Itinerary: Lewis & Clark
In 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out at the
behest of President Thomas Jefferson to explore the massive
new "Louisiana Territory" which had just doubled
the size of the United States. For the next two and a half
years, Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery party
traveled 8,000 miles through present day Missouri, Kansas,
Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho,
Oregon and Washington. The results of the mission "opened
up" the American West and did much to define the nation's
character and destiny.
Ascending the Missouri River through present day South Dakota
they had their first encounter with the Great Sioux Nation.
The expedition wintered in North Dakota, then set out up the
river in the spring of 1805. They forged westward through
country "on which the foot of civilized man had never
trodden" in present day Montana, reaching the headwaters
of the Missouri River near Three Forks. With aid from Sacajawea
and her Shoshone people, the party crossed the Bitteroot Mountains
into present-day Idaho and secured the services of a Lemhi-Shoshone
guide and actually followed portions the northern route of
the Nez Perce trail (the trail was an Indian trail before
it was the Lewis and Clark Trail). When the Expedition encountered
the Nez Perce, Lewis and Clark's men were cold, starving and
sick. The Nez Perce fed them, nursed Expedition members back
to health and spared their lives. Navigating down the Clearwater,
Snake and Columbia Rivers, the explorers reached the Pacific
Ocean in November 1805. On their return, the explorers resided
with the Nez Perce Indians, waiting for the snow to melt in
the Bitteroots. The party then split near present day Missoula
with Lewis exploring the Blackfoot, Sun and Marias Rivers
in Northern Montana and Clark heading southeast to the Yellowstone.
They met again at the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone
rivers and continued back east.
Because the 200th birthday of the expedition is approaching,
communities along the route are already planning events and
building interpretive sites. Modern day explorers can follow
the Lewis and Clark route through, South Dakota, North Dakota,
Montana and Idaho by car, water, hiking trail or by horseback.
Most of the trail is well marked, and there are many interpretive
sites, many located within National Forest Boundaries.
In South Dakota, near today's city of Yankton. The Lewis &
Clark visitors center at Gavin's Point Dam has exhibits covering
the Missouri River and the expedition. The Lewis & Clark
recreation area offers canoe and boat rentals, and hiking
trails. Chamberlain has one of the finest collections of Lakota
art and artifacts. Lower Brule offers tipi stays through the
tribal office and heart of the Sioux Nation tours. In Pierre,
visit the Cultural Heritage Center and the "Oyate Tawich'an"
exhibit that explores American Indian culture. A Jefferson
Friendship Medal, which the explorers gave to the tribes they
met, is also on display.
Present day interpretive sites in Idaho include Lemhi Pass
/ Lewis and Clark Backcountry Byway and Adventure Road, Lolo
Pass Visitor Information Center, The Lolo Trail, Canoe Camp
and Nez Perce National Historical Park. The Lewis And Clark
National Historic Trail Interpretive Center near Great Falls,
Montana opened in April of 1998 and tells the story of the
entire 8,000 mile journey with special emphasis on the Indian
people who were already living in the region when the expedition
Corral West Ranchwear