Visitors Guide to Lewis & Clark
in the Middle Mississippi River Valley
On November 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 Captain 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.
Lewis and 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.
Lewis and 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.
St. Louis 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 would take.
Finally on 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 later.
The Middle 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 history. 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.