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Lewis and Clark Boat House and Nature Center

Hours: Monday-Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm and Sunday Noon-5:00pm.
Closed on New Year's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Entrance Fee:
Adults $5.00
Children under 17 $2.00
Group Rates are available (Groups of 15 or more).

Contact Us:
Bishop's Landing
1050 S. Riverside Drive
St. Charles, MO 63301


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12–27 May 2004

May 12th, evening

Arrive Alton Marina, River rising, much debris and dead fish in water. I load my gear onto Red pirogue, and stow it in the aft portside hold. I check the bilges and start to pump and sponge them out after the rains. I erect the canvas shelter, which I had sewn together last week, onto the bow of the boat. Finally finished with preparations, I walk over to the keel boat to talk with some of the other members there. A little later, I return to the red boat and sleep from 11 pm until sunrise.

May 13th

Dean Clawson arrives this am and we go to breakfast together. The keel boat crew is still asleep. We return and move red boat by hand and oar out of the debris field, in preparation for our departure to Wood River. The weather is becoming ominous of rain. Near 10AM both boats depart down the Mississippi river to LOCK thru at the dam. We don our rain gear after exiting the lock and shortly later we arrive at the mouth of the Wood River. The river here is very muddy, banks are high, slick and overgrown in weeds. We secure the boats and catch a ride over to Camp Dubois, about 2 miles away, and get a sandwich for lunch. It begins to rain hard and the rainwater puddles several inches deep. We again return to the boats, check the mooring lines, and pump and sponge the bilges out again. The white pirogue has arrived and we are now three boats. A hard rain tonight penetrates my canvas awning, creating a mist inside. I cover my bedding with an oilcloth and manage to stay dry. My new wool toque is proving quite effective in keeping the water off of my head, as I have fulled it out pretty well. Supper is some jerked meat that I have brought, plus a little parched corn and dried fruit from the food barrels on the boat.

May 14th

Rain, rain & more rain, becoming quite heavy at times. We breakfast on parched corn and dried fruit. Hot Coffee would be great, but only water is at hand. I take down the wet awning to clear the bow of the boat for the oars. At 11 am we ferry the boats to a dry landing underneath a bridge and we pick up our ‘passengers’, the soldiers who have walked down from Camp Dubois. The soldiers, have little desire to work the boats and are mostly concerned for their uniform appearance. We stow their gear in the cargo holds and head off down Wood River to the Mississippi and the Hartford celebration in the rain. The day becomes quite cold. I am barefoot, as mocs are too slippery on the wet deck, and in short breeches. My ankle length oilskin frock is all I have available to block the wind. I see no sense in donning more clothing now, only to get them wet too..We arrive in Hartford at noon, about 3 hours early for the cerimony, and we huddle down below the gunwales to get out of the wind and rain as best we are able to. There is really no place to shelter on the open boat. Eventually, someone brings us hot coffee and a half sandwich each. The coffee and food raise our spirit on this inclimate day. Soon, the troops fall in on shore for the cerimony and I lead the Corps in the singing of ‘Chester’. During the cerimony, there was an amazing occurrence; as Bob Plummer (Patroon) begins to read the names of our resently deceased members, the clouds part and the warm sun beams down upon us. When the last name is read, the clouds close in and the sun quickly dissappears for the remainder of the day. My faith is fortified. Surely, angels are watching over us. After the cerimony, we cast off and the national guard fires a huge cannon salute. I say a prayer of thanks for our safe travel on the Mississippi, and ask the Lord’s guidance and protection as we enter the Missouri River. We press hard to make distance up the Missouri River, and as dusk begins to fall, we make our landing at the site of old Fort Bellefountaine. The banks here are some 15 to 20 foot high, steep and hard to climb. Here also there are some treacherous timbers lying just below the surface of the water which we must avoid.. Supper is simple, donated by the nice folks which meet us here. Not ‘period type food’ but prefferable to the parched corn….

