Alton, Illinois: A Day Trip to the Lewis & Clark State Historical Site
There’s something magical about seeing the great Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers meet in Alton, Illinois. Not only is this charming town and its surrounding nature beautiful to behold, there’s also a realization and appreciation for the rich history of the land.
In fact, this tremendous landscape is where, in 1804, Meriweather Lewis and William Clark began their history-changing journey into the unknown territory west of the mighty Mississippi. At the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site just a few minutes outside of Alton, you’ll be transported to the early 19th century to learn all about the trip that helped shaped the course of American history.
Way Better Than a History Class
The best way to learn about history is when you can see it in action and be really hands on. The Lewis & Clark State Historic Site will fascinate you with historical information, interactive exhibits and historical re-enactments.
At the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, you’ll be greeted by the fun and fascinating museum displays inside all about the journey that the explorers made, and outside, with a live re-enactors portraying daily life at their base Camp Dubois. During special events throughout the year, you might also see soldiers in uniform practicing drills and firing cannons, company men cooking by a fire exactly as they would have in 1804, native American tents and more. It’s an incredibly fun way to learn about this pivotal expedition.
The Interpretive Center
Six major galleries in the Interpretive Center give you a remarkably complete picture of what was happening politically and socially at the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Check out the historical maps (with actual question marks noting where the newly purchased Louisiana Territory was unexplored), video presentation in the Convergence Theater, audio readings of real exploration journal entries, and the spectacular 55-foot re-created keelboat that the explorers began their journey on.
Outside of the Interpretive Center is Camp Dubois, a reconstruction of Lewis and Clark’s winter camp site that they inhabited before setting off on their journey in May of 1804 (the original camp is no longer accessible due to the rivers changing course). The camp was a working military camp for the expedition crew. They were required to participate in training and general care of the facility. You can explore the log-built site, touring the rooms in which the crew lived and worked for months. Historical re-enactments and other interesting events occur regularly. Plan your visit accordingly and you’ll see how the actors bring history to life.
If you’re staying in Alton or looking for fun additions to your Illinois itinerary, make it to the Lewis & Clark State Historic Site. It’s history – and that’s a good thing. While in the area, Pere Marquette State Park and Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site also make for wonderful ways to get in touch with this incredible region’s history and great outdoors.