Visitors Guide to Exploring the
Lewis & Clark in the Middle Mississippi River Valley
Seeds of an Idea
When most people think of Lewis and Clark’s expedition they think of a western adventure. They think of the 28 month journey that started near St. Louis, traveled up the Missouri River, contacted Native Americans, braved the elements, crossed the Rockies, reached the Pacific Coast and journeyed back. Overlooked are the efforts of many along the eastern seaboard in conceiving, designing and equipping the endeavor. Thomas Jefferson had for many years thought about a navigable cross-continental trade route to the Pacific Ocean to establish an American presence in western North America.
Two men are most associated with the Corps of Discovery: Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Learn more about these two famous Americans. Meriwether Lewis has been called "undoubtedly the greatest pathfinder this country has ever known." William Clark was a Revolutionary War veteran and learned about wilderness skills and natural history from his older brother, George Rogers Clark
The Men of the Corps of Discovery
In his letter to William Clark offering him co-command of the expedition, Meriwether Lewis wrote that he had been "instructed to select from any corps in the army a number of noncommissioned officers and privates not exceeding 12, who may be disposed to voluntarily enter this service . . ." Lewis also told Clark that he had been authorized to enlist civilian woodsmen. Clark then set out to recruit men near his home in Clarksville, Indiana Territory, who met the qualifications set out by Lewis. These qualifications required the men to be "good hunters, stout, healthy, unmarried, accustomed to the woods and capable of bearing bodily fatigue to a considerable degree.”
On May 14, 1804 William Clark and the party of 38 men "Set out from Camp River a Dubois at 4 oClock P. M. and proceded up the Missouris" where they would meet up with Meriwether Lewis at St. Charles, Missouri. The expedition traveled in three boats: "the Party Consisted of 2, Self one frenchman and 22 Men in the Boat of 20 ores, 1 Serjt. & 7 french in a large Perogue, a Corp and 6 Soldiers in a large Perogue..." These three boats were the principal form of transportation the expedition used in reaching their winter of 1804-1805 camp at the Mandan villages in present day North Dakota.
The Winter of 1803-1804
The Corps of Discovery’s spent the winter of 1803-1804 at an the Camp River Dubois encampment near the Wood River. It was here that Clark drilled the men to prepare them for their historic expedition. Lewis spent most of the winter in St. Louis purchasing supplies, gathering intelligence, and awaiting news that the Purchase had been completed. Finally on May 14, 1804, Clark and some forty-two men embarked up the Missouri River to meet up with Lewis in St. Charles and then continue on their historic journey.