Lewis & Clark Expedition Center...
Sep 24, 2014
|Today's post covers a recent day trip to visit the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center & Fort Mandan, located about 35 miles north of Bismarck. It was a beautiful day, great weather & warm temps. We packed a lunch & decided to take onyx as well since we weren't sure what time we'd get home. When we first talked about going to this center I started thinking about what I actually knew about Lewis & Clark. I have to admit that when I was in school, history & geography were about the last two things on my mind!!!! So, other than knowing that they were explorer's & important to our history, I really couldn't tell you much. I was 'willing' to go because Larry really wanted to but I wasn't 'excited', lol! Well, I have to tell you, I really enjoyed learning about the history in this area & look forward to learning more as we continue along the Lewis & Clark Trail in the next couple of weeks! So, on to the tour...
The North Dakota Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center provides an overview of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, with special emphasis on the time spent at Fort Mandan during the winter of 1804- 1805. The exhibits focus on the interaction between the explorers and the native peoples. Greeting visitors at the front entrance of the Interpretive Center, stand three 12-foot tall steel statues depicting Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and Mandan Chief Sheheke.
The spirit behind the opening of the American West was the president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. For twenty years Jefferson had thought about finding a water route to the Pacific Ocean, and establishing an American presence west of the United States. That the West was foreign country didn't bother Jefferson; his initial efforts occurred while Louisiana belonged to Spain. Indeed, Jefferson named Meriwether Lewis commander of the expedition, and set about preparing him for his duties, long before the opportunity to purchase Louisiana Territory came along.
The consummation of that deal in May of 1803 meant only that the expedition would remain on American soil until it crossed the Rocky Mountains. By early 1803 Lewis was in Philadelphia. He took crash courses in medicine, botany, zoology, and celestial observation. He studied maps and journals of traders and trappers who had already reached as far up the Missouri River as the Mandan villages in North Dakota. By the time he left Washington he knew as much about the West, and what to do when he got there, as any man in America. The President authorized Lewis to select a co-commander, and in June of 1803 Lewis offered the position to a 33-year-old ex-army lieutenant from Kentucky, William Clark. Clark brought complementary abilities to the transcontinental venture. He was a skilled riverman, a superlative geographer, and a first-rate map maker.
In exploring this wild, unknown area, Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark gave the newly formed country a vivid portrait of lands ripe for settlement, accounts of curative values of plants, sketches of animals never before seen by white men, maps of vast uncharted territory, and epics of drama and courage. On September 23, 1806, the expedition would come to its close back in St. Louis, Missouri, after a voyage lasting two years, four months, and ten days.....
It's October 1804, the first signs of winter are already appearing in the upper Missouri River valley as members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition make camp. They begin to prepare for the impending cold and snow which finds them 1,380 river miles from St. Louis and civilization. Commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, the Expedition must halt its attempt to find and map a water route to the Pacific Ocean. Expedition members now begin a seven month battle for survival in a land few outsiders have seen.
The task begins with visits to nearby Indian villages and establishment of friendly relations with the Mandan Indians. Quickly, Captain Meriwether Lewis and William Clark put the Expedition to work erecting a fort, named Fort Mandan in honor of the local Indian tribe, which will serve as their winter home. In April 1805, the Expedition continues its trek up the Missouri River under the guide services of the Indian wife of a fur trader, thus enters the Indian woman, Sakakawea, into American history books. (I didn't misspell Sakakawea, some think this is the correct spelling!)
The Lewis and Clark Expedition's winter home was located about 14 miles west of the county seat of Washburn. Their presence marked the first arrival of white men to the area in any numbers. The historical significance of the establishment of Fort Mandan is documented in American history books. So, that will be our second stop today & tomorrow's post subject. See you there!
P.S. If we've stirred a bit of interest in you about this expedition & these two amazing men, you can learn everything you ever wanted to know at this VERY informative website. Enjoy! Lewis & Clark