Lewis & Clark: Lesson 2
Journey of Discovery and Rivers

Sergeants Ordway (Miller) and Gass (Havill) reporting! For our next step in the assigned job given to us by Captains Lewis (Jobin) and Clark (Rydant), we are looking at the impact of the natural environment on the proposed journey across America. It was necessary to recruit Corporal Whitehouse (alias Cusak). His expertise in cartography and GIS was needed in the preparation of teacher and student materials for the start of the Journey of Discovery. Our lesson begins in St. Louis. The lesson is designed for 8th grade but we believe it can be adapted to high school level.

President Jefferson assigned Lewis and Clark the job of mapping and keeping scientific data on the region that included the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and the highlands that fed these great waterways. This brought the expedition into contact with many tributaries and the peoples who used them. How did the rivers and highlands influence the route taken by the expedition? What were these rivers like? What were the ecosystems associated with them? Students should be challenged to research and use critical thinking skills to address these questions. In future lessons we will look at the people who inhabited these environments.

LESSON: "Rivers, Mountains, and Bears!! Oh my!!" Or " Routes, Rivers, and Regions"
GRADE LEVEL: Middle school or higher
TIME: 3 to 4 days or two full blocks

-Map: "Physical Map of the United States"
--Map: "Rivers Mentioned in Journals of Lewis and Clark"
--A classroom atlas and/or wall map of the United States
--Chart "Key Rivers on the Journey of Discovery"
--National Geographic video: "The Power of Water"
--Journals of Lewis and Clark
--National Geographic Video: "The Power of Water"
--De-Briefing Sheet: "Video 'the Power of Water--Dammed Columbia'"

1. How to use maps to process information.
8. The characteristics and spatial distribution of ecosystems on Earth's surface.
14. How humans modify their environment.


1. Starter: Ask students to think about what route they would take if they walked home from school. Many will already walk while others take a bus or get rides from parents on the way to work. Ask them to draw a map. They should include direction of their route, names of roads and streets, houses on the route, names of rivers or other physical features along the way. Students can share their efforts. As they present, ask students what influenced the way they chose to go. Did they take shortcuts? Did they have to avoid hills or cross rivers or cross streams? What might traveling have been like in the 1800's? What might have been the easiest way to cross mountains in this time period? Why might rivers be important to travel in this age? Why did people chose to live along them?

2. Introduction: In 1803, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were asked by President Thomas Jefferson to explore the recently purchased Louisiana Territory. The President requested that the two men plan a route, recruit a team of qualified men, travel to the west coast of North America, map the rivers and surrounding regions, and keep records on the native populations and various ecosystems along the way. Students should be given the " Physical Map of the US" and a classroom atlas. Students will plan the Lewis-Clark route from St. Louis. Ask students to use the map to draw a proposed route to the American Northwest and to be prepared to explain their reasons for the route. You may want to work this as a group activity. Students then can share their ideas with their class.

3. Rivers will be a main transportation avenue. Students will locate the rivers contacted in the Corps of Discovery. Blank map of "RIVERS MENTIONED in LEWIS and CLARK JOURNALS" and atlas are needed for this segment of the lesson. Complete the map: use blue colored pencil to outline the rivers and label each.

Rivers: Bad; Bighorn; Bitterroot; Cheyenne; Clark Fork; Clearwater; Columbia; Des Moines; Deschutes; Gallatin; Grand; Heart; James; Jefferson; John Day; Kansas; Knife; Little Missouri; Madison; Marias; Milk; Mississippi; Missouri; Moreau; Musselshell; Niobrara; Osage; Platte; Powder; Republican; Salmon; Snake; Willamette; Yakima; Yellowstone

4. Once students have located the rivers, they will complete a chart using a series of thematic maps in their chosen classroom atlas. Pass out the chart "Key Rivers on the Journey of Discovery". Students should have access to a copy of the Lewis and Clark Journals to help complete the chart. ( See internet suggestions from Lesson One-Sept. issue of Geogranite).

5. Follow up: Video -"The Power of Water". Show the video section- "Dammed Columbia." Use the De-Briefing Sheet for discussion.


1. Adams, James Truslow (ed.). 1943. Atlas of American History. NY: Charles Scribner's Sons. ( This source was used to obtain copies of the maps used in this lesson.)

2. Ronda, James. 1984. Lewis and Clark Among the Indians. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

3. DeVoto, Bernard (ed.). 1953. The Journals of Lewis and Clark. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

4. Ambrose, Stephen. 1996. Undaunted Courage. NY: Touchstone.

De-Briefing Sheet: Video "The Power of Water -Dammed Columbia"


1. Why is freshwater so important to conserve and protect today?

2. What are some of the problems people have created using our water?

3. Why is it said that "power has been the undoing of the Columbia River?"

4. Where is the river's source? Where does it empty?

5. Why was the river important to early Native Americans?

6. Why is the Columbia one of our nation's most endangered rivers?

7. How has Kent and Irene Martin's life changed? What have they decided to do?

8. How did our Federal Government react to the problem?

9. How might Lewis and Clark react to the changes along this river? Would President Jefferson have been pleased with the changes? Explain.

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