Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Pierre, South Dakota

River view on the Native American Scenic Byway
Today was a short drive to get to Pierre, South Dakota (pronounced Pier). We were lucky to find a beautiful South Dakota State Park near the Oahe Dam for our 4 night stay. This park was built by the Army Corps of Engineers for the Oahe Dam project. Our spacious back in site has a view of the river and beach. We have front row seats to the dam releases that keep the fishing boats moving quickly.

The Bad River entering the Missouri, meeting place with the Teton Sioux.
The explorers had a meeting with members of the Teton (Brule) Sioux in what is now Fort Pierre where the Bad River enters the Missouri.  They were apprehensive about the meeting as others had spoken to them of the tribes aggressive behavior in preventing others from passing through their territory. The Sioux had a reputation among the fur trappers and traders that worked the area as being very difficult to deal with. Jefferson had charged the captains with spreading the word of the US government's jurisdiction of the region, while developing friendly relationships. The message was not well received.
The Sioux demanded an exclusive trade agreement with the new government and wanted payment in the form of the entire contents of one of the pirogues to allow the Expedition passage up the Missouri River through Sioux land. The Captains attempted to impress the chiefs by showing them the keelboat with its mounted guns. They also shared whiskey with the tribe- a decision that did not help an already explosive situation. The meeting ended with an armed standoff as Sioux warriors attempted to seize the vessel and Corps members resisted.
The next 4 days were spent camped near the Sioux village. There were celebrations and shared meals but the atmosphere remained tense. The explorers were on guard day and night fearing an attack.

"All prepared on board for any thing which might hapen, we kept a Strong guard all night in the boat. No Sleep"

The fact that Lewis and Clark negotiated passage through Sioux territory giving up only tobacco, clothing and trinkets was an incredible feat. Word spread to neighboring tribes about their persistence. This event gave the expedition leaders credibility in future discussions with tribal leaders.
Unfortunately they had not succeeded in President Jefferson's request of peaceful contact. Their contentious meeting with the Sioux must have caused them some concern for the return trip.

field of bison
The rolling landscape of South Dakota's Great Plains is where much of the movie Dances with Wolves was filmed. We took long drives on rural roads passing bison and antelope and fields of sunflowers.
The Native American Scenic Byway lead us along the Missouri River through tribal lands with breathtaking water views.

Antelope along the byway.
Pierre is home to the Cultural Center of South Dakota. The museum is an unusual structure built into the side of a hill and covered with earth. It impressively simple design brings to mind a prairie sod house. It is operated by the South Dakota Historical Society and has exhibits featuring the lives of Native American Plains dwellers, miners during the gold rush, the hardships endured by homesteaders and the building of the Missouri River Dams. Here we found the original Verendrye tablet on display. 

Verendrye lead plate

Verendrye Monument
The Veryndrye brothers were French explorers that attempted to find a water route to the Pacific in 1742. The brothers were unsuccessful but they did leave evidence of their presence. They buried a lead plate on a bluff overlooking the river that was inscribed with the date and the name of Louis XV, to claim the land for France. The plate was found in 1913 by children playing on the hill. The spot is marked with a slab of granite inscribed: "Here on March 30, 1743 the Verendryes buried a lead tablet to claim this region for France. This tablet found on February 16, 1913 is the first written record of the visit of white men to South Dakota."

South Dakota Cultural Center
900 Governors Dr
Pierre, South Dakota

Verendrye Monument
Veryndrye Drive
Fort Pierre, South Dakota

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Chamberlain, South Dakota

We headed north west toward Chamberlain following I-90 and enjoyed watching the landscape continue to change.
This is still farm country but trees are becoming fewer. The horizon seems to go on forever, like looking out into the ocean.

The prairie opened up in front of us all the way to the horizon.
Just before Oacoma we went under an overpass and crested a small hill.....the Missouri was right in front of us and beyond it nothing but prairie as far as the eye could see.
Oacoma is our home for the next 4 nights and we can't wait to explore.
The Lewis and Clark Visitor Center on I-90 just before Oacoma is a great place to learn about this region of the river. The center has a small but interesting Lewis and Clark exhibit. The center of the building has a replica of the Corps Keel boat built into it. The stairs to the second floor go right through the boat leading to an observation deck. The building is built on a bluff overlooking the river. The views out over the river valley are spectacular.

