On May 14,
1804, Captain Meriwether Lewis wrote, “The mouth of the River Dubois is to
be considered the point of departure.”
at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, just several miles
south of the current mouth of the Wood River (River Dubois) is Camp River
Dubois. This new facility, operated by the Illinois Historic Preservation
Agency, is designated as Site #1 on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
and features the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, a replica of the 1803-04
winter encampment, and the Lewis and Clark Monument.
The Interpretive Center (photo left,) officially opened in December of 2002 and
is one of six major historical Lewis & Clark sites in southwestern Illinois.
This 15,000 square foot brick and cedar building tells the story of how the
Corps of Discovery assembled equipment, supplies and men at Camp River Dubois.
are five public areas that make up the Interpretive Center including four
galleries, a theater, and the gift shop. When you enter the Center you are in
the first area, “Across the Continent.” A globe (photo right) sits in the
middle of this area and helps to illustrate the importance of waterways and how
they were the principal highways of the past. This area sets the tone of the
Center in how in 1803-04, Camp River Dubois was at the edge of what was known
and relates to the visitor what President Thomas Jefferson wanted the expedition
for the Expedition,” explains to the visitor what the Expedition thought they
would encounter and what preparations would be necessary to get started. At the
Convergence Theater an original 15 minute, high definition film, “At
Journey’s Edge.” is shown every 20 minutes. This film highlights camp life,
the refitting of the Keelboat, and the purpose of the journey.
for the West – Experience the Illinois of Lewis and Clark,” features the
centerpiece of the Interpretive Center – the “Cutaway Keelboat.” This 55
foot long replica of the keelboat (top left photo) Lewis had built in
Elizabethtown, Ohio has been cut in half revealing how it was filled with “Tools
of every Description &c &c.” Other exhibits in this area explore
camp life, how and why the Expedition recruited its men, the preparations
that were made at Camp River Dubois and details of the supplies that were taken
along. Continuing on the visitor enters the “Rediscovering the Corps” area,
which focuses on what happened to the members of the Corps after the expedition,
and how their journey helped to open up the region they explored to American
An outdoor reconstruction of
Camp River Dubois (top right photo) has been recently completed and is staffed by the “Dubois
Detachment,” a volunteer organization of men and women interested in
portraying and preserving the history of the expedition's experience in the
Illinois Country. At least one member of the
Dubois Detachment (photo left) is on hand from 10 am – 4 pm on days when the site is open.
These dedicated volunteers take pride in researching and presenting the various
aspects of Lewis and Clark’s stay in the Illinois Country and are ready to
answer any questions visitors may have. The volunteers act as guides to the fort
where visitors can view the sleeping quarters of the men and the main building
that served as guardhouse, storehouse, and the Captain's quarters. Different
activities and perspectives can be seen depending on the persona of the
volunteer on duty.
The impetus behind this site
is the Lewis and Clark Society of America, Inc., which was formed in 1957 to
educate the public on the importance of the expedition, with emphasis on the
role Camp River Dubois played. In 1981, the Illinois Historic Preservation
Society funded a monument dedicated to the point of departure of Corps of
Discovery. In 1997, federal and state funds were secured to construct a museum
equal to the museums commemorating the winter encampments of the Corps at Fort
Clapsop, Oregon and Fort Mandan, North Dakota to emphasize the much neglected
role the Illinois Country played in supporting the expedition. The Society
operates the Store of Discovery (photo right) in the museum and provides
volunteer hosts, guides, and interpreters that assist the Illinois Historic
Preservation Agency in the operation of the site. If you are interested in
preserving the history of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and would like to join
the Society or volunteer please call 618-251-5811.
Camp River DuBois
through Labor Day
9 am to 5 pm
Labor Day through
Wednesday - Sunday: 9 am to 5 pm
Closed on Major
There is no charge to visit Camp River DuBois although donations are appreciated.
River Dubois is located at the intersection of IL-3 and Poag Road about 3 miles
north of the I-270/IL-3 interchange. From Alton travel south on either IL-3 or IL-143 (from
the Clark Bridge) to the site.
N 38 48.156
W 90 06.102
Learn more about the Hartford,
Wood River, Alton,
and Edwardsville areas.
The official website of the Illinois Lewis & Clark State Historic Site. This
web site has a wealth of information including detailed descriptions of all the
exhibits in the site.