Travel North Dakota invited us to visit Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
Anytime we leave the house for a week-long trip I take a ramp onto the highway thinking of how many explorations lay ahead of us. Coincidentally, every time I am almost disappointed. There was so much more to explore! Our first North Dakota stop took us to Bismarck. Bismarck is known for many things – history, art, food. In addition, Lewis and Clark’s expedition crossed this path in 1804-05 .
We had a little over 24 hours to spend in the Bismarck area. However, I only have a few things to say about the capital of North Dakota.
- EverSpring Inn & Suites greeted us with the largest beds covered with ice white and bedsheets. A green mint sat next to the “Sweet Dreams” card.
Next Morning breakfast was as relaxing as my dreams. For a change, kids knew what they wanted and the food options left even my pickiest child happy.
2. Krolls’ diner is a fantastic place. This unique to North Dakota casual and family-friendly diner serves excellent German food in its four locations across the state. In addition, there some great menu kids’ options too!
3. Go for a FREE tour of the State Capital Building or walk one of the capital ground routes. We missed the tour, but we did walk around the building.
But we spent most of our time visiting Mandan area and Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, southwest of Bismarck, ND.
The History of Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
Located in the Mandan area, Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park owes its popularity to its rich history. Established in 1907, today it is the oldest park in North Dakota. There is a lot to do here! For instance, you can tour reconstructed military buildings of the 1870s AND visit the ancient village of the Mandan Indians. Therefore, we took our time exploring unique Earthlodge homes American Indians inhabited for centuries.
If you are looking for a one of a kind experience, set your tent alongside the Missouri River. Explore the area through the scenic hiking trails. Spend the night in a camping cabin or glampout 18′ Heart & Missouri Tipis.
On-A-Slant Indian Village at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
For about two centuries Mandan, North American Indians lived in the villages along the Missouri River. Mandan followed the sedentary lifestyle living in the dome-shaped earth lodges.
These villages remained stationary. Villagers sustained themselves farming, hunting, and trading with other tribes. Mandan culture was known for its most vibrant culture and often welcomed American and European travelers.
While visiting these restored huts, we learned the story of the tribe and its tradition.
Large lodges were constructed for gatherings and entertaining with large wooden benches. Families occupied smaller houses and an average village consisted of 12 to 100 or more earth lodges. This particular village contained 85 Earthlodges and had about 1500 people living here.
At the end of the XVII century though, nine Mandan villages decreased to two. That happened due to a number epidemics of smallpox, whooping coughs, etc.
By 1837 there were only 100 Mandan survivors left. They eventually went onto settling near Fort Berthold. That’s where they joined the Three Affiliated Tribes by the mid-XIX century. By the time Lewis and Clark discovered On-A-Slant Village in late 1804, it was already long abandoned and in the advanced stay of decay.
Military Fort at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
A century after Mandan occupied the On-a-Sant Village US military established a post in the park. Their effort was to prepare for the Northern Pacific Railroad to expand west of the Missouri River. With a total of 650 men, this Fort had great importance during the railroad era of the XIX century. However, when the railroad work completed the Fort was no longer needed, and was decommissioned in 1891.
This site is now open for tours and you can take your time and walk around reconstructed Central Barracks, Granary, Commissary, and Stables. Tour the Victorian-style home of a United States Army officer and cavalry commander.
The first development of the Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park took place in the 1930s. Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) organized men to support families during the depression. For instance, they mapped the cornerstone markers where the buildings once stood, built park’s campground roads, and reconstructed blockhouse. Likewise, they established the visitor Center and also rebuilt five Earthlodges on the On-a-Slant village site.
The “CCC Worker Statue” is a token of admiration for the hard work this group did in the North Dakota State Parks and. You can find it next to the visitors center.
The Commissary store in Cavalry Square is a great way to relax and enjoy your visit to the park. In addition, the store offers adorable souvenirs, a historical bookstore, and other exceptional items. My older kids and the husband spent some quality time browsing the shelves.
Meanwhile, my favorite part was hanging out in the dandelion field with my 4-year-old. We didn’t worry about time as we chased butterflies! At that particular point, our most important project was to blow puffy white heads off dandelion bouquets.
He laughed every time we set the little paratroopers up into the air. Similarly to the slow-motion movie, they landed one by one as my sone tried catching them.
My eyes followed my son who was busy chasing the last dandelion seed slowly descending into the wild grass.
I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about how absolutely perfect this day went. How unique the history of the Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park is! Above all, educational insights are priceless! I could only hope that my kids will remember a thing or two about the Indian Village or the Military Fort. Meanwhile, we continued chasing butterflies.
Drive or Fly?
Drive. It's a short distance away from Bismarck, ND
How Long to Stay Here
A day to explore the park comfortably.
Will you need a car to get around?
Older kids will love the historical landmarks. Younger kids will enjoy the Mandan village and a lot of open space to run around