May 15th

We rise at dawn and get underway early as breakfast is awaiting us up river at Sunset Park. It is a clear pleasant day but it takes us about three hours of fighting the swift current until we can make a landing at the park. Many people are there waiting for our arrival. I say many greetings as I head up the hill to refill my canteen and find facilites; when I return the food is already gone. There is some hot coffee left however, and I avail myself to a couple servings. Off again to the boats, through the mud. We try our best to keep the decks clean of the thick river mud, with mop and bucket. Several more hours travel, and we can see St Charles ahead in the distance. The Missouri river here is very low, the lowest I have ever seen for this time of year, and the shallows and eddies are tricky. There appears to be thousands of people on the shore. We run aground in the shallows, trying to land, and while I am busy with an oar poling our boat off the bar, our “crew” is too busy waving to the audience, to be concerned with the mooring lines lying tangled at their feet. Somehow, patroon and I get us tied up alongside the dock. Pierre (Joe) Cruzette, our fiddler, greets me on the dock – It is good to see him again. He has set his camp on the bank and it over-looks our mooring. Pierre (Joe) helps me to move my gear ashore. Patroon departs for home, and the remainder of the Corps, moves up the bank and onward to their camp, which is located about _ mile away, leaving Cruzette and I to oversee the boats. We play some music for a couple hours this afternoon, then we build up a nice fire, cook a good meal, and toast our friendship. Later, we play music for an evening Dance . A watch is posted tonight on the boats, and so we are free to take a couple hours and walk into town. Afterwards I spend a restless night, keeping one eye on the boats from our camp on shore.

May 16th

We awake at 6 AM to post the colors, then fix breakfast of coffee, eggs, and sausage.
Afterwards Pierre and I clean up and play music for the worship services held near the main Corps encampment. The remainder of the day we spend speaking with the visitors to the boats. This afternoon, we take the keel boat on the river, for a memorial cerimony. Later, we unstep the masts and tent the boats, as the weather forecast is for more rain later this week. Heavy rains up river are causing predictions of a 10 to 12 foot rise in the river levels. Joe and Ron depart for home this evening, and I am alone in camp.

May 17th

Awake at 6pm to post the colors. I prepare a pot of coffee and breakfast for myself and the 3 men sleeping on keel boat. Afterwards, I hike down to the camp and make about a dozen sand bags for the boat tents and 4 sacks for tent stakes, from some scrap canvass material in the boat house. I try a “buffalo” BBQ sandwich for lunch. It was not very good,. Patroon arrives from home. He and I run several crews out for training on the Red boat. The weather is very hot. There are many visitors down by the boats, and they all have questions. I fix ‘Boudan Blanc’ (sausages) for supper. Patroon and I move our shelter a few feet over, to a slightly higher rise of ground, due to forecasted rains. At 3AM I awake to some noise by the boats. Walter is up, and we must push the keelboat out off the bank several feet due to the falling river level.

May 18th

Awake at 6am to post the colors but it is raining hard this mornning. It is fortunate that we moved our shelter, as we are now surrounded by puddled water. When the rain stops, I return to the boathouse to finish some work and clean up my sewing equipment to send home. Patroon and I lunch on some jerk and dried fruit while out on another training session on the red boat. This afternoon, I bathe and change into clean clothes. A strong storm hits us with very high winds, and I seek shelter in the shop at the boat house. Rain is blowing horizontal. When it lets up, huge puddles are everywhere and my mocs are soaked by the time I return to camp. I am suprised to see that my shelter is still standing and my belongings are still dry after the bad storm. In my surprise, I slip and fall on the bank by the boats, and so I am muddy once more. My wife arrives and we go into town for dinner.

May 19th

A warm morning. I prepare coffee and breakfast for crew on boats. There are more visitors and questions today. This evening, a shooting match is held for our Corps members. It is sponsered by the Missouri Conservation department, at the August Busch Wildlife area.. Much fun. My French fusil performs rather well, but alas, I miss the final target. A Bar B Que feed is provided by the Conservation men and Bandanas; The meal is served by trois jolies demoiselles, bon, bon, bon!. During the meal, I learn that I am tied for first place with Messr. Scott Ballentine, a fine rifleman from the east. After supper, there is a shoot off. The target is Capt Lewis’ small cell phone. After many shots, I somehow manage to hit the target, and am greeted with cheers from my comrades. It was a most fun evening, and we heartily thank the Mo. Conservation department representatives who sponsored the shoot and furnished the nice prizes for the contestants. The steady breeze lays down this night and the mosquitoes become troublesome.

