Lewis & Clark Sites
in the Middle Mississippi River Valley
1803-1806
   

greatriverroad.com covers the region surrounding St. Louis and St. Louis County. Our coverage of the Corps of Discovery Expedition begins in the south with the Ste. Genevieve, Missouri and Randolph County, Illinois areas, and ends with coverage of historic St. Charles, Missouri. We have chosen to highlight the sites that are included on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail which begins with the Camp River Dubois site in Hartford, Illinois, as well as the Eastern Legacy sites of Fort Kaskaskia and the Cahokia Courthouse. Additionally, we have included many of the sites that have been selected by the Illinois and Missouri Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commissions. Finally, we have added several sites that were not recognized by any of the above official organizations but that we feel that provide insight into the Expedition and enhance the visitor's experience. The sites on this page are not a full list of Lewis and Clark sites in the states of Illinois and Missouri. Readers wishing additional information can use the list of links at the bottom of the page to further explore their interest in sites in these states.

Lewis and Clark Sites in the Middle Mississippi River Valley
The following sites listed in a general chronological and a general geographical (south to north) order.

Fort Defiance Park - The Confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers
Cairo, Illinois
On November 14, 1803 Captain Meriwether Lewis noted in his journal that “this evening landed on the point at which the Ohio and Mississippi form there junchon.” The Corps of Discovery stayed for six days at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers one of the longest stops made by the expedition. The captains noted the mistletoe on the large timber and to their surprise, caught a 128 pound blue catfish. Their stay allowed Lewis to teach Captain William C. Clark the use of the navigational equipment; a compass and sextant. Because the 3rd Principal Meridian begins at the mouth of the Ohio, astronomical observations at this point were crucial..

Fort Jefferson
Ballard County, Kentucky
The journal kept by Lewis indicates that the Corps of Discovery spent the night of November 14, 1803, at the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, near present day Cairo, Illinois, where they remained until November 20. During these days the two Captains tried to determine the best location for establishing a military fort. They also each spent time taking astronomical readings to determine latitude and longitude, and on November 18 they “Set out early this morning with a canoe and eight men in company with Capt. Clark to visit and view the ground on which Oald Fort Jefferson stood;” Fort Jefferson was established in 1789 by George Rogers Clark, the older brother of William, naming it for Thomas Jefferson, then governor of Virginia. The fort was abandoned the next year.

Bird's Point
Mississippi County, Missouri
Lewis and Clark first set foot on Missouri soil at Bird’s Point on November 16, 1803. Here the captains encountered an American settlement and “a great many” Shawnee and Delaware Indians. Today, a wayside offers a dramatic view from the Missouri side of the meeting of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. An interpretive exhibit about Lewis and Clark is located at the Henry S. Whipple Park in nearby Charleston.

Tywappity Bottom Interpretive Marker
Scott County, Missouri
On November 22, 1803, Lewis and Clark noticed a cluster of American settlements on a thickly wooded bottom known as Tywappity Bottom on the Missouri bank. Lewis saw an 8-foot, 2-inch tall horsetail plant growing in this lush bottom. As the expedition passed the upper end of Tywappity Bottom, where Commerce is now located, Lewis and Clark noticed a “handsome farm.”

Cape Girardeau
Cape Girardeau County, Missouri
On November 23, 1803, Lewis and Clark arrived at Cape Girardeau, a trading post established in 1795 by Louis Lorimier, the Spanish-appointed Commandant of the Cape Girardeau District. Here, Lewis, co-commander of the expedition, left the keelboat to pay an official visit to Commandant Lorimier. The remaining party, under the command of Clark, who was feeling ill, continued upstream about two miles and camped on a point of land that was the site of Lorimier's original trading post, which was probably constructed in 1793. Lewis would have dinner with the Lorimiers after “The Comdt. pressed me to stay to supper which I did, the lady of the family presided, and with much circumspection performed the honours of the table.”

Trail of Tears State Park
Cape Girardeau County, Missouri
After the Corps of Discovery party pushed off early on the morning of November 24, 1803, and Lewis soon noticed “some high clifts the summits of which are crowned with pitch-pine & seader, these rocks are nearly perpendicular in many places sixty feet, and the hight of the hills apear to be about 120 feet above the bank…” The Corps camped for the evening near today’s Trail of Tears State Park. This park features an overlook with a spectacular view of the Mississippi River and trails that lead through thick forests like those that Lewis noted in his journals.

