08-Mar-2002 -- 8 March 2002 -- It was about 10 degrees above zero Fahrenheit and snowing as my friend George Ding and I left Hebron, N.D., to visit our first confluence. About 6 inches of snow had already fallen and it continued to snow as we headed northeast of town. The gravel road hadn't seen a snowplow yet, so we had our vehicle in four-wheel drive. On the way to the confluence, we passed huge pits where the Hebron Brick Company mines clay for its brick products.
George had asked for permission to visit the site from ranch owner Florian Woroniecki, who arranged for his son Brent to help us find the confluence. Florian and his wife, Gladys, invited us into their log cabin home and we reviewed topo maps and aerial photos to determine the best route to the confluence.
This is cattle country -- a rugged land filled with buttes and coulees. The confluence is located in a Woroniecki pasture, so Brent suggested we ride with him in his bale truck. This heavy-duty truck is used to carry huge round hay bales to the cattle. With four-wheel drive, knobby tires and the extra weight of a half-ton bale, he said we'd have no problems getting to the confluence through the snow.
We loaded up and headed toward the confluence using the GPS as our guide. Brent opened a gate in the barb-wire pasture fence and we plowed southeast through the snow-covered grass. About 150 meters from the confluence we drove to the edge of a steep ravine and had to get out of the truck and walk. When we found a reasonably level path down the edge of the ravine, the GPS said we were precisely at 47 degrees north latitude and counting down to 102 degrees west longitude. We headed straight east across a little stream and proceeded up the opposite bank until the GPS said we were at the confluence.
We took several photos with a pale sky the same color as the snow-covered rangeland. On the way back to the house, Brent unloaded the hay to feed his cattle. As we returned to the house, Gladys warmed us up with hot coffee.
To the north of this confluence, the land drains toward the Knife River and eventually the Missouri River. Nearly two hundred years ago, Lewis and Clark used the Missouri as part of their highway to the Pacific Northwest. The two explorers found their guide Sakajawea at a Mandan Indian village on the Knife River about 40 miles northeast of this confluence. In 1876, Col. George Custer journeyed west about 15 miles south of this spot on his way to the battle of the Little Big Horn. In the late 1800s, Theodore Roosevelt ranched in the North Dakota Badlands about 100 miles to the west.