Missouri Traverse Region

The Lewis and Clark Trail’s Missouri Traverse Region

Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa

As the expedition set out from St. Louis, the Corps of Discovery first experienced the states we now call the LCNHT Missouri Traverse- Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, and Iowa. Much has changed since Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery ended their expedition in 1806, but the cultural richness of the region remains the same. With many nooks to be discovered, the destinations along the Missouri Traverse region holds treasures for all ages. Whether you are seeking outdoor fun, delicious cuisine, local wine, sporting events, historic sites, festivals, or other family-friendly activities, the Missouri Traverse has its own unique charm for visitors to fall in love with.

Illinois 

The state of Illinois is no longer the grassy prairie lands that Lewis and Clark once explored during their expedition. Literally described as “the middle of everything,” Illinois has been considered the meeting point of America throughout its history, pushing it to become the vibrant, diverse state it is today. Discover why visitors from all walks of life visit the Land of Lincoln and the Windy City.Chicago, Illinois city street

Destination Highlights

  • Shawnee National Forest and Starved Rock State Park offer unforgettable views for the avid recreationist among the winding trails, rivers, and lakes of Illinois. As if incredible views weren’t enough, these destinations offer activities for the whole family! Starved Rock State Park encourages guests of all ages to participate in boring, river cruises, and trails. If exercise isn’t your thing, enjoy live music and music tribute shows. Shawnee National Forest gives animal lovers the chance to explore on horseback! These attractions are ideal for anyone looking for a chance to explore natural beauty! 
  • Shawnee Hills Wine Trail – What better way to end your walk in Shawnee National Forest than with a locally crafted drink? Enjoy a glass (or more!) of wine from one of the 11 vineyards located along a 40-mile scenic drive. Each vineyard has a unique history and winemaking traditions that set it apart from the other vineyards. This is a win for you and for the small businesses helping America run!

Wine barrells

Some cities to visit along the trail:

  • Alton: Fill up on some amazing food before spending the day making pottery or visiting the Alton Museum of History and Art. End your day with a frighteningly fun haunted house tour in this charming scenic river town. 
  • Chester: Come visit the home of Popeye! And while you’re there, check out the St. Nicholas Landmark to soak up some history about Lewis and Clark while enjoying a meal with a view of the iconic Mississippi River.
  • Grafton: Go for a cruise along the Illinois River at Grafton Harbor. The Hakuna Matata River Cruise is a 49 passenger ship replete with breathtaking views, fascinating guides, and even a Tiki Bar to help the history and scenery truly come alive.

Multi-colored mural

Some events of the region: 

  • Macoupin Art Collective: This communal art center houses countless art based classes and events. From individual classes to community outreach projects, the MAC provides a glimpse into rural Illinois’ rich cultural life and history.
  • Alton Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market: Check out this local farmers’ market located on the corner of Henry street and Landsmark Boulevard. This market offers a variety of vibrant colored produce in addition to hosting events that range anywhere from art demonstrations to a Canine Carnival!
  • Mississippi Earthtones Festival: Join the citizens of Alton Illinois as they celebrate the famous Mississippi River! This exciting event takes place on the third Saturday in September each year. Activities include live music as well as educational booths and authentic Illinois food!

Missouri

Walt Disney. Route 66. The Gateway to the West. Missouri may have been the starting and ending point of the Lewis and Clark expedition, but the Show-Me-State has only gotten more exciting and more packed with things to do and see. Whether it’s the more than 6,000 registered show caves, eating (arguably) the nation’s best barbecue, or visiting the many wineries sprinkled throughout the state, Missouri is out to show you why it’s the Show-Me-State.The Gateway Arch in Saint Lewis, Missouri

Destination Highlights:

  • Sainte Geneviève: So much charm is nestled into this landmark midwestern town that visitors just have to see for themselves. Known for being Missouri’s oldest permanent European settlement, what makes Ste. Genevieve attracts visitors is the remarkable preservation of its fascinating history. Don’t know where to start? Main Street’s got you covered with its Welcome Center. Stop by shops like European Entitlements where all products are made and shipped from European towns, The Purple Finch to get a uniquely handcrafted gift for that special someone, and the Sweet Things Sweet Shop for all of your local candy, toy, book needs.
  • St. Charles: This vibrant river city awaits you with its historic Main Street, flourishing parks and trails, delectable restaurants, and bold wineries. Along the Missouri River, St. Charles also offers the Lewis & Clark Boat House and Museum. The museum houses full-scale replicas of the boats used by Lewis & Clark and the Corps of Discovery, reenactments of the expedition, and many more exhibits on this self-guided tour.

Beautiful sunset on a lake

  • Hermann: Rolling vineyards, picture-book town centers, dreamlike sunsets: Hermann seems to have plucked from a European paradise and tucked away in the Missouri River Valley. Hermann prides itself on its German heritage, which echoes throughout its architecture, festivals, and breweries. Additionally, Hermann is known for its superb wines, and it even hosts the Hermann Wine Trail to guide visitors through the rich wine culture and history of this beautiful town.

Kansas

“I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”– is what travelers might think when they first visit the 34th state. Kansas offers a multitude of opportunities for leisure for its visitors, such as slow-cooked barbecue, distilleries, historic heritage towns, museums and trailblazing cowboy aesthetics.

