Lewis and Clark Tour: Undaunted Courage
The pleasure I now felt in having tryumphed over the rocky mountains and defending once more to a level and fertile county where there was every rational hope of finding a comfortable subsistence for myself and party can be more redly conceived than expressed.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition was the greatest camping trip of all time, and the greatest hunting trip. And one of the greatest scientific expeditions ever. The drama on the story is intense and the setting presents jaw-dropping vistas in every bend of the Trail. This range provides material for every interest, and even draws on those who thought they would not be interested. – Stephen E. Ambrose
As part of Stephen Ambrose’s research for his best-selling book, Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West, the Ambrose family spent vacations traveling the Lewis and Clark Trail on foot, canoe and horseback. Our Lewis & Clark Tour, is based on his journey following the path of Lewis and Clark from Great Falls, Montana to the Pacific Coast.
- The Lewis and Clark Train Interpretive Center and the C.M. Russell Museum - Center has indoor and outdoor exhibits that Stephen Ambrose called “the best anywhere;” Russell painted 4,000 works of art depicting the American West
- Lemhi Pass on the Continental Divide and the headwaters of the Missouri River - Dinner cruise on the “River of No Return”
- Hell’s Canyon National Recreation Area - Commemorates great moments in the exploration of the West
- Fort Clatsop - Expedition’s winter camp on the Pacific Ocean.
Day 1 PreTour – Fort Benton, Montana
After transfer from Great Falls airport, we begin the Lewis and Clark Tour in Fort Benton a place Meriwether Lewis described as judicious for trade and a place where he narrowly escaped by canoe from marauding Blackfeet. In the steamboat era, Fort Benton attracted many fur traders and by 1830 the town was already booming with saloons and dance halls. The Grand Union Hotel is a national historic landmark that dates from that era. Our guide will preside at an evening reception and dinner in the hotel.
DAY 2 PreTour – Days 2 and 3 – On the Missouri River
Following breakfast, the group will set out for a canoe trip with experienced, professional local outfitters, who will provide tents, mattresses and all other essential gear besides sleeping bags. This trip will feature enjoyable trail meals prepared by our outfitters. As we proceed, we will behold the same isolated and awesome cliffs passed by Lewis and Clark . The river has long since been under protection from development because of its Wild and Scenic designation. Along the way we will hike to such sites as the Hole in the Wall and read from the Expedition Journals on the very campsites where the explorers made their entries.
DAY 3 PreTour – Day 4 – Great Falls, Montana
We will finish the river expedition at Judith Landing in the afternoon and transfer by bus to our hotel in Great Falls where we will rendezvous with the rest of the tour group. There will be time to freshen up and even wash your clothes before dinner.
DAY 4 Great Falls, Montana
After arrival at our hotel in the historic town of Great Falls, our own Corps of Discovery will depart in the early afternoon for The Lewis and Clark Trail Interpretive Center. Situated beside the Missouri River, the Center features indoor and outdoor exhibits that Stephen Ambrose called outstandingthe best anywhere. They include dioramas that depict the explorers, Sacagawea and her son Pomp, and an Indian village. Visitors will enjoy the imaginative gift shop and bookstore. We will visit the Falls before our dinner reception where we review the days activities, as well as the adventures to come.
DAY 5 Great Falls, Montana
After breakfast, we will stop at the Lewis and Clark Monument on the way to Fort Benton, often called The Birthplace of Montana. We will visit Historic Old Fort Benton, trading post for many Native American tribes, as well as the Missouri River levee.
From there, we go to Decision Point, a pivotal location on the Corps of Discovery Trail. Here, Lewis and Clark made the crucial choice about which river to follow to reach the Northwest Passage. Upon our return to Great Falls, we will visit The C.M. Russell Museum. Charles M. Russell was a world-renowned artist whose intimate knowledge of Montana life informed his art during his lifetime. He was the first “Western” artist who actually lived most of his life in the West and created approximately 4,000 works of art that inspired the work of many artists who look to the American West as their muse.
DAY 6 Three Forks, MT
In the morning, we travel by bus to the five-mile canyon that Meriwether Lewis christened the gates of the rocky mountains. We will take a boat ride into the magnificent Gates in the direction of the vital headwaters of the Missouri River and see the mountain goats, deer, eagles and osprey who still call it home. We will finish the day at the Montana State Capitol in Helena, an outstanding example of architecture at the turn of the 20th century. The building, recently refurbished, features a beautiful stained-glass skyline in the rotunda and a great deal of artwork, the most famous of which is an enormous Charles M. Russell mural depicting Lewis and Clark and the Flathead Indians near Sula, Montana. A visit to Three Forks Headwaters State Park, complete with a demonstration of the Girandoni air rifle carried by the expedition, will complete the days exploration.
