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Nicolas de Finiels, Map of the Missouri River

Nicolas de Finiels, Map of the Missouri River from St. Charles to the Mandan Villages, 1798, based on surveys by James Mackay and John Evans

Nicolas de Finiels, Map of the Missouri River

Exploring the Continent - 3

Throughout the 19th century Congress promoted exploration of the American West. President Thomas Jefferson proposed, and Congress funded the first expedition: a “Corps of Discovery,” led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in 1803. Their mission was to chart the Louisiana Territory, find a water route to the Pacific Ocean, and establish trade with Indian nations. Traveling the Missouri and Columbia Rivers and partially overland to the Pacific, they acquired a wealth of information about the geography, geology, flora, fauna, and peoples of the Northwest.