It takes four hours to fly where it took Meriwether Lewis and George Rogers Clark nearly four years to journey from one end of the country to the other and back. They plotted the trip at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Virginia intending to reach the Pacific Ocean and return safely through the vast uncharted continent that would become the United States. There were no roads or railroads in 1804, only Native American footpaths and rivers to mark the route to the coast. Lewis and Clark were so amazed at what they saw along the way, their trip with Jefferson recommending the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the United States in one fell swoop.
Lewis and Clark devoted 1802 and 1803 to detailed preparation, constructing boats, collecting supplies, traversing rivers to St. Louis and finding guides willing to take them through the uncharted wilderness deep in the American continent. Lewis and Clark left St. Louis in May 1804 with 29 men, mostly Army officers and other military personnel. They made it to North Dakota in October 1804, spending more time in North Dakota than any other state on their journey. When they passed into North Dakota, they set up camp at Four Mile Creek and later traveling past the remains of On-A-Slant Village, abandoned after the smallpox epidemic of 1781. Since at that time, the territory of the Great Sioux Nation reached all the way to present day Wyoming, it is likely they met tribal leaders shortly after they crossed into the state. Above Bismarck, they continued up the Missouri River to what is now the Sakakawea Scenic Byway, named after the Native American guide who accompanied them on the trip. Reconstructed structures here are authentic replicas of the Native American villages and fur trading posts they encountered. Enjoy following in the footsteps of this incredible journey, which had a dramatic impact on the future of the United States.