Monday, July 10, 2017

Lake Sakakawea, Lewis and Clark and the vanishing frontier

July 4 - 6, 2017:

There are many campers leaving on the 4th and with a one hole dump station that could mean a long wait.  We leave about 10 AM thinking most people are locals who will check out later as this campground has a 3PM checkout time.  I get there behind two campers but the first one is about done and the second one is quick.  This is unusual, most often you get behind someone who takes forever to drain and then blocks the line filling his water tank.  

The drive continues north on route 83 past the towns of Wilton, Washburn  and Underwood.  We then head west on route 200 to Riverdale and the Downstream Campground.

I can visualize the classic old cars in the showroom

Good bar name in Washburn

Washburn is on the Missouri River and did have Riverboats

The Downstream Campground is a Corp of Engineers (COE) Campground with electric for $10 a day with our senior park pass.  We have a view of the Missouri River which we have been following for many weeks now.  Also our site has some shade trees which will be needed as it’s going to be near 100 degrees this week.  

The Garrison Dam is located just upstream from the campground and is another huge rolled earth type dam completed in 1954.  It is the fifth largest earthen dam in the world.  The lake behind the dam, Lake Sakakawea, is the largest Corp of Engineer's reservoir in the US being 178 miles long and 14 miles wide at its widest point.  As is the case with most dams, there was considerable controversy when it was built.  Actually the only people who were really against the Dam were the people whose land and homes were flooded, mainly the Hidatsa and Mandan Indians.

View of the Dam from Lake Sakakawea

A variety of sea birds basking in the sun near the dam

Extensive maintenance being performed to the dam spillway

The Lewis and Clark interpretive Center in Washburn has great exhibits on the Lewis and Clark Expedition as expected, but my favorite was the exhibit on German Prince Maximilian and Swiss artist Karl Bodmer who also toured the indian territory in 1832-1834 living and documenting the Indian life style.  The paintings by Karl Bodmer succeeding in documenting the Indian tribes better than anything else.  The exhibit also centered on the farming lifestyle of these tribes which is usually overlooked.  Of particular interest to me is the story of Oscar H. Will.  In attempting to come up with vegetables which performed better in this climate he attained a bag of native Indian seeds.  He experimented with them and found them to out perform the seeds currently being used by settlers.  He started a seed company to sell and promote these seed varieties which was very successful.

Prince Maximilian and Karl Bodmer are definitely heroes of mine

A portrait of the prince 

Karl Bodmer

Oscar Will is another hero

The smallpox epidemic was brutal

There were several village sites along the Missouri River near
Bismarck that eventually moved north after being ravaged
by diseases brought in by traders and settlers

The Lewis and Clark interpretive Center is located outside of the town of Washburn which also has a historic area filled with old farm equipment.  It seems that farmers hang on to their old equipment, out of nostalgia I suppose, because  it is everywhere as you ride around this country.

A weird looking early engine powered wheat combine

Even manure spreaders have historical value

We have found the mosquitoes around the campground to be pretty wicked, you don’t go out in the grassy and forest areas without repellant.  The campground has a beautiful river loop trail that passes a beaver pond and then through the forest along the Missouri River to a stream and marshy area with much wildlife.  This campground fills up on the weekend starting on Thursday.  In fact we have noticed that locals beat the system by paying for and setting their RV up earlier in the week when campsites are available, they then leave and return later on Friday.

View from the Beaver Pond

View from the steep banks of the Missouri River

Commorante birds resting on a tree in the river

The River Loop Trail

Milkweeds are becoming one of my favorite flowers,
they are not weeds !

Beautiful stream that flows into the Beaver Pond

The closest town is Riverdale which is a residential area with a general store / bait shop, an Inn and cafe and dozens of boat storage buildings.  The next closest town, Pick City, has a couple of bars geared for the fishermen and hunters which is about everyone here.  I stopped for a cold one after the near 100 degree day to find a couple of locals making small talk with the barmaid.  She had to tell me that I look like some young guy she knows with a beard and long hair pulled back, she is sure he will look just like me when he is older.  I’m not sure if I should take this as a compliment ?  It’s the usual rustic hunting and fishing bar with much God bless America, Support our Military and Vote for Trump which seems to be very contradictory to me.

It's yet another bar near a dam that calls itself
the "Best Dam Bar in the world"

The Harbor Bar in Coleharbor was way more fun, but I
never did find the Harbor ?

Twinkles has had enough of the Indian Village sites, I need just one more, maybe two then I feel I will be satisfied.  Consequently, I head for the "Knife River Village". The Indians had large summer lodges on the higher ground and more temporary winter lodges close to the River where they were more protected from the cold winter winds.

The Indians built these "Bull Boats" from wood branches
covered by Buffalo hides and used them to float in them down the river

A reconstructed Knife River Lodge

The interior was outfitted like the original.  I think I
could live in one, its larger than the RV

This is how the village once looked from the river

Earthlodge site today fro ground level

A few miles away is the Fort Clark Trading Post Historic Site site which also includes remains of a large Indian Village.  The Mandan tribe built this village in 1822.  Fort Clark was then built south of the village in 1830-31 by the American Fur Company for trade purposes.  In 1837 a smallpox epidemic killed about 90% of the Mandan tribe with the survivors fleeing to the Hidasta village at nearby Knife River.  The Arikara tribe then moved into the abandoned Mandan village site where they too were ravaged by disease.  Fort Clark burned in 1860 and was abandoned.  The Mandan, Hidasta and Arikara tribes which get along and share a common lifestyle and language moved to the Fort Bethhold Reservation in 1862.

On the way to the fort I passed many beautiful fields of flax and canola and several cows in the shade of an old combine.

Flax field 


Cows love old combines too !

Aerial view really shows depressions from the
earth lodges of the village site

You can see them at ground level but not so distinctly

Prince Maximilian and Karl Bodmer being introduced to
the indians at Fort Clark

The fort was a real melting pot of cultures and languages

We are now leaving the Missouri River, Lewis and Clark, the Sioux and the affiliated tribes of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara behind.

The next stop is the city of Minot, North Dakota;
Twinkles and Slick

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