DAY 7 Salmon, Idaho
Our Corps day begins with a drive to Whitehall to visit Beaverhead Rock, which Sacagawea recognized as a landmark close to the Shoshone tribal land. After a stop for lunch in the rustic town of Dillon, we head to Camp Fortunate, where Lewis and Clark made critical first contact with the Shoshone Indian Nation thanks in part to Sacagawea. Our next stop is Lemhi Pass on the Continental Divide, where you can cross a brook where Lewis did, walk over the Divide in Lewis footsteps and down to where he first drank from the waters of the Columbia River. We will end the day with a dinner cruise on the River of No Return, in a protected area of Idaho wilderness.
DAY 8 Lochsa, Idaho
The day begins with a short drive along the Salmon River, exploring the route that William Clark decided not to take.
We will continue with a visit to Big Hole Battlefield National Monument, where in 1877 the Nez Perce put up a fierce defense in one of the most violent battles between the tribe and U.S. Cavalry troops. We then tour Travelers Rest in Lolo, where Lewis and Clark camped on their return trip before deciding to split up and further explore Montana. We will stop at Ross Hole, just east of Sula, where Lewis and Clark met the Flatheads. Later we have a brief stop at Lolo Pass Powells Station, before heading to Lochsa, Idaho for the night.
DAY 9 Lewiston, Idaho
Our group will start the day with stops in Kooskia and Kamiah, towns within the Nez Perce Indian Reservation. The Corps encamped at Kamiah on their return trip to wait for better traveling weather. Kamiah also is home to Heart of the Monster, a rock formation that was part of Nez Perce folklore. We will then head to the famous Canoe Camp in Orofino, Idaho, where the Corps built five dugout canoes for their downstream journey to the Pacific Ocean. A visit to the Nez Perce National Historical Park, dedicated to the tribes rich culture, will complete the days travels.
DAY 10 Walla Walla, Washington
This day will start at Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, on the border of Idaho and Washington State. The park commemorates several pivotal moments in the history of the American West through interpretive sites and hiking trails, and is not to be missed. We will then drive to Walla Walla, Washington and visit the Fort Walla Walla Museum, a living history site with exhibits about Lewis and Clark as well as other pioneer settlements. We will also stop at the Marcus Whitman National Historic Site, a 19th century mission that memorializes the unique challenges presented by the cultural divide between Christian missionaries and Native American tribes.
DAY 11 Hood River, Oregon
In the morning, we will drive to Tamastslikt Cultural Institute, which honors the Native American tribes indigenous to the region. En route to Hood River, we will pass by Hat Rock, an unusual rock formation used as a landmark by Lewis and Clark. Our scenic days journey will take us along the Columbia River through The Dalles to The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, where exhibits include an examination of the supplies and equipment used along the Corps travels. Afterward, we travel the Oregon Historical Highway to into the town of Hood River.
DAY 12 Portland, Oregon
This morning will find our group at the Bonneville Dam, constructed as a part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt New Deal program in the 1930s and named for an early explorer of the Oregon Trail. We will stop at Multnomah Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in the United States, on our way to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, a living history museum that is committed to educating the public about the travails and triumphs of those early trailblazers who trekked west into the unknown wilderness. We visit Fort Vancouver, a 19th century trading post, before settling for the night in Portland.
DAY 13 Portland, Oregon
Our last day on the heels of Lewis and Clark will take us to the Oregon Coast. First, we will visit the Astoria Column, where the observation deck allows visitors breathtaking views of both the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River. This will be followed by a visit to the Columbia River Maritime Museum dedicated to preserving artifacts related to the exploration of the Pacific Northwest. We will visit Fort Clatsop, the last encampment of the Corps of Discovery before their return trip. Lewis and Clark and their men camped on the banks of the Columbia River in this settlement during the winter of 1805-06. Part of our day will be spent in Seaside where we enjoy the sights of this beautiful coastal town known for its unique salt production.
We will end our Corps of Discovery Tour at Cannon Beach, where we will reflect upon all we have learned about this vital point in American history over the past several days.
DAY 14 Flights Home
This morning, our Corps will say goodbye to the Pacific Northwest and to the Lewis and Clark trail and return home with vivid memories.