History Along The Lewis and Clark Trail
The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail attracts history lovers from across the world.
Below is a self-guided tour designed especially for people who want to experience places of yesteryear on their journey. Some of the sites and attractions are connected to the Corps of Discovery, while others highlight other well-know historically relevant events that have occurred the birth of the United States.
There are countless wonderful historical attractions across the trail, and this list provides a great jumping off point in each state that The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail passes through.
Neill Log House is the oldest house in the now bustling city of Pittsburgh. Founded in 1765, this humble log cabin was already decades old by the time Lewis and Clark began their daring expedition.
Fort Pitt Block House (Pittsburgh, PA)
Fort Pitt was once an important British fort, but the British abandoned it in 1772.By the time of Lewis and Clark, only the block house remained and it was being used as a house. It is the oldest standing building in Western Pennsylvania, so it’s definitely a must-see on a historical tour.
West Virginia Independence Hall is a beautiful Victorian building that was the center of West Virginian politics for many years after West Virginia, which was pulled into the Confederacy because it was part of Virginia despite being widely abolitionist, joined the Union after breaking away from Virginia. The hall has been refurbished to look like it did during the Civil War. Visitors can go back in time and see things as they were when West Virginia bravely stood up against slavery.
The Cincinnati Union Terminal is an old art deco train station that has been renovated to become both a transportation center and a wonderful museum. The Cincinnati Union Terminal has extensive science exhibits, we well as a comprehensive and interactive section on the history of Cincinnati and the Ohio River Valley.
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center commemorates the victims of slavery and celebrates the people who escaped from and fought against the oppression that enslaved people faced.
The Frazier History Museum features The Lewis and Clark Experience. As part of this exhibit, visitors will be able to witness a 55-foot cutaway replica of Lewis and Clark’s keelboat, replica Sioux Tipi and a Mandan earthen hut. Guests can even try their hand at animal tracking and exploring “secret” passages! Though this exhibition is fun for all ages, it was designed with children and families in mind!
Locust Grove (Louisville, KY)
Historic Locust Grove is a huge farm that has close connections with William Clark’s family. Lewis and Clark visited Locust Grove during their expedition and William Clark’s older brother, George Clark, lived here later on in his life. Visitors can tour the Georgian mansion and explore life over two hundred years ago.
Abraham Lincoln, one of the greatest wartime leaders that the world has ever seen, came from humble beginnings and worked tirelessly to get to the White House. This log cabin brings visitors back to where Lincoln lived with his family from the age of seven to the age of twenty-one.
Angel Mounds (Evansville, IN)
Hundreds of years before Lewis and Clark were born, the Mississippian chiefdoms dominated much of the United States. The Mississippians were known for advanced agriculture and copper art and left behind impressive mounds where houses and temples once stood. Today, Angel Mounts features dozens of Mississippian structures and dioramas that display scenes of Mississippian life and America’s Pre-Columbian history.
Lewis and Clark stopped at Fort Massac, which at the time one of the westernmost strongholds of the United States. It was here that the Corps of Discovery leaders enlisted some men, including George Drouillard, who turned out to be invaluable to the expedition. Drouillard was a talented hunter and a very skilled diplomat. He had a Shawnee mother and a French Canadian father and spent most of his childhood in a place where English was also widely spoken. thus allowing him to become trilingual.
Fort de Chartres (Prairie du Rocher, IL)
Despite being sparsely populated, Illinois was colonial France’s breadbasket. Fort de Chartres was an important fortress meant to help France hold onto this valuable land (which it ultimately lost to the British in the French and Indian War). Though it fell into disrepair after the French lost control, Fort de Chartres has been painstakingly restored over the decades so that visitors can feel like they’re visiting colonial France, complete with reenactors.
While the French colonies in the United States are often forgotten, some houses still do remain from these interesting settlements. Bequette-Ribault House is a two-room residence that is notable for its architectural style (especially its posts), as there are only five houses like it in America today. Visitors will be able to see inside this cozy cottage and be sent back-in-time to the days of French colonialism in the US.
Sauer Castle (Kansas City, MO)
Sauer Castle is a gothic looking mansion from the Victorian Era. It radiates a quiet gloom, as it’s rumored to be haunted. Visitors can decide for themselves whether or not the legends are true or false (like the story about an entire family being buried in the backyard), though there is no denying that many generations of the Sauer family lived and died in this stately home.
