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 $70, yurts $65). 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, 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.

From the state park, enticing trails lead into The Nature Conservancy’s 5,593-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.