From 1804 to 1806, Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and a corps of 42 hearty souls trekked 8,000 miles roundtrip through a country that was mostly unknown to the young nation's citizens and even its own government. Envisioned by U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, the expedition sought to explore the Missouri River and locate a northwest passage to the Pacific Ocean. The group was charged with thoroughly examining the geography, geology, ethnology, botany, and wildlife of the recently purchased Louisiana Territory and establishing good relationships with American Indians.
Today, Lewis and Clark's expedition is commemorated along the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail. Stretching through 11 states, over mountaintops, along roaring rivers, through native prairies, and along the Pacific coast, the diverse landscapes that make up the trail tell larger stories of the American narrative, such as foreign affairs, domestic issues, gender and race questions, and American Indian sovereignty.
In the last century, many of the places Lewis and Clark visited on their journey westward have been recognized for their significance to the collective heritage of the United States. As we celebrate the bicentennial anniversary on September 23, 2006, we encourage you to create your own journey of discovery. Take a hike or bike along the trail, kayak on the Missouri River, or watch reenactments of the historic journey at a bicentennial event in St. Louis this month.