[graphic] NPS Arrowhead and link to NPS.gov [graphic] Lewis and Clark Expedition
[graphic] Expedition Home  [graphic] List of Sites  [graphic] Itineraries home
 [graphic] Maps  [graphic] Essays  [graphic] Learn More   [graphic] NR Home
[graphic] Property Title

[photo] Lemhi Pass, where several members of the Corps of Discovery were the first Americans to cross the Continental Divide
National Park Service photo, courtesy of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial National Historic Site

The National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, and Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, in conjunction with the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO), proudly invite you to discover the historic places of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. This expedition, which took place between 1804 and 1806, has been described as the greatest camping trip of all time, a voyage of high adventure, an exercise in manifest destiny which carried the American flag overland to the Pacific. It was all of this and more. This travel itinerary highlights 41 historic places listed in the National Register of Historic Places and associated with Lewis and Clark. Many of these places are also part of the National Park Service's Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

Lewis and Clark traveled more than 8,000 miles in less than two and one-half years, losing only one member of their party, at a total cost to the American taxpayer of $40,000. The significance of the Lewis and Clark Expedition was far reaching. It strengthened the United State's position in the struggle for control of North America, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. Lewis and Clark's trek also inspired explorers, trappers, traders, hunters, adventurers, prospectors, homesteaders, ranchers, soldiers, businessman and missionaries to move westward--spurring a century of rapid settlement which peopled the West with European-Americans and disrupted the cultures and lifestyles of countless American Indians. Lewis and Clark contributed to geographical knowledge by determining the true course of the Upper Missouri River and its major tributaries while William Clark produced maps of tremendous value to later explorers. They forever destroyed the dream of a Northwest Passage (a water route across the continent), but proved the success of overland travel to the Pacific. They made the first attempt at a systematic record of the meteorology of the West, and less successfully attempted to determine the latitude and longitude of significant geographical points. Through the Expedition's peaceful cooperation with the American Indian tribes they met, they compiled the first general survey of life and material culture of the tribes of the Missouri, Rocky Mountains and the Northwest coast. Lewis and Clark also made significant additions to the zoological and botanical knowledge of the continent, describing at least 120 mammals, birds, reptiles and fish, as well as almost 200 plant specimens. By any measure of scientific exploration, the Lewis and Clark Expedition was phenomenally successful in terms of accomplishing its stated goals, expanding human knowledge and spurring further curiosity and wonder about the vast American West.

Great Falls of the Missouri, one of the many natural challenges faced by the explorers

National Park Service photo, courtesy of Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

The expedition began on May 21, 1804, when the Corps of Discovery departed from St. Charles, Missouri, an event now commemorated by the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. The party crossed the Mississippi River, and headed up the Missouri. The Corps tried to maintain a pace of 14 to 20 miles a day, resting at places such as Fort Atkinson and Spirit Mound. They reached what is now North Dakota by October of 1804, and set up a winter camp, Fort Mandan, amidst the Knife River Indian Villages. It was here that a young Shoshone woman named Sacagawea, who proved to be an invaluable interpreter for the explorers, joined the Expedition with her husband and infant son. In the spring, the Corps of Discovery pushed westward through Montana country until they encountered the Great Falls of the Missouri, where they had to carry their boats over land for almost 20 miles. By mid-September, they were climbing the arduous Lolo Trail through the Bitterroot Mountains to Weippe Prairie, where they arrived exhausted, starving and much in need of the assistance offered by the friendly Nez Perce Indians. The Corps continued onward down the Clearwater, Snake and Columbia rivers and finally reached the Pacific Ocean in mid-November 1805. At the mouth of the Columbia, they built Fort Clatsop, and settled into winter quarters. They began the return trip March 23, 1806, and stayed again with the Nez Perce waiting for the winter snows to melt on the Lolo Trail. After stopping at Traveler's Rest, Lewis and Clark split the men into two groups in order to explore more of the territory. Lewis and three of the men headed north to explore the Marias River, during which the expedition suffered its only hostile encounter with American Indians at Two Medicine Fight Site. Clark's group generally retraced the outbound route to the Three Forks of the Missouri and then overland to the Yellowstone River, which they followed to its juncture with the Missouri River, where both groups reunited on August 12th. The explorers finally returned to St. Charles on September 23, 1806, and were greeted with much fanfare.

Painting by Historical Artist Ron Backer titled "Lewis and Clark's Spirit Mound"
Painting image courtesy of Ron Backer www.lewisandclarkhappenings.com

The Lewis and Clark Expedition offers several ways to discover the places that tell the story of the Corps of Discovery. Each highlighted site features a brief description of the place's historic significance, color photographs, and public accessibility information. At the bottom of each page the visitor will find a navigation bar containing links to six essays that explain more about Earlier Explorations, Preparing for the Journey, The Journey, American Indians, Scientific Encounters and The Trail Today. These essays provide historic background, or "contexts," for the places included in the itinerary. In the Learn More section, the itinerary links to regional and local web sites that provide visitors with information regarding special activities and cultural events taking place during the bicentennial celebration of the Expedition, as well as lodging and dining possibilities. The itinerary can be viewed online, or printed out if you plan to visit any of the places in this Lewis and Clark travel itinerary in person. Visitors may be intersted in Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, located near the places featured in this itinerary.

Created through a partnership between the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and NCSHPO, the Lewis and Clark Expedition is the latest example of a new and exciting cooperative project. As part of the Department of the Interior's strategy to promote public awareness of history and encourage tourists to visit historic places throughout the nation, the National Register of Historic Places is cooperating with communities, regions, and Heritage Areas throughout the United States to create online travel itineraries. Using places nominated by State, Federal and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the itineraries help potential visitors plan their next trip by highlighting the amazing diversity of this country's historic places and supplying accessibility information for each featured site. The Lewis and Clark Expedition is the 26th National Register travel itinerary successfully created through such partnerships. Additional itineraries will debut online in the future. The National Register of Historic Places hopes you enjoy this virtual travel itinerary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. If you have any comments or questions, please just click on the provided e-mail address, "comments or questions" located at the bottom of each page.

A Special Note about the Journal Citations:
Excerpts from the original journals of Lewis and Clark are included throughout the text of this itinerary. Sources for these journal excerpts are noted in parantheses directly after the citations. The full citation for these sources are found in the Bibliography on our Learn More page.

 [graphic] Earlier Exploration  [graphic] Scientific Encounters
 [graphic] Preparing for the Journey  [graphic] American Indians
 [graphic] The Journey  [graphic] The Trail Today

Expedition Home | List of Sites | Maps| Learn More | Itineraries | NR Home
Essays: Earlier Explorations | Preparing for the Journey | The Journey |
Scientific Encounters | American Indians | The Trail Today

Journal Citations
Comments or Questions