The exploits of the Lewis and Clark expedition west of the Continental Divide, in what might be termed “Columbia River Country”, were among the most important, vivid, and compelling episodes of the entire journey. Nevertheless, relatively little is generally known about this portion of the trail, which is a function of two factors.
After the expedition emerged from the Bitterroot Mountains of north central Idaho in late September, 1805, Meriwether Lewis ceased keeping a daily journal until January 1, 1806, by which time the party was safely ensconced in the relatively comfortable confines of Fort Clatsop. Lewis, being the more accomplished writer of the two (but not necessarily the better explorer) has become the “voice” of the expedition; and when he has gone silent historians have tended to follow his cue.
Secondly, unlike the long days struggling up the Missouri or over Rocky Mountain traverses, Lewis and Clark coursed a great distance down the Clearwater/Snake/Columbia river system very rapidly, which allowed less time for reflection about the western topography and its native inhabitants.
One of the objectives of this website and curriculum, therefore, is to provide resources, and to tell stories, about Lewis and Clark in Columbia River Country. We will address what the explorers knew about the west before they departed on their venture, encounters with vast and somewhat surprising landscapes, their navigation of the turbulent Snake and Columbia Rivers, and the help provided to them by the American Indian tribes they met and traded with almost every day they were in this region.
—David Nicandri, Director, Washington State Historical Society