Pittsburgh in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Lewis and Clark "Voyage of Discovery," 1803-1806
Three Rivers Heritage Trail
On August 31, 1803, Captain Meriwether Lewis and his crew set off from Pittsburgh at a point near here on their heroic journey to the Pacific coast. The goals of the expedition were to find a water route to the Pacific Ocean, to collect specimens of plants and animals new to science, and to establish contact with Native American tribes.
President Thomas Jefferson and Lewis chose Pittsburgh at the strategic Forks of the Ohio as the expedition's assembly and launch point. Here supplies and trade goods were assembled, and the keelboat was built, probably at the Greenough boatyard.
Anxious to depart by July 20, before the Ohio River grew shallow for the summer, Lewis was frustrated by a slow boatbuilder who spent more time drinking than working. When the expedition finally left on August 31, the river was so low the keelboat had to be unloaded three times to drag it over sandbars. On the first day they traveled ten miles.
Lewis picked up his co-captain, William Clark, near Louisville, Kentucky. After wintering near St. Louis, they traveled up the Missouri River to North Dakota, where they built Fort Mandan in
The epic journey of Lewis and Clark, as they explored territory recently acquired from France in the Louisiana Purchase, is one of the great adventures in American history.
View of Pittsburgh, 1796, by Joseph Warin. The keelboat was built on the bank of the Monongahela River a few years later. Courtesy of The New York Public Library
In Pittsburgh, Lewis bought a large Newfoundland dog he described as "very active strong and docile," and named it "Seaman." During the journey, Lewis refused to trade him, and when Seaman was stolen they tracked the thieves and got him back.
William Clark's sketch of the keelboat. It was 55-feet long, 8-feet wide at midships, weighed about 15 tons unloaded, and could be rowed, sailed, pushed and pulled.
Lewis and Clark: The Departure from the Wood River Encampment, May 14, 1804 (near St. Louis). Painting by Gary R. Lucy. After wintering across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, the expedition brgun its voyage up the Missouri River. Courtesy of the Gary R. Lucy Gallery, Inc. Washington, MO ww.garylucy.com
In 1802 the United States extended west to the Mississippi River. In 1803 the Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the country.
The keelboat sailed some 2000 miles down the Ohio, then up the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, to North Dakota. After crossing the Bitterroot Range of the Rocky Mountains on foot and horseback, the explorers used canoes to travel down the Columbia River and its tributaries to the Pacific Coast.
Erected by Friends of the Riverfront, City of Pittsburgh.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Exploration • Waterways & Vessels. A significant historical date for this entry is August 31, 1803.
Location. 40° 26.084′ N, 79° 59.817′ W. Marker is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in Allegheny County. Marker is on Three Rivers Heritage Trail, 0.2 miles east of Grant Street, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 600 First Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15219, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Steamboat "New Orleans" (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Founding of the Ironworkers Union (approx. 0.2 miles away); Pittsburgh Chinatown (approx. 0.2 miles away); The First Baptist Church of Pittsburgh (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Hartley Rose Building (approx. 0.2 miles away); United Steelworkers of America (approx. ¼ mile away); Duquesne University (approx. ¼ mile away); Civil War Memorial (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Pittsburgh.
Also see . . . Friends of the Riverfront. (Submitted on June 1, 2021.)
Credits. This page was last revised on August 31, 2021. It was originally submitted on June 1, 2021, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia. This page has been viewed 68 times since then and 29 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on June 1, 2021, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia.