Just down the road from Sitting Bull’s surrender (Ft. Buford, North Dakota) sits the Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center.
ThisÂ treasure house of historical artifacts was built on a flat plain just above the rivers, taking advantage ofÂ the same magnificent view that Lewis and Clark had when they visited in 1805 and 1806.
With more than 200 artifacts in the permanent exhibit (including a frontier army transport wagon and steamboat pilot’s navigating wheel), the center was an unexpected find on a day we were focusing only on Ft. Buford.
Arriving at the Center about 30 minutes before opening, we were standing outside being eaten alive by mosquitos when one of the Center’s staff took pity and invited us in for a cup of coffee and conversation. During the Lewis and Clark bicentennial the Center saw visitors from all 50 states and around the world, but this morning it housed only its exhibits, two staffers, Vicki and myself.
As Vicki wandered into the temporary exhibit of North Dakota Winter Memories, I was drawn to the glass-cased model of the Far West – the steamboat piloted by Captain Grant Marsh, used to transport the Little Big Horn wounded back down to Bismarck.
Marsh was a legend in his time. Not only did he managed to get the Far West up the Little Big Horn further than anyone thought possible, he made the run back to Bismarck in record time–700 miles in 54 hours, carrying Reno’s wounded and the news of Custer’s death back to Fort Abraham Lincoln.
During our time at the Center, we also enjoyed the music of Keith Bear, a Mandan-Hidatsa storyteller – and of course I couldn’t leave without buying one of Keith’s CDs.Â You can imagine how magical it was to wander the backroads of North Dakota to the accompanyment of Keith’s Native American flute music.
There are so few places remaining in America that look as they did two hundred years ago – the Confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone is one of them – or at least as close as I’ll probably get.Â Go!
The Confluence Center is open Sept. 16 – May 15, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wed. – Sun., and May 15 – Sept 15, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.. (Closed New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas). The Center is located outside Williston, ND