LaRue-Pine Hills Research Natural Area
Union County, Illinois

While Lewis noted in his journal on November 24, 1803 of the high bluffs on the Missouri side he also made the following observation about the Illinois side: “the other appearing low and subject to be overflowed for a considirable distance say 2 or three miles…" Visitors today can explore the wilderness that is similar to that the Corps of Discovery experienced.

Tower Rock, Perry County, Missouri
Grand Tower, Jackson County, Illinois
On November 25, 1803 Lewis and Clark “Arrived at the Grand Tower a little before sunset, passed above it and came too on the Lard. shore for the night.” The next day Lewis described Tower Rock made of “limestone & the same quality of the clifts heretofore described” and that there were “strong courants thus meeting each other form an immence and dangerous whirlpool which no boat dare approach in that state of the water…”

Sainte Genevieve
Ste. Genevieve County, Missouri
On November 28, 1803, Clark wrote "and after passing some verry swift water which was comfd [confined?] between Sand bars, I arrived at the Landing opposit old St. Genevie, (or Misar.") Situated across the river from Fort Kaskaskia, the Corps destination to recruit additional men, was Old Ste. Genevieve, once called Misery. Old Ste. Genevieve was relocated further inland because of frequent flooding and many of the buildings in the Historic District of Ste. Genevieve date back to the time when Lewis and Clark passed by.

Fort Kaskaskia State Historic Site
Ellis Grove, Illinois
The Corps of Discovery arrived in Kaskaskia on November 29, 1803. More than a dozen men were recruited here including members of the U.S. Army garrisons stationed at the fort. The Corps replenished supplies, took scientific readings, and gathered information from the local merchants and traders. Clark left with the men and the boats on December 3 with Lewis leaving on horseback on December 5.

Magnolia Hollow Conservation Area
Ste. Genevieve County, Missouri
On December 4, 1803, after leaving Fort Kaskaskia, Clark noted the mouth of Gabouri Creek. Upriver from this point he noted "the highlands juts to the river and form a most tremendious Clift of rocks..." The Magnolia Hollow Conservation Area, north of Ste. Genevieve, preserves these forested highlands and has an observation deck overlooking the Mississippi River.

Fort de Chartres State Historic Site
Prairie du Rocher, Illinois

Clark noted that the Expedition passed by the ruins of "Old fort Charters" on December 4, 1803. Fort de Chartres, once the French administrative center for the region and last French fort to surrender to the British after the French and Indian War, fell victim to the ravages of the Mississippi River. The reconstructed fort is now an Illinois State Historic Site.

Cahokia Courthouse
Cahokia, Illinois

Cahokia was the first French settlement in the middle Mississippi Valley, being established in 1698 and for many years was the principal city in the region. Lewis arrived in Cahokia in December of 1803, and made contact with the influential residents of this town located across the river from St. Louis. Most notable of these were Nicholas Jarrot and John Hay who acted as interpreters when Lewis crossed the river to meet with the Spanish Governor Carlos Dehault Delassus. Clark arrived with the men and the boats on December 10 and waited for Lewis to return from St. Louis. When denied permission by Delassus to go up the Missouri River, the choice was made to set up winter quarters at the mouth of the Wood River, directly across from the mouth of the Missouri River. Cahokia acted as post office and as a source of information and supplies during the Expedition's stay in the region. The Cahokia Courthouse is one of the few surviving human-made structures that Lewis and Clark visited.

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
Collinsville, Illinois

On a hunting expedition on January 9, 1804 Clark came across the northwest edge of the Cahokia Mounds, at present Mitchell, Madison County, Illinois. The mounds that Clark found have been obliterated, but similar mounds can be found at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site.

Museum of Westward Expansion
St. Louis, Missouri

By the time Lewis and Clark reached the St. Louis area in 1803, the town was beginning to eclipse Cahokia in importance. Lewis spent most of his time during the winter of 1803-1804 in St. Louis. Although Clark spent most of his time at Camp River Dubois, he made frequent trips to St. Louis which served as a major source for supplies, information, and entertainment. On March 10, 1804, the Louisiana Purchase Transfer Document, transferring  the Upper Louisiana Territory from Spain to France to the United States, was signed at ceremonies taking place March 9 and 10, 1804, on the St. Louis riverfront. The Expedition ended its journey to fanfare in St. Louis on September, 23, 1806. The site of colonial St. Louis is now occupied by the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial which includes the Gateway Arch, The Museum of Westward Expansion, and the Odyssey Theatre.

