Journals of Lewis and Clark

Trails Illustrated Map1 - Clark/Buffalo

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Go to Park Details
In 1804 -1806, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to lead an expedition on an epic journey to explore the headwaters of the Missouri River and find an overland route to the Pacific Ocean by way of the Columbia River. The "Corps of Discovery" departed Camp DuBois near Wood River, Illinois, on May 14, 1804, and proceeded up the Missouri River using a keelboat and two "pirogues." After several councils with the Indian Tribes on the lower Missouri River, and the unfortunate death of Sergeant Floyd near present Sioux City, Iowa, the party reached the Knife River Indian Villages, near present Washburn, North Dakota. There they built Fort Mandan and spent a productive winter gathering information about the Indian Tribes and the lands to the west. They also recruited as interpreters, the Frenchman Toussaint Charbonneau and his Shoshoni wife, Sacagawea. In the spring of 1805, the permanent party continued up the Missouri River in the pirogues and dugout canoes. After an arduous portage around the Great Falls of the Missouri, they reached the headwaters of that great river. Now on foot, the party encountered a band of Shoshoni Indians, coincidentally led by Sacagawea's brother Cameahwait. The Shoshoni assisted the expedition by providing horses and a guide to cross the rugged Bitteroot Mountains. After a difficult crossing on what is now known as the Lolo Trail, the party met the friendly Nez Perce Indians. They left their horses with the Indians and once again made canoes. Navigating down the Clearwater, Snake, and Columbia Rivers, the Corps of Discovery reached the Pacific Ocean in November 1805. The party built Fort Clatsop on the south side of the Columbia River near present Astoria, Oregon, where they spent a cold, rainy winter. In the spring and summer of 1806, the expedition made their way back across the mountains, explored several major rivers in present day Montana, and made their way back down the Missouri River to St. Louis, arriving on September 23, 1806.

Park Details

General Information

General Route

Following the Trail Today

Federal Lewis and Clark Sites

State and Local Lewis and Clark Sites

Travel and Tourism Information

Lewis and Clark Festivals

Information about the Lewis and Clark Trail

The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is administered by the National Park Service (NPS) in cooperation with federal, state, and local agencies, non-profit organizations, and private landowners. These cooperating interests manage existing retracement routes, recreation sites, interpretive facilities, and visitor centers along the route.

The NPS publishes and distributes a general information brochure and map of the trail. For a copy of the general brochure, or information about planning, coordination, and NPS administration and programs, contact Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, 700 Rayovac Drive, Suite 100, Madison, Wisconsin 53711. Telephone 608-264-5610, 8AM - 5PM Monday - Friday.

The NPS also publishes a semiannual Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Administrative Update with current information about trail activities. It is available on request from the address or telephone number listed above. For visitors wanting to follow extended portions of the trail, a guidebook is recommended.

Below is a selected list of federal, state, and local organizations that manage a specific site or segment along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Contact the NPS for a complete list. Information requests about particular sites or segments should be directed to these organizations. Several Lewis and Clark festivals and living history programs are presented during the summer months. Some of the most popular festivals are listed below.

The Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation is a nonprofit organization with a national membership dedicated to the preservation of the heritage of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The organization publishes a quarterly magazine, We Proceeded On, and holds an annual meeting at a Lewis and Clark site. The Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation is the primary volunteer organization that works with the NPS to help preserve and interpret the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Membership in the Foundation is open to the public. For information on volunteer projects to preserve and interpret the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, contact the NPS or Foundation at the addresses below.

or write: Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, PO Box 3434, Great Falls, Montana 59403.

National Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Council is a nonprofit organization associated with the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation. This organization of volunteers has a mission to help commemorate the Lewis and Clark heritage by planning and coordinating activities with many other state, federal, and tribal governments - and all interested individuals and organizations - during the Bicentennial years 2003 - 2006. For more information contact National Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Council or write : PO Box 9559, Seattle, Washington 98109-0550

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General Route

The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is approximately 3,700 miles long, begins near Wood River, Illinois, and passes through portions of Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

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Following the Lewis and Clark Trail Today

There are three ways to follow the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail today. Portions of Lewis and Clark's water route on the Missouri and Columbia Rivers and their tributaries can be retraced by boat. Commercial trips are available on some segments such as the Gates of the Mountains and the Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River. Both are in Montana. Some parts of Lewis and Clark's overland route are being developed for travel by horseback, foot, and bicycle. The Katy Trail State Park in Missouri is open to foot and bicycle travel. Portions of the Lolo Trail over the Bitteroot Mountains are open to horseback riding and hiking. Most people will want to follow portions of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail by vehicle. Motor routes that approximately follow the route of the historic expedition were marked by state agencies in the 1960's. Those routes are marked with a rectangular sign with the figures of Lewis and Clark. These highways connect a series of memorials, museums, visitor centers, interpretive exhibits, and historic sites along the trail. Much of the enjoyment of following the trail will come from visiting the sites that provide an opportunity to learn more about the expedition.

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Federal Lewis and Clark Trail Sites

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, 11 North 4th Street, St Louis, Missouri 63102.

Knife River Indian Villages NHS, PO Box 168, Stanton, North Dakota 58571.

Nez Perce National Historic Park, PO Box 93, Spalding, Idaho 83551.

Fort Clatsop National Memorial, Route 3, Box 604-FC, Astoria, Oregon 97103.

