'America's Greatest Road Trip': Following in Lewis and Clark's Footsteps

Follow in Lewis and Clark's footsteps  Credit: Nathan Billow/Allsport
How would you like to participate in retracing one of history's greatest expeditions: A journey to find a waterway passage connecting the Mississippi River with the West Coast. Imagine the challenges, the disappointments, and the joy of discovery.

Now, stop imagining and get ready to mount your bike. The Adventure Cycling Association the people who brought you the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail and the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route are gearing up to create a new route that will let cyclists follow in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark.

For more than a quarter of a century, the ACA has been actively creating on and off-pavement cycling routes across the nation. The new Lewis and Clark Bicycle Trail will celebrate one of America's greatest exploratory journeys: the three-year trek of William Clark and Meriwether Lewis.

This 3,000-mile route will trace their journey from the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers to the Pacific Ocean near present-day Astoria, Ore. Cyclists will traverse the river valleys of Missouri, Kan., Nebraska, Iowa, and South and North Dakota; the basin and range country of eastern Montana; the imposing mountain ranges of western Montana and Idaho, and the serpentine course of the Columbia River.

The Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804-1806 is considered by many historians to be the single most important event in the development of the western United States. It secured America's purchase of the Louisiana Territory, and it extended American claims to the Pacific.

It also provided the first knowledge of the resources which eventually opened the way for settlement of the Northern Plains, the Rocky Mountains, and the Pacific Northwest. This single journey had a profound and lasting effect on the political and economic development of the United States.

Lewis and Clark personify that which is best about travel. Much of what they saw was unexpected the hallmark of any great journey. It is the delight of the unanticipated discovery, the shock of the new, not the miles covered nor the speed with which one's destination is reached, that lives in the mind forever.

The bicycle is a wonderful vehicle for really sharing the experiences of their journey. The ACA's intention is to fashion the best linear cycling route between St. Louis, Mo., and Astoria, Ore.

They will also note on the route maps alternatives that can be used by cyclists using either road or mountain bikes. The main "backbone" will be a shared roadway (on-pavement) route.

The bicentennial (2004-2006) of Lewis and Clark's journey will call a lot of attention to what has been termed "America's ultimate road trip."

The ACA is now preparing for 2003 with the definitive cycling map set for experiencing the terrain through which Lewis and Clark traveled. For more about the planning behind the Lewis and Clark Bicycle Trail, visit the ACA Web site to learn about this and other bicycle routes they have pioneered across the United States.

Discuss This Article