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On May 14, 1804, the westward journey of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and 38 hunters, cooks, and frontiersmen began at St. Charles on the shores of the Missouri River. Lewis was chosen by Thomas Jefferson to explore the western lands acquired in the Louisiana Purchase. Lewis then turned to William Clark to accompany him and to recruit members who would be beneficial to the expedition. Together, the travelers would be referred to as the Corps of Discovery. Goals of the expedition included charting new animals and plants, documenting the different Native American groups of the regions, and, to find a water passage to the Pacific Ocean known as the Northwest Passage.
The Corps traveled on average 20 miles per day against the current on the Missouri River. On May 20, the expedition sailed past La Charette, the last White settlement on the Missouri River. On July 4th, the expedition celebrated the first Independence Day west of the Mississippi River. To salute the young nation's birthday, the cannons from the keelboats were fired and a creek near present-day Atchison, Kansas was named Independence Creek.
Did You Know?
Because the Missouri River rises east of the Continental Divide, the Corps of Discovery was forced to travel against the current of the mighty Missouri River until they reached the divide in the Rocky Mountains.
At 2,341 miles in length, the Missouri River is considered the longest river in the United States.
The Death of Charles Floyd
On August 3rd, the Corps encountered Native Americans for the first time - the Yankton Sioux in the Great Plains, near present-day Omaha, Nebraska. The Yankton Sioux were presented with various medals and flags and were told of their "Great Father to the East," Thomas Jefferson. On August 20th, Kentucky frontiersman Charles Floyd died, most likely from a burst appendix brought on by appendicitis. Amazingly, Floyd's death would prove to be the ONLY death on the entire two-year expedition. A funeral for Floyd was held on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River. The location was named Floyd's Bluff in his honor. Although appendicitis is usually diagnosed by doctors today before the appendix bursts, in Floyd's time, appendicitis was invariably fatal.
Lewis and Clark Interactive - This section provides an interactive map of the Lewis and Clark route to the Pacific. Simply click and learn! Perfect as an introduction to the expedition or for younger kids.
Sacagawea Reading Comprehension - Online - This resource includes a historical passage and ten multiple choice questions. It gives immediate feedback. In addition, when you click the "listen" button, you can hear the passage while it highlights the text.
Lewis and Clark Correct-me Passage - This fun activity requires students to correct a passage about Lewis and Clark that has nine factual errors. Students first must discover the errors, then click on them and select the correct answer from the drop down menu.
Lewis and Clark - The Dynamic Duo - This printable exercise requires students to compare Lewis and Clark to other "dynamic duos" in literature, movies, or even sports.
Lewis and Clark - The Climb - This printout requires students to consider a time when they thought they were at the cusp of finishing something great, only to learn there was MUCH more work to do - ALA Miley Cyrus.
The Lost Journal Pages of Lewis and Clark! - When Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark to explore the vast Louisiana Territory, he had visions that they'd find exotic creatures such as wholly mammoths and undiscovered landforms such as mountains made of salt. While Lewis and Clark discovered over three hundred species of animals and plants, and even sent a magpie and prairie dog as pets to Thomas Jefferson, they never found the kind of creatures that legends are made of (though they did find massive grizzly bears). What if Lewis and Clark actually did discover an unworldly plant, animal, and landform, but those pages were somehow lost from Lewis’ journal forever when their keelboat capsized? In the spaces provided below, use your imagination to name, draw, and describe these lost discoveries.
A Long-lost Picture of Sacagawea - Did you know that there are no known drawings of depictions of Sacagawea? All of the images you see of her today are simply guesses. This activity shows three different depictions of Sacagawea and challenges students to author their own "authentic" sketch of Sacagawea.
Sacagawea - the Unsung Hero - This activity explains the idea of Sacagawea as an unsung hero. Students must then write about an unsung hero they select from movies, literature, sports, or their own lives.