The Louis and Clark expedition

The Province of Louisiana, as the region came to be called, was to Americans of the early nineteenth century an unknown land. Not a boundary was defined. Not a scrap of trust-worthy information concerning the region was to be obtained. Meagre accounts of what travellers had seen on the Missouri, of what hunters and trappers knew of the upper Mississippi, of what the Indians said were the features of the great plains that stretched away towards the setting sun, had indeed reached the officials, and out of these was constructed the most remarkable document any President has every transmitted to Congress. It told of a tribe of Indians of gigantic stature; of tall bluffs faced with stone and carved by the hand of Nature into what seemed a multitude of antique towers; of land so fertile as to yield the necessaries of life almost spontaneously; of an immense prairie covered with buffalo, and producing nothing but grass because the soil was far too rich for the growth of trees; and how, a thousand miles up the Missouri, was a vast mountain of Salt! The length was one hundred and eighty miles; the breadth was forty-five; not a tree, not so much as a shrub, was on it; but, all glittering white, it rose from the earth a solid mountain of rock salt, with streams of saline water flowing from the fissures and cavities at its base! The story, the account admitted, might well seem incredible; but, unhappily for the doubters, bushels of the salt had been shown by traders to the people at St. Louis and Marietta..

The vexed question of the existence of the salt mountain was soon to be put at rest. Many months before, while the country was excited over the closing of the Mississippi, Jefferson urged Congress to send a party of explorers up the Missouri to its source, and thence overland to the Pacific Ocean. The idea was a happy one, was approved, an appropriation made, and Meriwether Lewis and William Clark chosen to carry out the plan. Jefferson drew their instructions, and on May fourteenth, 1804, the party entered the Missouri. In time thy crossed the mountains, reached the Pacific, and wandered over that fine region which came afterwards to be known as Oregon.

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