The Corps of Discovery in the
Middle Mississippi River Valley
The Winter and Spring of 1803-1804
20, 1803, Captain Meriwether Lewis wrote in his journal “Left our mouring on
the Ohio side of the point at 10 OC. and after getting out well into the stream
our course…” Thus Lewis and William Clark and the nucleus of what would
become to be known as the Corps of Discovery began the journey into the Middle
Mississippi River Valley, a region the expedition would use as its staging
ground to prepare for the exploration of the Missouri River and the territory of the
newly acquired Louisiana Purchase.
Clark would spend more time in this region that included what was called the
Illinois Country (now the state of Illinois,) the villages of the west bank of
the Mississippi, and the towns of St. Louis and St. Charles. A total of 184
days, slightly more than half a year would be spent in this region, more than
any other area of the endeavor.
Clark would make good use of this time. The slow progress up the Mississippi
convinced the captains that many more men than the authorized 12 would be needed
and more recruits were added, particularly at the U.S. Army outpost at Fort
Kaskaskia. The expedition would spend the winter training as a military unit at
Camp River Dubois, a small fort they built at the confluence of the Mississippi
and Missouri Rivers.
and the Illinois town of Cahokia would serve as sources of information and
supplies. Valuable insight into what conditions were like on the lower Missouri
River would come from fur trappers and explorers who had preceded Lewis and
Clark. Additional supplies based on this information and from practical
experience gained during their stay were then added to the cargo the expedition
May 14, 1804, Clark and a contingent of approximately 40 men aboard 3 river
boats departed from Camp River Dubois and began their way to St. Charles where
Lewis would join them. On May 21st, 1804, the expedition “Set out from St.
Charles at three oClock after getting every matter arranged, proceeded under a
jentle Breese...” and began an adventure that lasted 28 months, covered
roughly 8,000 miles, and still excites the imagination of Americans 200 years
Mississippi River Valley has an abundance of Lewis and Clark sites and events
that offer visitors a unique glimpse into this exciting period of American
greatriverroad.com has created
this Lewis and Clark section to
help visitors with special guides to these sites and events as well as
additional articles on the various historical activities and aspects related to
six months that Lewis and Clark spent in this region.