Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center
The Journey of Lewis and Clark
Calumet Bluff, Nebraska: August 30-31, 1804 September 8, 2002
Near the current location of Gavins Point Dam at the base of Calumet Bluff, expedition members met with local tribal leaders in a ceremonial council under a large oak tree. The council lasted two days and was described in Clark's journal as rather an elaborate affair.
Camp Fortunate, Montana: August 17, 1805 October 7, 2002
Lewis and Clark were reunited at this site after parting company near the Big Hole and Jefferson Rivers. Lewis arrived first and lodged with a band of Shoshone. When the Indians began preparing to head east to their buffalo hunting grounds, Lewis persuaded them to wait for Clark's return. When at last Clark arrived with Sacagawea, she recognized the leader of the Shoshone as her brother. It was in part this fortunate twist of fate that led to the Shoshone agreeing to help the expedition cross the Continental Divide-and gave the camp its name.
Canoe Camp, Idaho: September 26 - October 17, 1805 August 18, 2002
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."
Cape Disappointment, Washington: November 18, 1805 - March 23, 1806 February 26, 2002
After a journey of more than 2,000 miles, the Corps of Discovery reached the Pacific Ocean. It must have been a thrilling moment. Yet Lewis and Clark reportedly dubbed the nearby cape "disappointment" in light of the fact that they had hoped there might be ships waiting that would spare them the long return journey.
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon: October 24, 1805 October 4, 2000
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.
Fort Atkinson, Nebraska: August 3, 1804 September 30, 2001
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. The meetings did go well, however, and this site was recorded in the journals of both Lewis and Clark as "Council Bluff".
Fort Mandan, North Dakota: October 26, 1804 - April 7, 1805 September 1, 2001
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.
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 Pierre, South Dakota: September 25-30, 1804 November 6, 2001
It was near the present location of Fort Pierre that the Corps of Discovery first encountered a group of Teton Sioux at the mouth of the Bad River. Unlike their meetings with other Indian tribes, this encounter was somewhat strained and confrontational, as were several others that followed over the next few days.
Great Falls, Montana: June 16 - July 14, 1805 May 22, 2001
As the expedition approached the source of the Missouri River, they came up against a daunting collection of rapids and waterfalls. Since the waterway was impassable, a long portage lay ahead. The men were forced to carry the boats and all their remaining equipment and supplies roughly 18 miles overland, skirting five waterfalls along the way. The portage took nearly a month.
Lemhi Pass, Montana & Idaho: August 12, 1805 October 7, 2002
At this point, the Corps of Discovery crossed the Continental Divide and entered the Pacific Ocean drainage system. They also left territory that belonged to the United States. All that could be seen to the west from Lemhi Pass were jagged mountain peaks that stretched to the horizon. It was now obvious that there was no practical Northwest Passage to the Pacific.
Lolo Trail, Idaho: September 12-21, 1805 July 10, 2002
The Shoshone provided the expedition with horses, a guide, and sound advice to help them through what was probably the most treacherous portion of their journey. The trail they followed across the divide and through the Bitterroot Mountains was extremely rugged. Game was scarce, which made the situation even more difficult for the explorers.
Marias River, Montana: June 3-10, 1805 May 22, 2001
At this point, the expedition encountered a fork in the river and faced a critical decision. Which branch was the Missouri and which was a tributary? Both streams were roughly equal in size. One headed off in a northerly direction. The other angled south. Exploration parties were sent up both streams and, after several days of scouting, Lewis finally determined correctly that the Missouri was the less silt-laden, southerly stream. He named the tributary after his cousin Maria Wood.
Mount Hood, Oregon: October 18, 1805 October 4, 2000
When towering Mt. Hood came into view, Lewis and Clark were able to place themselves on a map for the first time since leaving North Dakota. Over a decade earlier, the British navigator George Vancouver had mapped the coast of the Pacific Northwest, including the landmark of Mt. Hood. At this point the members of the Corps of Discovery were able to estimate with considerable accuracy their proximity to the Pacific Ocean.
While camping near the present site of the town of Onawa, Lewis and Clark visited the grave of Blackbird, a former chief of the Maha tribe, who had died along with many of his people during a smallpox epidemic four years earlier.
Salt Camp: December 7, 1805 - March 23, 1806 February 26, 2002
Without ships to carry them home, the expedition had to make their way back overland. But they could not set out immediately, as winter was fast approaching. The members of the expedition voted to set up camp seven miles inland from the coast, along the Columbia River and near the home of the Clatsop Indians. The expedition spent a miserable winter here, as the sun shone only six days and the rain stopped for only twelve. The time was used productively, however, in sewing clothes, drying meat, and making other preparations for the long journey home. They also made salt. For fifty days, three men at a time boiled ocean water in a kettle, eventually producing about four bushels of pure salt. The salt was a valuable seasoning and an equally valuable trading commodity for the trip home. The expedition began their return journey on March 23 and arrived in St. Louis on September 23, 1806.
Sioux City, Iowa: August 20, 1804 September 8, 2002
Sergeant Charles Floyd, Jr., who had been seriously ill for several days, died here of what is generally thought to be infection from a ruptured appendix. He was the expedition's only fatality. Floyd was buried on a high bluff on the east bank of the Missouri, overlooking the mouth of a river that now bears his name. The spot is marked by a 100-foot-tall sandstone obelisk completed in 1901. In 1960 the monument became the first historic landmark to be established by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Spirit Mound, South Dakota: August 25, 1804 September 8, 2002
On this very hot day, Lewis, Clark, and ten other expedition members traveled north roughly 9 miles from the mouth of the Vermillion River to visit a solitary hill said by local tribes to be inhabited by, in Clark's words (and spelling), "deavels in humon form with remarkable large heads armed wit Sharp arrows." The men saw no devils, but did see large herds of bison.
St. Charles, Missouri: May 16-21, 1804 February 9, 2002
In St. Charles, the expedition stopped to make final preparations for the journey up the Missouri. They stored gear and supplies in a keelboat and two pirogues, and made last-minute purchases while waiting for Lewis to arrive from St. Louis. Residents of St. Charles made the men welcome during their stay, inviting them to dinners, dances, and church services. Some of the men had such a good time, in fact, that one evening's festivities were followed by court martial proceedings the next day for such offenses as being absent without leave or "behav[e]ing in an unbecom[e]ing manner at the ball last night." When Lewis did arrive, he was accompanied by a group of well-wishers from St. Louis who joined with those in St. Charles in giving the expedition a hearty send-off.
Three Forks, Montana: July 27, 1805 August 13, 2002
Sacagawea led the expedition to this site where three tributaries converge to form the Missouri River. Ironically, this was also the place where Sacagawea had been kidnapped five years earlier by the Hidatsa. The three rivers were given the names of Madison, Gallatin, and Jefferson. After some reconnaissance and much discussion, the two leaders decided that the Jefferson River was the most likely to lead directly to the Continental Divide.
Weippe Prairie, Idaho: September 20, 1805 August 18, 2002
It was in this region that Lewis and Clark first encountered the Nez Perce, a very helpful and hospitable tribe. The Indians came to the aid of the explorers, who were exhausted and malnourished after the long crossing through the Bitterroot Mountains.
Wood River Camp, Illinois: December 1803 - May 14, 1804 February 9, 2002
The Corps of Discovery expedition established Wood River Camp (also called Fort Dubois) where the Wood River of Illinois joins the Mississippi. Here, men were trained, supplies were gathered, and the expedition was organized. On May 14, 1804, the expedition began its long trip to the Pacific Ocean from this site, first traveling down the Mississippi for a short distance, and then heading northwest up the Missouri.