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Lewis and Clark Boat House and Nature Center

Hours: Monday-Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm and Sunday Noon-5:00pm.
Closed on New Year's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Entrance Fee:
Adults $5.00
Children under 17 $2.00
Group Rates are available (Groups of 15 or more).

Contact Us:
Bishop's Landing
1050 S. Riverside Drive
St. Charles, MO 63301
636-947-3199 lewisandclarkmuseum@yahoo.com

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History of Discovery Expedition
By Kevin Kipp

When Stephen Ambrose, author of Undaunted Courage, first saw Discovery Expedition’s hand-crafted, 55-foot replica of the Lewis & Clark keelboat, he said simply, “What a triumph.”

Two weeks later, on 19 May 1996, boat-builder and Discovery Expedition founder Glen Bishop pointed its bow into the Missouri River current. With a dozen reenactors aboard, they departed from St. Charles for St. Joseph, Mo. They would re-create the first seven weeks of the 1804–1806 expedition.

On the second day out, historian Dayton Duncan filmed the vessel and reenactors for Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery, the PBS documentary which he wrote and co-produced with Ken Burns.

By the time the keelboat reached St. Joseph on 6 July, it had navigated 450 river-miles, maneuvered treacherous currents and survived gale-force storms. The reenactors had camped in 23 Missouri River communities, and helped 30,000 visitors experience what Ambrose called “this nation’s Odyssey.”

The passage was featured on National Public Radio, Monitor Radio and ABC Nightly News. Countless local and regional media covered every day of their voyage of re-Discovery.

For these efforts, Discovery Expedition of St. Charles received the Missouri Division of Tourism’s “Wake Up” Award at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism on 27 January 1997.

Four days later the keelboat was destroyed in a warehouse fire.

Heroism Facing Calamity
Seven tons of white oak and western cedar…reduced to a smoking hulk. Only the mast and rudder could be salvaged.

Almost single-handedly, Captain Bishop, a retired general contractor, had built the keelboat over a period of 10 years. He had financed its construction and maintenance—lumber, hardware, harbor fees—almost entirely out of his own pocket.

In the face of overwhelming loss, Captain Bishop, then 72, determined that he would rebuild the keelboat as well as replicas of the Lewis and Clark pirogues. This time he would have help.

Achievement: Back in the Water
The first of hundreds of donations began to arrive immediately. Volunteers—many skilled in trades—stepped forward to help. Measuring twice, cutting once and with Captain Bishop’s guidance, they completed the first replica in August 1997.

On its maiden voyage in October, the White Pirogue sailed from “The Encampment” at Fort Massac, Ill., to St. Charles.

The Red Pirogue was launched in August 1998. It sailed from Yankton, S.D., to St. Charles.

The second keelboat was christened in St. Charles in August 2001. Like Lewis and Clark’s original, it never actually was named. It was launched at Pierre, S.D., and sailed home to St. Charles.

This was Captain Bishop’s last reenactment.

Teaching Heritage Through Living History
Discovery Expedition volunteers, like their predecessors, sail separated from swift waters and eternity only by thin-but-sturdy layers of wood. Whether buckskins or uniforms, their clothing accurately re-creates the dress of 1804. Their weapons are firelocks. They cook over campfires. They sleep under canvas. They know their history, and they teach.

By bringing Lewis and Clark to life on the banks of rivers—and in classrooms and gyms—Discovery Expedition reenactors have helped more than 80,000 school children see their teachers as storytellers and know that history is high adventure.

What’s more, over 300,000 visitors—some avid students of history, some newly curious—have come to the riverbanks to inspect the boats, experience the period campsites, enjoy demonstrations of technology and events described in journals from almost 200 years ago, and share Discovery.

Uniquely Qualified to Recapture Adventure
Each reenactment, each voyage of rediscovery proves out the boats, recruits new reenactors to the modern Corps of Discovery (as Thomas Jefferson dubbed the original band of United States Army recruits), and adds to our understanding of what our predecessors achieved.

In their years of reenacting, thousands of river-miles, and hundreds of campsites along the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, from Pennsylvania to South Dakota, Discovery Expedition has brought adventure to large cities like Pittsburgh, Louisville and Kansas City as well as towns who count their souls in scores instead of thousands: Lupus, Mo.; Rabbit Hash, Ky.

Discovery Expedition of St. Charles, Mo., with its cadre of more than 150 reenactors, has developed the necessary contacts, unique preparation and credibility required to assume the central role they have been asked to play in the Lewis and Clark bicentennial commemoration...reenacting in 2003 to 2006 their journey on the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

Keelboat arriving

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2008 the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles.