U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson wants Americans to hear the full story about Lewis and Clark and the travels of the Corps of Discovery.
Congress agrees with her. Now, it is up to President George W. Bush.
The U.S. House of Representatives has given final approval to Emerson’s bill asking for a study by the Department of the Interior of an expansion of the National Historic Lewis and Clark Trail. Emerson wants to include sites in the eastern half of the United States and in eastern Missouri.
Currently, the National Historic Trail begins in St. Louis and ends in Oregon. However, there are many sites east of the Mississippi, as well as in eastern Missouri, that were part of the overall trip, Emerson said.
“We host a lot of Lewis and Clark history in the states included in this legislation,” Emerson said. “The preparation and planning for this tremendous expedition originated in many states east of the Mississippi, and there are even more historic firsts which occurred along the explorers’ route to the expedition’s official beginning at St. Louis.”
Emerson said it is important to recognize the contributions of these other places to Lewis and Clark’s work, as well as the events of their journey. Important sites include, “…things like Lewis and Clark’s first steps in Louisiana Territory in Mississippi County and their stay with fur trader Louis Lorimer at the Little Red House in Cape Girardeau,” she added.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition traveled from Illinois to the Pacific Ocean and back between 1804 and 1806. Before they left from Illinois, however, the explorers went to the White House and provisioned in several sites including Delaware, explained Jeffrey Connor, an Emerson spokesman.
“There’s a whole other part of the story that should be tied to the Trail,” Connor said. “It ought to cover the preparatory sites and represent the whole story. This was a tremendous accomplishment that these explorers undertook and it was a great service to our nation.”
Emerson hopes the study will be a step toward including the additional sites into the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.
Among the more than 100 sites along the course taken by Lewis and Clark’s expedition, only five are National Park Service sites. Today’s Trail is the product of many diverse groups: Federal, tribal, state and local agencies, and public and private organizations. These groups work together across more than 3,700 miles of the Trail to provide opportunities for visitors to experience and learn about the Lewis and Clark Expedition and its many stories.
Emerson’s legislation was folded into a larger bill including other similar measures. The legislation currently awaits Bush’s signature to become law.