In 1804, Meriwether Lewis &
William Clark began a voyage of discovery with 45 men, a keelboat, two
pirogues, and a dog. They departed from Camp Wood located in what was to
President Jefferson had long dreamed of what lay
to the west of the young United States – what animals, plants, minerals,
what route for eastern trade would his expedition reveal? The President
had privately requested Congress to fund the expedition shortly before the
Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Lewis & Clark were ordered to write accounts
of all they did, each species encountered, details of cultures they met,
maps of the land - everything. They traveled over a three-year period
through lands that later became 11 states.
Most of the trail follows the Missouri & Columbia
Rivers. Much has changed in 200 years but trail portions remain intact. At
3700 miles, Lewis & Clark NHT is the second longest of the 23 National
Scenic & National Historic Trails. It begins at Hartford, IL & passes
through portions of MO, KS, IA, NE, SD, ND, MT, ID, OR, & WA.
Many people follow the trail by auto; others find
adventure in the sections that encourage boating, biking, or hiking. You
can still see the White Cliffs in Montana as Lewis & Clark did. You may
stand where they stood looking over the rolling plains at Spirit Mound in
South Dakota. You might meet the descendants of the people who hosted
Lewis & Clark all along the trail. It remains for your discovery.