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Fort Atkinson State Historical Park

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  • Picnicking
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The first U.S. military post west of the Missouri River, Fort Atkinson was established in 1820 on recommendation of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Located at Fort Calhoun, the fort was important to the early fur trade, river traffic and Indian relations. It was an active fort until 1827.

Much of the historic outpost has been reconstructed, and interpretive work continues. Living history demonstrations are scheduled periodically during the summer.

History

Fort Atkinson had its genesis with the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the early 1800s. After stopping in the area, Clark noted in his journal that the site provided a very suitable location for a fort. More than a decade later, Fort Atkinson was established. It was a large garrison: at its peak, it held nearly one quarter of the standing U.S. Army, approximately 1,200 soldiers. The fort protected the growing western fur trade, and as the only governmental authority in the vast territory west of the Missouri, it also enforced peaceful relations between traders and the Indian tribes of the region. It operated from 1820 to 1827.

After the Army realigned its forces to the south, Fort Atkinson was abandoned, and the area converted to farmland. In 1961, local concern prompted a drive to preserve and restore the area. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission purchased the land two years later, and undertook a 20-year effort to reconstruct the fort. Today, much of the fort has been rebuilt, including barracks, gates, an armorer’s shop, the council house and the Sutler Store.

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Attractions

Reconstructed features

After the fort became inactive, it began to fall into disrepair. However, local interest in the site remained strong and eventually led reconstruction of many of the fort’s features. Reconstruction efforts took 20 years. During that time, barracks, gates, an armorer’s shop, council house and sutler’s store were all constructed.

Living history demonstrations

Living history demonstrations take place periodically throughout the summer and fall with reenactors portraying fur traders, coopers, blacksmiths, carpenters, tinsmiths, weavers and other period trades. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the reenactors. The 2017 living history demonstrations will take place on the following weekends: May 6-7; June 3-4; July 1-2; Aug. 5-6; Sept. 2-3; Sept. 30-Oct. 1.

Harold W. Andersen Visitor Center

Harold W. Andersen Visitor Center interprets the history of the fort and contains displays of artifacts. The Center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Those who wish to visit the visitor center outside the summer months can call the park and arrange for a tour.

Other activities

A candlelight tour of the fort is held each November and allows visitors to see the grounds in a different light while learning about historical events that took place at the fort.

Contact Information

Address: Fort Atkinson State Historical Park | 201 S 7th St. | Fort Calhoun, Neb. 68023-0240
Phone: (402) 468-5611

Email: Send email