Cross Ranch State Park
Across the Missouri River, a little more than eight miles south of Washburn via Hwy-1806, Cross Ranch State Park ($5 per car) is set among 589 acres of cottonwood-shaded free-flowing Missouri River bottomland with numerous hiking trails, canoe rentals, and fine camping, with sites for RVs and tents. There are also furnished log cabins and yurts (cabins around $65, yurts $50). For details, phone the park visitors center (701/794-3731 or 800/807-4723), which also has canoe and kayak rentals and information on the annual Missouri River Bluegrass Festival and Kid Fest, held here in the middle of June.
Across Hwy-1806 from the state park, the remains of the pioneer town of Sanger stand as a mute memorial to Great Plains history. Founded in 1879, Sanger was the county seat and a major steamboat and railroad town, with a population of some 400 people. By World War II, Sanger had effectively been bypassed by the modern age, and the post office closed down in the mid-1950s. By 1985, just three residents remained, but a half dozen buildings still line Main Street, urgently awaiting some visionary effort to preserve and protect them for future generations.
From the state park, enticing trails lead into The Nature Conservancy’s 5,600-acre Cross Ranch Preserve (701/794-8741, daily dawn-dusk, free). One of the richest surviving native Missouri River valley ecosystems, the preserve includes floodplain prairie and riparian forest, plus a resident herd of bison and some undisturbed Native American archaeological sites.