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Lewis and Clark Build Fort Clatsop – Then Return Home

Nevertheless,
the winter was miserable. The men worked through
a constant rain to build Fort Clatsop – two rough
cabins about fifty feet in length. They stayed four
months hunting the small elk population that lived
near the estuary, making clothes from elk hide,
trying desperately to make fires with wet wood,
and engaging in laborious tasks to keep up the maintenance
of the fort in the wake of constant wet conditions.
Meriwether Lewis was, however, able to document
the region’s plant and animal life as well as the
Indians who lived there. On the other hand, William
Clark worked on drafting the map of lands they had
explored.

Before
embarking on the return trip on March 23rd, 1806,
Lewis and Clark realized there was no water route
to the Pacific. They left Fort Clatsop and traveled
east against the current of the Columbia River.
They took the punishing Nez Perce Trail through
seven feet of snow across the Bitterroots. At
Traveler’s Rest, Lewis and Clark split up. Lewis
followed the overland route traditionally taken
by the Nez Perce to their buffalo hunting grounds.
It led to the Great Falls of the Missouri. From
the Great Falls, Lewis planned to take three
men on an expedition to explore the Marias River.
Clark and the others would take the same route
in which they came until they came to the Three
Forks. At the Three Forks, Clark, Sacagawea,
Charbonneau, and their baby would cross the valley
of the Yellowstone River, which they would follow
to the Missouri. Lewis’ division was nearly destroyed
by a band of Blackfoot Indians who tried to steal
their weapons. In the ensuing struggle, two Indians
were killed, and the division was forced to flee
before a larger band of Indians were to chase
them. Lewis’ division traveled nearly 100 miles
in a period of 24 hours before meeting up with
Clark and the rest of the Corps on August 12.
The Corps returned to St. Louis on September
23, 1806 as heroes.

The
Lewis and Clark adventure was one of the greatest
in the history of America. Even though they did
not find a water route to the Pacific Ocean, they
found hundreds of new species of plants and animals,
established relations with many Indian tribes, mapped
much of the Missouri River and Pacific northwest,
and confirmed that the nation of the United States
extended from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.
Furthermore, The Lewis and Clark expedition established
the potential for a vast American trading empire
in which pelts could be transported to the Columbia
River estuary and shipped to Asia for Asian trade
goods.

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