Reliving Lewis and Clark: Up the Missouri Beyond Kansas

Anthony Brandt
for National Geographic News
July 19, 2004

This article is fifth 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.

Lewis and Clark Expedition No. 2—the reenactors—reached Kansas City a few weeks ago, spent ten days there, and are now moving north toward the mouth of the Platte River, which joins the Missouri River below Omaha, Nebraska.

The long layover in Kansas City was necessary to fulfill all the ceremonial and educational responsibilities these men find themselves responsible for. Virtually everywhere they stop, people want to meet with them, ask questions, visit the boats, and look at their equipment.

Scott Mandrell, who is playing Lewis, has to give talks and grant interviews all along the route. Their days in Kansas City were fully scheduled.

And a few spectators want to go along. Twice in June people offered to join the group and play the role of York, Clark's slave, for a while. One of them was an African visiting the United States. Volunteers should know that it's not all fun and speeches. A certain amount of work has to get done every day on the three boats the reenactors are traveling in.

One day the mast of the keelboat was tangled in grapevines hanging from a tree. The only way to cut it free was for someone to climb the mast. Mandrell one day made an oar, from scratch. (Lewis and Clark had to do this periodically as well.)

In between cities and towns the country can be wild, and when men are walking on shore, difficult. In one spot in Missouri they came upon the bones of cattle that had been attacked and killed by a mountain lion.

Moment of Real Sadness

And there has been a moment of real sadness. In mid-June Scott Mandrell woke up to find that his dog, Seaman, named for Meriwether Lewis's dog, the amazing Newfoundland retriever that accompanied Lewis and Clark across the continent and back, had died during the night.

Lewis and Clark also paused at the junction of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers—the site where Kansas City now stands—in order to rest their men, who were exhausted from the constant heavy labor of moving the expedition's three boats up the Missouri.

Two-thirds of the crew were afflicted with boils and a few had dysentery, but they were "in spirits," as Clark put it. Clark twice mentioned the amount of sweat they produced. On June 20 he noted, "the sweat runs off our men in a stream when they row hard." And on July 6, again astonished, Clark attributed the amount of sweat the men produced to the water of the Missouri, which of course they were drinking.

Continued on Next Page >>


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