Destination Highlights 

  • Atchison: Welcome to the birthplace and hometown of aviation pioneer, Amelia Earhart! Atchison prides itself on being one of the first homes of Kansa Indians, as well as the first Fourth of July celebration west of the Mississippi, featuring none other than Lewis and Clark! Today, visitors can visit and tour the haunted home of pioneer businessman John McInteer and stroll down to the St. Andre Orchard for Kansas’ best fruits and vegetables!

Welcome to Atchison

  • Known as the first city of Kansas, Leavenworth became nationally considered to be the jumping off point for opening up to the west. Today, Leavenworth is home to attractions like the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum and Gift Shop, where visitors can ride authentically vintage carousels. Guests in Leavenworth can also learn about the Underground Railroad’s history in Kansas at the Richard Allen Cultural Center and Museum before stopping for a quick bite to eat at favorite local eateries, ranging from farm to table restaurants and a plethora of bakeries.

Women raising a glass

Some events of the region: 

  • Amelia Earhart FestivalThis yearly festival on the third weekend of July celebrates Amelia Earhart and her accomplishments with a weekend full of family entertainment for Atchison residents and visitors. The 1st Annual Amelia Earhart Festival was held in 1997 to celebrate the 100th birthday of Amelia Earhart.
  • Spirit of Kansas Blues Festival Looking for the perfect Fourth of July event? Look no further than the Spirit of Kansas Blues Festival! This family-friendly celebration boasts free entry to an entire day of blues performances. Adults can spend their time admiring classic cars while children make arts and crafts. This is truly the most festive Fourth of July celebration!

Fourth of July celebration

Nebraska

When most people think of Nebraska, they may think of rolling plains and cornfields. We are here to tell you that there is much more to that image than meets the eye. It is exactly that humble approach to Nebraska that allows any curious tourist to find out what makes Nebraska charming.

 

 

Beautiful sunset

Destination Highlights: 

  • Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure – Guests can discover something new every season at Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure. This award-winning, nature-themed attraction celebrates Arbor Day every day. Start at the one-of-a-kind Treetop Village, then jump on the WonderNet; or climb the 50-foot treehouse, hike miles of trails, and pick apples in the orchard. Each of these experiences help you find a new appreciation for the value that trees bring to our everyday lives.
  • Tanking is a unique activity that can be found in multiple towns along the trail, including Omaha, Nebraska City, and Niobrara – river towns that are quintessential to the tourist’s experience. Friends and family can climb into a livestock watering tank and cruise along the scenic, gentle rivers of Nebraska. Bring a cooler with your favorite drinks while you sit back, float, laugh, jump out, cool off, gaze at the scenery, and bask in the sun. A tanking trip can range from two to six hours depending on how much scenic beauty you can tolerate.Water sports

Some events of the region: 

  • Living History Weekends – In addition to climbing trees at the Arbor Day Farm, visit the Lied Lodge on the farm’s property to step back in time. These weekends transport participants through time, demonstrating vintage apple cider presses, showcasing one-room schoolhouses, displaying the customs of the earliest Nebraskan settlers, and teaching the art of lacemaking from the illustrious Victorian Era.

Iowa 

Field of Dreams. American Gothic. UNESCO City of Literature. What do all three of these have in common? Iowa, of course! While it may seem like only cornfields, Iowa offers a unique viewpoint onto the cultural past and future of the United States, but with a few unexpected surprises. From biking tournaments to underground caves and even whitewater rafting, Iowa is the exciting, little-known gem of the Midwest waiting for explorers to discover.

Destination Highlights: 

  • Cedar Rapids: The second largest city in Iowa, Cedar Rapids is a blossoming center of art, culture, and commerce located in the eastern half of the state. Want to learn more about the experience in America? The National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library offers a glimpse into the lives of the settlers of Cedar Rapids in this eye-opening, Smithsonian-affiliated museum. Interested in a uniquely Iowan experience? Check out the NewBo City Market: a non-profit marketplace designed to promote and develop various burgeoning local businesses throughout the state.
  • Amana: Located in east-central Iowa, Amana is a city filled with history, originally serving as one of the seven Amana Colonies. These colonies were created by German Pietists who fled from persecution in their native country of Germany, having first set up in New York and eventually settling on the outskirts of Iowa City in the mid-19th century. While the communal colonies eventually dissolved in 1932, the modern city of Amana combines its colonial roots with new shops, restaurants, and attractions. The Amana Woolen Mill is the epitome of modern business mingling with the history of the city, with the mill producing and selling textiles since 1857.
  • Sparling farmIowa City: Serving as the state’s first capital, Iowa City encapsulates much of the spirit of the state and reminders of its own founding. The old capitol building lays square in the middle of the campus of the University of Iowa: the state’s oldest and largest university with the second-oldest creative writing program in the world, earning the city the second UNESCO designation of City of Literature. For a reminder of a time even earlier than the founding of the city, the Devonian Fossil Gorge is a must-see spectacle. Containing fossils some 375 million years old, the gorge gives you the opportunity to walk across prehistoric ocean floors and to see for yourself the life that once occupied it.

 

 

Plan your next trip along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and visit the Missouri Traverse today!