US Army Corps of Engineers, Lewis and Clark Lake, Box 710, Yankton South Dakota 57078; museum, Lewis and Clark Lake information.

Pompeys Pillar, Bureau of Land Management, 810 East Main Street, Billings, Montana 59105; visitor center open summer only.

Lewis & Clark National Forest, 1101 15th St North, Box 869, Great Falls, Montana 59403; information on the portage around the Great Falls, Interpretive Center opened summer 1998.

Clearwater National Forest, 12730 Highway 12, Orofino, Idaho 83544; a map of Lewis and Clark on the Lolo Trail and hiking trail information.

Lewis and Clark Back Country Byway, Bureau of Land Management, RR 2, Box 610, Salmon, Idaho 83467-9812; brochure and information on Lemhi County, Idaho.

Salmon - Challis National Forest, R.R. 2, Box 600, Salmon, Idaho 83467; a brochure of Lewis and Clark in Lemhi County, Idaho, and hiking trail information.

Lewis and Clark in the Rocky Mountains, Bitterroot National Forest, 1801 N. First Street, Hamilton, Montana 59804; information on many Lewis and Clark sites in the Rocky Mountains.

Upper Missouri National Scenic River, Bureau of Land Management, PO Box 1160, Airport Road, Lewiston, Montana 59457; water trail map and information.

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State and Local Lewis and Clark Trail Sites

Lewis and Clark State Memorial, Historic Sites Division, Old State Capitol, Springfield, Illinois 62701; Lewis and Clark memorial at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

Lewis and Clark Center, 701 Riverside Drive, St Charles, Missouri 63301; museum, book store, historic district.

Katy Trail State Park, Missouri Division of Parks Recreation, 205 Jefferson Street, Jefferson City, Missouri 65102; hiking and bicycling trail, Lewis and Clark interpretive exhibits.

Fort Atkinson State Historical Park, Ft Calhoun, Nebraska 68023; historic fort, and site of the first Lewis and Clark council with American Indians.

Lewis and Clark State Park, Route 1, Box 104, Onawa, Iowa 51040; replica keelboat, and the Lewis and Clark festival held each June.

Sergeant Floyd Monument and Welcome Center, 801 Fourth Street, Sioux City, Iowa 51102; information on Sergeant Floyd Monument and Lewis and Clark sites in Iowa.

Lewis and Clark Recreation Area, Yankton, South Dakota, 605-668-2985. Camping, boating, Lewis and Clark Museum at Gavins Point Dam.

North Dakota Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, PO Box 607, Washburn, North Dakota 58577-0607, telephone 701-462-8535; managed by the North Dakota Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Foundation; replica Fort Mandan; Open all year, 9AM - 7PM Memorial Day through Labor Day, 9AM - 5PM remainder of year; Interpretive displays and programs, Indian artifacts, art gallery, gift shop, and more.

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Association, Box 2848, Great Falls, Montana 59493; information on the Lewis and Clark festival held each July.

Missouri River Headwaters State Park, 1400 South 19th Ave., Bozeman, Montana 59792.

Fort Canby State Park , PO Box 488, Ilwaco, Washington 98624; excellent Lewis and Clark museum at the mouth of the Columbia River.

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Travel and Tourism

For information on camping, travel, and tourism facilities, contact:

Missouri Division of Tourism , 301 W. High Street, Jefferson City, Missouri 65101.

Kansas Division of Tourism, 120 West 10th Street, Topeka, Kansas 66612.

Sioux City Tourism Bureau , 801 Fourth St, PO Box 3184, Sioux City, Iowa 51102, for a map of Lewis and Clark sites in Iowa and Nebraska.

Iowa Division of Tourism, 200 East Grand Ave., Des Moines, Iowa 50309

Nebraska Division Of Tourism, 700 South 16th Street, PO Box 94666, Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4666.

South Dakota Department of Tourism, 711 East Wells Ave., Pierre, South Dakota 57501.

North Dakota Tourism Department, 604 East Boulevard Avenue, Bismark, North Dakota 58505, for a map of Lewis and Clark sites in North Dakota.

Montana Department of Tourism, PO Box 200533, Helena, Montana 59620-0533.

Idaho Division of Tourism, 700 West State Street, Boise, Idaho 83720

Washington Department of Tourism , 101 General Administration Building AX-13, Olympia, Washington 98504.

Oregon Tourism and Travel Information , 775 Summer St. NE, Salem, Oregon 97310.

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Lewis and Clark Festivals

Lewis and Clark Rendezvous, annually, third weekend in May, St. Charles, Missouri. For more infromation contact 314-947-3199.

Lewis and Clark Festival, annually, second weekend in June, Lewis and Clark State Park, Onawa, Iowa. For more information contact 712-423-2829.

Lewis and Clark Festival, annually, third weekend in June, Great Falls, Montana. For more information contact 406-761-4434.

White Catfish Camp, Lewis and Clark Festival, annually, third weekend in July, Council Bluffs, Iowa. For more information contact 402-444-4775.

Lewis and Clark Days, first weekend in June; Washburn, North Dakota; parade; buffalo barbecue; re-enactments; lectures; demonstrations, including Fort Mandan replica nearby. For more information contact : Kristie Frieze, Executive Director, Lewis and Clark North Dakota Bicentennial Foundation, PO Box 607, Washburn, ND 58577, 701-462-8535.

Lewis and Clark Historical Drama, annually in August, Thursday - Sunday, Seaside, Oregon. For more information contact 503-738-6391.

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