National Geographic : 1953 Jun
sippi has shifted eastward, and the Missouri mouth has jumped three or four miles south. "Wood River, the stream that gave its name to Lewis and Clark's pioneer camp, now flows backward! It was blocked in 1917 two miles above its mouth. We made the last half mile a canal to lead Mississippi water to our re finery. Processing gasoline requires a lot of cooling water, you know." In the Footprints of History From Wood River our "expedition"-my wife, our children, and I-logged 10,000 miles in three months following the Lewis and Clark trail. The first three miles took us along a barely passable track that brought us opposite the present mouth of the Missouri. Judith, Mary Ellen, and Will raced to the water's edge. "From this meeting of waters," I told them, "Lewis and Clark set out." Then in simple words I tried to tell this great American adventure story-how the explorers paved the way for the Nation's growth from an Atlantic community to a great power spread across a continent.* This on-the-spot history lesson held the youngsters' attention. Ten-year-old Mary Ellen perched pensively on a driftwood log, dangling her feet in the swift, silent Missis sippi. Even 6-year-old Will was compara tively stationary. "That water you're trying to fall into," I said, "formed the western boundary of the United States in 1803." In May of that year President Thomas Jefferson bought the huge Louisiana Terri- tory from Napoleon. (See 752, and inset, "Growth of on the new Historical Map States.) pages 751 and Our Country," of the United One hundred and fifty years ago this June Meriwether Lewis scratched out a letter to William Clark, his redheaded comrade of the Indian wars. He described a project that Jefferson and he had dreamed of for years. The President wanted 29-year-old Captain Lewis, his private secretary, to choose a co captain and lead a small Army detachment up the Missouri to its unknown source, cross the fearsome Rockies, and descend the almost legendary Columbia to the Pacific. Clark Welcomes "Imense Undertaking" Lewis wondered, in his letter, if Clark could be induced to participate in such a trip's "fatiegues, it's dangers and it's honors." William was the youngest brother of George Rogers Clark, the patriot of the Revolution who won the territory that became Ohio, In diana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Young Clark jumped at the chance. He wrote: "This is an imense undertaking fraited with numerous dificulties, but my friend I can assure you that no man lives with whom I would prefer to undertake and share the Dificulties of such a trip than yourself." In those days each man was his own master, even in spelling.' * See "Trailing History Down the Big Muddy," by Lewis R. Freeman, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, July, 1928. t Historical quotations, with a few exceptions, are from Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expe dition, 1804-1806, edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites.