In late October Lewis and Clark reached the villages of the Mandan and Hidatsa Indians about 35 miles north of present day Bismarck, ND. They had traveled 1600 miles from the mouth of the Missouri River. The tribes were friendly, and their villages were the center of commerce for the Indians of the northern plains. Here Lewis and Clark and their men would build a fort and spend the winter.
It was named Fort Mandan in honor of their neighbors. It was here that Toussaint Charbonneau came seeking a job as interpreter and was hired because of the native language skills of his wife Sakakawea (Bird Woman). Her son, Jean Baptiste was born here on February 11.
Winter was a time of preparation; canoes were made to replace the keelboat that was too large to continue up river. Meat was dried and moccasins were made. Lewis wrote volumes to be sent back to Jefferson about what they had seen and specimens they had collected. On April 7, 1805 the keelboat began its return voyage with all the discoveries. At the same time the Corps of Discovery headed west in the two pirogues and six new canoes. They hoped to reach the Pacific by an all water route by summer.