Keel Boat Staircase at the Oacoma Visitor Center
If you have ever driven I-90 through South Dakota this is the rest area where the giant Indian statue lives. The 50 foot tall  statue crafted from stainless steels is called Dignity. It was created by sculptor Dale Lamphere to honor the "courage, perserverance and wisdom of the Lakota and Dakota culture in South Dakota".

The 50 foot tall Dignity statue overlooks the Missouri River Valley.
Closeup of Dignity's shawl. The star pattern became a favorite of Lakota Sioux quilters.
Lewis and Clark reached this part of the Missouri on September 16-18th 1804.
Meriwether Lewis enjoyed this view over the river valley. He wrote:

"I do not think I exaggerate when I estimate the number of Buffalo which could be comprehended at one view to amount to 3000."
The Corps hunted bison, elk, deer and pelicans here. Records describe an all day hunt to capture a live prairie dog to send back to Washington. Journal entries talk about the entire group except one guard digging holes 6 feet deep without success then trying to flush the "barking squirrels" out by pouring water in their holes. It sounds more like a Lucy and Ethyl episode than a scientific experiment as they wrote of emptying barrels of water into the holes. Their efforts were eventually successful. By the end of that day a single prairie dog had been captured alive. William Clark wrote:

"The village of those little dogs is under the ground a conisiderable distance.   we dig under 6 feet thro rich hard clay without getting to their Lodges.   Some of their wholes we put in 5 barrels of water without driving them out, we caught one by the water forceing him out.   ther mouth resembles the rabit, head longer, legs short & toe nails long   ther tail like a g Squirel which they Shake and make chattering noise   ther eyes like a dog, their colour is Gray and Skin contains Soft fur"

He was kept as a pet through the Winter and sent back to Washington on the keel boat in the Spring of 1805 along with other specimens and records from the captains. He found a home at the Peale Museum in Philadelphia as part of the Lewis and Clark exhibit where he lived for several years.

White pelican at the Big bend Dam.

September 20-21, 1804
The expedition made camp on a sandbar at the side of a river. During the night the sand beneath them started to give away as the sandbar and riverbank disintegrated into the water. Alerted by the night guard Captain Clark quickly summoned all hands to push the boats out into the river saving the pirogues which would have been sunk. The ever shifting banks of the Missouri were a constant source of concern.
West of Oacoma is the Missouri Rivers "Big Bend". The bend is the largest of the horseshoes the explorers documented. They measured 2000 yards by land across the neck of the bend. The river route was 30 miles.
There is a dam now 7 miles upstream from the Big Bend. It is appropriately called Big Bend Dam and is the 3rd of 6 mainstem dams that we will see on the Upper Missouri River. We are glad to have been able to visit this modern marvel, especially since the white pelicans described by Meriwether Lewis still fish this part of the river. We drove through portions of the Crow Creek Reservation to get there, enjoying beautiful river views along the way.

View of the Missouri River from the Crow Creek Reservation

Big Bend Dam
River mile 947
33573 North Shore Rd
Chamberlain, South Dakota

Lewis and Clark Interpretive and Keelboat Center
I-90 between exits 263 and 265
Chamberlain, South Dakota

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Sioux City

7/31/2017Sioux City sits on the borders of three states. We are staying in North Sioux City which is in South Dakota but are crossing the state lines back into Nebraska and Iowa when ever we go out for a drive.

The Big Sioux River joins the Missouri here. The river landscape is dominated by the bluffs of the Loess Hills. The hills are unusual landscape formations that were created by the wind  (like sand dunes). The result is a loose packed soil that crumbles easily so is prone to erosion, especially along the river banks.
The Corps of Discovery experienced difficulties in August of 1804 that had little to do with their river travel.
The expedition had entered Sioux territory and the men were on high alert.
Private Moses Reed had deserted the group and Private John Newman was charged with “mutinous actions”. Both were Court Martialled and disciplined.
Sergeant Charles Floyd, a 22 year old Kentuckian, had been sick with abdominal symptoms for a few weeks.
July 31st Floyd wrote in his journal:
“I am verry Sick and Has been for Sometime but have recovered my helth again.”
August 19th Clark wrote:
“Serjeant Floyd is taken verry bad all at once with a Biliose Chorlick we attempt to relieve him without success as yet, he gets worst and we are much allarmed at his Situation, all attention to him.”

