In 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark began their historic 8,000-mile exploration of the lands comprising the Louisiana Purchase. This guide lists books, articles and online resources useful for researching their many natural history discoveries.
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Author: Ashley Cuffia, Science Reference & Research Specialist, Science, Technology and Business Division
Note: This guide is based on one originally created by Susan Westerberg Cole in 2004.
Last Updated: March 23, 2020
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In 1804, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis to explore lands west of the Mississippi River that comprised the Louisiana Purchase. Lewis chose William Clark as his co-leader for the exploration. During the course of over two years they confronted harsh weather, unforgiving terrain, treacherous waters, injuries, starvation, disease and both friendly and hostile Native Americans. Nevertheless, the approximately 8,000-mile journey was a huge success and provided new geographic, ecological and social information about the unexplored areas of North America.
During their exploration Lewis and Clark identified 178 plants and 122 animals not previously known to science. This included discovering or carefully describing for the first time at least seven Great Plains mammals, including the pronghorn, grizzly bear, swift fox, black-tailed prairie dog, white-tailed jackrabbit, bushy-tailed woodrat, and mule deer.