Saturday, August 21, 2021

North Dakota and The Mandans

Location: General Sibley Park Campground; Bismarck, North Dakota

Well, I made it to North Dakota which was one of the five states I hadn’t been to. The remaining four are Delaware, Rhode Island, Alaska and Hawaii. I have no plans to visit any of those remaining four. Today is my fifth day in this campground and the longest I’ve stayed in any one on this trip. I planned to only be here for 3 to 4 days but needed to delay my arrival at my next campground so a campsite with 50 amp electricity would be available. Liberty can run just fine on 30 amps but when doing so, I’m only supposed to run one A/C unit and switch my water heater over to propane. When I got here, Bismarck was in the middle of a heat wave. My first two days here the temperature was 103 degrees. Luckily, the humidity was low and there was a nice breeze blowing but it still took both A/C units to keep it comfortable. Talk about extremes though, last night it got down to 54 degrees which forced me to turn on one of my ceramic heaters for a couple of hours to warm things up. The temperature is forecasted to drop into the 50’s again tonight.

Just one travel picture this time. It was a nice trip on smooth roads. It was a little worrisome about the lack of traffic. For a 50 mile stretch, I probably only saw 5 vehicles. But cell phone coverage was good in case something had happened and I needed some help.

Nice campsite (electric only). It's a large campground that didn't have many people here when I arrived. The weekender started showing up yesterday and the campground is almost full as of today. Kids everywhere, campfires burning because of the lower temperatures. 

There were two main things that brought me to Bismarck besides being on the way to the Teddy Roosevelt National Park. One was to see the recreated Mandan Indian Village in Fort Lincoln and the other to see the Art Deco State Capitol Building and its adjoined museum.

The Mandan Indians and the Lewis & Clark Expedition spent the winter of 1804 together. Although the exact location of their winter encampment is unknown, it is known to be somewhere about 20 miles north of here along the Missouri River. The recreated village I explored lay in ruins when Lewis & Clark first saw it. It had existed for about 200 years before the Sioux drove the Mandan further north. The Mandan were more of a tribe of farmers than a warrior tribe like the Sioux. Much like what we learned at Cahokia a few weeks ago, the Mandan raised crops and traded them with other tribes for things they needed. They had many villages in North Dakota scattered along both sides of the Missouri River. Also, like at Cahokia, the Mandan and other tribes in this area built earthen mounds to bury their dead and to memorialize events. There are about 200 mounds in the Dakotas.

This is the Visitor's Center at Fort Lincoln where the recreated Mandan Village is located. The statue is a representation of a CCC worker. As I've stated before, it is my opinion the CCC was one of the very few really great things that happened during the New Deal. I'm mentioned them before so won't go into their history. But one thing to remember, they were paid $30.00 per month and were required to send $25.00 back to their parents. 

The Mandan village with the Missouri River in the background.

Walking up to the village. During the height of it's occupancy, there were 75 mud dome houses in this area.

The inside was very large. Then entry ways are low and I busted my noggin leaving. 

About 20 years before Lewis & Clark showed up, the Mandan were infected with smallpox which killed many. The estimated total Indian population in the Americas in 1492 was about 60 million. Smallpox and other diseases killed about 90% of the Indians as it spread through the Indian tribes. That isn’t a typo. That number is 90%. Compare that to Covid. The recent death toll from Covid in the U.S. is about 625,000. Of a population of about 330,000,000 people, that is a death rate of about 0.2%. By the way, smallpox was eradicated by a vaccine developed in 1798. It took 180+ years, but in 1980, it was officially determined to be eliminated thanks to vaccinations.

The other thing I wanted to see was the State Capitol building. I don’t typically visit capitol buildings but I had heard this one was special. It was OK, not spectacular, but still worth the visit. Not a “wow” moment. There is a nice museum next door to the capitol building that was probably a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. I keep reminding myself that I’ve seen too many museums over the last seven years and have become sort of jaded to them. Lots of them are just alike with many of the same kind of exhibits. But, I still keep going to them with fingers crossed that the next one will be different.

As usual, when I'm near, I'll drop in an pay respects to the Veterans.

A nice one with the flag flying

The best view of the Art Deco capitol building

A nice statue of Sacajawea in front of the museum building. The best one of this great lady is in Cascade Locks, Oregon.

One of the displays in the museum. A push-cart, but not like the Mormon push-carts we saw near Independence Rock. The thing on the right is a "bull-boat". Made of buffalo hide.

Can't have a museum about the Great Plains without a Buffalo


As I was going to the Mandan Village, the low tire alarm went off in Freedom. As soon as the alarm sounded, I saw this Goodyear tire dealer. I circled the block and pulled it and sure enough I had picked up a nail which caused a slow leak. 

After about 30 minutes and $30.00 plus a $5.00 tip we were back on the road. Someone was definitely looking out for me. Had the nail come out while I was towing, things wouldn't have been pretty. Especially on that lonely road I pass over getting here. I have to retrace part of that route when I leave North Dakota. So you can bet I'll be thinking of the nail then.

Tomorrow is moving day and I’ll be moving about 100 miles west of here to a small town called Dickinson. I’ll use their City Park as a home-base while I explore the National Park.

Ya’ll take care of each other. I’ll Cya down the road.


  1. I grew up in Mandan, and had my son in Dickinson. If you come through Mandan or Bismarck again, stop at A&B Pizza and order up a taco pizza, the best. I was just there last week. Dickinson is a nice town. Medora is west of there. Have fun, be on the look out for the Rattlesnakes in Medora and the park.

    1. Thanks for the info MCA. I haven't had a good pizza in a long time and I was looking forward to getting one from one of these small town Yankee pizza places but haven't found one yet. They don't have them down south. I'll keep an eye out for the rattlesnakes. Hopefully that's cool weather is put them in hibernation