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Celebrate Lewis and Clark Expedition 200th Anniversary

State parks, cities and towns along the Missouri River corridor will fill this summer with tourists and history buffs commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Activities range from large-scale, officially-sanctioned "national signature events" to small, locally sponsored productions.


Reenactors portray 1820s Army life at Fort Atkinson, which was built on a site Lewis and Clark recommended in 1804.

"The First Tribal Council," a national signature event scheduled for July 31 through Aug. 3, is the highlight of Nebraska's portion of the Lewis and Clark Expedition anniversary celebrations. It commemorates a council with the Oto and Missouria tribes, the first of many between Lewis and Clark and the tribes they met on their journey. Festivities take place at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park near the town of Fort Calhoun during the day, and shift to Omaha for the evening.

Daytime activities will occupy 25 acres of meadow and trees at the foot of the bluff on which Fort Atkinson State Historical Park is located. One large area will be devoted to Native American topics, and others to living historians interpreting a Lewis and Clark campsite and a fur trade rendezvous. There will also be demonstrations, storytelling, re-enactments and hands-on activities, plus presentations by historians, authors and lecturers of national repute. Admission is free.

Atop the bluff, Fort Atkinson will also be busy, with living historians interpreting its period as an active army post in the 1820s. Other attractions include a visitor center and a sculpture garden of life-sized bronzes depicting the Expedition's first council. A park entry permit is required at the fort. Evening performances of a dramatization of the Expedition's first meeting with tribes of the Louisiana territory will be presented in Omaha's Elmwood Park, south of the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Attractions at other Nebraska state parks include boat rides on the Missouri River at Niobrara State Park and Ponca State Park's new Missouri National Recreational River Resource and Educational Center, featuring a gallery of exhibits explaining both the natural and cultural history of the river, including the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Dozens of small, locally significant observances take place all along the Lewis and Clark Trail. Two interesting programs, one entirely in Nebraska and the other straddling the Missouri River in Nebraska and Iowa, send travelers to a series of destinations and events. The Shannon Trail features a scavenger hunt, of sorts, and a search for local history in a dozen or more small northeastern Nebraska communities. The Lewis and Clark Passport Education Program involves visits to and educational opportunities at nine points of interest, including parks and interpretive centers on both sides of the river from Brownville to South Sioux City.

The summer is also full of great, single-destination events. Look for living history and re-enactments Aug. 7-9 at Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa, July 23-25, at the Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs, and Aug. 21-22 at the Sergeant Floyd Museum and Welcome Center in Sioux City. And don't miss the large gathering of living historians, Native American dancers and traders at Lake Yankton below Gavins Point Dam Aug. 27-29.

Indian Cave State Park will offer an interpretive program to introduce park visitors to the diverse natural resources that Lewis and Clark encountered there. The Rediscovery Corps of St. Charles will stop at the park to camp and offer interpretive programs.

At Riverview Marina State Recreation Area and Arbor Lodge State Historical Park, the Rediscovery Corps of St. Charles will stop to camp and provide interpretive programs. Another program will highlight the geological features of the sandstone outcrops at the park. On July 30, there will be a period authentic garden party and ball hosted at Morton Mansion in conjunction with the opening of the Nebraska City Missouri River Basin Interpretive Center.

Signs have been posted near the mouth of the Platte River at Schilling Wildlife Management Area to interpret information recorded in the historic journals. The spot is the location where the first party of men was dispatched to attempt relocating Otoe Indians.

Two Rivers State Recreation Area has signs detailing the historic location of the Otoe indian villages that Lewis and Clark visited.

Pelican Point State Recreation Area features a sign that details the historic event in which Captain Lewis noted a large flotilla of white feathers on the river and then many pelicans on an island in the river. Lewis collected and analyzed a specimen bird.

Ponca State Park is at the eastern gateway to the Missouri National Recreational River where visitors can catch a glimpse of a natural, unchannelized Missouri River. The new Resource and Education Center will feature several programs about the Corps of Discovery and the Missouri River. An outdoor amphitheater overlooking the Missouri River will host speeches about the expedition and the Missouri River. The park has two observation decks overlooking the river.

The park offers "Lewis and Clark Interpretive Hayrack Rides" at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday nights. The hayracks travel to a Lewis & Clark Campsite for a one-hour program on the expedition and its relationship to the Missouri River, events in the area, plants and animals of the expedition as well as discussions about daily life on the expedition.

On August 21 and 22, the park will host "200 Years Ago," an annual Lewis and Clark Event. Living History events and guest speakers will be ongoing during the weekend related to the Lewis & Clark Expedition and regional Native American tribes. Skills programs and related crafts (Lewis & Clark Trade bead necklaces and T-shirts) also will be available during the weekend.

The "Lewis & Clark Interpretive Hayrack Rides" will be offered as well as Prairie tours, which visit some of the area's remnant prairies and explains why the journals of Lewis and Clark noted their awe and beauty. Tours of Ponca’s Historical Blacksmith Shop and Adams house also will be available. "The Roundhouse Band" will be on site playing 1800s period songs and telling stories. Call the park for performance times.

Niobrara State Park offers a naturalist program about the trails and scenic vistas at the park, including flora and fauna. Driving tours to attractions relevant to the Corps of Discover also are available. Raft rides on the Missouri River give visitors an opportunity to see scenery nearly identical to what the expedition might have seen.

The newly expanded Visitor Center at Ashfall State Historical Park has a special exhibit of some of the fossils discovered by the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area will offer interpretive programs conducted by Corps of Engineers and National Park Service staff.


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