Lewis and Clark and Big Bone Lick

By: Don Clare (Updated by Sonny Hall)

You may ask, “What significance does the Lewis and Clark expedition have here in Kentucky? That expedition explored the uncharted far west.” True, but remember, it all originated in the Eastern U.S. on July 5, 1803. Meriwether Lewis set out for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he was having built a 55 foot keelboat for the trip. He was to bring the boats, supplies, arms and crew down the Ohio River to The Falls of the Ohio (Louisville, KY) to meet up with William Clark. After many delays, they finally rendezvoused on October 14, 1803. Oh his way down river, Meriwether Lewis spent more than a week in Cincinnati (Sept. 28-Oct. 4, 1803) where he was instructed by President Thomas Jefferson to examine the collection of fossil bones of Dr. Casper Wistar from the famous Ohio River salt lick and to actually visit Big Bone Lick, which he did.

President Jefferson gave Lewis and Clark specific instructions to be on the lookout for these huge mammals during their exploration of the West. The theory of extinction was not widely accepted in Jefferson’s time and he was sure these large mammals immigrated to the Western Territory to live. Again, at the conclusion of the Lewis and Clark expedition, Thomas Jefferson sent William Clark back to Big Bone to collect more specimens. Big Bone played a major role in the history of the Lewis and Clark expedition and the scientific endeavors of our third president, Thomas Jefferson.

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