In the Footsteps of Lewis and Clark

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Published on: Oct. 2, 2004

Last revision: Nov. 16, 2010

Their boats entered the mouth of the Missouri River on the afternoon of May 14, 1804. The water was murky and full of logs.

Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery returned two years later with experiences and knowledge that propelled the exploration and settlement of western North America. They started and completed this epic journey in Missouri.

Two hundred years later, you can visit places Lewis and Clark visited as explorers. Dioramas at conservation areas along their route provide a glimpse of a wild and untamed Missouri. You can retrace their footsteps and go on a personal Voyage of Discovery.

Mouth of the Missouri to the Manitou Bluffs

The first few weeks of the expedition was a transitional period for the Corps. The men were organized into "messes" and were learning to work together.

From the overlook at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area, you can imagine what that first day was like. Lewis and Clark would have paddled over the top of the present day overlook as they moved between camp and St. Louis that winter. Major changes in the river's course have left many of their riverside camps high and dry.

After camping the first night at the head of a small island in the middle of a wider and more meandering river than the river of today, the crew passed Pelican Island and camped at the frontier village of St. Charles.

Departing St. Charles, Lewis and Clark passed farmers, merchants, traders and a friendly band of Kickapoo Indians. The crew continued to encounter settlements until La Charette, near present-day Marthasville.

Several members of the expedition were often ashore hunting in bottomland forests that contained enormous trees, mainly sycamore and cottonwood. Weldon Springs and Howell Island conservation areas offer opportunities to experience forests that are not much different from what they saw.

Two weeks into the journey, the crew camped at the mouth of the Gasconade River, where Clark made a variety of measurements and observations. This was his constant practice. Clark later constructed detailed maps of the Missouri River and its environs.

The river was rising when the crew arrived at the mouth of the Osage River on June 1. Drenching spring rains had been common those first two weeks of their journey.

This large tributary was named for the Osage or Wahhazhe (Water People) who once lived there. In 1804, the Osage villages were far to the

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