The Road To Nowhere

Now a tranquil little highway town, Washburn (pop. 1,246) was once a frenetic Missouri River ferry crossing, served by steamboats from St. Louis, the last of which has been mounted on a concrete pedestal at the base of the bridge that helped to make it obsolete. In addition to nearby Fort Clark, across the river, and Fort Mandan, two miles to the northwest, Washburn has the excellent Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center (701/462-8535, daily, $7.50). It’s at the intersection of US-83 and North Dakota Hwy-200A, an ideal jumping-off point for your exploration of the lower Missouri River valley. Offering the hard-to-find combination of informative exhibits (including a full set of the detailed watercolors painted in the 1830s by explorer-artist Karl Bodmer), great Missouri River views, an excellent gift shop, and impeccably clean restrooms, this is a place you will want to linger for at least an hour or maybe two. The highly interactive museum exhibits let visitors enjoy Native American sports, sample historic foods, and try heirloom seed gardening.