Lewis and Clark spent more time in North Dakota than in any other state; it was here that they met up with an Indian woman named Sakakawea (note the correct spelling of her Hidatsa name), who would end up on the back of the country's current dollar coin. The State Historical Society of North Dakota has identified and marked 27 locations of significance to Lewis and Clark's expedition. For details on visiting these preserved sites on the Lewis & Clark Trail, contact the Tourism Division.
The North Dakota Heritage Center, 612 E. Boulevard Ave., Bismarck (tel. 701/328-2666; www.state.nd.us/hist/hcenter.htm), is the state's largest museum and features an exceptional collection of Plains Indian artifacts and interpretive exhibits that feature North Dakota's varied American Indian, military, and agricultural history. A statue of Sakakawea is located near the entrance. The 19-story Art Deco North Dakota State Capitol, 600 E. Boulevard Ave. (tel. 701/328-2471; www.nd.gov), was constructed in 1933 and contains unique woods and materials from many states and countries.
Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, 4480 Fort Lincoln Rd. (tel. 800/807-4723 or 701/667-6340; www.ndparks.com), 7 miles south of Mandan on Hwy. 1806, is a former cavalry post that is rich in both military and early Native American history. It was from here that Custer and the Seventh Cavalry rode out on their ill-fated expedition against the Sioux at Little Big Horn. Portions of the military post, including the Custer House, have been reconstructed, and there is also a reconstructed Indian village. Visitors have a panoramic vista of the Missouri River from the park's nature and historic trails.
The Dakota Dinosaur Museum, 200 Museum Dr., Dickinson (tel. 701/225-3466; www.dakotadino.com), about 100 miles west of Bismarck, features 14 full-scale dinosaur skeletons (including a triceratops), numerous fossils (check out the new Great White Shark tooth!), and mineral exhibits.
The historic city of Medora (www.medorand.com) is a restored cow town founded by a French nobleman, the Marquis de Mores, in 1883. The most popular attraction in North Dakota, the city still offers a lot of Western flavor; stroll its streets and soak up the atmosphere, then go see the Medora Musical (tel. 800/633-6721; www.Medora.com), an entertaining and patriotic musical extravaganza about Roosevelt and the Wild West (it's staged only in summer in the Burning Hills Badlands Amphitheater). Château De Mores State Historic Site, on the southwestern edge of Medora (tel. 701/623-4355; www.state.nd.us/hist/sites), is a 26-room two-story frame building that was built in 1883 as the summer residence of the Marquis de Mores family. The château is now a historic house museum. The historic von Hoffman House, on the National Register of Historic Places, is home to the Medora Doll House (tel. 800/633-6721 or 701/623-4444; www.medora.com), which features unique exhibits of antique dolls and toys. The Badlands Museum, 195 Third Ave. (tel. 800/633-6721), features numerous Native American artifacts and exhibits on the area's wildlife and pioneer heritage.
Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, Stanton (www.nps.gov/knri), is the only National Park Service site that preserves and protects the heritage of the Northern Plains Indians. There are the remains of three Hidatsa village sites within the park boundaries. A state-of-the-art museum dedicated to preserving the culture of the Hidatsa, Mandan, and Arikara tribes is located at the visitor center.
Devils Lake, 152 S. Duncan Rd., Devils Lake State Park (tel. 701/766-4015, or 800/807-4723 for camping reservations; www.ndparks.com), is one of North Dakota's most scenic regions. The sprawling lake with its hidden bays is an angler's paradise, and the surrounding woodlands are home to numerous forms of wildlife. It's also known for its incredible ice fishing in winter.
Want to see what life was like for the pioneers of the prairies? Bonanzaville USA, 1351 Main Ave. W., West Fargo (tel. 701/282-2822; www.bonanzaville.org), is a living history museum and village that shows what life was like in the Dakota Territory of the late 19th century. The village is home to over 400,000 artifacts, several museums, and 40 historic or re-created buildings gathered here from points in the Midwest and the Great Plains. While in Fargo, check out the fully restored 1926 Art Moderne Fargo Theatre, 314 Broadway (tel. 701/239-8385; www.fargotheatre.com), and the collections at the Plains Art Museum, 704 First Ave. (tel. 701/232-3821; www.plainsart.org), the region's largest fine arts museum.
The Park That Launched Them All
Theodore Roosevelt once claimed, "I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota." Roosevelt, who spent a great deal of time in the North Dakota Badlands, was appalled by the increasing amount of destruction being inflicted upon the land and its wildlife habitats. His subsequent conservation efforts as president led to the founding of the National Park Service. North Dakota's best attraction, Theodore Roosevelt National Park (www.nps.gov/thro), was created in 1947 as a memorial to the man responsible for its very existence.
The park is actually comprised of two areas -- the North Unit and the South Unit -- separated by about 70 miles of highway. The South Unit is the more visited of the two and lies along I-94 in Medora. It features a 36-mile scenic driving route, numerous wildlife and hiking trails, a petrified forest, and the spectacular Painted Canyon (check out the scenic overlook at exit 32). A small visitor center with restrooms, picnic shelters, tables, and water is open at the canyon April through October. Be sure to stop in at the main Medora Visitor's Center, at exit 24 (tel. 701/623-4466), year-round, where rangers can advise you on your touring and activity options. A small museum there exhibits some of Roosevelt's personal items, ranching artifacts, and natural history displays.
The more isolated North Unit, off U.S. Hwy. 85, 16 miles south of Watford City (tel. 701/842-2333), is usually less crowded, giving it a more serene feel. It, too, features lots of wildlife viewing, as well as several hiking trails. Stop in at the North Unit Visitor Center at the park's entrance to get maps and park information and to see a movie on the park's famous badlands. Be sure to take the 14-mile Scenic Drive that runs from the entrance to the Oxbow Overlook, with turnouts and interpretive signs along the way.
No matter where you go in each park, you'll see tons of wildlife -- bison, mule deer, coyote, bighorn sheep, elk, and dozens of bird species. There are also several campgrounds, ranger-led programs, and biking trails.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.