About 17 miles of the Yellowstone River flows through North Dakota before it joins the mighty Missouri River. This stretch of river, along with its confluence with the Missouri River, remain very historically significant. The Lewis and Clark expedition pondered their path at the confluence area. Should they travel up the Yellowstone, which according to the native peoples, provided good passage to the Columbia River, or should they remain on the Missouri, as directed by President Thomas Jefferson? They chose the Missouri, but Captain Clark and some of the expedition followed the Yellowstone to the Missouri on their return trip in 1806. Lewis wrote of the beauty near the Yellowstone river: ". . . I had a most pleasing view of the country perticularly of the wide and fertile vallies formed by the Missouri and the Yellowstone rivers, which occasionally unmasked by the wood on their borders disclose their meanderings for many miles in their passage through these delightfull tracts of country. . ."
The confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers became an important area for fur trading and eventually white settlement. Two historic sites, the Fort Buford State Historic Site and the Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site remain as reminders of this settlement.
The Yellowstone River remains beautiful today. It is bordered at times by tall, steep bluffs that display Paleocene and Pleistocene rock outcrops, contains numerous sandbars that are home to endangered wildlife such as least terns and piping plovers, is home to the ancient paddlefish and endangered pallid sturgeon, and has a swift flow that provides fun canoeing.
The stretch from Sundheim Park To The Confluence Recreation Area provides a beautiful, scenic day trip. The trip is relatively easy. The river has numerous sandbars with easy access for picnicking or just fun in the sun. Flows are good from spring to fall, but high flows can be very dangerous and should be avoided.