The St. Joseph, Missouri area boasts a past sprinkled with fur traders, Native peoples, pioneers, successful merchants, notorious outlaws, and the legendary Pony Express. But with its proximity to the Missouri River, it’s also home to the Lewis and Clark story.
The men of the Corps reached today’s Buchanan County on July 4, 1804. That afternoon they passed the mouth of a small bayou which opened into a lake. Captain Clark wrote in his journal, “Saw great numbers of Goslings to day which Were nearly grown, the before mentioned Lake is clear and Contain great quantities of fish an Gees & Goslings, The great quantity of those fowl in this Lake induce me to Call it the Gosling Lake…” Today, visitors can camp at this lake, known as Lewis and Clark Lake, within Lewis and Clark State Park, about 20 miles south of the city. It’s great for fishing, boating, swimming or wildlife watching.
On their return trip in 1806, the men camped on St. Michael’s Prairie, the name given to the area around today’s St. Joseph, found on earlier traders’ maps. Here they met Robert McClellan who was taking a trading party upriver. He updated the Corps on what had been happening in the United States since they left two years earlier and that they people of the country “were beginning to be uneasy about us,” as Patrick Gass wrote in his journal.