Sergeant Floyd Monument in Sioux City
The young man died on August 20th. Symptoms suggest that he had appendicitis and peritonitis.
Sergeant Charles Floyd was buried with full military honors “on the top of a high round hill overlooking the River and Countrey for a great distance”
The grave of the explorer has been moved several times.
When the Corps of Discovery came back down the Missouri in 1806 they visited his burial place and found that it had been disturbed. They reburied him and restored the cedar marker which identified the grave site.
This likeness of Sgt. Floyd was made by a forensic artist, using a plaster cast of his skull as a guide.
Citizens of Sioux City reburied him in 1857 600 feet back from an eroding shoreline that had exposed his remains.
Floyd’s grave was rediscovered in 1895. Floyd's journals had been located in 1894 and his story had become important to the history of the city. His remains were transferred to urns and a plaster cast was made of his skull. The urns were covered with a marble slab and an obelisk was built over the site. The 100 foot tall monument on a bluff overlooking the river can be seen from US-75. It is a National Historic Landmark.
Sgt Floyd River Museum and Welcome Center
The Sergeant Floyd , a retired Army Corps of Engineers inspection boat, serves as the Sgt. Floyd River Museum and Welcome Center. We were told by Welcome Center volunteers that all of the Army Corps of Engineers Missouri River boats have been named after members of the expedition.
The dry docked boat is located on Sioux City’s waterfront in Larson Park. It has 2 decks of exhibits about the Missouri river, including an interesting one about Sergeant Floyd.
The museum features a display of Sergeant Floyd in uniform. The face of the explorer has been recreated by a forensic artist using the plaster cast of his skull made in 1895.
Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Seaman
Larsen Park is also home to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center which houses one of the best interactive displays about the expedition that we have seen.
The building was designed to fit into the landscape and is surrounded by trees and a sculpture garden. The statue of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Seaman is impressive and is mounted on a rise adjacent to the interest. The figures are shown gazing into the distance over the bronze animals in the sculpture garden and beyond them toward the river.
The explorers continued up river making note of the flatter landscape Patrick Gass wrote in his journal:
“This is the most open country I have ever beheld, almost one continued prairie.”
Spirit Mound
View from the top of Spirit Mound
On August 24th William Clark makes note of a conical form in the center on an immense prairie. The regions Native Americans told stories of tiny beings “Deevels with sharp arrows”  that would kill anyone approaching the hill. The next morning Lewis, Clark, Seamon and 9 others from their crew set off to climb the hill. The 6 mile hike was made difficult not because of devils but due to an extremely hot day that fatigued and dehydrated the men. Clark mentions in his journal that they Seaman was so “heeted and fatigued” that he had to be sent back to camp.
He also wrote:
“From the top of this Mound be beheld a most butifull landscape; numerous herds of buffalow were Seen feeding in various directions”
Flowers and grasses on the Prairie at Spirit Mound
We located Spirit Mound in Vermillion South Dakota. Its gentle hill remains the highest point in the landscape. Walking the trail to the top through prairie grasses and flowers is a unique experience. We have followed the Missouri for over 700 miles and have spent time at designated historic sites but the river has changed the landscape so much that most of those sites are approximations. Here on the top of Spirit Mound we stood in the actual footsteps of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center
900 Larsen Park Rd
Sioux City, Iowa

Sgt Floyd River Museum and Welcome Center
1000 Larsen Park Rd
Sioux City, Iowa

Lewis and Clark Visitor Center at Gavins Point Dam
55245 NE-121
Crofton, Nebraska

Sergeant Floyd Monument
2601 S Lewis Blvd
Sioux City, Iowa

Spirit Mound
31148 SD-19
Vermillion, South Dakota

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Off the Trail: Eastern Nebraska

Spirit of Nebraska Sculpture Park.

Greenwood is in Eastern Nebraska not far from the Iowa border. It is a rural area with corn fields as far as the eye can see. The tallest structures in the distance are a series of concrete grain silos near the railroad tracks.

The small town of Ashland is nearby.
Ashland has a downtown area that features brick paved streets, antique stores, boutique shops and restaurants.
We enjoyed drinks and an afternoon snack at the Glacial Till Winery Tasting Room while listening to local musicians perform at an open mic event. Their 2012 Chambourcin was pretty amazing. In addition to wine Glacial Till has a line of hard ciders that people were sampling.
Cheri O’s on the next block was great for breakfast and coffee.

