About the Lewis and Clark Byway

Explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark traveled the Missouri River on their “Corps of Discovery” to find a route to the Pacific Ocean through the newly acquired Louisiana Territory. They mapped the land as they went, recorded and collected its resources, and contacted its native inhabitants. In the summer of 1804, Lewis and Clark traveled through what is now eastern Nebraska and western Iowa, including the Highway 75 area.
The Corps camped at Camp Council Bluff and held their first council with Indians. Six Oto and Missouri chiefs and their warriors were present. Lewis told the Indians that this land now belonged to the United states and that the expedition was a peaceful one. Lewis wrote in his journal “...Averry proper place for a Tradeing establishment & fortification.” Accordingly, Fort Atkinson, the first military outpost west of the Missouri, was established in 1820. From 1820 to 1827, it had a garrison of 1,000 soldiers within its walls. It was abandoned in 1827. A reconstruction of the fort stands near Fort Calhoun, NE. Park entry permit required.
Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge features 2,000 acres that have been returned to woodlands and wetlands, much like it was when Lewis and Clark were here. The refuge provides fishing, hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, picnicking and other outdoor activities. Located 3 miles east of Fort Calhoun.
A historical marker along Hwy 75 south of Blair, marks the site where Lewis and Clark camped August 3, 1804. The men found numerous sandbars and snags in the area.
Private Joseph Field killed the first badger ever seen by an American in the area of DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge. It was skinned, stuffed and sent back to President Jefferson. DeSoto offers visitors a spectacular up-close view of migrating wildlife from a glass-enclosed observation deck. Each spring and fall, the refuge is a stopover for hundreds of thousands of migratory ducks and geese. Artifacts from the recovered steamboat Bertrand, which sank on a snag of the Missouri River in 1865, are on display. Located several miles east of Highway 75 on Highway 30 (Iowa).
Black Elk-Neihardt Park derives its name from Black Elk, a Lakota Sioux Indian chief of whom John G. Neihardt, Nebraska’s Poet Laureate in Perpetuity, wrote in his epic “Black Elk Speaks”. The park has 1.6 miles (3km) of paved walking trails.
The Tower of the Four Winds, 45-ft (14m) tall, stands atop the highest hill overlooking Blair, featuring a mosaic composed of approximately 50,000 pieces, which depict a messiah figure with outstretched arms.
On August 8th Lewis saw feathers of “the breadth of the rive” floating down the Missouri. Soon the corps came across hundreds of pelicans. One of the birds was killed and examined; it was reported that its pouch held five gallons of water. This area is now Pelican Point, east of Tekamah. Park Permit required.
On August 10th, the explorers, across from Decatur, NE, at Coupe a Jarche, “a place where the river cut through and shortend the River Sevl mls”. Today this is Blue Lake and Lewis and Clark state Park (Iowa). The park features a replica of the expedition’s keelboat and two pirogues.

The John G. Neihardt Center’s exhibits trace the life, literature and family of Nebraska’s late Poet Laureate. A Nebraska State Historical Society branch museum, the center features a unique design in the main building based on the sacred hoop of the Sioux. Visit the outdoor prayer garden and Neihardt’s restored study. Bancroft, NE.
Blackbird was once the chief of the then powerful Omaha tribe, located in northeastern Nebraska. It was commonly accepted that that he had the power to predict deaths, which in fact he was able to do, thanks to a supply of arscenic he obtained from French-Canadian traders. Blackbird was one of the victims of the smallpox that decimated the Omahas in 1800. He was buried astride his horse on a Missouri River overlook hill. Blackbird Scenic Overlook is a few miles north of Decatur, NE. Legend has it that an enraged husband, fearing to lose his wife to a long lost lover, killed her and leaped with her body into the Missouri. He gave a piercing scream as they fell, which legends say can be heard every October 17 at midnight. On August 11, Lewis and Clark and ten men went to the burial site of the “Mahars King Black Bird,” leaving “a white flage bound with red Blue & white”. Blackbird Scenic Overlook gives a good approximation of what the explorers saw.
The Omaha Tribe of Nebraska holds their annual pow-wow for four days during the first full moon in August.
The Winnebago Tribal Pow Wow is held each July in the village of Winnebago. It is the oldest continuous pow-wow open to the public in the country. It brings the best in Indian dancing, crafts, and foods from many tribes throughout the Midwest. The Winnebago Tribe has also developed a bison (buffalo) herd on the west side of the byway north of Winnebago. An interpretive center and turnout is located there to encourage visitors to stop and observe the herd. An understanding of the cultural importance of the bison to Plains tribal culture is a primary focus of maintaining the herd at Winnebago. Across from the turnout in ‘the village’ is the Statue Garden depicting larger than life clay sculptures of the tribes Clans arranged in a circular garden. A bronze statue marks the center of the circle.
One mile north of Homer, NE, a small party was sent out on August 13 to make contact with Indians. They reported the next day that the best known and largest of the Omaha villages, Tonwonatonga, was surrounded by “emunbl” (innumerable) graves. The tribe was ravaged by the small pox epidemic of four years earlier. Clark’s journal indicates 400 graves and 300 survivors. From 1775 to 1845 Tonwonatonga was the principal village of the Omahas.
Just south of Dakota City, NE, the Corps camped at a site they named Fish Camp in honor of the 1,100 fish they caught in two days. On August 18 they met with a few Oto chiefs who had not been present at Council Bluffs. The same day Private Moses Reed, a deserter, was returned to camp by a search party and tried for desertion and stealing a rifle and shot pouch. He was sentenced to run the gauntlet “only” some five times (about 500 lashes total). Three chiefs asked for the pardoning of Reed, but after hearing the gravity of the offenses changed their minds and witnessed the punishment. That evening Lewis’ birthday party was celebrated with a dance and extra whiskey. They met with three chiefs and warriors the following day near today’s Cottonwood Cove Park, Dakota City,August 18, 1804. They celebrated Lewis’ birthday with “an extra gill of whiskey and a Dance”.

Sergeant Floyd Monument and Welcome Center (Iowa) honors the only US soldier to die on the Lewis & Clark expedition in 1804. Sergeant Charles Floyd was a volunteer engineer on the expedition who became ill and died while the group traveled through this area. The site of his burial is now called Floyd’s Bluff and is marked by a 100 ft (30m) high white stone obelisk overlooking a breathtaking view of the Missouri River. The monument was recognized as the first National Historic landmark registered by the US Department of the Interior in 1960. A Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is located just off Interstate 29 in Sioux city, Iowa. Hamilton Blvd. Exit.