Lewis and Clark: Can't Go Over It...

Lewis and Clark mapped many geographic and geologic features on their expedition. They drew a picture of most and labelled them with a name. Sometimes they phonetically spelled the Native American names as best they could. Some were named after the physical properties of the feature...such as Beaverhead Rock. And many were named to “honor” 19th century political figures or members of the Corps.

The Missouri Breaks reminded Meriwether Lewis of an ancient city. Despite appreciating the rugged beauty, the Corps also suffered from holes in their moccasins created by flint fragments found at the bottom of the white cliffs.

Photo of Moccasin

The Great Falls on the Missouri River was an incredible impediment for the Corp of Discovery. It took almost a month for the explorers to portage around this amazing group of five waterfalls.

Aerial Photo Great Falls

Lolo Hot Springs was visited both on the way west and back east. The springs provided a rare opportunity for a warm bath, but only on the return trip. They didn't have time to stop for a bath on the way to the Bitterroots. Today the hot springs bears no resemblance to the 19th century site.

Pompey’s Tower or Pillar was named after Toussaint Charbonneau and Sacagawea’s toddler son Jean-Baptist Charbonneau who had acquired the nickname “Pomp” or “Little Pomp”.

Pompey's Tower

Before crossing the Bitterroots, the Corps made camp at a place now called Traveler's Rest. Most of their time was spent hunting for food for the difficult mountain crossing. Traveler's Rest is the only archaeolgically verified campsite from the expedition. 

The Corps had to trek across the Bitterroot Mountains, a northern section of the Rockies, late in the season. It was a miserable journey which they just barely survived. They were probably too miserable from cold and fatigue to enjoy the breathtaking views.

As the very hungry Corps descended from the Bitterroot Mountains they spied grasslands of the Weippe Prairie. The prairie was named by the Nez Perce Indians—Weippe is their word for “very old place”.

Photo Weippe Prairie

Five different Cascade Range volcanos were seen by the Corps in the Northwest. Some of them were on a map given to them by explorer George Vancouver.

Celilo Falls in the Columbia River Gorge was a spectacular feature on the Willamette River and its history is quite controversial to the present day. Many people would like to see the Falls re-appear.

I’ve described just a handful of the thousands of geographic and geological sites described by the Expedition. It might be a fun project to map them and  several more from each state on the trail. When you look at photos of the Expeditions 's trail, you can easily see the enormous physical obstacles they overcame to accomplish the challenge they received from President Jefferson. 

 

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