A High Potential Site on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, Fort Atkinson was at the time of the Corps of Discovery’s visit called Council Bluff. The bluff was a site of encampment for the Corps of Discovery and the location of the meeting between the Corps and the Otoe and Missouri Tribes. Located just east of present-day Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, Fort Atkinson later became an integral part of the fur trade and a large garrison because of William Clark’s positive review of the location in his journal,
On July 30, 1804, the Corps of Discovery were encamped at what is now Fort Atkinson. While there, William Clark wrote, “The Situation of this place which we Call Council Bluff… a Spot well calculated for a Trading establishment… & well Situated under the command of the Hill for Houses to trade with the Natives a beautiful Plain both above and below.”
While at what is now Fort Atkinson, the Corps hosted the first formal meeting between representatives of the United States Government and western tribes. This meeting of the council and the structure would establish the routine for all subsequent assemblies on the expedition.
Fort Atkinson was established in 1820, about 16 years after the encampment of the Corps of Discovery. The Fort was in operation until 1827 after the Army refocused its forces to the South.
Today Fort Atkinson has many reconstructed features such as barracks, gates, armorer’s shop, and council shop. There are also events such as living history demonstrations and candlelit tours of the fort that take place in November. Harold W. Andersen Visitor Center interprets the history of the fort and contains displays of artifacts.