Magazine article Sunset

Across the Wide Missouri

Magazine article Sunset

Across the Wide Missouri

Article excerpt

Five years ago, I drove north from Yellowstone into Montana, where I chanced upon a small historical marker. I turned down the road and came upon the headwaters of the Missouri River, the confluence of three rivers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark discovered on their journey into the unknown West. It's such an unassuming spot, with small streams meandering about a flat, grasscovered meadow, it's hard to imagine that something significant happened here nearly 200 years ago.

We who call the West home don't think very often about the fact that if it hadn't been for the foresight of Thomas Jefferson and the courage of the two explorers, we might be speaking French, or Spanish, or English with a British accent. And most likely, we wouldn't be living here at all.

In 1803, Jefferson, fired by a vision of the country stretching from shore to shore, asked Lewis and Clark to find a water passage to the West Coast to facilitate settlement by pioneers.

The journey was risky because nobody had reliable maps of the territory, and other nations were exploring and making claims on the land. …

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