It is believed that as many as half the members of the 1803 to 1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition were Kentuckians or had Kentucky connections.
Almost one-third of the members of the Expedition were from the Louisville area, including co-leader William Clark and his enslaved African American York.
Lewis and Clark met in Louisville on October 14, 1803, thus actually forming one of the most famous partnerships in American history.
The nucleus of the Corps of Discovery was enlisted at the Falls of the Ohio. These nine recruits became known as the "Nine Young Men From Kentucky" and became some of the most important members of the Corps. Together with the captains and York, the successful foundation for the expedition was therefore laid at the Falls of the Ohio (in Louisville and Clarksville, Ind.)
York was the first African American to cross the United States from coast to coast and the continent north of Mexico.
Kentucky has about 660 miles of the eastern portion of the 1803 Lewis and Clark Trail - its entire border with the Ohio River. This gives Kentucky the longest section of the trail in the east and one of the longest overall. A number of Kentucky river towns consequently have Lewis and Clark ties. Lewis and Clark both took overland routes eastward from Louisville through Kentucky to the Cumberland Gap. Lewis taking the Wilderness Road from Frankfort in November and Clark and York from Danville in December. If this travel is included with the 1803 route as part of the expedition's trail, Kentucky can boast of having some 1,000 miles of the Lewis and Clark Trail.
Clark sent expedition letters and artifacts to family in Louisville, some of which survive today and are in the collection of The Filson Historical Society.
The first detailed printed account of the expedition's successful return was printed in the Frankfort newspaper The Palladium on October 9, 1806. The first news of its return - literally a news extra - was printed on October 2 in The Palladium. These two accounts were picked up and circulated by other papers, announcing to the nation Lewis and Clark's successful return.
Lewis, Clark, York, and some other men traveled eastward from St. Louis to Louisville in late October and early November. They arrived in Louisville on November 5, 1806.
Lewis and Clark and the Clark family celebrated the captains' return with a party at Locust Grove on November 8, 1806. This gives Locust Grove the important distinction of being the only known surviving Lewis and Clark related structure west of the Appalachians.
Lewis and Clark both took overland routes eastward from Louisville through Kentucky to the Cumberland Gap. Lewis taking the Wilderness Road from Frankfort in November and Clark and York from Danville in December. If this travel, together with the route from western Kentucky to Louisville in October-November 1806 that they traveled in coming from St. Louis, is included with the 1803 route as part of the expedition's trail, Kentucky can boast of having over 1,000 miles of the Lewis and Clark Trail.
In 1803 Lewis collected fossils for Thomas Jefferson at Big Bone Lick. Clark conducted a fossil dig there for him in 1807.
Lewis traveled westward across Kentucky in 1808 on his way to St. Louis.
Clark spent months in Kentucky, primarily the Louisville area, before moving to St. Louis in June 1808.
It was in Shelbyville on October 28, 1809, that Clark learned of the possible death of Meriwether Lewis.
The Filson Historical Society in Louisville has one of the finest Lewis and Clark collections in the country.
Reflecting its Lewis and Clark Expedition significance, the Falls of the Ohio (Louisville and Clarksville, Ind.) was chosen by the National Council of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial to host the second national signature event of the Lewis and Clark bicentennial.
A number of Kentucky institutions and organizations had Lewis and Clark programming and projects in 2003 to commemorate the bicentennial. Some of these will be repeated, along with new programming, in the fall of 2006 for "The Homecoming." See Bicentennial Events for more information.
The Filson Historical Society mounted a major Lewis and Clark exhibit in 2003-2004 entitled Lewis and Clark and the Exploration of the American West. That exhibit will travel to the Kentucky Historical Society's Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History in Frankfort and be there October 2006 to January 2007.
Two map brochures were published in the summer of 2001 (one by the Ohio River and Philadelphia Chapters of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation and one by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) that highlight the eastern legacy of the expedition. Kentucky's legacy has a prominent place in both brochures.
In the summer of 2002, the Falls of the Ohio Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Committee published a brochure and produced a film on Lewis and Clark's connections to the Falls of the Ohio area. The brochure, Lewis and Clark at the Falls of the Ohio, is still in print and the film, "Spirit of the Land," is periodically shown on television and at the Falls of the Ohio State Park interpretive center.
The Kentucky Humanities Council has carried and sponsored a variety of Lewis and Clark related programming. In 2003 the Kentucky Humanities Council and the University Press of Kentucky published Into the Wilderness: The Lewis and Clark Expedition, as part of the former's New Books for New Readers series.
The 1991 and 2002 annual meetings of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation were in Louisville. The Filson was the primary host for them.
It is estimated that 10% of the American public (some 28 million people) will participate in some kind of Lewis and Clark activity during the bicentennial. If only 1% visit Kentucky, that alone is 280,000 tourists. Thus the legacy of Lewis and Clark has great tourism and economic potential for Kentucky.