Thursday, July 13, 2017

We Have Arrived, St Louis Missouri

“The mouth of the river Dubois is to be considered as the point of departure.”
From the journal of Meriwether Lewis

July 8, 2017

We are here.
Across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri. The Arch is in sight and it is amazing.
Camped on the eastern shore of the Mississippi River we await our departure on the journey west just as the Corps of Discovery did 213 years ago. We are anxious to follow their trail.

Camp Dubois
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set their Winter camp just north of here where the River Dubois empties into the Mississippi. It was called Camp Dubois (also known as Camp Wood.)
The Lewis and Clark State Historic Site in Hartford Illinois has created a replica of the original encampment using the descriptive journal entries of Lewis, Clark and others in their party. There is no sign of the original Camp Dubois. The topography of the land has changed through decades of floodwaters, the force of the river and a massive earthquake in 2011. Archaeologists have proposed theories that the original camp is where the Mississippi River now flows, but no artifacts have ever been found.

Keelboat and supplies replica
We considered it close enough. The historic site has a small museum that houses a cutaway replica of the Corps keelboat that allowed us to imagine the difficulties of their travel. Talk about traveling light! What would you pack for a journey into unknown territory?
Meriwether Lewis spent that Winter securing supplies for the expedition while William Clark drilled the members of the Corps until they became a cohesive unit.
The east side of the Mississippi River in 1803 was the west coast of the United States. President Thomas Jefferson had purchased the Louisiana territory from Napoleon Bonaparte but power had not been officially transferred. Until it was and the flags in St Louis were changed to the stars and stripes the mission could not proceed.

Acquiring the Louisiana Territory doubled the size of the country

That transfer was completed March 10th 1804.
May 14, 1804 William Clark and his troops left Camp Dubois and traveled up the Missouri River in a 55 foot keelboat and 2 smaller boats. They stopped in St. Charles where Meriwether Lewis met them.

Statue of Lewis, Clark and Clark's dog Seamon in St. Charles Missouri
Their mission: to find a water passage to the Pacific if it existed, to identify and describe species of plants and animals that have not been previously documented, and to approach the native peoples they met along the route, learning about them and representing the American Government.

July 9, 2017

The Gateway Arch marks the path to the west.
That structure that looks so graceful and delicate from the Illinois side of the river is huge when you stand right next to it.

The Arch at 630 feet tall towers over the buildings surrounding it. 52 years after its completion it remains the tallest arch in the world.
The Visitor Center shows a film about the building of the Gateway Arch. It is terrifying to watch film of the steel workers walking around on the high platforms with a cigarette in one hand and a hammer in the other and no safety harnesses in sight.
There were no lives lost in the building of the Arch, although a Park Ranger told us a few harrowing stories of near misses.
One story stuck in my mind.
There were 2 young high steel workers that wanted to fall into the safety net that stretched between the towers as the Arch neared completion. On the final day (because they knew they would be fired) they decided to take the plunge. One of the men dropped his tool belt first. They watched in amazement as the tool belt was driven by the breeze past the net and into the Mississippi River. They were never really protected at all.
We took the tram to the top of the Arch. What and experience! Fred loved it. I knew that I would be nervous because of the height and was prepared for that. I did not know that the “tram” was made up of small cars each meant to seat 5 people. They are rounded at the top so that an adult can’t sit up straight. Did I mention that I hate closed in spaces?
The experience was worth 7 minutes of terror. The views from the top are spectacular and you can stay as long as you like. The tiny windows made me feel secure. Rangers told us that on a clear day you can see for 30 miles in either direction. We were lucky to have a clear day.

Inside the Old Courthouse
We are disappointed to learn that the National Park’s renovation has closed the Museum of National Expansion but glad that the funding for the work was appropriated. Some of the museums Lewis and Clark exhibits can be currently found in the Old Courthouse which is part of the National Park.  

July 15th 2017

Confluence Tower in Hartford Illinois is a 180 foot structure with great river views.

180 ft tall Confluence Tower, Hartford Illinois
From the observation deck of the upper level you can see across the levee and the wide Mississippi River to the place where the Missouri River pours in. That place where the waters flow together marks our path.
Tomorrow we drive west.

Top of the Confluence Tower. The Missouri enters the Mississippi at Fred's left shoulder

Gateway Arch and Museum of National Expansion
11 North 4th St
St Louis, MO

Missouri History Museum
5700 Lindell Blvd
St Louis, MO

Lewis and Clark Center and Boathouse
1050 S Riverside Dr
St Charles, MO

Lewis and Clark State Historic Site
3500 New Poag Rd
Hartford, IL

Lewis and Clark Statue
810 South Main St
St Charles, MO
on the Katy trail

William Clark's Grave Bellefontaine Cemetery St Louis, MO

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