The Lewis and Clark Expedition
By Glen and Phasen

In May 1803 the purchase of the Louisiana Territory was finished and Thomas Jefferson wanted to find out all about this land. Lewis and Clark went all the way from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean and back to St. Louis, Missouri. It was dangerous country with deserts, mountains, and unknown animals, plants and Native Americans. The President wanted Lewis and Clark to get friendly with the Indians so that trade could be started.

William Clark was a happy man who talked a lot. He loved nature and the outdoors. He was a friendly man who loved to be around people. He was from Virginia like his partner Meriwether Lewis. He had been a soldier, knew how to draw maps and was 34 years old when he set out on his journey in 1804.

Meriwether Lewis was very different from William Clark but the two men got along and were good partners. Lewis was quiet and shy. He liked being in the wilderness. He loved science and was a smart man, but did not always seem friendly around other people.

Lewis and Clark went up the Missouri River on a 55-foot boat and two smaller canoes. There were about 40 men in their exploration team. They made maps as they went. They drew illustrations of the plants and animals they discovered, and wrote about the people they met. They hunted for food like buffalo, deer, and elk. They saw mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and western woodpeckers. They dug up bones of a dinosaur that was 45-feet long. Native Americans taught them how to use some of the 200 plants they found for medicines and foods.

They traveled to North Dakota and built a camp. There they met an Indian woman named Sacajawea who was 16 and married to a Frenchman. She was about to have a baby and when the baby was born she named him Jean Baptiste after his father.

When Lewis and Clark set out in the spring, they hired Sacajawea’s husband to be a translator for them because he knew the Indian languages. Sacajawea came along with her baby and she turned out to be very helpful, introducing Lewis and Clark to many Native Americans. They followed the Missouri River to its source and then the group went on horseback through the Rocky Mountains.

Lewis and Clark followed the Snake and Columbia Rivers. In 1805 they finally got to the Pacific Ocean. The next spring they started back. They reached St. Louis in September 1806 after traveling around 8,000 miles. They gave President Jefferson a report of their trip. It gave Jefferson very much information about the new territory and gave the United States a claim to the Oregon Country.

 

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