Lewis and Clark in the Ozarks?

A few lake area publications state that explorers Lewis and Clark passed through the Ozarks--and possibly through the lake area--during their famous expedition of 1804-1806. The basis for this assumption are comments about the region made in the explorers' diaries.

But Lewis and Clark did not pass through the area. Here's how the misconception got started:

Captain Meriwether Lewis spent several months in St. Louis before the expedition began. As part of his preparation, he decided to glean as much intelligence as possible about the Missouri interior. He interviewed a number of trappers and traders who had gained first-hand knowledge of the area. Some of his best information came from the brothers Pierre and Auguste Chouteau, both of whom had spent a great deal of time trading with the Osage Indians in the Ozarks.

Lewis entered much of this information in his expedition journal so that the journal might contain all that was known of the region. This was in keeping with his orders given by President Jefferson. Since Lewis did not attribute the Ozark information to a specific source, he inadvertently gave the impression that he, personally, had traversed the Ozarks. But this was not the case. A careful reading of the journal reveals that the explorers stayed close to the Missouri River, and at no time did they venture through the Ozarks.

© 2000 by Michael Gillespie. All rights reserved.