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Tracing of Western North America, engraved map by Nicholas King, ca. 1803, with annotations by Meriwether Lewis, ca. 1804

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark likely used this map for at least the initial part of their voyage. Nicolas King, a War Department cartographer, created it in 1803 from the best topographical information then available. After the expedition reached Mandan-Hidatsa villages on the upper Missouri late in 1804, Lewis added a few notes in ink.

Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress

Tracing of Western North America, engraved map by Nicholas King, ca. 1803, with annotations by Meriwether Lewis, ca. 1804

Recording the Lewis & Clark Expedition

In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson proposed and Congress funded the first of several nineteenth-century expeditions to the American West. The “Corps of Discovery,” led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, was commissioned to chart the Louisiana Territory, find a water route to the Pacific Ocean, and establish trade with American Indians. Traveling the Missouri and Columbia Rivers and partially overland to the Pacific, the explorers gathered extensive information about the Northwest’s geography, geology, flora, fauna, and inhabitants. Their findings were published in a two-volume report to Congress in 1814.