The bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition will be celebrated all along their route from 2003 to 2006. The famous explorers were commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson in 1803 to explore the upper regions of the Missouri River and determine if there was a possible water route through North America to the Pacific Ocean. They were charged with mapping the area they explored, making detailed notes on the flora and fauna of the region, and establishing friendly relations with the native peoples they encountered.
After recruiting frontiersmen to help carry out the mission, the "Corp of Discovery" set off up the Missouri River in May of 1804 with three boats. It took nearly six weeks of poling and pulling the boats against the river current before they reached present-day Jackson County. They camped for several nights in this region, beginning with a location believed to be across the river from where William Clark later built Fort Osage in 1808. Other camps included a site above Missouri City, one in the vicinity of Sugar Creek, and three nights at the point where the Kansas River flows into the Missouri. At the latter place, they hunted, made repairs, and took disciplinary action against two of their men.
Their trip on to the Pacific was grueling, full of adventure, dangerous— and enormously successful. They reached the Pacific Ocean in November of 1805, one and a half years after their start up the Missouri River. After wintering in present-day Oregon, they retraced most of their route arriving back in Missouri in September of 1806. They camped just once in Jackson County on their return, sped by the river current and their eagerness to return home.
Lewis and Clark left a rich legacy in many ways, but primarily it awoke and excited America's imagination as to the opportunities and riches to be found in the West. In only a few decades after their remarkable feat, America's "manifest destiny" was reached and settlements and organized states stretched from ocean to ocean.
We recommend visiting these regional sites to follow in the footsteps of the Corp of Discovery, and to learn more about their journey:
Sibley, MO (816-503-4860) Partial reconstruction of the fort and Indian trading post William Clark built on the site after the expedition in 1808. Across the river from one of Lewis and Clark campsites, the fort has costumed interpreters and an excellent view of the Missouri River.
318 W. Pacific St., Independence, MO (816-325-7575) "Blazing the Way West: From Lewis and Clark to Fur Trappers and Traders" exhibit highlights the Corp of Discovery expedition and the explorers who followed them. Other exhibits focus on the Santa Fe, Oregon and California Trails.
Above the extinct town of Wayne City. North of Kentucky Road on River Road in Independence, MO. (Maps to the overlook are available at the National Frontier Trails Museum.) The riverboat landing at Wayne City, also known as the Independence Landing, was where thousands of emigrants left steamboats to embark on the Oregon and California Trails, and where commercial goods were unloaded for shipping down the Santa Fe Trail.
4750 Troost Avenue, Kansas City, MO (816-759-7300) Excellent learning center for children and adults. Features include a half-size replica of Lewis and Clark’s keelboat.
Case Park, Eighth and Jefferson Streets, in downtown Kansas City, MO. (Maps to the park are available at the National Frontier Trails Museum.) The heroic-sized bronze statue depicts Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, Sacagawea and baby, Clark's slave York, and the dog, Seaman. Situated on the peak of a bluff, the park has an excellent view of the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers