Posts Tagged ‘lewis and clark tours’

It’s Not Easy Being the First

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

No one can say this more than Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Their transcontinental expedition was filled with unpredictability, natural dangers, and Native communities who were not ready to have anyone move into their territory. The story itself, without any embellishment, is dramatic with equally intriguing characters including Thomas Jefferson, a young Shoshone woman named Sacagawea, and a team of men known as the Corps of Discovery who faced a landscape that had never been navigated or mapped.

Why had it taken until 1804 to even start exploring the Pacific Northwest? It was a project that Jefferson had been pondering while living in France in the 1780s, knowing it could lead to huge opportunities for the very young United States of America. He also heard talk that King Louis the XVI of France was interested in exploring the region. While the royal had officially proposed a scientific expedition, Jefferson felt the French King had a political mission in mind.

Knowing the expedition was extremely dangerous, President Jefferson provided peace medals to the Corps to introduce themselves to the various tribes they met along the way. But on the trail, it was Sacagawea and her infant son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, who slept wrapped on a cradleboard, that reassured the tribes that the group meant no harm.

Although Lewis and Clark are best known for laying the groundwork for westward expansion and creating the first maps of the region, their observations were also useful to scientists researching the natural wildlife that the Corps of Discovery encountered. Even though they were never intended to be a scientific expedition, their work helps us preserve the indigenous species and natural landscape of the early 19th century.

Explore the natural landscape as the Corps of Discovery would have seen it on the In the Wake of Lewis and Clark: Aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion tour. 

Do you think Lewis and Clark have received enough credit for their contribution to American history? Share Below.

 

Following Lewis and Clark

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Study Leader Junius Rochester, a native of the Pacific Northwest, has traveled and studied the Columbia Gorge, the Snake River, Alaska, and surrounding country for more than 40 years. Author of six books and numerous articles, he is delighted to share reflections from a day of our recent In the Wake of Lewis and Clark tour.

Crown Point stands 733 feet above the Columbia River in Oregon.

Today, our group traveled deep into Lewis & Clark country in the panhandle of Idaho. With balmy weather and first-rate guides, historians, and naturalists, our adventure revealed wildlife, dramatic basaltic walls, waterways that have served as nature’s highways for thousands of years, and backdrops for stories about Native cultures, geological wonders, and the opening of the West.

After boarding a motor coach with an expert local guide and historian, Lewis & Clark  devotees followed the foot and horse steps and Clearwater River routes of the Corps of Discovery along their 1805 (westward) and 1806 (eastward) paths. The Lewis & Clark  journey through Nez Perce country is a mixing of two worlds: the traditional Indian culture of Northern Idaho, the Bitterroot Mountains and western Plains (the Nez Perce or NeMeePoo people), and the bold, disciplined Euro-Americans who were following orders of President Thomas Jefferson to establish an American presence in the Pacific Northwest.

Our guide led the Lewis & Clark party to sites that matched the actual locations of the Corps as they struggled both directions on the trail. Story-telling was the modus operandi to describe exploits, mistakes, successes, privations, and experiments by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark as they virtually bushwhacked their way through unknown topography. The journals of the Corps and rough maps of Clark were used as milestones along this route. In fact, because of the extraordinary length of time – almost three months total both ways – the Corps spent in today’s Idaho Panhandle there are more Lewis & Clark sites in this rolling hill, or Palouse, country than anywhere else on their 3,000 mile trail.

Who’s your favorite explorer? Share below.

Follow Lewis & Clark for yourself. Click for details on Smithsonian Journeys’ 2014 tour.

There’s much more on Lewis & Clark in Smithsonian  magazine.