Washington in Franklin County, Missouri — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
The Lewis and Clark Expedition Across Missouri
"Set out early…passed wood river [today's Dubois Creek near Washington, Missouri] on the Lbd [larboard or south] Side… Camped at the mouth of a Creek called River a Chauritte [La Charrette] above a Small french village of 7 houses and as many families…"
William Clark, May 25, 1804
On May 24 and 25, 1804, the Lewis and Clark Expedition was in the vicinity of present-day Washington. At South Point (the southernmost point on the Missouri River), three miles east of Washington, one of the most harrowing incidents in the early phase of the journey occurred. Here, on May 24, they had a frightening brush with disaster, and in the process learned the limitations of the large keelboat that was the main vessel of the expedition flotilla. William Clark described South Point as a "Verry bad part of the river." The expedition experienced why the Missouri was the most dreaded of all great western rivers for navigators.
To avoid a narrow channel with collapsing banks on the south side of the river, the flotilla attempted to go around the north side of an island. Here, they found that the water was swift,
A shaken Clark wrote in his journal that evening that "nothing saved her [the keelboat] but…" He left the sentence unfinished. Clark characterized this stretch, which he called "Retrograde Bend," as the "worst I ever saw." This "worst I ever saw" list would be revised several times in the coming weeks.
After returning to the south side of the river and working the boat through the narrow chute they had avoided in the first attempt, the exhausted crew camped at an "old house" a few miles below present-day Washington, Mo.
The difficulty Lewis and Clark encountered at Retrograde Bend would be repeated numerous times as the expedition made its way up river. This was largely due to the size and design of the keelboat (no one had
The boat's 3 to 4 foot draft made it susceptible to grounding in the shallow waters of the river the crew of the boat frequently had to navigate through. Once grounded on the dreaded shifting sandbars, the rounded bottom of the boat caused it to roll on its side when struck by the swift currents of the river. On these occasions, the boat was repeatedly saved by the exertions of the crew.
Erected by National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior; Missouri Department of Natural Resources; Missouri Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commission.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Exploration • Waterways & Vessels. In addition, it is included in the Lewis & Clark Expedition series list. A significant historical date for this entry is May 25, 1976.
Location. 38° 33.659′ N, 91° 0.612′ W. Marker is in Washington, Missouri, in Franklin County. Marker is in James W. Rennick Riverfront Park, about 250 feet northeast of the intersection of Front and Lafayette Streets. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1 Elbert Street, Washington MO 63090, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Robert Frazer (a few steps from this marker); Washington Wir Sind Freunde - We Are Friends (within shouting distance of this marker); Lucinda Owens Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); Waterworks Building (within shouting distance of this marker); Zachariah Foss House (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named Zachariah Foss House (within shouting distance of this marker); John Clayton Inn (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Washington.
Also see . . .
1. Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail. (Submitted on December 7, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedtion. (Submitted on December 7, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery. (Submitted on December 7, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
4. Lewis and Clark Across Missouri. (Submitted on December 7, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
Credits. This page was last revised on March 24, 2021. It was originally submitted on December 5, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 800 times since then and 119 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on December 7, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. 3. submitted on December 5, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.