of Discovery Expedition
By Kevin Kipp
When Stephen Ambrose,
author of Undaunted Courage, first saw Discovery Expeditions
hand-crafted, 55-foot replica of the Lewis & Clark keelboat, he
said simply, What a triumph.
later, on 19 May 1996, boat-builder and Discovery Expedition founder
Glen Bishop pointed its bow into the Missouri River current. With
a dozen reenactors aboard, they departed from St. Charles for St.
Joseph, Mo. They would re-create the first seven weeks of the 18041806
On the second
day out, historian Dayton Duncan filmed the vessel and reenactors
for Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery,
the PBS documentary which he wrote and co-produced with Ken Burns.
By the time
the keelboat reached St. Joseph on 6 July, it had navigated 450
river-miles, maneuvered treacherous currents and survived gale-force
storms. The reenactors had camped in 23 Missouri River communities,
and helped 30,000 visitors experience what Ambrose called this
was featured on National Public Radio, Monitor Radio and ABC Nightly
News. Countless local and regional media covered every day of their
voyage of re-Discovery.
efforts, Discovery Expedition of St. Charles received the Missouri
Division of Tourisms Wake Up Award at the Governors
Conference on Tourism on 27 January 1997.
later the keelboat was destroyed in a warehouse fire.
tons of white oak and western cedar
reduced to a smoking hulk.
Only the mast and rudder could be salvaged.
Captain Bishop, a retired general contractor, had built the keelboat
over a period of 10 years. He had financed its construction and
maintenancelumber, hardware, harbor feesalmost entirely
out of his own pocket.
In the face
of overwhelming loss, Captain Bishop, then 72, determined that he
would rebuild the keelboat as well as replicas of the Lewis and
Clark pirogues. This time he would have help.
Back in the Water
first of hundreds of donations began to arrive immediately. Volunteersmany
skilled in tradesstepped forward to help. Measuring twice,
cutting once and with Captain Bishops guidance, they completed
the first replica in August 1997.
On its maiden
voyage in October, the White Pirogue sailed from The Encampment
at Fort Massac, Ill., to St. Charles.
The Red Pirogue
was launched in August 1998. It sailed from Yankton, S.D., to St.
keelboat was christened in St. Charles in August 2001. Like Lewis
and Clarks original, it never actually was named. It was launched
at Pierre, S.D., and sailed home to St. Charles.
This was Captain
Bishops last reenactment.
Heritage Through Living History
Expedition volunteers, like their predecessors, sail separated from
swift waters and eternity only by thin-but-sturdy layers of wood.
Whether buckskins or uniforms, their clothing accurately re-creates
the dress of 1804. Their weapons are firelocks. They cook over campfires.
They sleep under canvas. They know their history, and they teach.
Lewis and Clark to life on the banks of riversand in classrooms
and gymsDiscovery Expedition reenactors have helped more than
80,000 school children see their teachers as storytellers and know
that history is high adventure.
more, over 300,000 visitorssome avid students of history,
some newly curioushave come to the riverbanks to inspect the
boats, experience the period campsites, enjoy demonstrations of
technology and events described in journals from almost 200 years
ago, and share Discovery.
Qualified to Recapture Adventure
reenactment, each voyage of rediscovery proves out the boats, recruits
new reenactors to the modern Corps of Discovery (as Thomas Jefferson
dubbed the original band of United States Army recruits), and adds
to our understanding of what our predecessors achieved.
In their years
of reenacting, thousands of river-miles, and hundreds of campsites
along the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, from Pennsylvania
to South Dakota, Discovery Expedition has brought adventure to large
cities like Pittsburgh, Louisville and Kansas City as well as towns
who count their souls in scores instead of thousands: Lupus, Mo.;
Rabbit Hash, Ky.
Expedition of St. Charles, Mo., with its cadre of more than 150
reenactors, has developed the necessary contacts, unique preparation
and credibility required to assume the central role they have been
asked to play in the Lewis and Clark bicentennial commemoration...reenacting
in 2003 to 2006 their journey on the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri