Illinois and Missouri: The Lewis & Clark Trail

Text: James T. Parks • Photography: James T. Parks, Jeff Arpin, Kayla Cavaliere

“The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri River & such principal streams of it, as, by its course and communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean, whether the Columbia, Oregon, Colorado or any other river, may offer the most direct and practicable water communication across this continent for the purpose of commerce.” —Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States Washington, D.C., June 20, 1803

Our Journey Begins

Kayla Cavaliere, my 19-year-old granddaughter, and I are racing through Dulles Airport to catch an early morning flight to St. Louis. We meet up with Jeff Arpin, the third member of our expedition, behind a rapidly forming line of frenzied passengers heading into security.

Slipping into my seat and buckling up for takeoff, I recall that Meriwether Lewis left Washington, D.C., on July 5, 1803, to begin preparations for his voyage up the Missouri River. During his trip to the fur-trading outpost in St. Louis, Lewis acquired boats, men, provisions, and his co-captain, William Clark. The idea for the excursion was spawned by Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase from France, which almost doubled the size of the United States, for the bargain price of million.

After arriving on the banks of the Mississippi River near St. Louis, winter quarters were constructed. The Corps of Discovery’s expedition would begin some 11 months after Lewis departed Washington. In contrast, our 21st century flying machine will have us in St. Louis in a few hours, and we’ll begin our own journey along the Lewis & Clark Trail tomorrow.

Shiny new Can-Am Spyder Limiteds, courtesy of Bombardier Recreational Products, are awaiting us at the “Cowtown USA, Inc.” motorsports dealership in Cuba, MO. Len Damouth, and his father who owns the dealership, give us a thorough briefing on our mounts. Somewhat like Lewis and Clark at the beginning of their journey, we load up our gear and begin the 90-mile ride back to our lodging in St. Louis. After encountering several GPS challenges and wrong turns in a sketchy part of town, we finally arrive at around 10 p.m.

St. Louis

“I Set out at 4 oClock P. M. in the presence of many of the Neighbouring inhabitents, and proceeded on under a jentle brease up the Missourie …”

—William Clark, May 14, 1804

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the September/October 2013 back issue.