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Chapter 11 On the Tourist Trail with Lewis & Clark Issues of Interpretation and Preservation Andrew Gulliford Western states are bracing for a huge influx of Lewis and Clark tourists who will follow the explorers’ routes before, during, and after the 2004–06 Lewis and Clark bicentennial. Tourists will travel along a 4,000-mile route from St. Louis, Missouri to Astoria, Oregon, even though some scholars argue that the Lewis and Clark trail begins not in St. Louis, but in Pittsburgh or in Washington, D.C. These matters are of little or no concern to those who readily identify the two explorers with the lands they encountered. Some especially dedicated enthusiasts will follow the entire Trail, embarking from St. Louis then paddling and walking in the footsteps of their heroes . Most will travel in a more comfortable manner, with some opting for luxurious accommodations aboard vintage trains like the American Orient Express or modern cruise ships on the Columbia and Snake Rivers like the Columbia Queen, the Spirit of the West, and the Spirit of Discovery. Besides firstclass meals and sumptuous accommodations, these rail and ship tours have established guided excursions where historians and naturalists lecture on everything from the location of Lewis and Clark campsites to Sacagawea’s love for wapato roots. Just how many will don backpacks, board cruise ships or set out in the family car is anyone’s guess, but certainly thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, and maybe millions will follow some portion of the expedition route in the next few years. Regardless of how Americans will get up the Missouri River, across the Dakotas and Montana, through the Bitterroot Range of Idaho, and down the canyons of the Snake River into the magnificent Columbia River Gorge, they will come.1 Unlike other commemorations or celebrations of historical events, the Lewis and Clark bicentennial is unique in that visitors want to cover the route, see the terrain, smell the prairie after a thunderstorm, and hike steep mountain slopes in Montana and Idaho.2 Revisiting the route of the Corps 239 of Discovery is an unprecedented commemoration in terms of geography, length of the trip, and potential lessons. Though tourists seek deep, personal experiences with the landscape, the flood of banal curios is anything but unique and is an unavoidable corollary of the explorers’ newfound popularity.3 The bicentennial is drawing Americans out of the suburbs and on to the Great Plains. It is without precedent as a commemorative event. Citizens visit Civil War battlefields, and the Oregon trail’s 150th anniversary generated much travel along that migration route, but this is a different sort of patriotic pilgrimage, and one that may have lasting impacts. In the process , this bicentennial event is focusing unprecedented attention upon a vast, linear western corridor, and this essay reflects what tourists expect, what they will experience, and what they may learn. PERSONAL DISCOVERIES Most Americans have seen the central regions of their country only from 30,000 feet out the window of commercial jets, or through the car window as they sped along interstate highways. The Lewis and Clark route, however, like the old Indian trails, follows the contours of the land. Tourists have rarely been drawn up the Missouri River to North and South Dakota, but that is changing. Today, people want to come into the country the way the captains did: slowly, upriver, moving out of the humid east and across the vast western landscape of open sky and few fences.4 The prairie states are delighted with this newfound tourist desire, and momentum for the bicentennial is resulting in everything from new visitor centers to extra motel rooms along the route. On the western edge of the continent, traveling on the Columbia River is more developed and luxurious than in the Dakotas. Yet in both parts of the continent, river travel is a new medium for most Americans and is growing in popularity thanks to the newfound excitement about Lewis and Clark. Travelers following the Corps of Discovery are not arriving at a single tourist destination; instead they are encountering an entirely new landscape not visible from jets or four-lane highways. The entire route has its appeal and no one particular historic campsite, mountain ridge, or museum visitor center can claim to be the tourist nexus. Just as the explorers had not completed their journey until they had arrived back home, this commemoration is about crossing America—by river, trail, and back roads—and...


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