Fort Union Trading Post (ND)

teepees outside of fort union
Teepees outside of Fort Union Trading Post

NPS Photo

In late April 1805 the Corps of Discovery set up camp near present-day Fort Union, near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers. Accounts from their exploration of the area on April 25 revealed.

“. . . the whol face of the country was covered with herds of Buffaloe, Elk & Antelopes; deer are also abundant, but keep themselves more concealed in the woodland. the buffaloe Elk and Antelope are so gentle that we pass near them while feeding, without appearing to excite any alarm among them, and when we attract their attention, they frequently approach us more nearly to discover what we are . . .”

This area was also home to animals never before seen by an American citizens - the bighorn (Rocky Mountain) sheep, and the “white bear.” On April 14 Clark saw his first "white bear," a creature so dreaded that American Indians would only hunt them in groups of eight to 10 men. Regardless, the hunting parties often returned having lost one or more men or a grizzly.

During their return in 1806, the Corps split up into two groups led by Lewis and Clark. Their mission was to explore the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers. While hunting, Pierre Cruzatte mistook Lewis (with whom he was travelling) for an elk and accidentally shot him in the buttocks. Lewis spent much of the next few weeks traveling in a canoe, lying on his stomach.

John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company built Fort Union Trading Post in 1828. It became the headquarters for trading bison hides, beaver and other furs with the Assiniboian, Crow, Blackfeet, Cree, Ojibwa, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes.

Last updated: October 30, 2017