Lewis & Clark History
The journey along the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway begins in Hartford at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers where Lewis & Clark's journey west began. It was in Illinois that Lewis and Clark prepared for the journey as common men became soldiers organized for a military expedition. It was in Illinois that 45 men set sail not knowing what they would find at the river bends, not knowing if or when they would return back home.
It is here in Hartford that visitors can experience the Illinois side of the Lewis & Clark story at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center (#1 Lewis & Clark Trail, Hartford, IL). The center features five exhibit rooms and a full-scale cut-away keelboat, showing how Lewis & Clark "packed" for the journey.
After visiting the museum, see how Lewis & Clark lived during the winter of 1804 at the replica of the Camp River Dubois. Behind the museum, re-enactors and site interpreters are on hand at the fortified encampment to explain what life was like for the men at Camp River Dubois as they prepared for the journey.
Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower
The Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower is located in Hartford, Illinois, two miles from the Lewis & Clark State Historic Site, which is National Trail Site #1 on the Lewis & Clark Trail. The Tower opened in May 2010 and was built in commemoration of the historic expedition. The 180-foot tower has three viewing platforms at 50, 100 and 150-feet connecting the two towers that represent Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.
Each level of the tower tells stories about the area’s history, including the Village of Hartford, the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway, Lewis and Clark and the confluence of two great rivers - the Mississippi and Missouri.
The Tower is the gateway to the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway, with a visitor center located in the northern tower. At the visitor center, guests can plan their trip along the 33-mile route with interactive exhibits, videos and graphic panels that tell stories of history, wildlife and communities all along the byway.
Both sites have seasonal hours.
THE JOURNEY BEGINS:
Dec. 12, 1803: William Clark and his men enter the River Dubois, near the present day city of Hartford, Illinois, opposite the mouth of the Missouri River and prepare their winter camp.
Dec. 13, 1803: Men begin clearing and cutting the land under a “hard wind – flying clouds” and build a road from the River Dubois through the forest to nearby prairie where Clark has determined the winter camp will be built.
Dec. 24, 1803: The group is able to sleep indoors in rustic huts built out of timber.
Jan. 1, 1804: William Clark hires Mrs. Cane as a washer woman for the camp and has a cabin built for her on the campgrounds.
Jan. 9, 1804: Clark discovers Cahokia Mounds during his exploration and surveys of the area.
March 9 – 10, 1804: Meriwether Lewis serves as official witness to the formal transfer of Upper Louisiana from Spain to France and from France to the United State in St. Louis.
March 30, 1804: Lewis and Clark formally enlist the soldiers and other men who would take part in the expedition.
May 14, 1804: Under the command of Clark, the expedition leaves Camp River Dubois on the east side of the Mississippi River and begins their voyage of discovery. Lewis joins the group in St. Charles, Missouri.