In 1801, Thomas Jefferson became the third President of the United States. The western boundary of the United States was the Mississippi River. Two-thirds of Americans lived within 50 miles of the Atlantic Ocean. Having tried three previous times to mount expeditions across the continent, he decided to try once more. To Jefferson, a water route to the Pacific would mean everything to the developing country.
Jefferson asked Meriwether Lewis to plan and command the expedition. In the Spring of 1803, Lewis chose William Clark, a former army comrade, to share command of the expedition. As soon as the Louisiana Purchase was completed in the spring of 1804, the Corps of Discovery with Lewis, Clark and about thirty-eight others began their hazardous, winding 4,000 mile trip to the Pacific Ocean.
Today, 200 years later, the Lewis & Clark Expedition is still an extremely important mile-stone in the development of our country and a continuing influence on the cultures of the region through which they traveled.