Meteorological Synopsis of the Expedition

  • Vernon Preston


For decades, exploration of inland portions of the North American continent had been a goal of many governments worldwide, and lucrative trade with Indian nations led many countries to develop remote trading posts. Thomas Jefferson was intrigued by the idea of an expedition up the Missouri some twenty years prior to the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He tried to interest General George Rogers Clark in making the expedition in 1783, but lack of funding prevented an attempt. While serving in Paris, Jefferson tried to engage John Ledyard to cross Russia, enter North America by way of Alaska, and explore eastward to St. Louis. This too fell through as Ledyard was stopped by Russian officials while trekking through Siberia. Jefferson’s concern over who would control interests in the Pacific Northwest was further aroused when he learned of overland journeys by British explorer Alexander Mackenzie. Mackenzie made two westward trips from northern Alberta’s Lake Athabasca. During his first journey in 1789, Mackenzie led a small party northwest to the Arctic Ocean down a broad river (later named for Mackenzie). On his second journey in 1793, Mackenzie made a trek to the Pacific Ocean down the Peace River and later Fraser River. Arriving at the coast, he threw down the gauntlet to other countries by painting the rocks near the shore with the following inscription: “Alexander Mackenzie, from Canada, by land, the twenty-second of July, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three“ (Mackenzie 1801; Bakeless 1947; Salisbury 1950; DeVoto 19.53; Gilbert 1973; Allen 1975; Appleman 1975; Wood and Thiessen 1985; Ambrose 1996; Ronda 2000; Hayes 2001; Ronda 2001; Saindon 2003). As a twist of irony, the Lewis and Clark Expedition took liberties of a similar nature during their journey, and one of these markings still remains at Pompey’s Pillar near Billings, Montana; it is the only remaining physical evidence of their journey on the landscape.


Rocky Mountain Fair Weather South Fork Great Fall Indian Nation 
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© American Meteorological Society 2007

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  • Vernon Preston

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