Keepers of the Story, Stewards of the Trail

Great Falls of the Missouri River along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
National Park Service

On May 14, 1804, a remarkable expedition took place that would forever change the United States. Merriwether Lewis, William Clark, a French-speaking boatman, a slave, and Native Americans, notably Sacagawea, traversed the Missouri and Columbia rivers in search of trade routes to the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, Lewis and Clark documented the flora, fauna, peoples, culture, and geography of the land they were exploring.

The head of the Lewis Woodpecker poking its head out of a hole in a tree along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

Lewis Woodpecker

National Park Service

The historic expedition spanned thousands of miles, mountain ranges, multiple ecosystems, and fierce storms. Today, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail spans eleven states and covers over 3,700 miles, and is one of the many incredible trails that make up the world-class U.S. trail system, which attracts visitors from all over the world. Visitors can walk, bike, drive, or paddle the trail while visiting over 100 historic sites along the way.

Managing thousands of miles of trail in eleven different states, while ensuring a quality visitor experience and preserving historic sites is no easy feat.

The Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, founded in 1969, preserves and promotes the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, while teaching the diverse heritage of the Lewis and Clark expedition, including the history of the many Native American tribes the trail touches. The Foundation has over 1,000 members from the U.S. and other countries, 30 chapters from coast to coast, and diverse partners working to protect the trail.

The sun setting behind the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

National Park Service

Preservation efforts along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail are supported through grant opportunities. Grants range from $1,000 to $7,500 and serve programs that preserve and interpret the natural, historic, educational, and cultural resources of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and the Eastern Legacy Route.

Grants go toward programs involving youth groups, partners, tribes, and trail chapters that enhance public access and knowledge of the trail. A project with the Confederated Tribes of Grant Ronde in Oregon, METRO local government entity, a school district, and other groups, helps interpret the heritage of the Native American guide who led Lewis and Clark to the Willamette River.

The Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation also promotes tourism along the historic trail. The Foundation recently partnered with the Nez Perce National Historic Trail on several projects including an auto tour travel brochure, and “Go Adventuring with Lewis and Clark” campaigns in Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, and other tribal, state, and local tourism partners.

Display of corn drying at the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail headquarters
National Park Service

The Foundation enhances the visitor experience through their Next Exit History App for smartphones, which allows users to find Lewis and Clark or Native American-themed visitor centers near them. The Lewis and Clark Heritage Foundation is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the historic Lewis and Clark expedition, along with the heritage of Sacagawea and other Native Peoples who were vital to the expedition.

To learn more about the work of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation or about the history of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, visit


Our first major retirement road trip was the LCT coast to coast. Stopping at Monticello during our Fall 2015 Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah trip, we considered our launch, but in April we headed to Lancaster, PA to begin where President Jefferson sent Lewis to learn navigation, then on to Philadelphia where he was provided additional development and began collecting supplies. We essentially then followed the wagon route to Harper's Ferry and on to Braddock's Pass, Friendship Hill and Fort Necessity. Stopping in Elizabeth, we then followed the entire length of both the Ohio and Missouri Rivers. As we finished the Dakotas, a NPS ranger at Knife River Villages asked if we understood the highways...mentioning all Dakota highways have only three digits, but had we considered the highways we drove were 1804 and 1806 and why. Crossing the mountains, Lolo Pass and all took us into Idaho and ultimately Oregon and Washington in May. Visiting Fort Clatsop, then Cape Disappointment, there was no greater satisfaction than reviewing all we experienced in the outstanding museum at Cape Disappointment. There was nothing like saying, "I did that", but seeing the wooden box Sacajawea carved gave the trip a punctuation point. The LCTHF was invaluable support and they fill their role very well...Keepers of the Trail.

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