Leslie Alien’s article “Comparing Notes With Lewis and Clark” (April/May 2003) brought back memories of my own efforts to do just that. On the first leg of their expedition in August 1804 the explorers traveled up the Missouri River through South Dakota. Exactly to the day 155 years later three of us set out in a 14-foot fiberglass boat at Pierre, South Dakota, and attempted to retrace part of their journey. We motored and floated downstream and from the expedition journals felt that we could identify the areas of their campsites. Each evening, after establishing camp, we would investigate the natural features of the area, including geology, flora, and fauna. At a site near Crow Creek the journals describe a near-disaster when a steep bank collapsed and threatened to swamp one of their boats. The next morning our boat was nearly submerged by a similar slide. For a time we were all a little spooked.
Near the small village of Iona, the wind became a gale and we decided we had experienced enough history; we took up the boat and went home.
We had gained new respect for the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and planned to resume our journey at some future date. But time passes, the Corps of Engineers has remodeled the Missouri Basin, and it is unlikely that Lewis and Clark themselves could find their campsites or recognize that stretch of the river today.