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Discover Mid-America —May 2004


The development of our nation took a giant leap forward in 1804 when the Lewis and Clark Expedition left its winter quarters in Illinois and camped in St. Charles, Missouri, before pushing off on its 1,600-mile journey up the Missouri River. The Corps of Discovery, as the Expedition was called, would make a perilous and difficult journey through uncharted lands to the Pacific Ocean, dispelling the notion of the “passage to the Orient,” informing the young country of its wonders, and stirring the passions of future settlers.

Although the Bicentennial of the Expedition began last year, the major commemorations begin in earnest in May 2004, marking the 200th anniversary of the Expedition’s departure from its winter quarters, the final preparations in St. Charles, and the journey upriver. A continuous series of riverside community celebrations will be held along the Missouri River during the summer months. Other events will be held in 2006, commemorating the Expedition’s triumphant return to St. Louis.

Museums and historical sites throughout Mid-America will exhibit artifacts relating to the Expedition. The Missouri Historical Society in St. Louis is currently featuring hundreds of rare and priceless items in its ongoing exhibit, “Lewis and Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition.”

Lewis & Clark events kick off in Illinois

Between Nov. 11 and 13, 1803, Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, accompanied by 20 men, arrived at Fort Massac, then in Illinois Territory, near present-day Metropolis. They used the fort as a recruitment and supply post for their planned Corps of Discovery expedition the following year.

The Lewis & Clark State Historic Site in Hartford, Ill. Photo Ken Weyand.

They then moved upriver to Cahokia, where they were invited to set up a winter camp 25 miles north on what was at that time known as River Dubois (now Wood River). On Dec. 12, 1803, they established Camp River Dubois with 40 men, and remained there until their departure on May 14, 1804.

During the winter, the Corps spent time drilling, target practicing, and acquiring expedition supplies. It has been written that the winter encampment was also used for weeding out the men who proved unsuited for the rigors of the expedition, and recruiting others to take their place.

This year’s bicentennial activities begin May 13-16 in Hartford and surrounding communities. A mobile exhibit, Corps II, will be on display May 10-15 at the Lewis & Clark State Historic Site in Hartford. Live demonstrations, lectures, cultural presentations, audio-visual showings and dramatic presentations will be featured.

A “20th Anniversary Launch” will be made at 4 p.m. Friday, May 14 at the Great Rivers Confluence in Hartford.

A cutaway replica of the keelboat used in the Lewis & Clark Expedition, on display at the Lewis & Clark State Historic Site in Hartford, Ill. Photo Ken Weyand.

Visitors can tour several historical sites in the area, including Cahokia Courthouse Historical Site, built in 1740; the Holy Family Parish Church in Cahokia, where Lewis and Clark worshipped while at the River Dubois encampment; Jarrot Mansion in Cahokia, built in 1810 and the oldest brick structure in the state; the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site in Hartford, the largest heritage site east of the Rocky Mountains. Featured is a film, several displays and exhibits, and a cutaway, full-scale replica of the keelboat. Admission is free.

Commemorating the Expedition in St. Charles, MO

The Corps of Discovery stopped for five days in St. Charles, then a busy village of 400 French-Canadians, on May 14, 1804, the first day of the expedition. The layover in St. Charles gave the captains time to complete their provisioning for the expedition and finalize business arrangements.

Keelboat and Re-enactors. Photo by Jim Sturm, Discovery Expedition of St. Charles, Mo.

May 14, 2004 marks the beginning of the 25th Annual Lewis and Clark Heritage Festival in St. Charles. It also marks the first of the national commemoration events in Missouri. The city, located just west of St. Louis, is one of 14 communities from Charlottesville, VA, to Astoria, OR, to be designated as a National Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Signature Event.

On May 15, a replica of the Corps of Discovery keelboat will arrive in St. Charles from Camp River Dubois in Illinois, coinciding with the same event in 1804. The arrival of the keelboat, manned by the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles, Missouri, kicks off more than a week of commemorative events. The keelboat and pirogues will be on display throughout the event. Crew members will be available to talk to visitors as they prepare for their westward journey. More than 25 fife and drum corps and military drill teams representing the period will perform on weekends. According to event promoters, this will be the largest fife and drum muster west of the Mississippi. (See “Traveling with Ken” in this issue for more on the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles and the Lewis & Clark Boat House and Nature Center, which serves as their headquarters.)

A focal point of the event will be an authentic reenactment of the Lewis & Clark encampment. Reconstructed buildings and interpreters in period dress represent St. Charles in 1804. Foods, crafts, a Native American encampment, and horse and carriage parades will be featured.

On May 23, 2004, the community will bid farewell tothe keelboat and pirogues as the 2004 Discovery Expedition reenactors head upriver. For more information, visit the website at

The commemoration  heads upriver

Lewis and Clark army expedition re-enactors on the banks of Independence Creek where it empties into the Missouri River near Acheson, Kan. Photo by Bill Stephens, courtesy of Kansas Lewis & Clark Bicentennial.

