In August of 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark stopped at a lake formed by an oxbow of the Missouri River. It was one of many stops they made as they mapped the land called The Louisiana Purchase for President Thomas Jefferson of the United States. Now, over a hundred years later, visitors to the same lake can see many of the same plants and animals the famous explorers noted in their travel journals.
Located 40 miles south of Sioux City, Iowa, Lewis and Clark State Park has been set aside to honor these men. Those looking for an relaxing vacation can park at one of twelve full hook up sites, or muddle through with one of the many electrical only hookups. Those looking for a more primitive experience may pitch their tents and walk to a comfort station with showers and flush toilets. Only half of these sites are first-come, first-served so call early for a reservations. Picnic tables, fresh water and fire grills are available all over the park for visitor convenience.
Campers should be warned that many neighboring states are under a federal firewood transport quarantine. Rather than take chances of bringing wood infested with emerald ash borers into Iowa, leave all firewood at home. Firewood can be purchased in or near the campground. It is safer for the native Iowa trees, and saves the traveler from embarrassing discussions with federal officers at state borders.
Once settled, the first item on the agenda may be a trip to the full sized replica of a keel boat. Built to 19th century specifications, this craft is an exact duplicate of the sort the Lewis and Clark delegation used to move up the Missouri river. Only 55-feet long it is still a heavy craft that served as both cargo barge and passenger ship powered by current and wind when possible and poles when necessary.
When finished with the history lesson, consider boating in the lake. While fishing is still scarce due to a renovation of the hatchery, it means there is no restriction on engine size. Any personal motor craft can be lowered into the water at one of the many ramps and skitter or roar across the water. For those who prefer to keep their feet firmly on the ground, there is a comfortable beach ideal for swimming and sunbathing.
Hikers will not find the trails very strenuous, but the scenery still makes them worth taking. Species of plants and animals noted by Lewis and Clark still live in the park that bears their names. The forest is full of deer, squirrels, rabbits and other animals descended from those sketched by the explorers. Some of the trees they saw are still standing. It can be quite a site for history buffs.
The best time to visit the park is in early June. Every year Lewis and Clark State Park hosts a festival that honors the famous duo. Presentations include documentary films, bluegrass music and actors dressed in buckskin recreating life on the frontier. Spend the day watching the festivities then retire to the comfort of the recreational vehicle or pretend to be members of the trip while snuggled inside a sleeping bag.
For those who wish a shorter visit, there are covered picnic areas set aside fro group gatherings. These come with tables and fire grills and drinking water. They are available for reservation through the park’s front office. Another option is to reserve the lodge. Built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps it is a fine model of Depression-era New Deal workmanship.
A few restrictions that are common to all state parks include that family pets must be kept confined or on a leash no longer than six feet. Persons with disabilities and need mobility assistance are allowed to used motorized vehicles in some areas. Alcoholic beverages with more than 17% alcohol by weight are prohibited.
Lewis and Clark State Park is an ideal vacation destination for those with a passion for American History. Festivals and exhibits revel in the site’s connection to the famous explorers who documented it. Add comfortable campgrounds, water sports, hiking trails and picnic areas and it has activities anyone can enjoy.