During the summer of 1804, the river below looked very different. Unlike today course controlled by dams and dikes, the Missouri River that Lewis and Clark knew flowed wild and erratic. Strong currents, floating branches, embedded logs, submerged sandbars, and crumbling riverbanks formed imposing obstacles to the expedition.
A large keelboat and two smaller crafts, called pirogues, carried the explorers and their supplies. When conditions were favorable, the men raised sails to assist the keelboat up the river. But usually they rowed, poled, or towed them through dangerous currents, using back-breaking labor. Here, along the lower Missouri River, they averaged about 13 miles a day.
Legend accompanying the map on the lower right. Click on image to enlarge it.
1) July 11, 1804: Sixty days after leaving St. Louis, the expedition enters present-day Nebraska.
2) July 21, 1804: Some expedition members travel a short distance up the "Great River Platt."
3) July 30 - August 3, 1804: Lewis and Clark council with the Missouri and Oto tribes at "Council Bluff," north of present-day Omaha.
4) August 11, 1804: Expedition visits the grave of Blackbird, a former Omaha chief.
5)August 20, 1804: Sergeant Charles Floyd dies and is buried on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River.
6) August 25, 1804 Lewis and Clark visit "Hill of Little Devils" just north of present-day Vermillion, South Dakota.
7) August 30-31, 1804: Lewis and Clark council with a delegation of Sioux at "Calumet Bluff."
8) September 3-10, 1806: Canoeing down river two years later, the expedition travels through present-day Nebraska, arriving in St. Louis on September 23.