Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in GREAT PLAINS QUARTERLY 26:2 (Spring 2006). Copyright © 2006 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln.


The odyssey that was the Lewis and Clark Expedition continues to capture the hearts of those who love tales of adventure and unknown lands. In light of the current bicentennial celebration that began in 2003 and will continue through 2006, the popularity and aggrandizement of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and their Corps of Discovery has never been greater. Clearly, none can deny that they were essential to expanding the geographical horizons of a fledgling nation coming to grips with the rich resources that the vast expanse of the Louisiana Territory would offer. However, lost in the glorification of these intrepid explorers are the exploits of earlier voyagers who contributed greatly to European, and later, American understanding of the Great Plains and the rest of the Trans-Mississippi West. Lewis and Clark were not forced to complete an entire three-year journey through lands unknown. A great deal of credit is owed to those that came before the voyage commissioned by Thomas Jefferson in 1803.