As the keelboat replica and the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles reenactors push up the Missouri to commemorate the original Expedition, other towns on the route go into action. By the time they leave St. Charles, one town will have already begun the commemoration. Hartsburg, a village on the Katy Trail north of Jefferson City, plans Relive the Journey: Lewis and Clark Festival, the weekend of May 1-2. Featured will be re-enactors, crafts, black powder shoots, Native American storytellers, and more. For details call (573) 657-9581.

The Missouri events:

Washington plans Rendezvous at the Riverfront May 22-26. Living history reenactors, Native-American exhibits, a frontier village and interpretive exhibits will be featured. Highlight of the week will be the arrival of the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles reenacators on May 24. For details, visit

New Haven will host the New Haven Riverfront Festival May 26-27. The event is a street festival with food and craft booths, a wine garden, costume contest, kids’ activities, and Lewis and Clark campfire. Reenactors from the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles will participate. For details call (573) 237-2300 or visit

Hermann will commemorate the Bicentennial with Passage to Destiny May 22-29.  Featured will be living history demonstrations, crafts, period foods and art exhibits with a Lewis & Clark theme.  Reenactors from the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles will arrive May 27.  The event takes place at Riverfront Park.  For details visit

Two commemorative encampments will take place in the Jefferson City area.  The first, the Cupboard Creek Encampment, May 28-30, is sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America Great Rivers Council, and will be held at the Ike Skelton Training Site, Missouri National Guard Headquarters, in Jefferson City.  It is open to the general public on May 29.  Events that day will include the Fort Riley Mounted Cavalry Honor Guard performances with saber and pistols, and Pony Express Council Tribe of Mic-O-Say dance presentations.  For details call (573) 449-2561, ext. 201, or visit

The second encampment will be the Turkey Creek Encampment, held June 1-3 at Noren Access in Jefferson City.  The Discovery Expedition of St. Charles will be on hand for the Bicentennial event that includes artisans, reenactors and 1800s displays.  Activities are part of a larger area commemoration that will include the National Park Service Corps of Discovery II traveling exhibit June 1-6.  For details call (573) 634-6582 or visit

Lewis & Clark in the Park, a Bicentennial event, will be held June 3 in Flat Branch Park, Columbia.  The “Discovery String Band” will perform, along with Native American dancers.  For details call (573) 442-6816 or visit

Huntsdale will hold the first annual Huntsdale Lewis and Clark River Festival June 5-6.  For details call (573) 443-1426 or (573) 881-4450.

June 7-12: Powers Museum in Carthage will present Heartland Chautauqua: Changed Lives, Lewis & Clark Meet the West.  Lectures and demonstrations will be presented in Carthage and around Jasper County.  For details call 417-358-2667 or visit

Back on the river, on June 16 Waverly will present Discover Lewis and Clark in 2004.  Featured will be an encampment by Discovery Expedition of St. Charles, Missouri River communities outpost, frontier village, primitive flintknapping, dugout canoe exhibit by Missouri Department of Conservation, taxidermy display, Sacagawea Chautauqua, trapper reenactment, gospel and bluegrass music, children’s mural, period games, artists, food booths and Lewis and Clark play.  For details call 660-493-2314.

June 17-18: Lexington will present Lewis and Clark at the Riverfront.  Featured will be living history demonstrators and artisans, encampments, demonstrations of period cooking, gardening and crafts, oral histories by Native American historians.  For details call 660-259-4711.

June 18-22: Fort Osage in Sibley will present a Commemoration of Lewis and Clark Bicentennial.  The National Park Service will exhibit its traveling display, Corps II, including the “Tent of Many Voices.”  Interpreters with the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles will exhibit the keelboat and pirogue replicas.  Other interpreters within the fort will demonstrate frontier life in the early 1800s.  For details call (816) 795-8200, ext. 126 or visit

June 25-26: Sugar Creek will present Lewis and Clark Festival on the River with reenactments, traditional music, and educational displays.  Discovery Expedition of St. Charles will display keelboat and pirogues.  Featured will be interpreters in period dress, period crafts and musters.  For details call (816) 252-4413, ext. 302 or visit

“A Journey Fourth” to celebrate the 1804 Independence Day

The weekend of July 3-4, 2004 will be doubly special in Kansas City, Missouri, and Leavenworth and Atchison, Kansas.  Not only does it mark the Independence of the nation, it marks the 200th anniversary of the first Independence Day celebration by the Corps of Discovery.  Heart of America: A Journey Fourth is a National Signature Event designated by the National Council of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial.

Lewis and Clark’s fireworks consisted of two blasts from the keelboat’s cannon near present-day Atchison, KS.  The explorers also named two creeks: Fourth of July 1804 Creek and Independence Creek, both flowing through today’s town.

Events for July 3-4, 2004 include a reenactment of the “First Fourth” at Independence Creek in Atchison.  Large projection screens will broadcast the event throughout the area.  Visitors will enjoy Journey Fourth parade, a “Dined on Corn” ceremony and public feast, band performances, special encampments and reenactments.  Riverboat cruises, Chautauquas, and a city-wide  antique flag display will be included in the event schedule.

Special displays will be featured at the Frontier Army Museum at Fort Leavenworth.  There will also be a “Salute to the Union” cannon ceremony at the Fort.

