Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Roadrunner Rerun: Camp River Dubois - More Lewis and Clark

The idea of 'Rerun' is more of my attempt at "taking a another run at this ("blog" as I will call them from this point forward although it is technically a post and not a blog...)."  I have started and not completed a lot of different ones over the years but want to go back and finish some.  For example, I've completed and published 1128 since 2008 and have 174 "in draft".  Here is one I wanted to complete:
Lewis and Clark at Camp Dubois
We passed Oregon and and Washington in July and August of this year (2016).  We are fascinated by the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1803-1806) and have learned a lot more about it since we started RVing in 2009. This summer, after seeing the Oregon Coast, we made it a point to visit the site where Lewis and Clark actually first saw the Pacific Ocean.  Also about that time, I had a chance to complete Stephen Ambrose's "Undaunted Courage" while recuperating from retina detachment surgery.  It was an excellent read/listen (via Audible.com) and helped me learn more about their expedition.

The Lewis and Clark entourage ("Journey of Discovery") left the St. Louis area in May 1804. They began their expedition after training and getting outfitted for the journey at Camp Dubois (Camp Woods) which is not far from St. Louis and what is today Hartford, Illinois.  It was astonishing to me on a number of levels.  To me, this whole effort including the planning, preparation and execution of it (1803-1806) was like sending a man like sending a man to the moon in 1969.

The insight and education of Lewis was amazing.  He did a crash course in botany, medicine, politics,  Indian relations, hunting, fishing, survival, etc.  Additionally, he knew how to select and train men of a certain character and skill set that would serve the group well.  Above all, he had leadership skills that postured him for the arduous and unbelievable hardships he and his men faced.

Toward the end of our summer travels and the closer we got to the St. Louis area, the more we realized we wanted to find out about Camp Dubois.  We found an excellent place to do just that at the Lewis and Clark State Historic State Park.  This place is not far from the actual Camp Dubois site which was along the Missouri River.  The precise location of the camp is thought to be now in the middle of the river.  Over time, the course of the river has changed and now flows over the original encampment location.

When we arrived it was in the early afternoon and the Park was almost empty.  There were three volunteers (that we saw) running the place and the only other visitors were a couple plus Pam and me.
The small visitor center was deceiving - it has lots of great displays and information.
One thing the docent mentioned was how many places in America claim "to be the starting point of the "Journey of Discovery".  They themselves were as quoted as saying Camp Dubois was their departure point.

Lewis served with Clark at one time and when asked by President Jefferson to undertake the task, he picked his friend and former commander.  History records them to be one of the all-time most
effective duos in our nation's history.  They both worked very well together and complimented each other's strengths.
The visitor center did a good job of showing the different trades that the men needed for their journey. Both Clark and Lewis took part in selecting the men.  Of the 30+ that comprised the total, only about 20 ended up completing the entire expedition.  One man, Sergeant Floyd was lost due to illness with what was thought to be a ruptured appendix in the first year (1804) after they left Camp Dubois.
The second winter they stayed near what is present day Washburn ND.  They built was was known as Fort Mandan, named after the friendly and hospital Indians of the area who were helpful to them during the cold and brutal season.  The winter was harsh and they built the fort for protection from the elements and Indians.  This was the second of three forts(Camp Dubois, Fort Mandan and Fort Clatsop - near Astoria, Oregon.)

Here at the Historic Site, the building itself is unique.  This angle gives the idea of the bow of a boat.  Lewis and Clark made good use of a keelboat (also shown in pictures below) moving their supplies up down the Missouri River.
Also on the property is an old cabin that provides a little insight into what they might have looked like back in the early 1800s.
From a distance on the property, you can see a replica of Camp Dubois and the layout.
When we arrived we began going through the displays inside the Visitor's Center, but then got the offer of an outside tour with a docent which we did that.  Then we returned inside to see the rest of the museum. I thought the displays were well done.  They provide context and some chronology of what happen to whom and when.  I like that.
Surprising to me but, there are more than a dozen Lewis and Clark sites.  Way more -- in fact 53 to be exact as listed here.
I liked this map that gives a good idea of where they left Camp Dubois heading northwest to Fort Mandan and on to the Missouri River, over the Cascade Mountains and onto the Columbia River and out to the Pacific Ocean.  On the return trip, Lewis and Clark divided the men and split up for a time before joining back together and completing the journey.
The keelboat was very important to them and the museum had a cutaway replica of it.
This is a replica of a dugout canoe they used.
There was a lot to see and to absorb, but our stop at Camp Dubois (Lewis and Clark State Historic Park) was a good one.  Makes me want to see the other 50+ museums and sites.
Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!


  1. Your attention to detail brings a richness to your account. The dugout canoe looks so unstable...

    Off to play 18 in Moultonborough with stunning foliage. The 5W is still in time out.

  2. Great post! Love reading your blog, keep up the posts!

  3. Glad you put all the effort into finishing a great post. Very educational.

  4. Excellent post, you must have been a history teacher in a previous life! ;c)

  5. Hi, Randy! This post is so interesting. I liked your comparison of the Lewis & Clark Expedition to the US quest to put a man on the moon. Tim and I stopped at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls, MT during our travels this summer and that just whetted our interest. Someday I'd like to see Camp DuBois, Fort Mandan and Fort Clatsop. Too sad that Lewis died under a shadow. The success of the trip was due to his leadership.