Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Corps of Discovery: Lewis & Clark Expedition

I was delighted recently to discover that the 1997, two-part program created by Ken Burns on the Lewis and Clark Expedition is still available for viewing on 

What a treat to watch. Here we have the story of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and their start from St. Louis with 30 volunteers and Clark's slave, York. Their goal was to head up the Missouri River to explore the newly acquired territory of the Louisiana Purchase and to find the Northwest Passage - a waterway that would lead to the Pacific Ocean. The passage wasn't there, but boy, what adventures they had. 

The ultimate road trip with no road!

The film is amazing. I like to think I know a little about American history but other than the fact that this expedition took place, I had no idea how difficult and extraordinary and important the trip, commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, was. 

From May 1804 until their triumphant return in September 1806 the explorers encountered Indian tribes (some friendly, some not), mosquitoes, herds of buffalo, prairie dogs, antelope, wolves, mountains, snow, wildflowers, deserts, massive rock formations, Sacagawea, loneliness, hunger, ice, rain, sickness, fatigue, and finally, the Pacific Ocean. Amazingly, there was only one fatality - early into the trek a Sergeant John Floyd of Kentucky died from appendicitis.

I highly recommend watching this documentary if for no other reason than a chance to see the varied and gorgeous landscape of America's plains and mountains. Just type in Lewis and Clark in's  search box. Each part is less than two hours long and I can promise you its discoveries will stay with you for days to come. 


  1. My life has been continually enriched by Ken Burns, ever since I first saw his series on the Civil War, Belle. As you might imagine, I have seen Lewis and Clark. Actually, it aired here again recently, and I was, again, riveted. It is, indeed, amazing that this expedition returned with only one fatality.

    1. Mr. Burns is a wonder, isn't he, Penny. I have seen parts of the Civil War series and parts of his take on Baseball. Burns's use of photos, film, music, narration, and comments by historians and others is so entertaining and informative. I was especially taken in L&C with the comments by the tender-hearted writer Dayton Duncan.