History & Culture

  • statue of native woman with baby on her back

    People

    Learn about the many people involved in the 1803-1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition.

  • Teepee frame stands in grassy plains.

    Places

    Learn more about the many historic places along the 4,900 mile Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

  • painting of two many jumping off a cliff to escape a pursuing grizzly bear.

    Stories

    How did the expedition survive their three year journey? What were the near misses? Who did they meet. Read on to learn more.

 

About the Lewis and Clark Expedition

The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail commemorates the 1803 to 1806 Corps of Discovery, which departed Pittsburgh, traced the Missouri River, crossed the Rocky Mountains, and proceeded on to the Pacific Ocean. This epic journey contributed to significant scientific knowledge and profound political, social, economic, cultural, and environmental changes to the lands and the peoples of the North American continent. While the Lewis and Clark Expedition is remembered as a heroic feat leading to the prosperous growth of a young nation, it was also a watershed moment that set forth untold loss to same the Tribes who helped the expedition survive.

The Corps of Discovery, diverse in their cultures, experiences, and skills, explored vast lands and participated in diplomatic encounters with Native nations. They traded with, learned from, and depended on friendly relations with more than 50 Tribes throughout the course of the journey. The American Indians who encountered the expedition had been living on the land for thousands of years and had complex societal, political, economic, and spiritual structures in place. The Native people shared their food, knowledge, and skills with the Corps of Discovery, aid that was essential to the expedition's survival.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition is more than the story of two men. It is the story of many: individuals and groups, military men and scientists, a president and an enslaved man, women and men, French-speaking boatmen and American Indians. It is a story of loss and hope. It is a story of changes that began in 1803 and that continue today.

Today the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail works with partner sites across the country to provide opportunities for the public to learn about the expedition and its legacy from multiple perspectives. Learn more about some of these stories by visiting People and Places.

 
Man in early 1800s replica clothing, stands on a riverfront pavilion addressing a crowd. He wears a buckskin jacket and a necklace of bear claws.
Hasan Davis, living history actor and activist, portraying York. York was an outdoorsman, the first African American credited with crossing North America, and an enslaved man.

Photo: Historic Trails Chautauqua

Fast Facts

  • Route: Pittsburgh, PA to the Pacific Ocean and back
  • Crosses: Territories of more than 60 Tribes
  • Duration: About three years, between 1803 and 1806.
  • Captains: Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
  • Crew: More than thirty people of diverse backgrounds were part of the Corps of Discovery, including a Native woman and her child, an enslaved Black man, enlisted U.S. Army men, hired engagés, and translators.
  • Mission: to find an all water route to the Pacific Ocean
  • Most of the 4,900 mile Lewis and Clark Trail follows rivers
 

Last updated: August 12, 2022

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