Lewis and Clark Bicentennial
Space-Age Atlas

Missouri River

Table of Contents
Introduction Missouri River
Remote sensing Historical background
Geology of K.C. region Kansas City, KS/MO
Keelboat at Kaw Point, KS Ft. Leavenworth, KS
Atchison, KS Squaw Creek NWR, MO
Knife River NHS, ND Atlas references
L&C web sources Atlas editors


The Lewis and Clark journey (1803-06) was the first great expedition to chart and discover the western lands of the United States. It was also the last great pre-industrial journey in the United States. The travel was accomplished entirely with human, animal, and natural power to move the Corps of Discovery and their baggage across the continent and back.

Much of their travel was via water in a keelboat, piroques, and canoes. Wild rivers were filled with sand bars, boulders, uprooted trees, rapids and cascades. Crossing the Rocky Mountains was accomplished on horseback and foot. Over thousands of miles of travel and three years en route, only one man died (of appendicitis). The expedition came back with an invaluable collection of observations and specimens. The success of this venture demonstrates the careful planning and management provided by Lewis and Clark.

Soon after Lewis and Clark's successful return, new modes of transportation and communication forever changed the American landscape and culture. Steam-powered riverboats and railroads began the revolution in rapid transport of heavy goods, followed by the telegraph, which provided near instantaneous communication across the continent. Further developments in transportation and communication have continued through the 19th and 20th centuries, until now we have an integrated digital communication network--Internet.

Space-Age Atlas

The latest space-age techniques allow mapping and visualization of the Earth's surface in ways the were merely science fiction only a few decades ago. From vantage points a few 100 feet above the ground to 100s of miles in space, we can now look down upon the Earth in many parts of the spectrum--visible light, infrared radiation, and microwave energy. We have the ability to probe the atmosphere, document global vegetation, measure ocean temperature, identify rocks and minerals, inventory agricultural crops, map urban growth, model climatic change, and document all manner of environmental conditions at the Earth's surface. These capabilities are based on two sets of powerful tools.

Missouri Focus

Remote sensing and GIS are combined for this bicentennial atlas of the Lewis and Clark journey. The geographic coverage for the atlas is the lower and middle Missouri River from St. Louis to central North Dakota--the portion traversed by the Corps of Discovery during their first year of travel up the Missouri River in 1804.

Landsat imagery of the Missouri River.

A special emphasis is given to the region of northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas. This section includes one of the key geographic focal points in the exploration and settlement of the United States, namely the junction of the Kansas and Missouri rivers, known as "Kawsmouth" and now the location of the Kansas City metropolitan area. Since prehistoric times, this vicinity has served native Americans, colonial Europeans and finally the United States as a transportation and development center. Another region of special interest is central North Dakota, where the Corps of Discovery spent the winter of 1804-05.

The purpose of this atlas is to portray, through striking visual images and brief explanations, the modern environments of the Missouri region through which the Corps of Discovery passed. The words of Lewis and Clark, as taken from their journals, are utilized; there is no better way to experience the landscapes and cultures they encountered during their epic journey. In addition, selected paintings by George Catlin are included to depict scenes visited by Lewis and Clark--see Catlin.

This atlas is not intended as a historical review of the Lewis and Clark expedition, nor is it a tour guide to the journey route. For good historical reviews, Ronda (1984), Ambrose (1996), Ambrose and Abell (1998), and Montgomery (2000) are recommended. The guidebooks by Fanselow (1994) and Fifer et al. (1998) are valuable aids for those who wish to travel any part of the route.

Atlas Editors

James S. Aber,
Emporia State University

Matt Nowak,
Fort Leavenworth

Lewis and Clark Atlas Partner

© Notice: These webpages are presented for public enjoyment and educational purposes. Any other use or repackaging of materials in the atlas webpages is prohibited without permission. Primary financial support came from the Kansas NASA EPSCoR rural resources project and the Kansas Space Grant Consortium. Additional support was provided by the William T. Kemper Foundation - Commerce Bank, Trustee - Kansas City, Missouri. For further information, contact J.S. Aber (aberjim99@netscape.net).

Last update: March 2005.