In Kansas City, an air show will be held at Charles B. Wheeler Airport.  Featured will be a military jet team and aerobatic performance, along with static displays of historic and contemporary military and general aviation aircraft.  At Richard L. Berkley Riverfront Park, a celebration will include food, fun and music.

Simultaneous fireworks displays will occur in the three cities.  Multi-voiced readings of the Declaration of Independence will be given.  A series of symposiums will examine independence from the perspectives of the diverse members of the Corps of Discovery.

For more information, visit or call (800) 858-1749.

Three weeks of events

Lewis and Clark expedition re-enactors looking towards the timber-covered river bottom at Fort Leavenworth. Photo by Bill Stephens, courtesy of Kansas Lewis & Clark Bicentennial.

Other communities along the Missouri River from the Kansas City area to the Nebraska border will commemorate the Lewis & Clark Expedition from June 22 through July 11.  For details on the following events, visit

The official kickoff of A Journey Fourth will be held at Fort Osage in Sibley, MO, east of Kansas City.  On hand for the festivities will be a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers interpretive group.  A $3.6 million education center will be dedicated.

In Independence, MO, the Truman Presidential Museum & Library will host a special exhibit, “Beyond Lewis & Clark: American Exploration in the Years Following the Corps of Discovery.”  Another exhibit will be on display at the National Frontier Trails Center.  A Lewis and Clark Trails Breakfast will be held June 5 at the Bingham-Waggoner Estate, with wagon rides offered.

Activities in Kansas City, MO include Missouri on Brush Creek, a re-creation of the Corps’ Missouri River route with family activities, emphasizing nature and history  Other events include a Native Ameican Film Festival, an opera of Lewis & Clark at the Lyric Opera; Artrain USA, a traveling art museum on a train featuring contemporary Native American art, and other historic exhibits at Union Station.  The Kansas City Singers will perform “Chasing Destiny: The Journey of Lewis and Clark” on May 21-23, 28-31 at the Just Off Broadway Theater, 3051 Central.

Open ceremonies featuring flags and representative of Native American tribes, Spain, France, U.S. the state of Kansas and the city of Kansas City will be held in Kansas City, KS.  There will be a Kaw Point commemorative ceremony, including Kaw Point, an original play about the court martial at this site.

A Lewis & Clark mural will be dedicated in Liberty, MO during the city’s 175th birthday celebration.

The Northland Symphony will give performances with dance interpretations of the expedition at Park Hill South High School in Riverside, MO.

A writing symposium will be offered at Park University in Parkville, MO.  There will be a dramatic presentation in English Landing Park.

In Leavenworth and Fort Leavenworth, KS, there will be Riverfront Festival celebrating the 150th Birthday of the First City of Kansas, a French encampment, a meeting of Kanza tribal leaders, and Artrain USA, a traveling art museum featuring contemporary Native American art.

Weston, MO, will host Lewis & Clark Tradin’ Days, a two-day commemoration June 26-27.  A Bicentennial 5/10k run/walk will be held June 26.

Atchison, KS, will host a Lewis and Clark exhibit at the Atchison County Historical Society Museum.  There will be a photo exhibit of the Lewis & Clark Trail at the Muchnic Art Gallery.  Guided tours of Lewis and Clark sites will be offered, along with a display of patriotic-themed quilts.  Artrain USA will be on exhibit.  The activities will also celebrate Atchison’s 150th Birthday.

St. Joseph, MO, will feature “Taste of Lewis & Clark” and special exhibits at St. Joseph Museum, a medical exhibit of the Expedition at the Glore Psychiatric Museum, a special Trails West! Festival, a Sacred Hills encampment, a military exhibit at the National Military Heritage Museum, and a Newfoundland Dog Show, honoring Seaman, the dog that accompanied the Expedition.

White Cloud and Highland, KS, will feature Native American Heritage Museum exhibits and a July 4th commemorative event.

For updated listings of events, dates and times, and other information, contact the following:

Heart of America: A Journey Fourth at or call (800) 858-1749; Kansas Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Commission at or call (913) 367-8412; Missouri Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Commission at or call (573) 751-8361; Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation at or call (888) 701-4343; National Council of the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial at or call (888) 999-1803; Kansas Travel and Tourism Development Division at or call (800) 2KANSAS, or Missouri Division of Tourism at or call (800) 810-5500.

Nebraska and Iowa

Bicentennial commemorations in Nebraska include a Corps of Discovery Festival, July 30 to Aug. 3, at the Fort Atchison State Historical Park near Fort Calhoun, NE.  For details call 402-468-5611 or visit

A commemoration of the first tribal council will be held July 31-Aug. 3 at Elmwood Park in Omaha. July 30-Aug. 1 marks an All Nations Commemoration and Powwow at Memorial Park in Omaha. Visit for details.

Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, IA, contains a full-size floating replica of the Corps of Discovery keelboat, along with interpretive displays. For details, call (712) 423-2829.

Discover Mid-America founder and Senior Contributing Editor Ken Weyand files regular reports on notable Midwest destinations. He can be reached at

> Discover Mid-America Archive — Past cover stories

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