In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson seized the opportunity to acquire Louisiana from the French Emperor Napoleon for $15 million. It was a vast area of 828,000 sq miles which stretched from New Orleans to Montana. This doubled the size of the United States and opened up the territories to the west.
After the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson decided to send an expedition to explore the new territory. It was led by Meriwether Lewis, Jefferson's private secretary, and William Clark, a former army officer.
The Corps of Discovery, as the expedition became known, set out from Missouri in May 1804. They did not find a river route from the U.S. to the Pacific Ocean, as Jefferson had hoped for, but managed to cross the Rocky Mountains and reach the ocean nonetheless.
During this journey, the group kept a detailed account of the plants and animals they saw and made extensive maps of the lands they crossed. They also made contact with several native Indian nations and established formal communications, trade partners, allies, enemies, and general observations about the people that were inhabiting the land.
We spent a long time at Fort Clatsop and were rewarded for our efforts. We hiked the little trails down to the Lewis and Clark River and read from the journal along the water and our only visitors were an occasional thrush in the cypress trees or turkey vulture floating high above. Dear Reader, I don't know how often you spend a day just sitting beside a river reading a book... but it is time well spent.