Clark's Grave, Bellefontaine Cemetery
St. Louis, Missouri

On December 11, 1803, the Expedition camped on Cabaret Island. Just opposite the island is a hillside location that would later become Bellefontaine Cemetery. An obelisk marks the spot where Clark was buried after his death in 1838, having spent his entire post-expeditionary career in St. Louis.

Camp River DuBois State Historic Site
Hartford, Illinois

Located near the mouth of the River DuBois (Wood River) and across from the present confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, Camp River DuBois served as the home base for the Corps from December 12, 1803 to May 14, 1804. It was here that the men built a fort for the winter, trained for the rigors they were to face, and developed into a successful military unit. Camp River Dubois, located in Hartford, Illinois, has been designated as Trail Site #1 on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and includes an Interpretive Center featuring the "Cutaway Keelboat" and a replica of the winter fort built by the Corps of Discovery. Located on the east bank of the Mississippi River and within view of the confluence of the two rivers is the Confluence Monument commemorating the Expedition's departure.

Camp DuBois
Wood River, Illinois

In addition to the fort at Trail Site #1, the Wood River Heritage Council has also constructed a replica of Lewis and Clark’s winter encampment near the mouth of the Wood River. The Corps of Discovery of St. Charles, the group that is retracing Lewis and Clark's route, has made Camp Dubois their living quarters for the winter of 2003-04. Visitors can see reenactors engaging in colonial activities durong special events.

Confluence Point State Park
West Alton, Missouri

On May 14, 1804 Clark wrote in his journal
"Set out at 4 oClock P.M. in the presence of many of the Neighbouring inhabitents, and proceeded on under a jentle brease up the Missourie..." as he and his men departed from Camp River Dubois and proceeded up the Missouri River. This 1,118-acre park is located on the north side of the Missouri River at its confluence with the Mississippi River north of St. Louis and 2 miles south of where the confluence was in 1804. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources intends to restore a natural floodplain reminiscent of what Lewis and Clark might have seen along the lower Missouri River. This will include native vegetation and natural wetlands and feature forests, prairies, and marshes.

Historic St. Charles
St. Charles, Missouri

When Clark and the men departed from Camp River Dubois on May 14, 1804, and proceeded up the Missouri River, Lewis was still in St. Louis attending to last minute business. Clark arrived in St. Charles on May 16, 1804. The men spent their time gathering more information, supplies, and attending dances in this friendly community of about 450 French-Canadians while awaiting for Lewis. Lewis rejoined the Corps on May 20th and on the next day, May 21, 1804, the Expedition "Set out from St. Charles at three oClock after getting every matter arranged, proceeded under a jentle Breese..." Today’s visitors to the Historic District of St. Charles will find the same hospitality as they visit the Lewis & Clark Boat House and Nature Center or view the new statue of the explorers in Frontier Park along the riverfront.

Fort Belle Fontaine Park
North St. Louis County, Missouri

Fort Belle Fontaine was erected in 1805 on the site where the Corps spent there first night after departing Camp River DuBois, four and a half miles up the Missouri River from its confluence with the Mississippi. The Corps spent the last night of the Expedition at this garrison on September 22, 1806, before departing for St. Louis to end their journey the next day.

Sacagawea Statue
Godfrey, Illinois

The Lewis and Clark Community College is the site of a statue honoring Sacagawea, the 15-year old Shoshone Indian who joined the Corps of Discovery in the Mandan villages of what is now North Dakota. The statue was sculpted from a manganese, copper and bronze mixture by Glenna Goodacre who also crafted the design of the new Sacagawea dollar.

www.lewisandclarkillinois.org/
The official site of the Illinois Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commission features sites and events in Illinois, the history of the Corps in the state, links to area tourism sites, and additional resourc
es.

 

Missouri Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commission
The official site of the Missouri Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commission features sites and events in Missouri, links, and additional resources.

 

FEATURED ATTRACTIONS ALONG THE GREAT RIVER ROAD
Fort de Chartres
State Historic Site
Fort Kaskaskia
State Historic Site
Katy Trail
State Park
Liberty Bell of the West
Kaskaskia, Illinois
     






 
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