During the summer and fall of 1804, Lewis and Clark with the Corps of Discovery covered much of the same ground that Linda and I had planned for this tour. Their favorite byway was the Missouri River. Ours would primarily be SR 1804 and SR 1806, which accompany the river on its journey south.
The jumping-off point for our adventure is the Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center in Chamberlain, SD. Reaching Chamberlain, after a 360-mile slog on I-90 from our home in Minnesota, we find immediate relief as we pull into town on a hot August afternoon. The facility, which started as St. Joseph's Indian School in 1927, has blossomed into a present day museum and cultural center. It offers a look into the native way of life before and since Euro-American contact. The manicured grounds, with their stately oak trees, provide an idyllic setting. Admission is free.
Three miles north of Chamberlain a small but beautiful scenic overlook offers a great place to check out the landscape. Two bridges cross the Missouri River at this point, but views of the river become rare as the highway pulls further to the east.
State Route 34 runs straight for 6 miles before we make a slight left and pull up in front of Lode Star Casino in Fort Thompson. Having stopped here numerous times before the friendly staff makes us feel right at home.
Refreshed and cool we're once again on the road as it weaves its way over Big Bend Dam on the river. We both fail to see our turn north and end up riding what seems like halfway back to I-90. Retracing our steps, we eventually find the way when Linda spots the familiar, brown Lewis and Clark Trail sign. In the small reservation town of Lower Brule, SR 10 makes a sharp left, which can also be easily missed. Just beyond Lower Brule, the scenic byway starts to live up to its name.