The Trail Leads To Fort Buford On June 26

The Lewis and Clark Trail Museum, Alexander is proud to be a part of the Great Western Trail project. The museum will be one of the many sites along the trail marked by a special obelisk and plaque commemorating the trail as it made its way through North Dakota to Fort Buford.

The American cattle drive was a unique time in American history. This era spanned about two decades from the 1870s to the 1890s. The west was open, the eastern and California markets had a seemingly insatiable desire for beef after the Civil War, and the supply of beef cattle on the Texas range was plentiful - it just needed a way to get to the railheads and markets. If the cattlemen could get their animals to the markets a great profit awaited them. There were many trails that moved cattle across the west, each going to a different market or territory. The most well-known of these are the Goodnight-Loving and Chisholm Trails. However, the most monumental trail in terms of length, years run, and sheer numbers of cattle and horses that passed along it, was the Great Western Trail. 

The Great Western Trail (GWT) began in Mexico and then stretched from southern Texas through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota, and North Dakota, ending at Fort Buford near present day Williston. Some drives would continue to Canada and Montana. The cattle that headed this far north supplied reservations and military installations and brought the people and animals that started ranches on the open range. It is estimated that 9 to12 million head of cattle and horses came up the trail. These cowboys and cattle drives developed the economy of the west and our iconic western heritage that is such an important part of our country’s character.  

In 2003, a project was begun to mark the entire trail, from Texas to Canada, starting at Rio Grande. The Rotarian Clubs along the trail have sponsored the project. The project has been completed in a number of states. The endeavor to mark the over 200 miles across North Dakota was spearheaded by Darrell Dorgan. Dorgan is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. He served as the first North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame executive director, Medora. Working with Dorgan, Jim Ozbun has been integral to getting the trail marked thoughtout North Dakota. Ozbun retired as North Dakota State University President. His grandfather came to North Dakota as a drover on The Great Western Trail in the late 1880s. About eight years ago a marker went up at the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. Last summer the first marker of the current phase of this project went up at the South Dakota/North Dakota state line. 

There will be about 50 obelisks along the way in North Dakota. The six-foot-high concrete posts are being made by Dickinson Ready Mix and donated by Scott Olin. The route will include several plaques at various sites with the history of the trail in North Dakota. Markers will be every six to ten miles along Highway 85. One of these obelisks and plaques will stand proudly on the grounds of the Lewis and Clark Trail Museum in Alexander.

On June 26 and 27, Fort Buford will host a celebration to commemorate the project.

It all starts with the Long X Wagon Train pulling in around 4 p.m. CT on Saturday. The Long X Wagon Train has been in operation since 1969 with wagon trains going every year in the spring and summer to coincide with the time cattle are out in the pastures. That evening at 7 p.m. CT, Bob Petermann, cowboy poet and singer will perform around the campfire.

Sunday, the celebration will continue with speakers and the unveiling of the plaque and obelisk marking the end of the route in North Dakota at 2 p.m. CT. Joseph Garcia, site supervisor and Darrell Dorgan will be on hand to welcome everyone and thank those involved in the project.

Sylvia Gann Mahoney, Texas will be the keynote speaker and will talk about the history of this great project. Sylvia is active in rodeo and a renowned professor, historian, and author. Her book, “Finding the Great Western Trail,” tells the story of finding and marking the trail from Texas to North Dakota. “…it stands as a record of each community’s efforts to uncover their own GWT history…”

Throughout the two days there will be carriage rides and the chance to see Texas Longhorns brought in for the festivities. Bill Lowman renowned Cowboy Poet and Connie Gjermundson with her song “How Many Rivers” will end the celebration. Sylvia Mahoney asked Connie to write a song to commemorate musically the Great Western Trail from Texas to North Dakota. She wrote a lovely song that describes the trail beautifully. A great close to a great event memorializing the Great Western Trail.

For more information on the project and on the Great western trail see:;;;

For more information on the Long X Wagon Trains:;

Connie Gjermundson video of “How Many Rivers”


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