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4 Historical Stops Along the Missouri River!

The Missouri River is the longest river in North America, flowing from Montana to join the Mississippi River in St. Louis, Missouri. For history buffs, a big part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail runs along the Missouri River. We’ve picked out historic sites that allow you to enjoy the river landscape while immersing yourself into notable spots from Lewis and Clark’s adventures.

Moniteau Creek at Manitou Bluffs

This area is accessible through Katy Trail State Park, which is known as the longest developed rail-trail in the country. Called the River of The Big Devil, the Moniteau Creek was where Clark noted the expedition stopped on June 8, 1804. He also recorded that Manitou Bluffs had carvings and paintings, marked with white, blue, and red flint, by Native Americans. Even though the pictographs are no longer inscribed on the limestone walls of the bluff, there are preserved specimens about four miles downriver near Torbett Spring. There is information about the site at trailheads that will make for not only a fun outdoor adventure but an educational one.

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As one of the well-known landmarks of early Missouri River exploration, the Tavern Cave sits 250 feet from the edge of the Missouri River. It is a prominent location in Lewis and Clarks’ travels as Lewis nearly fell from the pinnacles of the rocks at 300 feet but was caught at 20 feet and saved himself with his knife. Throughout the 18th and 19th century, it proved helpful as a stopover place for Native-American bands and European-American travelers. If you are able to climb to the top of the cave, you will be rewarded with a beautiful view of the Missouri River, and it is advised that only those with exceptional climbing and endurance skill should attempt to do so.

3. Charbonier Bluff

Charbonier Bluff is identified as the highest point on the lower Missouri River, where Native Americans establish permanent camps due to its exceptional geographical location. It was historically distinguished by an exposed coal seam at the base, with Clark noting it as ‘Coal Hill’. There is still an existing Jesuit Chapel that was built over an American Indian burial mound along the ridgetop. Charbonier Bluff offers a vantage point for the observer which is unique as you are afforded views of the surrounding area, including Mississippi River bluffs to the north, the city of St Charles to the southwest, and the Gateway Arch in downtown St. Louis to the southeast.

Fort Belle Fontaine – Missouri

Only 20 miles outside of St. Louis, Fort Belle Fontaine was the first U.S. military installation west of the Mississippi River, built under the direction of Lt. Col. Jacob Kingsbury in 1805. Lewis and Clark stopped by the new fort on their return journey. After the Louisiana Purchase, the fort became a fur trading post and in the 1930s, a grand staircase of stone steps was built from the riverbank to the top of the bluffs, including trails and facilities to draw more people to the historic site. Today, Fort Belle Fontaine Park is a 305-acre park where you can find basswood, burr oak, chinquapin oak and many more mature-growth species of tree in the creekbed woods and adjacent uplands.

I love anything related to arts and culture like dance, music, and visual art.
Carissa Chin

Writer , River Travel Magazine