Have you ever wondered what the U.S. was like at the time of the Louisiana Purchase, or what it would have been like to explore unchartered territories with Meriwether Lewis and William Clark? Begin your own exploration of the past in Illinois at the preparation point for the famed Lewis and Clark expedition.
President Jefferson commissioned Captain Meriwether Lewis to lead the expedition, or Corps of Discovery, to find, “the most direct and practicable water communication across this continent for the purposes of commerce.” The exploration’s objective was scientific and economical – to study the area’s plants, animal life and geography and to discover what natural resources were available throughout the largely unexplored section of the United States.
Before the journey commenced, approximately 30 people spent the winter at Camp River Dubois, near present day Hartford, Illinois. Today, you can explore the camp and see what life was like more than 200 years ago. The Lewis and Clark Memorial and the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site will give you a chance to experience life as it would have been in the days of the explorers. The site’s museum is a great destination for a quick winter getaway and the spectacular view from the Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower is just as impressive in the winter as it is in the summer. The 150 foot tower provides sweeping panoramas of the Great Rivers Country region and overlooks the confluence of the Missouri, Mississippi and Illinois rivers. After taking in the views from the tower, head to nearby Grafton, to see the magnificent bald eagles that call the area home. Winter is the best time of year for eagle watching.
The area where that great expedition began so long ago can also be the starting point of your own adventure! Extend your travels in Great Rivers Country and through the rest of the state by venturing out on any of the 550 miles of the Great River Road National Scenic Byway that line the western edge of Illinois, along the Mississippi River. Travel north to Galena, stop in the Quad Cities or visit the historic town of Nauvoo. The Great River Road is full of adventures, scenic views and characters to make your exploration a memorable one.
–The Illinois Office of Tourism