The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is a trail that follows the route that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark took while exploring the newly purchased Louisiana Territory in 1804. The trail spans 16 states and covers approximately 4,900 miles.
Did you know that Lewis and Clark visited parts of Pottawattamie County while traveling along the Missouri River from July 22, 1804, through July 26, 1804? Today, you can relive their journey by visiting several locations along the trail!
To start your journey, visit Hitchcock Nature Center. Although Lewis and Clark did not specifically visit this location, it showcases the Loess Hills, which were an important part of this portion of their journey. They had never encountered anything quite like the Loess Hills before coming to this part of the United States. Their journal entries were one of the first written descriptions of the unique landform.
Next, you can visit the Lewis and Clark Monument Scenic Overlook in Council Bluffs. This site, north of Big Lake Park, was dedicated in 1936 honoring Lewis and Clark’s historic meeting with Otoe and Missouri tribesmen. This site allows visitors to take in stunning views of the Missouri River, Council Bluffs, and the Omaha skyline.
The next stop on the trail is the Narrows River Park. Looking north along the banks of the Missouri River, the scene is reminiscent of the views that Lewis and Clark had in the summer of 1804. As you look over the water, can you imagine traveling up the river on a keelboat or pirogue as Lewis and Clark did?
*Sketch of a keelboat from the notes of William Clark
If you are an art lover, you will be able to enjoy multiple Lewis and Clark Trail Markers at several locations in Council Bluffs. The public art pieces can be found at the Lewis and Clark Monument Scenic Overlook, the Dodge Riverside Golf Club (adjacent to the levee trail), and the Western Historic Trail Center.
Although it is currently closed due to COVID-19, the last stop on the trail is the Western Historic Trail Center. This center contains more than 200 metal sculptures by Timothy Woodman. These sculptures were made to interpret the Lewis and Clark, Mormon, Pioneer, California, and Oregon trails.
Lewis and Clark’s expedition is an important aspect of Pottawattamie County’s history. Visiting the trail is a great way to relive the history, explore our county, and enjoy the great outdoors! If you are interested in learning more about the historic expedition, check out these books:
“The Definitive Journals of Lewis and Clark” edited by Gary E. Moulton
“The Journals of Lewis and Clark” edited by Bernard DeVoto
“Passage of Discovery: The America Rivers Guide to the Missouri River of Lewis and Clark” by Daniel B. Botkin
“Undaunted Courage” by Stephen E. Ambrose