Reliving Lewis and Clark: Ascending the Missouri

Anthony Brandt
for National Geographic News
June 21, 2004

This article is fourth in a series. The author is following the trail of the Lewis and Clark expedition across the North American West. Along the way, he's reporting on 200th-anniversary events at pivotal locations—and on what happened all those years ago.

"Every day on our trip is a holiday," said Scott Mandrell, who is acting the part of Meriwether Lewis on the re-enactment of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

The reenactors are trying to follow as closely as possible the schedule of Lewis and Clark themselves, which would put them more than three-quarters of the way across the present state of Missouri about now.

Mandrell's remark reflects the fact that their boats, unlike Lewis and Clark's, are motorized, so they don't have to row or pole them upriver, much less tow them with ropes from the shore.

And all along the way people are celebrating their arrival. On May 29, five days after they left St. Charles, Missouri—with a 21-gun salute and thousands of people on the banks of the Missouri River cheering them on—the expedition pulled into the Misssouri National Guard's Ike Skelton training camp, where 3,000 Boy Scouts were holding a jamboree.

At Jefferson City, the capital of Missouri, Laurie Holden, the wife of Missouri's governor, and hundreds of local people greeted them. Almost every morning they eat breakfast at a local restaurant, sometimes on the house. At dinner it's the same. Clearly they're having a good time.

But some things don't change. On June 16, 1804, William Clark noted in his journal that the ticks and mosquitoes where they camped that night "are numerous and bad." Scott Mandrell notes the same. He has already pulled ticks off his legs and back.

Lyme Disease

Lewis and Clark did not know that ticks and mosquitoes carry various diseases. Mandrell, of course, does know. He has seen fit to warn his men about Lyme disease, which ticks carry, and the West Nile virus, which is mosquito borne.

By this time on the trip some of the men on the Lewis and Clark expedition were suffering from dysentery, possibly from contaminated food. But it was probably the little things that were the hardest to bear—that is, the insects. "The ticks and mosquitoes," Clark said on June 17, 1804, "are very troublesome."

The reenactors are also discovering that the Missouri River—despite the fact that dams all along its route control flooding and the channel is marked—is still, after 200 years, a river capable of becoming dangerous.

They have encountered a great deal of rain and a few tornado warnings, and the water level has risen and fallen with the rain. Mostly it is falling, however, and they have already run aground.

Continued on Next Page >>


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