Corps of Discovery – the Lewis and Clark Expedition

In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned William Clark and Meriwether Lewis to lead an expedition into the newly acquired American West.  The group left the St. Louis area in the early summer of 1804 traveling on the Missouri River.  Lewis spent most of this early time on the shores studying the geologic formations and the environment around them.  Clark, meanwhile, stayed on-board the boat making maps of the area.  The only member of the group to die on the trip died on this leg of the journey of natural causes.

The group didn’t meet any Native Americans until the end of the summer.  The encounters were peaceable.  The Sioux tribe was the most difficult of the expedition to deal with.

While in camp during the winter of 1804/1805, Toussaint Charbonneau was hired to travel as an interpreter for the remainder of the trip.  His wife, Sacagawea, and small son would also join the trip.    It took a month, much longer than expected, for the group to get around the Great Falls of the Missouri River.  It was a series of falls instead of a single one as the leaders had expected.  The group was getting close to the Rocky Mountains.  To get to the Pacific, the expedition would have to cross the Continental Divide before getting to the Colombia River.  Once at the Colombia, the group would be able to travel the river to the Pacific Ocean.

The expedition reached its destination, the Pacific Ocean.  The “Corps of Discovery” as they were called failed to discover anything new.  Although they may have been the first white man to see the plants, animals, and landmarks, the Native Americans were very familiar with what Lewis and Clark found on their trip.



“From the Plains to the Pacific.” National Park Service – Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. (accessed November 6, 2013).

“National Geographic: Lewis & Clark—Journey Log.” National Geographic: Lewis & Clark—Journey Log. (accessed November 6, 2013).


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