Lewis and Clark Expedition
When the Lewis and Clark Expedition set out from St. Charles, Missouri in 1804 to find a possible water route connecting the Missouri and Columbia rivers, no one was quite sure if they’d succeed or even make it to the far off Pacific. The expedition, also commonly referred to as the Corps of Discovery Expedition, journeyed across rivers and mountains, established diplomatic relations with Native American tribes and mapped great portions of what would eventually become the western and central United States. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s expedition had a profound impact on American history, and because of its historical importance, many cyclists in recent years have begun retracing the expedition’s steps, starting in St. Louis and journeying all the way to the Pacific. Bicycle Adventure offers a unique tour that follows portions of the expedition’s path. Thankfully, much of the route is now completely paved and maintained, so cyclists can easily follow in Lewis and Clark’s footsteps, but in a much more comfortable fashion. Here’s some info on the tour:
Why did the expedition matter?
When President Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory from France, the U.S. swiftly acquired vast swaths of land that were almost entirely unmapped and unexplored. Jefferson chose Meriwether Lewis, his personal secretary (who was also a talented outdoorsman), to lead an expedition that would map this newfound land. Starting near St. Louis, Missouri, the expedition would journey across the country with the intent of reaching the distant Pacific Ocean. Ideally, Jefferson wanted to find a water route that might connect the Missouri and Columbia rivers, but more importantly, the expedition was to begin mapping the newly acquired region, in order to lay the groundwork for future expansion.
Lewis chose William Clark, a draftsman and frontiersman, to join him on the journey—Clark was eventually named co-commanding captain too. The expedition took two long years, and there were a great number of hardships along the way. While the expedition didn’t find a direct water route connecting the two rivers—the Rocky Mountains ended up being a bit of an issue—they did eventually reach the Pacific. Because of Lewis and Clark’s discoveries and mapping efforts across what’s now the central and western United States, future expansion into these regions became possible, laying the future foundations for the growth of our nation.
Lewis & Clark Cycling Tour
Bicycle Adventures’ Lewis and Clark Tour is actually a series of tours that can be done one at a time over a period of seasons, or back-to-back to experience the full journey. Should you decide to join one or all of them, you won’t be disappointed. This is one of those rare chances where you actually get to experience history firsthand in a truly personal fashion. The journey beings in St. Louis, and for seven days you can ride along the expedition’s path, including along a portion of the Katy Trail (considered one of the best car-free bike paths in the nation). Much of the trail is paved and maintained, but you’ll still be clocking some serious miles: we’re talking 60 miles per day.
Then, you’ll stop in Omaha, Nebraska before continuing on for the second segment of the journey, a six-day route that winds north toward Pierre, South Dakota. Interestingly, you’ll be riding through a great deal of grasslands and prairie at this point, so expect to see herds of buffalo and bison as you cruise along! Once you reach Pierre, you’ll begin segment 3. This seven-day journey heads even further north towards Williston, North Dakota. Though still dominated by prairie, this region has seen a growth in population due to the fracking boom, so this is a wonderful opportunity to see how the state has evolved and developed since the Lewis and Clark expedition. Segment 4 is a six-day adventure from Williston – averaging a tough 85 miles per day – all the way to Great Falls, Montana. Montana (then part of the Louisiana Purchase) offered Lewis and Clark expedition members their first glimpses of the majestic Rocky Mountains, and as you pedal along the range, you can easily imagine just how daunting those mountains must have seemed to the famed explorers.
You’ll ride through remote gorges, explore tiny towns and beautiful old-west historical sites. The 2015 series of tours officially ends once you reach Great Falls, but 2016 will introduce the final two segments of the tour taking you from Great Falls to journey’s end at Fort Clatsop, Oregon. If you don’t want to wait for next year, you can continue on your own towards the Pacific. If you plan on focusing on the tour, you’ll see that accommodations are included and additional details (such as those concerning meals and what not) are covered here on the Lewis and Clark tour page. It’s a tough trip, but it’s definitely worth it, and you’ll remember it for the rest of your life.