Lewis and Clark in Clarksville, Indiana

statue of two men shaking hands

Photo:  The statue outside the Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center which commemorates the meeting of the two Captains.  The importance of this event was best summarized by historian and author Stephen E. Ambrose who wrote, “When they shook hands, the Le

On Wednesday, August 31, 1803, Meriwether Lewis and his small party shoved off from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to begin the first phase of the Expedition. It took Meriwether Lewis 44 days to travel down the Ohio from Pittsburgh to Clarksville, Indiana Territory. But when the keelboat and pirogue reached the Falls of the Ohio, which separates Clarksville from Louisville, Kentucky, he was undoubtedly anxious. It had been many years since he had last seen William Clark, but when they shook hands near the Falls a new bond of friendship and teamwork would be formed.

The history of Clarksville goes back to 1778, when George Rogers Clark, William’s older brother, established a post on an island at the Falls of the Ohio during the American Revolution. At this post, Clark trained a regiment of 175 men for defense of the area. After the war, George Rogers Clark was given approximately 150,000 acres as a thanks for his service in the war. Clark set aside 1,000 acres of his tract for the development of a community. During this same time, a stockade was constructed, and settlement of the area was underway.

Lewis and Clark remained in the area for about two weeks, recruiting and enlisting members of the Corps, purchasing additional supplies, and preparing for the journey west.

The area where Lewis and Clark took off from is now Falls of the Ohio State Park, located on a Devonian fossil bed and part of a National Wildlife Conservation Area. The Devonian period occurred from 416 million to 358 million years ago, and when the Ohio River is not at flood stage, there is a large exposed fossil bed on the Jeffersonville Limestone bedrock, which you can actually walk upon to see the prehistoric fossils.

Within the park is the Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center where you’ll enjoy exhibits that explain the area’s history, focusing on how this river crossroads shaped the America we know today, including the story of Lewis and Clark. Just a short hike downstream, you’ll find the Clarksville Bicentennial Park which has several information signs, a replica keelboat, and an early 19th century cabin similar to that of George Rogers Clark, where William lived prior to the Expedition. For more information, go to

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail

Last updated: August 31, 2020