Road to Nowhere

Cutting across America’s heartland, US‑83 remains a must-do long-distance byway—transnavigating this broad, odd nation without once grazing a conventional tourist destination.

Washburn: Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center

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—not to mention the Lewis & Clark Cafe right downtown, where you can rent a canoe or a kayak to experience the Missouri River as closely as possible to how the Corps of Discovery did—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 curious Corps of Discovery enthusiasts try on a buffalo robe, program their own museum-browsing background music (selecting from a variety of period fiddle music and Native American chant tracks), or trace the dramatic shifts in the river’s course over the past 200 years.

Lewis & Clark Cafe (714 Main Ave.)
Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center