The History of Yankton
Arguably South Dakota's most historic city, Yankton evolved in the 1850's as a town born of the Missouri River. While life in Yankton has always revolved around the great river, it is of less importance today with the extinct steamboat industry. While the river is now mainly used for recreation rather than transportation, the city still thrives and owes it all to the Missouri.
Yankton was the first capital of the Dakota Territory in the 1860's, covering North and South Dakota, as well as Wyoming and Montana. A replica of the capital can be seen within Riverside Park, below the Meridian Bridge, just south of downtown.
The namesake of many areas in the Yankton region, Meriwether Lewis and Wiliam Clark explored the area in the early 1800's. Lewis and Clark's journey lasted just over two years, traveling approximately 8,000 miles.
Over a half-century ago, the South Dakota Corp of Engineers proposed to build five dams along the Missouri River in the name of flood control and electric generation. One of these dams was built just west of Yankton, appropriately named Gavins Point for the banks in which is shares. Lewis and Clark Lake was formed after the river was closed off during the dam construction, this lake contributes heavily the over 1.5 Million visitors who travel to Yankton every year to enjoy the amenities this city has become famous for.
Yankton College, founded in 1881 closed after 102 years of operation. However the facilty stil exists in central Yankton today, although in a bit different form. In 1985, the college was converted into a minimum-security federal prison camp, making use of the facility's striking period architecture. The inmates spend their days managing the prison grounds, proving that the facility can look better now than over a century ago.