Lewis and Clark Expedition Began (1804)

The most famous explorers of the American west are Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who traveled from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean and back during 1804-1806.  The story of their adventure is a foundation of American folklore.

Meriwether Lewis was an experienced soldier and frontiersman who also served as personal secretary to President Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson asked Lewis to undertake a journey across the west, to chronicle the natural history, draw maps and make peace with the Native Americans who lived in the region.  Lewis asked his former military leader, William Clark, to join him on the expedition as co-leader.  Clark was also a veteran frontiersman and a skilled draughtsman.  Together they gathered a crew of about 40 men and the necessary supplies to make the trip.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark

The group—known as the Corps of Discovery—set off on May 14, 1804, from Camp Wood, near St. Louis, Missouri.  They poled, paddled and pulled their boats up the Missouri River into present-day North Dakota, where they built Fort Mandan and stayed for the winter.  The next spring, they set off again up the Missouri, reaching the headwaters.  Their hope to find a water route that joined the Pacific with the Mississippi River failed, and they were guided across the mountains by Shoshone Indians.  Eventually reaching the Columbia River, they floated downstream to the Pacific Ocean, where they stayed during the winter of 1805.  The following spring, they made the return trip, completing their journey at St. Louis in September 1806.  The total journey covered approximately 8,000 miles.

Map of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804-1806.

Lewis and Clark contributed greatly to our understanding of the West.  They sent back descriptions and specimens of 178 plants and 122 animals previously undescribed by science, including the grizzly bear, prairie dog, pronghorn antelope, sagebrush, Douglas fir and ponderosa pine.  They drew remarkably detailed and accurate maps of the entire region, used as the standard maps until the 1840s.  They dealt peacefully with many Native American nations, and their success was in many ways tied to the help of those native peoples; the most famous of which was Sacagawea, who accompanied the expedition for much of the time.

References:

Buckley, Jay H.  2018.  Lewis and Clark Expedition.  Encyclopedia Britannica.  Available at:  https://www.britannica.com/event/Lewis-and-Clark-Expedition.  Accessed May 10, 2018.

Clark, Linda Darus.  Lewis & Clark Expedition (adaptation).  National Archives.  Available at:  https://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/lewis-clark.  Accessed May 10, 2018.

History. Com.  Lewis and Clark.  Available at:  https://www.history.com/topics/lewis-and-clark.  Accessed May 10, 2018.

This Month in Conservation

May 1
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May 2
“Peter and The Wolf” Premieres (1936)
May 3
Vagn Walfrid Ekman, Swedish Oceanographer, Born (1874)
May 4
Eugenie Clark, The Shark Lady, Born (1922)
May 5
Frederick Lincoln, Pioneer of Bird Banding, Born (1892)
May 6
Lassen Volcanic National Park Created (1907)
May 7
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May 8
David Attenborough Born (1926)
May 9
Thames River Embankments Completed (1874)
May 10
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May 11
“HMS Beagle” Launched (1820)
May 12
Farley Mowat, Author of “Never Cry Wolf,” Born (1921)
May 13
St. Lawrence Seaway Authorized (1954)
May 14
Lewis and Clark Expedition Began (1804)
May 15
Declaration of the Conservation Conference (1908)
May 16
Ramon Margalef, Pioneering Ecologist, Born (1919)
May 17
Australian BioBanking for Biodiversity Implemented (2010)
May 18
Mount St. Helens Erupts (1980)
May 19
Carl Akeley, Father of Modern Taxidermy, Born (1864)
May 20
European Maritime Day
May 21
Rio Grande Water-Sharing Convention Signed (1906)
May 22
International Day for Biological Diversity
May 23
President Carter Delivers Environmental Message to Congress (1977)
May 24
Bison Again Roam Free in Canada’s Grasslands National Park (2006)
May 25
Lacey Act Created (1900)
May 26
Last Model T Rolls Off the Assembly Line (1927)
May 27
A Day for the birds
May 27
Rachel Carson, Author of “Silent Spring,” Born (1907)
May 28
Sierra Club Founded (1892)
May 29
Stephen Forbes, Pioneering Ecologist, Born (1844)
May 30
Everglades National Park Created (1934)
May 31
The Johnstown Flood (1889)
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