Sunday, October 24, 2010 Partly sunny until midafternoon, then cloudy, 77 degrees
Our plans for the past two days centered around the Wood River Museum's days and hours of operation: Wednesday through Sunday, 9-4:30. Imagine our surprise/disappointment/dismay when we made a mad dash for Wood River, IL, today and found it closed. Fortunately we met a bus driver who was on his way to work. He gave us information for three other sites that were related to the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
The first stop was a fort constructed by local people who enjoy reenacting history. They had built a replica of Camp DuBois, Lewis and Clark's first winter camp. Today they were holding a "rendezvous." They spent the night sleeping in the cabins and tents and cooked their meals over campfires or in the fireplaces. When we arrived, however, the participants were dressed in Revolutionary era garb, filming a commercial for Patriot beer. Not quite what we were looking for. We made a quick tour of the grounds and left. Strike one.
Still looking for an authentic L&C experience, we stopped at the Confluence of the Rivers Tower. It is what its name states. Although L&C are portrayed on the entry walls, it is a tower from which the confluence of the Missouri, Mississippi, Wood, and other rivers can be seen. Strike two. But we did get directions to the Lewis and Clark State Park. Home run.
We watched the requisite film about Camp DuBois. Between December 12, 1803 and May 14, 1804 preparations were made at this camp for the Corps of Discovery's Expedition into the Louisiana Purchase. Much of this time Lewis was actually in Cahokia, Kaskaskia, and St. Louis acquiring the provisions the Corps would need for their lengthy trip: food, tools, clothing, bedding, medicines, scientific equipment, boats, weapons and ammunition, gifts for the Indians, tenting material, whiskey, tobacco, etc. He studied known plants and animals so he would be able to identify new species. He also studied the use of transits, compasses, etc., to aid the surveying of the new territory.
Meanwhile Clark was training the men who had been recruited for the Corps. Some were soldiers, but others were frontiersmen. He spent those months forming them into a a disciplined, cohesive unit, and training them in military protocol and procedures. They also built pirogues to carry their supplies upriver. Finally on May, 14, 1804, the expedition began their two and a half year journey into the unknown.
Much of the information in the museum is from the logs of both Lewis and Clark. They fulfilled the assignments given them by President Thomas Jefferson. They identified many new plants and animals; surveyed and mapped new territory, its mountains and rivers; identified and made contact with 50+ Indian tribes. They were unable, however, to find a waterway to connect the Missouri and Columbia Rivers. Their findings opened the new territory to fur trappers who developed commerce through trading. This in turn led to pioneers moving west for new farming opportunities, religious freedom, and to seek riches during the Gold Rush.
On this trip we visited all three of the winter camps of the Corps of Discovery: Camp DuBois, Fort Mandan, and Fort Clapsot. We gained a new appreciation of the importance of their expedition. We learned a lot, but at the park today we found out that there are 53 Lewis and Clark related sites across the west. Looks like we've only scratched the surface.
TODAY'S ROUTE: from Concordia, MO, I 70E to Exit 3 in IL; then IL 3N to Wood River; next IL 255S to I 70E; finally I 64E to Exit 25 north of Evansville, IN