Ashland is also home to the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum. Fred really enjoyed looking at the planes that he remembered from his time in the Air Force. He worked as a radar operator/Air Traffic Controller while on active duty. We arrived at the museum just in time to participate in a tour lead by an 83 year old retired Air Force pilot. It was interesting to hear his personal stories of flying some of the planes we were looking at in Viet Nam.
Several featured exhibits have their roots in Eastern Nebraska.

Richard Joyce from Lincoln Nebraska was one of Doolittle’s Tokyo Raiders. He piloted one of the 16 Air Force B-25 bombers that made a retaliatory strike on Japan April 18, 1942.
That strike was the first time that the empire of Japan had been attacked on their own soil.
The SAC museum displays a B-25. It was the only bomber at the time that could carry the necessary payload and had a short enough wingspan to be launched from a carrier. The display tells the story of Doolittle’s Tokyo Raid and of the 80 pilots and crew members that flew the mission.
Clayton Anderson designated the “Heartland Astronaut” is a native of Ashland. He has served twice on the International Space Station. SAC Museum features an exhibit telling the story of his training and space missions with a display of his fight suit.
The Martin Bomber plant was located at what is now Offut Air Force Base near Omaha. The plant manufactured the atomic bombers Enola Gay and Bocksar that dropped the Atomic weapons on Japan to end WWII. The museum has models of the plant, tools and a piece of the Enola Gay on display.

Omaha is a short drive from Greenwood and we enjoyed exploring it. One of our favorite sights in the city is the Spirit of Nebraska Sculpture Park. Impressive life sized bronzes depicting a wagon train traveling a westward trail occupy 2 city blocks.

It is amazing to walk around these statures, stepping between the wagons and looking up into the faces of the pioneers. There are men on horseback, children laughing from a wagon seat and a boy walking his dog. They all look very happy for the struggles they are facing but maybe its the beginning of their journey.

Nebraska City was a very pleasant surprise.
We drove the 50 miles in order to spend some time at the Corps of Discovery Interpretive Center.
While there we discovered colorful tree art outside buildings throughout the city.

The trees are symbols of Nebraska City, like the Mermaids in Norfolk Virginia and horses in Saratoga Springs New York little trees decorated the corners of Nebraska City.
The tree art was in honor of Arbor Day Farm. Yes that Arbor Day, the one we celebrate by planting trees every April.
Arbor Day started right here in Nebraska City.
Early pioneers did not find many trees on the Nebraska prairie.

They wanted trees to remind them of home.
They needed trees to provide windbreaks, to give them shade and to supply fuel and building materials for future use.
The first Arbor Day was celebrated in the 5 year old state of Nebraska in 187. with the planting of 1 million trees. School children planted trees for each of their classes and grades. Communities joined in with parades and tree planting parties of their own.
Through the 1870’s other states adopted Arbor Day as a Holiday and by 1882 schools nationwide were observing April 10th by planting trees.

Arbor Day Farm was an amazing place. We wished our little boys had been with us. They would have loved the treehouse 50 feet in the air. Arbor Day Farm gives each child who visits a tree to take home and plant and to care for. What a great way to ensure that our newest generation is looking out for their future.

Western Historic Trails Center
3434 Richard Downing Ave
Council Bluffs, Iowa

SAC and Aerospace Museum
28210 West Park Hwy
Ashland, Nebraska

Spirit of Nebraska Sculpture Park
Capital and 14th-16th St.
Omaha, Nebraska

Glacial Till Tasting Room
1419 Silver St
Ashland, Nebraska

Arbor Lodge National Historic Landmark
2600 Arbor Ave
Nebraska City, Nebraska

Thursday, August 3, 2017


Entrance of the Missouri River Basin Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center


We have reached Nebraska and have set up camp in Greenwood, a small rural town about 35 miles from Omaha. The Missouri River provides the border between Iowa and Nebraska with Omaha on one side of the river and Council Bluffs on the other.

The mouth of the Platte River enters the Missouri south of the city of Omaha.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition had been traveling for 68 days and had covered 600 miles to reach this point.
The Platte is a wide and shallow river full of sandbars. The water moves quickly through those obstructions and is said to be difficult to navigate.

