Lewis and Clark

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led the Lewis and Clark Expedition through the uncharted American interior to the Pacific Northwest in 1804–06. The Expedition lasted three years. Lewis served as the field scientist, chronicling botanical, zoological, meteorological, geographic and ethnographic information.

Work for Jefferson

Lewis was President Jefferson's private secretary. Jefferson asked Lewis to lead an expedition into the lands west of the Mississippi to gather information about the plants, animals, and peoples of the region. Lewis jumped at the chance and asked his friend William Clark to join him as co-commander of the expedition.

The Expedition Begins

Lewis, Clark, and the expedition party began their journey in Missouri, in May 1804. The group—the Corps of Discovery—faced many hardships. They braved dangerous waters and harsh weather and endured hunger, illness, injury, and fatigue. Along the way, Lewis kept a detailed journal and collected samples of plants and animals he encountered. Lewis and his expedition received assistance in their mission from many of the native peoples they met. The Mandans provided them with supplies during their first winter. It was during this time that the expedition picked up two new members, Sacagawea and Touissant Charbonneau. The two acted as interpreters for the expedition.

Reaching the Pacific

The Corps of Discovery reached the Pacific Ocean in November of 1805. They spent the winter in present-day Oregon. On the return trip Lewis and Clark split up to explore and look for a faster route home. The two groups joined up again at the Missouri River and completed the trek together. In total, the expedition traveled roughly 8,000 miles,

Tragic End

Lewis died on October 12, 1809, on his way to Washington, D.C. Lewis helped change the face of the United States by exploring uncharted territory—the American West. His work inspired many others to follow in his footsteps and created great interest in the region. Lewis also advanced scientific knowledge. Through his careful work numerous discoveries of previously unknown plants and animals were made.

Source: Lewis and Clark
© 2017, A&E Television Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Back to top