Lewis and Clark expedition

Important events, sites, people, places, and tribes

Meriwether Lewis

Born on August 18, 1774, near Ivy, Virginia, Meriwether Lewis, in 1801, was asked by President Thomas Jefferson to act as his private secretary. Jefferson made Lewis another offer—to lead an expedition into the lands west of the Mississippi, which he did after enlisting William Clark.


William Clark

Born on August 1, 1770, in Caroline County, Virginia, William Clark went on to become half of the legendary exploration team of Lewis and Clark. The journey began when Meriwether Lewis invited him to share command of an expedition of the lands west of the Mississippi River.

Winter Among the Mandan

December 21, 1804-April 06, 1805:
The expedition members kept busy during the Fort Mandan winter, repairing equipment, trading with the Indians, and hunting for buffalo. Lewis and Clark learned much about the country to the west from the Mandan and their neighbors the Hidatsa.


Sacagawea, the daughter of a Shoshone chief, was born circa 1788 in Lemhi County, Idaho. At around age 12, she was captured by an enemy tribe and sold to a French-Canadian trapper who made her his wife. In November 1804, she was invited to join the Lewis and Clark expedition as a Shoshone interpreter. After leaving the expedition, she died at Fort Manuel in what is now Kenel, South Dakota, circa 1812.

A Long Journey

Lewis and Clark traveled more than 8,000 miles in less than two and one-half years, losing only one member of their party, at a total cost to the American taxpayer of $40,000. The significance of the Lewis and Clark Expedition was far reaching. It strengthened the United State's position in the struggle for control of North America, particularly in the Pacific Northwest.
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Seaman the dog

In preparing for the expedition, Lewis visited President Jefferson’s scientific friends in Philadelphia for instructions in natural sciences, astronomical navigation and field medicine. It is believed that it was during this period that Lewis, for “20$” purchased Seaman, his “dog of the newfoundland breed” to accompany him to the Pacific.


The Lewis and Clark Expedition set out with several goals when it left the St. Louis area in 1804. One of these was to conduct diplomacy with and gather information about the various nations of American Indians they would encounter on their journey. During the course of the expedition, contact was made with at least 55 different native cultural groups.

Crew members

Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and 31 other persons comprised the “Permanent Party” of the 1804-1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition. Although many individuals were associated with the military cadre during its 1803-1804 initial stages of travel from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Fort Mandan, North Dakota, only those 33 members who journeyed from Fort Mandan to Fort Clatsop, Oregon, and returned comprised the Permanent Party. In addition, there was a 34th member – Seaman, Captain Lewis’ “dogg of the Newfoundland breed.”

List of states traveled through

In their cross country trip to the Pacific Ocean, Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark went through Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, North and South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

Longlasting impact

What were the effects of the expedition by Lewis and Clark? It depends on your perspective. To the Native Americans, it was the beginning of an end. Their lives will be changed forever by their contact with the fur traders, soldiers, and missionaries that follow in the wake of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Certainly the changes were gradual, but changes none the less.
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