The Platte River, shallow and full of sandbars enters the Missouri here.
The Missouri River 
We found a close up view of the confluence of the rivers at the Schilling Refuge near Plattesmouth, Nebraska. The differences in the river were very apparent when we paid attention to the boat traffic. Fishermen and boaters enjoying the Missouri used high performance boats with traditional inboard or outboard engines. Those cruising the Platte had air boats.
William Clark made note of the fast current and the quantity of sand pushed into the Missouri by the Platte.

“The current of this river comes with great velosity roleing its Sands into the Missouri, filling up its Bead and Compelling it to encroach on the S Shore.  We found great dificuelty in passing around the Sand at the Mouth of this River”

Once past the sandy obstruction they continued upriver for about 10 miles to the Omaha area and made camp for several days.
Walking the "Bob" is a Thing to do in Omaha.

Omaha’s Riverfront is pretty spectacular. The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center and the Midwest Regional Headquarters of the National Park Service are on Riverfront Drive. Walking paths line both sides of the Missouri and the Bob Kerry walking bridge connects them.

Lewis and Clark Landing on the Omaha Riverfront commemorates their stopping point which they called White Catfish Camp. The course of the river has changed over the last 250 years through flooding, dams and flood control measures. The original site of the encampment is believed by archaeologists to be near the current Eply field.
William Clark made note of good fishing in these waters including “three very large catfish caught here, one nearly white”.

Missouri River Basin Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, 3 floors dedication to the expeditions scientific research.
The Missouri River Basin Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Nebraska City focuses its exhibits on the scientific observations and discoveries of the expedition.
There are displays of the plants, birds and animals that the Corps encountered as well as an unusual fish exhibit.
Native American students from High Schools in Montana and Nevada designed the exhibit which identifies fish from the explorers descriptions.
The exhibit also describes the methods that would have been used to catch the fish in that time period.

Meriwether Lewis noted the presence of Prairie Dogs here as well as bear, swans and white pelicans so plentiful that the river was full of their feathers for miles.

White Catfish Camp was also the base of operations for the first council that Lewis and Clark would have with Indian nations. They sent out messengers to request a meeting with Otoe and Missouri chiefs but were disappointed to learn that the tribes had left their earth lodge villages for a Summer buffalo hunt.
Lewis and Clark were not able to speak with main tribal leaders but Meriwether Lewis did meet with about 100 members of the Otoe and Missouri tribes including some lesser chiefs, telling them of the US government’s claim to the Missouri River and opening negotiations for peaceful coexistence.

“A pt of  Otteau and Missourie Nation came to Camp, among these indians 6 were Chiefs (not the principal Chiefs)  Capt Lewis and myself met with those Indians and informed them we were glad to see them...sent them some roasted meat, Pork, flour and meal, in return they sent us Water millions...every man on his guard and ready for anything”

Fred on the bluff at the Lewis and Clark Monument in Council Bluffs, Iowa
This meeting took place at Council Bluff, a high ridge overlooking the Missouri River. The exact location is not known but is thought to be at Fort Calhoun in Nebraska. We sought a similar  vantage point on the Iowa side of the river in the city of Council Bluffs. There a Lewis and Clark Monument is set on the edge of a hill with the river valley far below. The view is spectacular. We were looking over the city of Omaha but imagining what it must have been like to see nothing but prairie grasses to the horizon.

"Captain Lewis and myself walked in the prarie on the top of the bluff and observed the most butiful prospects imagionable, this prarie is covered with grass about 10 or 12 inch rich rises about 1/2 mile back something higher and is a plain as fur as can be seen"

The Lewis and Clark Monument is a stop on the Lewis and Clark Monument Trail, a 4 1/2 mile bike trail that runs through Omaha. The trail is marked by stone and mosaic art pieces that indicate points of interest.

Stone and mosaic pillars on the Lewis and Clark Monument Trail.

This mosaic on one of the large pillars depicts the expedition in the Keel boat and pirogues.

Moccasin design in the stone pillar.

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center
Lewis and Clark Landing
601 Riverfront Drive
Omaha, Nebraska

Lewis and Clark Monument
19962 Monument Rd
Council Bluffs, Iowa

Missouri River Basin Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center
100 Valmont Dr
Nebraska City, Nebraska

Mouth of the Platte River
17614 Schilling Refuge Rd
Plattesmouth, Nebraska
This is a one lane rutted dirt and gravel road along the river we didn't need the 4WD but were glad of the Jeeps high clearance..

The Missouri River overlook at the Missouri River Basin Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center