May 20th

A warm morning. Awake at 6am to post the colors and fix coffee and breakfast for boat crew. Walk down to boathouse and help to clean it up for the Clark family luncheon tomorrow. Patroon and I go to town purchase a pound of tobacco. The tobacco will be used to fill the dozen elkhide tobacco pouches which I have made as gifts to the elders of the Indian nations we will encounter along the journey up the Missouri. Patroon and I then go into “The Tent of Many Voices” to participate in an educational broadcast about the effect of music on the Expedition. We sing and play some songs, and answer questions from the school audience. It is very hot today. I bathe and change into clean clothes again. My wife and daughter arrive and we go into town for supper, where I relate to them great embelished stories of my shooting prowess and the great victory of yesterday.

May 21st

Walk down to the main camp for breakfast. This morning we depart for Bellefountaine cemetary for a rededication of the William Clark gravesite. The Clark family has been busy restoring the site for some years now and today is the culmination of their efforts. I assist, directing vehicles for two hours, and then proceed to the gravesite to observe the cerimony. Hot and thirsty weather today. After the cerimony, back to boats to relieve the crew stationed there. River is rising and mooring must be moved. We prepare this day for our “Faux Departure” at 3:00pm. Big crowd. I remain on docks to handle lines for the departure and arrival.

Much debris is collecting in eddy around the boats, due to rising water, and we push it away as best we are able to. Pierre (Joe Tesson) Cruzette returns this night.

May 22nd

Awake by 6am and build a fire to make coffee and breakfast for crew on boats.
After cleaning up the camp, we prepare for the many visitors and events of the day.
The river is rising rapidly and we most move the docks again. We anticipate a huge debris field (trees and logs) to arrive this night from up river. I delegate men to serve 2 hour “watches” on the docks to pole off approching logs. I take the 2 – 4 AM watch, and thankfully, it is relativily uneventful.

May 23rd

Rain. Cruzette and I play music to entertain the crowd of visitors. Today is our last day in St.Charles, as we will depart this afternoon. The clouds are steadly thickening. We take out a crew for a final training session in the bad weather. All goes well – mission accomplished. The sun comes out again and it warms up as our departure time approaches. We start out up river in the late afternoon, hoping to make 12-16 miles up river against the swift current before nightfall. We traveled through several rain squalls, one quite severe, but always the sun returned to us. Many groups of well wishers made their way to the river bank to wave to us as we went by, firing salutes and tooting on the sounden horn. We encounter a strong squall and it rains so hard that it is difficult to see more than 40 feet ahead. The rain ends as quickly as it began, and as the sun sets we arrive at our landing place, near a boat ramp at Weldon Springs conservation area. I was quite concerned as we raced with the sun to arrive at a safe landing before nightfall. With the all of the logs coming down this river, a wooden boat would be a poor refuge in the darkness. It is dark as we tie up for the night, and the rains end. Again, I feel that angels are watching over us and I say a prayer of thanks. Some of the men search for an axe or a saw with which to cut up firewood. I am exhausted from the prior 12 days and sit by myself in the stern of the boat, trying to ‘unwind’ a bit. Soon, the temptation of spirits becomes too great to ignor, and I go ashore and join the men around the camp fire.

May 24th

Morning - Fortunately I have a coffee pot and the “makings” on board, and the top sergeant puts them to good use this morning. We all have a cup of hot coffee and some leftovers from last nights repast. We depart early but have to hold and wait until the fog on the river lifts. The plan is, that we will travel to “Tavern Cave” this morning; lunch at the Labadie Power Plant, and then arrive at Washington, Mo. this afternoon. We tranfer some men to the Keelboat, and they are soon landed along the bank. We travel further up the river while they hike to the cave, and then pick them up afterwards. When our ground party returned, we traveled up river to the Labadie power plant. The huge plant is named for a relation of the Chouteau’s, the French river barons in St Louis. The workers there prepared us a fine luncheon and one of them even donated gifts of – Pouch & horn, bullet bag w/strap, and antler hafted short starters. It was a great visit, but we could not stay long, being commited to arrive this day in Washington, Mo. Departing our new friends, we traveled as fast as we could and arrived at Washington near 4pm. We announced our arrival with several salutes, fired from our bow guns. The other two boats landed quickly to dispatch their crews to participate in the parade in town, but we voyaguers rowed our pirogue about in the river for a bit before landing. The current at the landing is quite swift, and it was with some difficulty that we manage to tie up. Cruzette and I observe the soldiers standing at attention in the warm sun, and so we decide to slip off to a nearby inn, for a cold drink and a meal. As we enter the door we encounter the captains of the other boats, who had the same idea as we, and beat us to this place. A few of us later return to the main camp to see what is scheduled for this evening and tomorrow. Rain is in the air again and we return to erect our shelters on the boats.

