Fort Canby (now known as Cape Disappointment) bears the distinction as the state’s first military installation. Constructed in 1852 to guard the mouth of the Columbia River, it was part of the defensive triad that included Fort Columbia and Fort Stevens (located on the Oregon side of the river.) The confluence of the Columbia and the Pacific Ocean was a historically significant destination that attracted Native peoples, European explorers, and the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition. This state park preserves some scattered remnants of the fortification, the oldest functioning lighthouse in the state built in 1856 (Cape Disappointment Lighthouse), and North Head Lighthouse. One of the park’s significant attractions is the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center that is sited on the bluffs overlooking the merging waters of river and ocean. It was near this point on November 7, 1805, that Lewis and Clark first glimpsed the Pacific Ocean.
Fort Canby State Park is located on the Washington side of the Columbia River, two miles southwest of Ilwaco off US Hwy. 101.
Eager to return to the United States after their long journey, Lewis and Clark were forced to wait nearly six agonizing weeks (from May 14 to June 10, 1806) for snow in the mountains along the Lolo Trail to melt. During this time, many of the Nez Perce visited the expedition, and Lewis takes full advantage by making many notes on their manners and customs. He also administers medicine to many of the sick members of the tribe, who were brought to him for help. Finally, on the 10th of June, the expedition departs Long Camp. Their first stop on the way home is the quawmash fields where they intended to acquire as much meat as possible before attempting to re-cross the Bitterroot Mountains.
The Lewis and Clark Long Camp is marked by interpretive signs along U.S. Highway 12, 1 mile east of Kamiah. The campsite itself is located two miles distant on the Clearwater River on privately owned land.
If the trek from St. Louis to the Mandan villages, against the current was difficult for Lewis and Clark, the portage around the Great Falls of the Missouri was next to impossible. The Great Falls are a stretch of the Missouri River where the channel drops some 400 feet over 10 miles. In order to circumvent this obstacle, the men of the Corps of Discovery would have to haul all of their belongings piecemeal over an 18 mile land trail. It took the men eight trips and roughly thirty days of intense physical labor to get all of their equipment past the falls. The captains had anticipated the portage would take only a week. Today, the falls have been modified by dams that generate hydroelectric power for the city of Great Falls. Portions of the portage route are visible from the Giant Springs side of the River. In addition to the portage route, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center is located in a bluff overlooking the Missouri River. The Interpretive Center features exhibits on Lewis and Clark as well as specifics regarding the portage around the Great Falls.
The Great Falls of the Missouri are subsumed within the town of Great Falls. From U.S. 87/89, follow the 10th Avenue exit.
Lemhi Pass is located along the Continental Divide, at 7,323 feet above sea level. It was here in 1805 that Lewis and Clark passed out of the boundaries of the Louisiana Purchase Territory. They also got their first glimpse of the headwaters of the Columbia River, that would carry them to the Pacific Ocean. Today, the Lemhi Pass area remains much as it did when Lewis and Clark were in the area. Development has been kept to a minimum, and as a result, plant and animal life are abundant. Signs and markers interpret the activities of Lewis and Clark during the summer months.
Location Map and Directions.
After Lewis and Clark held council with members of the Otoe and Missouri Nations, high on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River, Clark noted that the site was “well calculated for a tradeing establishment”. Based upon this recommendation, Fort Atkinson, the first military post west of the Mississippi, was constructed by the Yellowstone Expedition in 1819. The fort was originally named Camp Council Bluff, as it was built adjacent to the site of Lewis and Clark’s council. The name was eventually changed to Fort Atkinson, in honor of Colonel Henry Atkinson, commander of the Yellowstone Expedition. Fort Atkinson was in use from 1820 to 1827, and housed a garrison of 1,000 men. The garrison protected the western fur trade as well as overland traffic along the Platte River Valley. Fort Atkinson was the starting point for many of the early expeditions to the southwest and such settlements of Taos and Santa Fe. Fort Atkinson was abandoned in 1827 as southern trails grew in importance. After abandonment, Fort Atkinson succumbed to the need for farmland, and was destroyed. Local preservationists came to the aid of the fort in 1963 when the land was purchased and a restoration drive began. Today, after many donations, Fort Atkinson has been reconstructed, including the stone blockhouse and north, south and west walls which include the barracks. Bastions at the northwest and southeast corners have also been reconstructed.
