Touring the Byway
35 Miles | 3 Days/ 2 Nights | Gateway City: Bismarck/Mandan, North Dakota
Following the footsteps of legends, this is the place where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark stopped several times during their famed expedition, and it is the final resting place of their guide Sakakawea. This Byway, which was also home to Lakota spiritual leader Sitting Bull, is entirely within the boundaries of the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation. It begins at the Cannonball River, continuing south along highways 1806 and 24 to the border of South Dakota.
We recommend starting your journey in Bismarck by exploring a collection of locations that reveal the story of Native American Nations in North Dakota. Exhibits at the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum trace North Dakota’s history for 600 million years. On-a-Slant Village at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, Five Nation Arts and Chief Looking’s Village all add to the story of the tribes.
View the Detailed Itinerary below to see the full route, which is complete with dining, shopping, and lodging recommendations!
Nearly 325 acres was deeded by the Northern Pacific Railroad to North Dakota in 1883, to erect a state capitol, which was consumed by fire in 1930. The state sold 160 acres of the grounds to help pay for a second building. Today, the tall, 1934, art deco North Dakota State Capitol is set on landscaped grounds that also hosts the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum, featuring four museum galleries tracing the state’s rich history from its earliest geologic formation 600 million years ago. In 2008, the museum, called a “Smithsonian on the plains,” became home to a rare mummified Edmontosaurus with fossilized skin. The Native American Hall of Honor celebrates Native Americans who contributed to North Dakota culture and history. Exhibits include artifacts and videos illustrating their remarkable histories and a 12-foot bronze statue depicting Sakakawea looking westward, with her infant son, Jean Baptiste (Pomp), strapped on her back. The artist’s model for Sakakawea was her granddaughter, Mink Woman, from the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota.
All aboard! Take the 9-mile scenic railroad to Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park on a restored 1890s open-air streetcar that ran along Fourth Street in Bismarck in the 1920s. Take a self-guided tour of Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park and a docent led tour of General George (of Custer’s Last Stand fame) and Libbie Custer’s home at the park; a period reproduction built on the site of the original house. Custer and his wife lived here from 1873 until 1876 and spent time on the hill behind the house enjoying each other’s company. About 500 troops were also stationed here. You can explore the rich history of the area at the Visitor Center Museum to gain insights into the lives of the Mandan Tribe who once lived at On-a-Slant Village in earth lodges.
Seven other fort buildings include the barracks, the fort’s makeshift theater, a stable building, and several blockhouses. The Commissary Bookstore houses a large collection books about Custer and the history of Fort Abraham Lincoln.
Native Artists United Guild is a women-owned Native Cooperative formed by local artists who have revitalized Native American art and economy. They do business as the Five Nations Art store, supporting the livelihood of Native artists by gifting knowledge, building capacity and showcasing Native art.
Located on the hill behind Sitting Bull College, the Visitor Center introduces you to the story of the Chief and his interactions in the region. The gift shop sells authentic work by Native American artisans and delivers a panoramic view of the Missouri River.
This location marks the original burial ground of Chief Sitting Bull who was killed in 1890 and originally buried here. The grave site is covered by a concrete slab, bronze plaque, and large rock. The actual remains of Sitting Bull were retrieved by his family in 1953 and re-interned in Mobridge, South Dakota.