Our Voyage of Discovery

Bronze statue of Lewis and Clark and the dog, Seaman.  The portrait of Jefferson is in the background.

Dan and I set out from our home in St. Charles for a short, one-night little getaway. But on the way to our destination, we visited the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site in Hartford, Illinois.

This State Historic Site is designated as National Lewis and Clark Heritage Trail Site #1. This is because this is where Lewis and Clark set up camp and spent five months preparing for their famous journey. The camp was named Camp River Dubois.

The State Historic Site opened in 2002. It is literally less than 30 miles from our home. I only learned – or should I say – discovered it, in the last year. I learned about it from reading a blog post!

The site includes a museum along with some outside features, including a replica of the camp and a settler’s cabin. A bike trail runs through the property as well – another discovery for us. Since it was a cold and very windy day, Dan and I focused on the museum. I can see us returning on a warmer day to view the outside areas and to ride the bike trail.

We spent about two hours at the museum. We watched a short, 15 minute film entitled, “At Journey’s Edge.” While I won’t try to recreate the museum experience for you, I will leave you with a few tidbits which I learned while at the museum.

Secretary of War Henry Dearborn Refused to grant Clark a Captain’s Rank – until after the journey.

First, did you know William Clark wasn’t really a Captain? His rank was lieutenant, and Lewis had requested a promotion before the trip. When the promotion was denied, the two kept it between themselves and represented themselves as equal, co-captains on the journey. Once they returned from the journey and received all the accolades, Clark also received the promotion. He sent it back. What would you have done?

I also learned the Corps at times ate dogs and horses, preferring them to fresh salmon – which at one point had made them very sick. I learned that Sacajawea gave birth during the journey. I learned the Corps tapped maple trees and boiled the sap down to maple sugar. I learned about how Whiskey played various roles in the story. And I learned the crew carried the “Jefferson Peace Medal” with them and gave these “friendship coins” to Native Americans along the way.

I marveled at the words Clark wrote when he saw the Great Falls. He later sketched its beauty as best he could. I, myself, feel the same kind of awe when I experience the natural beauty of so many places around this country.

I wished for the pencil of Salvator Rosa or the pen of Thompson, that I might be enabled to give to the enlightened world some just idea of this truly magnifficent and sublimely grand object.

William Clark
8 December 1804

The museum also includes an actual size replica of the 55 foot keelboat including its 30 foot high mast. I asked the museum attendant if many school groups came through as I could envision an engaging tour. The attendant replied there weren’t so many school groups any more. Not because of Covid as I would have thought, but more due to the lack of funds for such activities.

Replica of the 55 foot keelboat
The Keelboat
Side of Keelboat
Showing storage
Kind of reminds me of a Class A
with all the storage underneath

Dan and I visited the museum on a cold Thursday in February. From the looks of it, besides the attendant and a volunteer, we were the only ones there. The attendant and the volunteer were so friendly, so welcoming and seemed genuinely happy we were there. This place is truly a treasure. I am so glad we discovered it.

The outside building of the State Historic Site
Lewis and Clark
Camp Dubois – State Historic Site


  1. How interesting, thanks for this post! We have a number of Lewis and Clark sites here in Oregon and I always enjoy visiting them. We also recently discovered one in a small park in Cannon Beach, Oregon. There is also a large statue of Lewis and Clark and their dog on the Promenade roundabout in Seaside and a replica of their camp near Astoria. What brave men they were!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are welcome! If I ever make it to Oregon, I would love to visit all those sites. They were very brave! And smart and skilled, too. I knew they left from “St. Charles” where we live, but I didn’t know about Camp Dubois. Thanks for your comment, and I hope you have a good day!


    • Thanks, Jessica. They had “Junior Ranger” books there. I have heard of adults doing the “Junior Ranger” program, too, – to help them learn about a place. I didn’t look at the booklet, but I wish I would have. I think it would be a wonderful place for homeschool history. That is a great idea! Hope you have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It is always fun to discover new to you things close to home. One of my graduate school professors and his buddies took an annual journey to retrace Lewis and Clark’s trip. It was fun to hear him talk about it. The keelboat was interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Even after 200+ years, the story of Lewis and Clark still fascinates – to the point of others retracing the journey! I would like to visit more of the Lewis and Clark sites. This museum was done really well, and we really enjoyed our time there. Hope you have a great week!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great, informative post, Betty. We’ve visited the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at Washburn, ND. We found it hard to imagine how they charted their route through the difficult terrain back then.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are right. It is very hard to imagine how difficult the terrain was back then. I read – I think it was Lewis – studied what was known of plants and animals, to help him identify what they found along the way. The museum also included their time estimates of travel – and it was always shorter than they thought – especially the Rocky Mountains. Thanks for your comment, and Enjoy your day, Terry.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Meg. It is so close to home, I think we will be able to get back there. There is a great bike trail, so I’d like to explore that, too. I thought of you when I read about the maple trees, boiling down the syrup to make maple sugar. Hope you have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for your post. We’ve been to three Lewis and Clark sites that exist along the Lewis and Clark Adventure Trail which is a 3,700-mile long historical trail in the United States National Park Service system. But we’ve never been to where it all began – until now. I always enjoy visiting the sites since the expedition so fascinates me. And ever time I go, either in person or through a blog like yours I learn so much. So, thanks again and have a great week.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, Bill, if you come to this area, this museum is a must see for you. I think it is very well done. Can you tell me what 3 sites you visited? Did you write blog posts about them? I’d like to go back and read these posts. The Lewis and Clark journey has always fascinated me. Years ago, I read “Undaunted Courage.” It took me a year as I only read a few pages each night. But it was a great book. Fingers crossed and prayers for a good week for you and Barb.


  5. What a great museum, Betty! Mike and I are a bit fascinated by the Lewis and Clark Expedition, but it took a lot of traveling to really learn about them and the Corps of Discovery. It’s sad that funding is too tight for school children to experience it. Have a wonderful week ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, they really traveled far! I was sad about the school groups, too. However, someone mentioned home school groups, and I think that is a great idea. I know many parents take their kids, and scout groups do, too. I just think of the children who don’t get those opportunities. I hope you have a wonderful week ahead, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Combing biking with site seeing is good! My extended family is planning on doing the maple syrup operation again this spring. Wayne and I will miss the beginning of the process as it will start while we are still in AZ. We will get in on the actual cooking (and cleaning up!).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am so glad you discovered this gem! Thanks for sharing it with us. Kevin and I want to drive the Lewis & Clark trail sometime. Now I know where to start. 🙂 So sad about school children not having field trips. What better way to deepen the experience of learning than to see, hear, touch, imagine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that would be a great adventure – to travel the National Lewis and Clark Heritage Trail. I feel bad about the school children, too. Visiting a museum like this can make history come alive. Plus, I think it’s also beneficial to see others passionate about something. And it’s always good to learn and to use one’s imagination. It seems like a good opportunity for those who home school. And the most important thing is to ignite a passion for learning. I used to work at a community college – can you tell? ha ha. Safe travels, and have fun!


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