|Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
The story of William Clark and Meriwether Lewis is a familiar one. We know of their travels across the vast wilderness that would become the United States of America. They mapped waterways, met the indigenous people, suffered many hardships and brought back incredible reports of the vastness of the land.
One of the lesser known details of the Lewis and Clark expedition has to do with their discoveries of new flora and fauna. They kept detailed reports of everything new they encountered. This included various plants shown to them by the
people they met in their travels. Some were good for eating; some were good for medicine. Lewis and Clark were able to add nearly 200 species to the world’s list of known plants.
Lewis picked a blossom of a bitterroot plant in the Rocky Mountains. He preserved the bloom and carried it thousands of miles, ending in St. Louis with the dried blossum still intact.
|Drawing of Grape Leaf
Clark recorded a description of an Oregon grape leaf, along with a detailed drawing. The image had exact measurements down to the fraction of an inch.
Some of the Indians they encountered taught them to boil the flowers of the penstemon as a medication. They used this concoction to treat sores and burns.
The Clarkia pulchella, was named after William Clark, but was actually discovered by Meriwether Lewis. The plant has beautiful blue flowers.
The Lewis woodpecker was first seen as they approached the Rockies. Clark's crow was another bird they found in the same area.
|Beaver and Muskrat
The Lewis and Clark expedition expedited the settlement of the Western United States of America. Their discovery of numerous beaver and muskrat encouraged the boom in the fur trade and more exploration.
One report said they were so enthused by their command to display their finds to Jefferson that they floated a prairie dog from its burrow by pouring barrels of water down the hole. When they finally washed the animal out, they shipped it back to the President, alive and yelping, and in good health.
They noted 122 species never before recorded. Some of them were stuffed and shipped back East. At times, they were in danger because of their enthusiasm to obey Jefferson’s directive. On one occasion, Lewis had to jump into a river to escape the ire of a thousand pound grizzly bear.
|Description of California Condor
In his journal, William Clark drew and picture and described a "large buzzard" of huge proportions. He said the bird had a wingspan of nine feet two inches. This wasn't a buzzard, but was the California Condor, the largest bird to inhabit the North American continent.
Lewis and Clark discovered so much on their travels. It is hard to imagine traveling as they did and recording their findings in such detail. Spending months and years on a hard, often tortuous, trek, is not my way of traveling, but I do enjoy visiting new places in our wonderful country. What about you? What is a favorite place you visit, or would like to visit? I would love to hear your comments.
Nancy J Farrier is an award winning author who lives in Southern California in the Mojave Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. Nancy and her husband have five children and two grandsons. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. Nancy is represented by Karen Ball of The Steve Laube Literary Agency. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website: nancyjfarrier.com.