In the Footsteps of Lewis and Clark

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Published on: Oct. 2, 2004

Last revision: Nov. 16, 2010

River, prairies and marshes occupied broad expanses of the floodplain.

Between Manitou Bluffs and Glasgow, the floodplain remains constricted by the bedrock valley walls of the Ozarks. Visitors can reach the Missouri River at Stump Island Access and from De Bourgmont Access, a couple of miles up the Lamine River. French traders had told Lewis and Clark of lead deposits up the "La Mine," the last of the truly Ozarkian tributaries they would pass.

Above Glasgow, the river has cut a much broader valley across the plains of western Missouri. Again, the crew encountered large, shifting islands of sand that threatened their keel boat.

The river twisted across the broad bottoms, scouring new marshes and frequently leaving oxbows in its former course. You can get a sense of the way the river looked then at Grand Pass Conservation Area. One of the few large conservation areas in this reach, its extensive wetlands provide habitat for numerous waterfowl that migrate along the Missouri River.

Farther west, at Cooley Lake Conservation Area, is an oxbow that was abandoned by the river before Lewis and Clark passed. The crew began seeing an even greater abundance of wildlife near Cooley Lake. Many of the animals were eating the immense crop of mulberries that grew there.

Lewis and Clark camped for several days at the mouth of the Kansas River, where they studied an area that would be home to Pierre Chouteau's fur trading post in 1821. The area would later be called Westport Landing. Now, of course, it's Kansas City. Here they caught and ate "several large catfish."

Hunters venturing up the Kansas River also saw their first buffalo, and one group brought in a young wolf to tame. The first journal reference to abundant flocks of now extinct Carolina parakeets was made here.

Kansas River to the Iowa State Line

Having come west 390 miles in six weeks, the crew headed north up the Missouri toward the Mandan villages.The journey north brought them to the Great Plains of the West. They more frequently encountered wolves, buffalo and elk. They also saw floodplain lakes visited by swans, pelicans, wood ducks and other waterfowl.

Prairies stretched to the horizon. The weather became hotter and more sultry, causing heat-related illnesses and discomfort. Still, the Corps persevered.

They passed several abandoned French settlements near present day Ft. Leavenworth, and camped on the west side of the river

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