Blockhouse at Ft. Atkinson taken by Steve Parrish
Location information and directions.
Links: Fort Atkinson
Living within the valley of the Missouri River, the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara nations were among the most powerful tribes of the northern plains. The Three Affiliated Tribes lived in large, consolidated villages consisting of earth lodges that housed between ten and thirty people each. Villages were constructed on terraces and bluffs overlooking the Missouri River, and were frequently fortified with ditches and palisades. The Three Tribes Museum is devoted to the history and culture of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara, who where instrumental in the success of the Lewis and Clark expedition. The Corps of Discovery passed the winter of 1804-1805 among the Mandan. Had they not benefited from the knowledge, material culture and food stores of the Mandan, the Corps of Discovery would likely have perished during the bitter cold that characterizes winter on the northern plains. Opening in 1964, the Three Tribes Museum is located on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, where the Arikara, Mandan and Hidatsa currently reside. The museum features artwork, crafts, artifacts and other items relating to the three tribes.
Location map and directions.
Links: Three Tribes Museum
The first American soldier to die west of the Mississippi, Sergeant Floyd died as the Lewis and Clark expedition passed present day Sioux City, Iowa. His passing is best described by the following passage from the journals of Lewis and Clark. “…20th August Monday 1804… I am Dull & heavy been up the greater part of last night with Sergt. Floyd, who is as bad as he can be to live… We set out under a jental Breeze from the S.E… We came to make a warm bath for Sergt. Floyd hoping it would brace him a little, before we get him into his bath he expired, with a great deel of composure…We buried him to the top of a high round hill overlooking the river & Countrey for a great distance situated just below a small river, the Bluffs Sergts. Floyds Bluff… we buried him with all the honors of War, and fixed a Ceeder post at his head with his name title and day of the month & year…we returned to the boat & proceeded to the Mouth of the little river 30 yd wide & camped a beautiful evening…” Today the cedar post has been replaced by a 100 foot high stone obelisk on the spot of Sgt. Floyd’s grave, the first historic landmark recognized by the United States government.
Location Map and Directions
Links: Lewis and Clark Trail
Thomas Jefferson recorded what he considered to be his greatest
achievements on his tombstone: ” “Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, Author of
the Declaration of Independence of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom
and Father of the University of Virginia.” With respects to the great man, he
may have neglected at least one of his enduring legacies: the territorial
expansion of the United States. Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, and the Lewis
and Clark expedition that he sent out to explore it, more than doubled the size
of the United States and brought the country’s territorial claims to the Pacific
Ocean. Jefferson National Expansion Memorial commemorates the Louisiana Purchase
and the Lewis and Clark expedition in the city from which the explorers set out.
The memorial consists of the Gateway Arch, the Museum of Westward Expansion, and
St. Louis’ Old Courthouse. The arch is 630 feet of stainless steel from which
you can get a magnificent view of the Mississippi River and the St. Louis area.
For those of you afraid of heights (OK, we talking to ourselves here), it sways
only one inch in a 20-mph wind, and is built to sway up to 18 inches. The Museum
of Westward Expansion, located below the Arch, is as large as a football field
and contains an extensive collection of artifacts, mounted animal specimens, an
authentic American Indian tipi, and an overview of the Lewis and Clark
expedition. Just two blocks west of the Arch, the Old Courthouse is one of the
oldest buildings in St. Louis, dating from1839. The courthouse was the site of
the first two trials in the notorious Dred Scott case, which were held in 1847
and 1850. Today, the building houses a museum charting the history of the city
of St. Louis and restored courtrooms.
Location Map and Directions: Click Here
Links: Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Homepage