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President Thomas Jefferson's inaugural address in 1801 described his vision of a rising nation, spread over a wide and fruitful land, advancing rapidly to destinies beyond the reach of a mortal eye. Jefferson dispatched US Army officers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to find the most direct and practicable water communication across the continent for the purpose of commerce even before completion of the Louisiana Purchase.

Under the command of Lewis and Clark, the Corps of Volunteers for Northwestern Discovery set off from Camp Wood River, Illinois, on May 14, 1804, after extensive training and preparations throughout 1803. Journals written along the way tell a riveting story. The expedition remains the epic American odyssey, a pivotal event in the history of this land. Struggling upriver, against the current of the mighty, untamed Missouri, the expedition reached the Indian trading center at Knife River and built Fort Mandan in time to spend the winter of 1804 with the native people from whom they learned much about the terra incognita to the west. In the spring of 1805, the party, now including Sacagawea, a teenage Indian woman; her husband / interpreter Touissant Charbonneau; their 2-month old son, Jean-Baptiste and Lewis' Newfoundland dog, Seaman left for the Western lands.

As the year 1805 progressed, the small band of voyagers stood astride the headwaters of the Missouri and crossed the Continental Divide. They survived grizzly bears, river portages, near starvation and the wild white-water of the Snake and Columbia rivers. Seven hard months after leaving Fort Mandan, they took their final steps and reached the wet and stormy Pacific Ocean.

The expedition wintered in Oregon, outside of present day Astoria. They called their winter quarters Fort Clatsop after the native tribe who befriended them and helped them through the rough winter of 1805 - 1806.



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