

But we clearly saw the results of archeologist gophers at work. Here are a couple of bones and pottery shards brought up by the enterprising little critters.


  1. When I was camped at Lake Sakakawea they were having a walleye tournament and someone gave me a bag of filets. May you be so fortunate. Enjoyed revisiting the area.. thanks.

  2. Did that trip in 04 and stopped there. Since we saw the L&C museums in every state I can safely say that the boat was not a keel boat but a dugout canoe. The keelboats never got that far west and they had a sail and keel. Actually rode one in Nebraska when the builder for all the reproductions personally invited our small group. Remind me to tell you his tale sometime about building them.

  3. Great memories and recollections of my 2006 journeys to visit many of those Lewis and Clark stops and the Indian historical locations along the way.

  4. No way would you get me that boat! Keelboat or dugout...whatever!

  5. I visited the Lewis and Clark Interpretive center in Great Falls, MT last summer and thoroughly enjoyed learning everything I forgot from school. Those guys and gal were amazing.

  6. I also think Sakakawea, or whatever her name was, was truly amazing.

    Don't you have your foot in that picture on purpose to show scale?

  7. You are so correct, Bob and Donna. I don't know what I was thinking. Maybe I was just seeing if anybody was paying attention.