The Journey of Lewis and Clark

The Voyage of Discovery Continues: Another view of the Journey of Lewis and Clark.

As one of the most remarkable and productive scientific explorations in American history, the Corps of Discovery expedition crossed the territory of the newly acquired but uncharted Louisiana Purchase.

Fort Osage: June 23, 1804

On June 23, 1804, the expedition passed a spot along the Missouri that overlooked the river's bends and currents for some distance in either direction. To Clark, it seemed a strategically ideal site for a fort. Four years later, in 1808, Clark returned with 80 men and oversaw the construction of Fort Osage, named for the neighboring Osage tribe. The Fort served as an outpost for the military, a major trading post, and a staging point for settlers venturing westward until 1827.

Fort Mandan, North Dakota: October 26, 1804 - April 7, 1805

Fort Mandan was the site of the expedition's first winter camp. They stayed for five months, often visited by neighboring Mandan and Hidatsa tribes. It was here that Lewis and Clark met Charbonneau, a Frenchman who lived with the Hidatsa and had two Shoshone wives. Charbonneau joined the expedition as translator and his wife, Sacagawea, also agreed to come as a guide. During the winter, Sacagawea gave birth to her first child, Jean Baptiste. It was from this camp that the explorers also sent the keelboat and several expedition members back down the river.

Fort Atkinson, Nebraska: August 3, 1804

At this site in Nebraska, the expedition held its first council with Native Americans, a critical encounter with members of the Otto and Missouri tribes. Lewis and Clark knew that much depended on the outcome of this meeting. If it went well, news would travel quickly and the expedition was likely to be welcomed and assisted by other tribes met along the way. If the council went badly, the expedition most likely would not have support from the Native American population, and might have to face the journey without their aid and vast knowledge.

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon: October 24, 1805

The Columbia River presented special challenges to the expedition, not the least of which was a very narrow gorge and extremely dangerous rapids. Without faltering, the men negotiated canoes and cargo through the gorge and chaotic rapids beyond without a major mishap. Afterwards, they enjoyed a few days of relatively tranquil travel on the river before encountering more rapids along the Cascades portion of the Columbia. Gear and supplies were portaged across this section, but the canoes and their occupants were sent racing down the river. They emerged from the foaming water unharmed.

Canoe Camp, Idaho: September 26 - October 17, 1805

Finding good timber along the Clearwater River, the expedition camped at this location for several days, building dugout canoes and preparing for the downstream journey. Traveling downstream promised to be a luxury after paddling up the entire length of the Missouri. This stopover allowed members of the expedition to recover from hardships they had experienced while crossing the Rockies. However, too much food and an abrupt change in diet (from red meat to salmon and roots) made several members ill. Lewis was especially sick, and not until October 4 was he able to "walk about a little."


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