Fort Union Trading Post

National Historic Landmark

Situated on the Missouri River near its confluence with the Yellowstone, Fort Union dominated the region’s fur trade between 1828 and 1867. With its white palisade walls and bright red roofs, it was often hailed as the “grandest fort on the Upper Missouri.” Here, Northern Plains tribes—primarily Assiniboine but also Cree, Blackfeet, Chippewa, Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, and Sioux—delivered beaver pelts and brain-tanned buffalo hides for shipment downriver to St. Louis. In exchange, Native traders were paid in manufactured goods including beads, blankets, guns, pipes, cloth, and cookware that came to Fort Union from around the world. Part of John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company, the post also hosted many notable visitors as they traveled through the region. Such guests included artists and scientists like George Catlin, Karl Bodmer, Prince Maximillian of Wied-Neuwied, and John James Audubon. For most of its history, trade at Fort Union was conducted peaceably, with little conflict between the cultures involved. In 1867 the United States Army purchased the post, dismantling the structures and salvaging the building materials to use in the construction of nearby Fort Buford, North Dakota. Although little visible trace remained, the fort’s historic significance merited its designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1961. Beginning in 1985, and guided by archaeological excavations and careful research, the post’s buildings were rebuilt atop the footprints of the original buildings. According to the National Park Foundation, “the reconstructed Fort Union represents a unique era in American history, a brief period when two different civilizations found common ground and mutual benefit through commercial exchange and cultural acceptance.”

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15550 Highway 1804, Williston, ND ~ Public. Open 9 am to 5 pm CENTRAL TIME, 7 days/week.