MonDak Heritage Center Museum and Art Gallery
Photo courtesy: MonDak Heritage Center Museum and Art Gallery
Photo courtesy: MTOT
Sidney, nicknamed the “Sunrise City,” is the largest town in northeast Montana. Sidney became incorporated in 1911. It became the county seat of Richland County in 1914 when the county split from Dawson County. This agricultural community situated on the banks of the Yellowstone River, a short distance from the North Dakota line, is your base for roaming the southeastern sector of Missouri River Country.
The confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers lies nearby in a 75-mile-long irrigated valley. Oil and agriculture are the prominent industries and crops include grains, sugar beets, corn, beans and hay. Located in the Williston Oil Basin, oil pumping and exploration can be found throughout the area.
The lush irrigated valley with the backdrop of bluffs, badlands and red, scoria hills are a photographer’s dream. The Sidney area offers excellent fishing for many warm-water species, including the huge prehistoric paddlefish. You can also go agate hunting along the Yellowstone, or hunt big game, waterfowl and upland birds. Visiting Sidney also provides the wonderful opportunity to explore the famous Lewis and Clark Trail.
On April 27, 1805, Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery first entered what would become Montana, 20 miles to the northeast of present-day Sidney. A couple days earlier they camped at the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers, just across what is now the Montana-North Dakota border. Their journals describe the abundance of wildlife in the area. “We saw great quantities of game today; consisting of the common and mule deer, elk, buffalo, and antelopes; also four brown bear…”
On August 12, 1806, Lewis and Clark again were at the joining of the two rivers on their way back east. This was their meeting point. On their way back from the west coast, when they entered what would become Montana, Lewis followed the Missouri River and Clark explored the Yellowstone.
To the northeast of Sidney is Fort Union Trading Post, a National Historic Site. The original fort built in 1828 by the American Fur Company, rose at the convergence of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers. By 1867, it was gone, as the fur trade was coming to a halt. Today’s reconstructed version is managed by the National Park Service. It’s well worth seeing anytime, but especially if you can make it on the occasion of the Fort Union Rendezvous, an annual event.
Sidney’s MonDak Heritage Center Museum and Art Gallery features area history and includes an extensive street scene of the early 1900s. The 16-unit, turn of the century street scene is complete with boardwalks, the St. Cyr gun collection, area artifacts and early photos. Two main art galleries house changing exhibits. Other displays include a horse-drawn sleigh, dinosaur bones, two original J. K. Ralston paintings and a 1906 Model N Ford.
Each year the MonDak Heritage Center puts on a Christmas celebration of different countries and eras. Also in the Christmas spirit, Sidney hosts a Christmas Stroll and Parade of Lights just after Thanksgiving. Entertainment, food and activities are just the start of the day that is capped with a great parade of lighted floats.
The Sunrise Festival of the Arts, in which artists and crafters from all over come to Sidney for a day of sales and entertainment, takes place on the second weekend in July. The Lone Tree Gun Show allows vendors and traders to visit our area just before hunting season starts to share their items. The Richland County Fair and Rodeo, which includes a rodeo and a concert, also takes place in Sidney. MonDak Ag Days and Trade Show and the Wine and Food Festival are two more opportunities to live it up in Sidney.