The Basics

Lewis and Clark

Most of the extraordinary story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition occurred in what is now the state of Montana.

The Journey West

The Lewis & Clark Expedition left St. Louis in 1804, heading up the Missouri River to explore the unknown Western Territory, calling themselves the Corps of Discovery. The Corp was traveling upstream, moving up to 25 miles a day when the winds and weather permitted. They had already experienced many trials and tribulations throughout their travels through Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota and into Montana.

When the Corps of Discovery was nearing the spot where the Missouri and the Yellowstone come together, they were forced to stop for several days due to high wind. The group knew they were close to the Yellowstone River, and on April 25, 1805, Meriwether Lewis led a group by foot to the mouth of the Yellowstone to explore the territory that lay ahead. The small group spent the night on the riverbanks and then headed back to meet the others, and the group completed the journey to the Yellowstone the next day.

This was the first time they reached the Yellowstone River, yet the group continued their journey up the Missouri, leaving the exploration of the Yellowstone for their return route. More miles were traveled through Montana by Lewis & Clark, than any other state. This is due to the fact that the group split up, Clark traveling through Bozeman Pass and following the Yellowstone River, while Lewis returned on the Missouri and explored the Marias River.

The Return Trip

On July 3, 1806, on their return, Lewis & Clark decided to split up the group, just south of today's city of Missoula. Clark's team, including Sacajawea and her baby Jean Baptiste, proceeded down the Yellowstone, past Pompey's Pillar, and spent the night of July 27 at Castle Rock by today's Forsyth. The next day they passed Rosebud Creek, spotted numerous herds of Elk, and spent the night of July 29, 1806, on an island just across from the Tongue River by Miles City. Clark observed the abundance of coal in the surrounding hills. On July 30, the group passed through a difficult stretch of river and went by Makoshika State Park. The night of July 31 was spent by present-day Glendive where they reportedly experienced problems with mosquitoes, grizzly bears and spotted numerous bison. They traveled huge distances of up to 60 miles a day during this time until they once again returned to the Missouri River on August 4, 1806, where they met up with Lewis and his party.

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