Missouri Road Trips September 20, 2018
Follow In The Footsteps Of Missouri’s First Explorers On This Adventurous Road Trip
Shortly after President Thomas Jefferson signed the deal to purchase the Louisiana Territory from the French in 1803, he commissioned Mariwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the newly acquired land. Just a year later, the two began their expedition exploring the wild west. They followed the Missouri River and the entire trip took a little over 2 years but the discoveries made helped to establish the America that we know today. Follow in the footsteps of these great explorers on an epic road trip across Missouri to some of the most historic places on the state map.
Meriwether Lewis was chosen by President Jefferson in 1903 to lead the expedition of the Louisianan Territory. Lewis, in turn, recruited William Clark to help lead the mission. Clark was given equal authority on the trip and concentrated on drawing maps, maintaining supplies, and organizing the hunting expeditions.
Volunteers from the US Army were dubbed the Corps of Discovery led by Lewis and Clark. On May 14th, the Corps arrived in St. Charles, and on May 21st they launched their boats into the Missouri River.
St. Charles was already established in 1804 when the Lewis and Clark expedition began. The first church in the area was erected in 1791, but the town really grew over the next 50 years.
By 1821, Missouri was granted statehood and St. Charles became the first capital. Now the bustling suburb of St. Louis has over 60,000 residents and the historical district near the river is the perfect place to shop, dine, and drink. From St. Charles, you'll want to hop on Interstate 70 toward mid-Missouri.
It took the group of explorers more than a month to reach the spot of what is now Rocheport, MO. On June 7th, the boats passed the huge limestone cliffs that make Rocheport so notable.
Clark noted in his journal that the area was already home to Native Americans. They observed petroglyphs of animals and people along the rocks. Sadly, these Native American drawings are no longer visible.
Today the little town is a popular destination for visitors. The Katy Trail travels along the banks of the Missouri River, also following the path of Lewis and Clark. This 287-mile trail is perfect for bike riding, and the Rocheport section is one of the most popular because of the large train tunnel.
Built to reinforce the United State's claim on the territory, the fort enabled many other Missourian's to begin their travel into the west.
Visitors love the river views from Les Bourgeois Winery. You can enjoy the best of fall on the bluff side patio with a bottle of wine and great company.
Be sure to also visit the historic downtown that's home to some fantastic restaurants and shops. If you love antiquing, you'll love visiting Rocheport. Hope back onto Interstate 70 and travel just 15 minutes west to Arrow Rock, MO.
Just days after passing the present day location of Rocheport, the expedition decides to camp near the future site of Arrow Rock. On June 9th, 1804, Clark notes that the group had trouble navigating the river in this area. After struggling to break free of a snag along the river the group concedes and camps on an island river.
Clark returned to the site again in 1807. He noted that the area would be a great location for a town and by 1812 settlers were arrive to homestead the area.
Arrow Rock is one of the most well-preserved early settlements in the Show Me State. There are nearly 30 original buildings in the town. It's the perfect place for antique and art shopping.
Another notable attraction is the Lyceum Theater. The building was originally constructed in 1872 as a Baptist church. The theater has been in operation since 1960 and shows Broadway quality musicals and plays.
Visitors can also dine in the oldest restaurant in Missouri. J. Huston Tavern was built in 1834 by Judge Joseph Huston and originally operated as a tavern and offered rooms to travelers. By 1840, a store and ballroom were added to the 2 and 1/2 story brick building.
J. Huston Tavern is still open for
In addition to being the oldest restaurant in Missouri, it's also the oldest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi.
By late June, the expedition had reached what is now a part of the Kansas City Metro. Clark found the area particularly interesting because of the high position of lands above the river.
After Lewis and Clark completed their journey West, Clark returned to this same site and helped construct Fort Osage. Construction of the fort began by Clark's command on Sept. 5th, 1808.
A lot of trading was done at Fort Osage. In fact, the high trade house inside the fort was the only trade house owned by the U.S. Government that made a profit during the mid-1800's. Today, the fort is owned and operated by Jackson County Parks + Rec. It's also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The fort is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. year round. Admission is $8 for adults, $4 for those aged 65 or older, and $4 for kids aged 13 to 5. Anyone under the age of 5 is free. After leaving the fort, head northwest towards Lewis and Clark State Park.
Situated on the Missouri River banks in northwest Missouri is Lewis and Clark State Park. In addition to being on the river, the park also contains a small lake that was noted along the 1804 journey west.
Clark observed the lake to be full of geese, which remains true to this day. Visit the park and stand on the banks of the Missouri River. The large compass was installed in 2006 to commemorate the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark's important endeavor.
Their journey west did not end in Missouri, the group of explorers continued west towards the Pacific Ocean. There are modern-day explorers who still travel the path of Lewis and Clark by boat and by car. See Missouri in a whole new way and take the Lewis and Clark road trip across the state.
Check out the map below for driving directions to each place featured in our article.
Have you been to any of the historical sites in Missouri where Lewis and Clark first explored? If you take this road trip, tell us about it in the comments below!
Looking for a place to stay after driving across the state? If you end on the west side of Missouri be sure to check out this
stunning stone mansion that’s now a relaxing B&B. If you end this trip on the east side of the state, check out this amazing glampsite for some high-quality camping.
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