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Lewis & Clark Explore Burleigh County

First grizzly bear sighting early in 1803, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, both experienced soldiers, to explore what is now the northwestern United States. In May 1804, Lewis and Clark and their men set out from St. Louis. The expedition headed up the Missouri River and at the onset of winter reached the site north of present-day Bismarck, ND, where they constructed Fort Mandan.

On Saturday, October 20, 1804, Lewis and Clark spotted their first grizzly bear in what is now the Kimball Bottoms area. A journal entry on October 20th, 1804 states the following:

"Connections," Great numbers of Buffalo Elk & Deer, Goats. Our hunters killed 10 Deer & a Goat today and wounded a white Bear. I saw several fresh tracks of those animals which is 3 times as large as a man's track. The wind hard all day from the N.E. & East, great numbers of buffalo swimming the river. I observe near all large gangues of buffalo wolves and when the buffalo move these animals follow, and feed on these that are killed by accident or those that are too pore or too fat to keep up with the gangue.""

The grizzly bears of the Plains were light in color and were sometimes called White Bears. Once common in the Bismarck-Mandan area, they were forced to move west and north into the mountains when their main source of food, such as buffalo, became scarce in the prairies.