Chief Looking’s Village – Sonali’s Garden

Bismarck, North Dakota.

In August, 2015, Lynn and I were in Bismarck for a Civil Air Patrol activity. While there, I decided to scout around for a place to capture the sunset. What came of that evening’s exploration was an image of the Missouri River Valley captured by my cell phone. I’d gathered other images with my Nikon, but the cell phone capture above ended up being my favorite. The majority of images captured that day were featured in a blog post on macro photography as I spent some time in a small garden that was ablaze with summer flowers. 

This trip, in September 2018, we stopped to visit again. In this post, I will give away my secret as to the best sunset view and the probably the best view of the Missouri River in Bismarck-Mandan. The location is high on a bluff overlooking the river. Just off Burnt Boat Drive, the Bismarck Parks and Recreation District manages the location known as Chief Looking’s Village. The site also overlooks a larger park called Pioneer Park. Turning off Burnt Boat Drive, a short uphill drive to a small parking area will bring you to a garden created in the memory of Sonali Seth.

The site, a recent target of an archeological dig to discover more of the history of the Mandan Indians, provides plenty of “front row seating” to watch the sun as it sets. What better way to ease the tensions of the day than to walk through the garden and take a few moments to watch the day begin its journey into night.

The view from the bluff is best shown as a panorama. Select the image above to get a better view of the overlook in a higher resolution. The large bridge on the left allows I-94 to connect Bismarck to Mandan… But I digress from our visit to the garden.

Even late in the summer on this September day, there were flowers blooming in the garden. The gallery of images features several other close-ups of blossoms enjoying the late summer evening with us. In researching the park for this post, I happened upon Sonali’s obituary. She passed away as a young woman of 32 years. You can read it yourself here. Her family left a lasting memorial in creating this garden. Generations of visitors will discover the beauty of the garden when they may have only been looking to watch the sunset. The garden is only a few minutes from the Interstate. Take I-94 exit 157 north on Tyler Parkway, then a left turn onto Burnt Boat Drive. On your left, you’ll see the sign in the photo below. Turn onto that drive and follow it to the parking area at the end of the road.

More information on Chief Looking’s Village and Pioneer Park can be found on the Bismarck Parks and Recreation District’s website here. I submit for your review a gallery of images captured that evening in the garden. All images (except the opening cell phone photo) were captured using a Nikon D500 with a Tamron 16-300 mm lens. To view an enlarged image in most browsers, click on a photo. From there you can scan through the gallery.

John Steiner


  1. Thank you. Sonali was our daughter.
    It has been a labor of love to care for the garden of the summer. Facebook page of Sonali Memorial Garden. Her friends and family are on that page. It would be good to link your lawn tod her friends and family are on that page. It would be good to link your blog to that.

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