Lewis and Clark found the Kanza village during their expedition just north of present day Atchison, Kansas.. At the time, the village was abandoned because the people from the village had all moved to the Kansas River, which was better land for hunting. You can visit an authentic Kanza Earthlodge in Atchison and view the interesting architecture of Kanza buildings.
At Arbor Lodge State Park, you can visit the home of J. Sterling Morton, the founder of Arbor Day. It was on this property in 1872 that J. Sterling and his wife, Caroline, initiated their vision for a greener, more tree-filled world—a challenge to people everywhere to plant trees so desperately needed. It is estimated that nearly one million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day, April 10, 1872.
Omaha Union Station (Omaha, NE)
Omaha Union Station is an old train station in Omaha that is considered one of the best examples of Art Deco in the Midwest. While trains no longer arrive at or depart from the station, it now boasts an impressive museum and retains its original beauty.
Sioux City boasts an impressive museum that tells the story of the Corps of Discovery. The museum is nearly 20,000 square feet and allows visitors to learn about both the Native American cultures along the trail. It has interactive exhibits and is certain to have something for everyone in the family.
Sergeant Floyd River Museum (Sioux City, IA)
The Sergeant Floyd River Museum is named after Sergeant Charles Floyd, the only member of the Corps of Discovery to have died along the journey. Once a riverboat, the site has been converted into a museum highlighting the science and history of the Sergeant Floyd River. During the age of steamboats, these riverboats were crucial to trade and still have a verycharming design.
The Spirit Mound was an important site to the Native people in the surrounding region because it was said to be home to many evil spirits. Lewis and Clark encountered it on their journey, and it has an almost surreal beauty because of how it contrasts with the flat land around it.
Fort Chouteau was an important trading site between Native Americans and settlers from theEast for many years. While the fort itself no longer stands because it was abandoned, this site is still of great archaeological importance and was once bustling with activity.
Double Ditch Indian Village was once a thriving Mandan village where over 10,000 people lived. Unfortunately, the village was abandoned in the 1780s because of a smallpox epidemic. While the village is gone, the mounds from the village still remain and are a visible sign of a thriving culture existing in the West long before the Corps of Discovery embarked on their expedition.
Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site (Stanton, ND)
In the 1750s, the Hidatsa villages were thriving trade villages known for agricultural success and economic strength. Some of the earthlodges were big enough for forty families! Unfortunately, the village was abandoned in the late 1830s century because of a devastating smallpox epidemic. There is now a replica of an earthlodge that guests can visit where they might imagine life in these thriving villages.
Pompey’s Pillar is a natural rock pillar that is named for Sacagawea’s son. It marks the site where Clark climbed to get a view of the land surrounding it.
Fort Benton National Historic Landmark (Fort Benton, MT)
Fort Benton was established as a trading post in 1846. It was an important stop for steamboats and was extremely influential in the region until the railroads made it less crucial for trade. However, Fort Benson is still famous in the region’s local history.
The Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural & Educational Center celebrates the culture and history of the Agai’dika Shoshone-Bannock tribes. There are special events throughout the year, but visitors are always welcomed to experience the culture in which Sacajawea grew up in. Sacajawea was vital to the Corps of Discovery, as she was a skilled interpreter and had lived in the lands that were completely unknown to the rest of the expedition. Many expert agree that without her help, the expedition would have likely failed.
Fort Clatsop was a simple wooden fort where the Corps of Discovery spent the winter of 1805-1806. The original fort is no longer standing, but there is a replica very close to where it once was.
Cape Disappointment State Park (Pacific Coast)
Cape Disappointment was the location where the Corps of Discovery finally reached the Pacific Ocean after a long and dangerous journey. This is a very appropriate end to any trip along the Lewis and Clark Trail. It is also now home to a lighthouse, which adds to the beautiful view.
Gorge Heritage Museum (Binger, WA)
The Gorge Heritage Museum celebrates the history of Washington and has a great number of artifacts from both Native Americans and pioneers. It has a wide variety of items from everyday life, such as clothing and farming tools, allowing visitors to get a sense of what life was like in the early days of the Columbia Gorge.