The Lewis and Clark Trail is a United States National Historic Trail commemorating the journey of the 1804-1806 Corps of Discovery expedition that explored the U.S.A.'s newly acquired Louisiana Purchase and beyond. Part of the reason for the expedition was political; the American government wanted to assert its claim to the Oregon Territory which both Britain and Spain also claimed.
Starting in Illinois, the route follows the Missouri River to the headwaters in the Rocky Mountains, then over the Continental Divide. From there it follows the Clearwater, Snake and Columbia Rivers to the Pacific Ocean near Fort Clatsop Oregon. The expedition paved the way for the wave of colonization known as the "Wild West", and the parallel Oregon Trail.
- See also: Early United States history
The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, a trail of approximately three thousand seven hundred miles, extending from Wood River, Illinois, to the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon, following the outbound and inbound routes of the Lewis and Clark Expedition was created by Congress in the National Scenic and National Historic Trails law (16 U.S.C. 1244(a)). Today's Lewis and Clark NHT is the joint effort of many organizations and agencies. Although the Trail is administered by the NPS, sites along the Trail are managed by federal land management agencies, state, local, tribal, and private organizations.
North Dakota, like many other states along the Missouri, has designated a "Lewis and Clark Trail" following the river on both sides. Also common to these states is the naming of the state highways running alongside the rivers; 1804 on the east side and 1806 on the west. In North Dakota the 1804/1806 signage can be spotty, but the "Lewis and Clark Trail" signs are always there.
There are other places as well to experience Lewis and Clark's journey. In Billings, Montana, Pompey's Pillar Rock is a national monument featuring William Clark's signature on an unusually large rock along the Yellowstone River. A new interpretive center and museum opened in July 2005. Tours and viewing opportunities out of Billings of Pompey's Pillar Rock are available to the public by the Whoopah Ride.
You'll see the Cottonwood forests of the Missouri Valley, and depending on how close you stay to the river, you'll come across plenty of interesting things.
Notable Places along the East Bank
Notable Places along the West Bank
- Cross Ranch State Park near Stanton
- Lake Sakakawea State Park near the Garrison Dam
River crossings are located at
- Buford, on State Highway 58.
- Williston, on US 85 southwest of town.
- New Town, on State Highway 23 west of town.
- Garrison Dam, on State Highway 200.
- Washburn, on State Highway 200A.
- and of course Bismarck/Mandan.
Amtrak's Empire Builder follows part of the route in North Dakota and Montana. The National Park Service seasonally provides interpreters aboard the Empire Builder who explain Lewis and Clark's trip. The Portland branch of the Empire Builder follows their route on the Columbia River for several hundred more miles.
It is possible to retrace most of the route the same way Lewis and Clark did--by boat--on the Missouri and Columbia Rivers.
- 2 Gateway Arch National Park (formerly Jefferson National Expansion Memorial), 11 North 4th St, St. Louis, ☏ .
- 3 National Frontier Trails Museum, 318 W Pacific, Independence, ☏ .
- The Lewis and Clark Boathouse and Nature Center, Bishop's Landing, 1050 Riverside Drive, St Charles, MO 63301, ☏ .
- Frontier Army Museum, 100 Reynolds Ave,Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027, ☏ .
- 4 Lewis and Clark State Park, Route 1, Box 104, Onawa, IA 51040, ☏ .
- Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, 900 Larsen Road, Sioux City, IA 51102, ☏ .
- Missouri River Basin Lewis & Clark Interpretive Trails & Visitors Center, 100 Valmont Drive, Nebraska City, NE 68410, ☏ .
- Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Headquarters and Visitor Center, 601 Riverfront Drive, Omaha, NE 68102, ☏ .
- Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center, St. Joseph’s Indian School, 1301 N. Main Street, Chamberlain, SD 57325, toll-free: .
- 5 Spirit Mound Historic Prairie, 31148 SD Hwy 19, Vermillion, ☏ , ✉ NewtonHills@state.sd.us. Spirit Mound Historic Prairie is a state park featuring a prominent hill on the Great Plains. The Plains Indians of the region considered Spirit Mound the home of dangerous spirits or little people; members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition climbed it on August 25, 1804. free.
- 6 Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, PO Box 9, County Road 37, Stanton, ND 58571, ☏ .
- 7 Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site, RR3 Box 71, Williston, ND 58801, ☏ .
- 8 Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Box 7, Medora, ND 58645, ☏ .
- 9 Fort Mandan North Dakota Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, PO Box 607, Washburn, ND 58577, ☏ .
- 10 Pompeys Pillar National Historic Landmark, Pompeys Pillar, MT 59105 (near Billings), ☏ . Home to Clark's signature carved in a rock, the only remaining physical evidence of Lewis and Clark's journey.
- Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center, 4201 Giant Springs Road, Great Falls, MT 59403, ☏ .
- 11 Missouri Headwaters State Park, 1400 South 19th Ave., Bozeman, MT 59792, ☏ .
- 12 Traveler's Rest State Park, Lolo, MT (1/2 mile west of downtown Lolo on Highway 12 West).
- Lolo Pass Visitor's Center, US Highway 12 at the Idaho - Montana Border.
- Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural and Education Center, 200 Main Street, Salmon, ID 83467, ☏ .
- Northwest Passage National Scenic Byway, Lewiston, Idaho.
- 13 Fort Walla Walla Museum, 755 Myra Road, Walla Walla, WA 99362, ☏ .
- Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, PO Box 488, Ilwaco, WA 98624, ☏ .
- 14 Sacajawea Interpretive Center, 2503 Sacajawea Park Road, Pasco, WA. 99301, ☏ .