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Lewis and Clark

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Lewis and Clark Route

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By Cathy Riggs SalterPhotographs by Ira Block

A geographer maps the explorers' true path into the West—unsettling some towns' claims to fame.

Read or print the full article.

Jim Harlan wanted to make it perfectly clear: He didn't set out to start a border dispute. "All I wanted to do was create historically accurate maps of Lewis and Clark's outward and return trips across Missouri," Harlan told me, the exasperation apparent in his voice, as we stood on a high bluff near Rocheport, Missouri, looking out over a broad valley of the lower Missouri River. "And that's what I've done."

But Harlan's maps contain some surprises—including a visual demonstration that America's seminal voyage of exploration departed not from a site presently in Illinois, as some had thought, but from one now in Missouri. 

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New maps dispel some long-held beliefs about Lewis and Clark’s expedition. Why are historical revisions difficult for some people to accept? Voice your opinion.

In More to Explore the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

In May 1804 when Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out from Camp Dubois to explore the uncharted lands west of the Mississippi River, they were accompanied by 27 menand a dog. For 20 dollars Lewis had bought an "active, strong, docile" Newfoundland that he named Seaman. As the expedition paddled up the Missouri and plodded through the deep snows of the Rockies, Seaman remained Lewis's constant companion, hunting game and alerting the men to approaching grizzlies and buffalo. But the dog paid a price: He was bitten by a beaver, stolen briefly by Indians, and suffered near starvation during a hard winter in the mountains. On July 15, 1806, a little more than two years after the start of the expedition, Lewis mentioned Seaman in his journal for the last time. They were on the trip home from the Pacific and Lewis was complaining about the mosquitoes: "The musquetos [sic] continue to infest us in such manner that we can scarcely exist…. My dog even howls with the torture he experiences." Did Seaman suffer a fatal wound? Did he somehow get left behind? Did the Indians steal him again? What happened to Seaman remains a mystery.

Abby Tipton

Lewis and Clark @
Wild Rivers. Rugged mountains. An uncharted continent to explore. This legendary American expedition faced them all, and you can be a member of their team. 

Discovering Lewis and Clark
Interactive maps and journal entries let you follow the explorers' paths at this rich but complex site.

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Home Page
The National Park Service provides a wealth of information for those yearning to follow Lewis and Clark.

Lewis and Clark
From classroom activities to Indian perspectives to an interactive adventure, this companion site to the Ken Burns's documentary offers a comprehensive look at Lewis and Clark's journey.

Lewis and Clark in Missouri
Experience the wonders encountered by the Corps of Discovery as they traveled through Missouri when you take this virtual tour.


Ambrose, Stephen E. Undaunted Courage. Simon & Schuster, 1996.

Duncan, Dayton. The Journey of the Corps of Discovery: Lewis and Clark. Alfred A. Knopf, 1997.

Moulton, Gary E., ed. The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Vol. 2. Univeristy of Nebraska Press, 1986.

Schmidt, Thomas, and Jeremy Schmidt. The Saga of Lewis & Clark: Into the Uncharted West. Tehabi Books, 1999.

Van Zandt, Franklin K. Boundaries of the United States and the Several States. Survey Professional Paper 909. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1976.


"1803-1848: The PathfindersExploring The Far Frontiers," National Geographic (September 2000), map supplement.

McKelway, Margaret. "Into the Unknown: The Incredible Adventures of Lewis and Clark," National Geographic World (July 1999), 14-18.

Ambrose, Stephen E. Lewis & Clark: Voyage of Discovery. National Geographic Books, 1998.

Fisher, Ron. "Lewis and Clark, Naturalist-Explorers," National Geographic (October 1998), 76-93.

Schmidt, Thomas. National Geographic's Guide to the Lewis & Clark Trail. National Geographic Books, 1998.

Schanzer, Rosalyn. How We Crossed the West: The Adventures of Lewis & Clark. National Geographic Books, 1997.

Snyder, Gerald S. In the Footsteps of Lewis and Clark, National Geographic Books, 1970.

Everhart, William C. "So Long, St. Louis, We're Heading West," National Geographic (November 1965), 642-669.

Gray, Ralph. "Following the Trail of Lewis and Clark: In a Station Wagon Loaded to the Axles, an American Family Traces the Nation's Oldest Path to the Pacific," National Geographic (June 1953), 707-750.

Freeman, Lewis R. "Trailing History Down the Big Muddy: In the Homeward Wake of Lewis and Clark, a Folding Steel Skiff Bears Its Lone Pilot on a 2,000-Mile Cruise on the Yellowstone-Missouri," National Geographic (July 1928), 73-120.

Mitchell, John H. "Oregon: Its History, Geography, and Resources," National Geographic (April 1895), 239-284.


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