Granny's Country Store > Wilderness Survival Supplies > Lewis & Clark Books | Search | View Cart
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
Search for a Northwest Passage
Book Reviews by Thomas J. Elpel
Little was known about North America west of the Mississippi river at the beginning of the 1800s. It was known that the Missouri River flowed east, merging with the Mississippi en-route to the Gulf of Mexico, while the Columbia flowed west from a similar latitude as the Missouri and spilled into the Pacific Ocean. It was hoped that there might be a navigable water route with a low portage connecting these two rivers to facilitate commerce across the continent. It was believed that any mountains at the headwaters between the two rivers would be gentle mountains like the Appalachians of the east, easy to portage across. It was also believed that there might be mastodons roaming the west, or perhaps a tribe of Indians of Welch descent, based on English mythology. In short, nobody knew what was out west two hundred years ago, except the Native Americans who lived there.
From 1804 to 1805 the Corps of Discovery, commanded by co-captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark traveled more than 4,000 miles by foot, canoe, and horseback, traveling from Saint Louis up the Missouri River, across the Rocky Mountains, and down the Columbia to the Pacific Ocean. Then they had to come back. It was an eclectic group, with the two captains, plus thirty-one other men, including soldiers, hunters, boatmen, French trappers, Clark's slave York, a teenage girl with her infant child, plus Lewis' dog Seaman. Their story became one of the world's greatest exploration adventure stories, documented in great detail in the journals of Lewis and Clark and their men.
Today there are literally hundreds of books and videos documenting the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Individuals retracing their story can dive as deeply as desired with their multi-volume journals, but might instead choose a more friendly novel to tell the tale, or may just want a summary of the highlights along the way, accompanied by scenic pictures from the route. For those with special interests, there are Lewis and Clark books covering specific topics, such as the medicine, clothing, or plants of the expedition. Our favorite titles are listed here for convenience and comparison, or click on this link to read my complete narrative of Lewis and Clark on the Jefferson River.