Lesson Plan

Lewis and Clark: Pre-visit activity


Lewis and Clark planned extensively prior to their departure. Men were recruited, boats built, food and supplies purchased. Many aspects of the trip were planned far in advance to ensure a smooth journey west.


Students who participate in these activities will be able to:
• List five items and/or supplies taken on the expedition
• Discuss the size of the keelboat used by the expedition
• Discuss skills and qualities required by expedition members
• Discuss the geography of the route followed by the expedition


In 1804, President Thomas Jefferson dispatched a small military detail to explore the newly-purchased Louisiana Territory. The detail, known as the Corps of Discovery, was led by Captain Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.

Jefferson's instructions to the Corps included mapping the region, exploring overland water routes, establishing favorable relationships with Plains Indians and recording previously unknown flora and fauna. Journals kept by Lewis, Clark and other expedition members form the primary record of people, places and things encountered during their two-year adventure.

The Lewis and Clark Exhibit at the Museum of Westward Expansion uses journal entries, living history items and images to tell the story of the Corps of Discovery. The following activity is designed to introduce students to the Corps and how they prepared for their journey of discovery.

Park Connections

The Museum of Westward Expansion below the Gateway Arch includes a Lewis and Clark exhibit featuring journal excerpts from expedition members, living history items, images of places along the trail, and a brief video introduction about the expedition. The museum also features one of the largest collections of peace medals in the United States.


Have students use the map on page 7 to answer the following questions:
• List the states formed out of the Louisiana Purchase.
• List the states formed out of what was once Spanish Territory.
• Trace the route taken by the Expedition. Label the rivers they followed on your map.
• What states did the expedition travel through?
• Along which ocean did they spend the winter of 1805-1806?
• If the expedition left Camp DuBois on May 14, 1804 and arrived back in St. Louis on
 September 23, 1806, how many days did the expedition last?

Additional Resources


Bohner, Charles. Bold Journey: West with Lewis and Clark. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985.
Bowen, Andy Russell. The Back of Beyond: A Story about Lewis and Clark. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books, Inc., 1997.
Brown, Marion Marsh. Sacagawea: Indian Interpreter to Lewis and Clark. Chicago: Children’s Press, 1988.
Cavan, Seamus. Lewis and Clark and the Route to the Pacific. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1991.
Fifer, Barbara. Going along with Lewis and Clark. Helena: American and World Geographic
Publishing/Montana Magazine, 2000.
Lourie, Peter. In the Path of Lewis and Clark. Parsippany, NJ: Silver Burdett Press, 1997.
O’Dell, Scott. Streams to the Rivers, Rivers to the Sea. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986.
Roop, Peter and Connie, Editors. Off the Map: Journals of Lewis and Clark. New York: Walker and Company, 1993.
Smith, Roland. The Captain’s Dog. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1999.
St. George, Judith. Sacagawea. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1997.

Older Students and Adults

Ambrose, Stephen E. Undaunted Courage. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.
Andrist, Ralph K. To the Pacific with Lewis and Clark. New York: Harper and Row, 1967.
Blumberg, Rhoda. The Incredible Journey of Lewis and Clark. New York: Beech Tree, 1995.
Duncan, Dayton and Ken Burns. Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery. New York: Knopf, 1997.
Edwards, Judith. Lewis and Clark’s Journey of Discovery in American History. Springfield, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 1999.
Moeller, Bill. Lewis and Clark: A Photographic Journey. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishers, 1999.
Schmidt, Thomas and Jeremy Schmidt. The Saga of Lewis and Clark into the Uncharted West. New York: DK Publishing, 1999.


Barter - to trade by exchanging one commodity for another
Buckskin – the skin or hide from the male deer
Columbia River - flows out of British Columbia, Canada southerly through the State of Washington and turns west at the Washington and Oregon border, at which point it travels to the Pacific
Communique´- an official communication
Continental divide - a ridge that separates streams which flow to opposite sides of the continent
Cordelling – a way of moving a boat upriver by pulling it with a rope
Expedition - a journey undertaken for a specific purpose or a group of people making such a journey
Fauna - the animals of a particular region
Flintlock – a firing mechanism on a musket or a rifle that uses flint and steel to make a spark which in turn makes it fire the round lead bullet
Fort – a place where soldiers live and work
Flora - the plants of a particular region
Keelboat - a shallow riverboat with a keel that is rowed, poled or towed. A keel is a longitudinal timber extending along the center of a hull to keep it from overturning
Moccasins – shoes made out of animal skin, usually from a buffalo, elk, or deer
Native – that which is or has to do with the place where one was born; characteristic of people living in a particular place.
Negotiations - to confer with another so as to arrive at the settlement of some matter
Northwest Passage - The name given to a northern water route believed to exist on the North American continent; this route was thought to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and would serve as a “shortcut” between Europe and the islands of the Far East. Such a route does not exist
Pirogue – a dugout canoe
Trade - the business of buying and selling commodities