May 25th

A strong storm hits us again tonight with 60 mile per hour winds. It literally almost blows our boat out of the river, and it does beach the white pirogue. Fortunately no damage is done. In the morning we find that our camp wedge tents weathered the storm well although some of the awnings were blown down. The food court vendors did not fair as well and most of their awnings and tents were twisted wrecks. The day alternates between rain and sun. At 2pm, a party of about 20 soldiers and voyaguers travel overland to Marthasville, Mo.; the site of the old French town of La Charrette. La Charrette was the last white settlement the original Corps of discovery encountered on their way west. There was a large event held here over the weekend but the recent rains, although not dampening the town’s spirit, have made for much mud. We cross a levee to the old bed of the Missouri river and to the site of the original town of LaCharrette. The River has long ago washed away all traces of the settlement, due in part to the many floods which have occured over the past 200 years. We fire a salute over the ground, and toasted the site with a glass of “Charrette” wine. The rain begins again as we return to Marthasville. Here there is a ceremony and the town donated fine gifts to all Corps members present. We all sign the back of a commemorative painting by artist Billy O’. We then went across the street for a great supper of fried catfish. After supper, The Boones lick Strings, Joe, Ron and myself; entertain our hosts with some music for an hour or so. Afterwards, we walk back across the street to attend an 1804 country-dance. It is about 10PM when we return to Washington and our bunks. Tomorrow we will depart up river for New Haven.

May 26th

The corps forms up in camp this AM and we march, as a unit to a local middle school where we are to be the guests of honor for breakfast. After breakfast, a slight rain begins as we return to the boats to prepare for our run up to New haven. We depart Washington at 10 am under oars, as the sun come out again. A three hour run brings us to New Haven, where the river is heavy with debris. We tie up alongside an old circa 1919 tugboat and walk into town to get bar-b-que and a cold beer. Captain Lewis wishes to depart this afternoon for a wilderness camp. This will shorten the distance we must travel tomorrow to arrive in Hermann, Mo. by 10 am. The weather is ominous and I voice my opposition to this idea. After some debate, we elect to proceed with the boat movement. Jim Stanley, Joe and myself go into town to secure provisions for the evening meal and breakfast on the boats, and deliver the supplies to each boat prior to our departure. The boats finally depart New Haven around 4:30pm amid my trepidations of only about 3 hours of daylight remaining. The weather soon closes in and we are hit with several severe squalls of blinding rain and high winds. Lightening fills the sky and I feel that it is only with divine providence that we pass safely through the series of storms and water borne obstacles on our way upstream. Near sunset, the rains cease and we spy the downstream end of Bates Island. We nose into the bank, and secure our boats as darkness falls. Bill Shansey produces a corkscrew, and declares that “A bottle of wine would go well with our cold supper.” He is right, and we enjoy this treat. Afterwards, we light our lanterns and toast our good fortunes with hard spirits, song, and camaraderie. Sleep soon beckons us, and although the skies threaten rain, we remain dry tonight and sleep well.

May 27th

Today marks 51 years since I was born. The sunrise is glorious this morning. This morning we will bury Ed “Le Pew” Bearce’s washtub bass (Thumper) in this spot.

Joe has made a solid lead plaque and riveted it to the side of ‘thumper’. The three boats form a circle with the men at attention, and as we play Amazing Grace, the tub is slowly lowered in the river downstream of Bates Island. Scott, (Captain Lewis) renames the island “Bearce Island” in the journals of the Corps. Today “LaBiche and Cruzzet’s” time on the river is ending. We reach Hermann at 10am, on schedule. We could not have made it on schedule, had we not left New Haven yesterday afternoon. We make landing in the mouth of a small stream. It is a difficult landing with a difficult egress from the boats carrying personal equipment. We attend a ceremony in the town riverfront park and then take our final meal in a local restaurant. We sample some German beers before saying our farewells to the Corps.

















Copyright 2008 the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles.