Independence Creek

Engraved drawing of a Kaw Village showing rounded buildings and thatched roofs. Two figures are visi
This engraving, based on a description from Jesuit priest and missionary Pierre Jean de Smet.

John Warner Barber, illustration in "The Loyal West I nteh Times of the Rebellion," 1865.

Quick Facts
The Lewis and Clark Expedition camped here, near a Kanza village, on July 4, 1804, the first Independence Day on the journey.
Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Parking - Auto, Trailhead

On July 4, 1804, members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition camped near what they named Independence Creek in honor of the holiday.  

William Clark described the area as “one of the most butifull Plains, I ever Saw, open & butifully diversified with hills & vallies all presenting themselves to the river covered with grass and a few scattering trees.” 

Kanza people had lived in this region for thousands of years. They resided in semi-permanent villages, usually located along rivers. Winter months were spent in their villages, and they spent the summers hunting and gathering food. Large hunting parties would journey out over the grasslands in search of bison and other game. Women foraged for edible plants on the fertile plains. They cultivated corn, beans, squash, and watermelon in gardens along the river.  

For generations, a large Kanza village existed near where Independence Creek meets the Missouri River. The village, with some 1,500 residents, consisted of nearly 150 lodges. It was large enough that Frenchman Étienne Veniard de Bourgmont documented it in on his map in 1724.  

When Lewis and Clark arrived in July 1804, they found the village empty and mistakenly assumed that Kanza people had abandoned it. But Kanza families actually lived in communities along Independence Creek as late as 1811.  

Where were they? 

Out on a summer bison hunt.  

Lewis and Clark’s lack of understanding of Indigenous lifeways led them to incorrectly assume that Kanza people were a part of the past.  

That wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true today. Kanza people today are members of the Kaw Nation in Oklahoma.

Lewis and Clark NHT Visitor Centers and Museums

Visitor Centers (shown in orange), High Potential Historic Sites (shown in black), and Pivotal Places (shown in green) along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail

Last updated: December 13, 2023