Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Camp River Dubois in Illinois

Visited 27 and 29 Aug 2012 - Camp River Dubois (1803-1804) was the first of three fortifications built by the Lewis & Clark Expedition in their cross country journey to the Pacific Ocean. Lewis & Clark spent the winter of 1803-1804 assembling the necessary men and supplies for the expedition at this small stockaded post. The camp was located at the confluence of the Mississippi River and the Missouri River just above St. Louis on the Illinois side. 
Camp River Dubois Replica
Camp River Dubois Replica at Lewis & Clark State Historic Site
55' Keel Boat Replica

The fortifications that the expedition built were necessary to get them through the three winters that it would take to complete the journey. Camp River Dubois was built for the winter of 1803-1804, Fort Mandan in North Dakota for the winter of 1804-1805 and Fort Clatsop at the mouth of the Columbia River for the winter of 1805-1806. No wintering stop was required for the return journey because down stream river travel enabled them to make as much as 70 miles a day. The expedition returned to the starting point on 23 Sep 1806.
Wood River Heritage Council
Replica of Camp Du Bois

The actual original site of Camp River Dubois is probably somewhere in the Mississippi River at the point where the Wood River once entered it at present day Wood River, Illinois. The French name for the Wood River was River Dubois and the camp took that name. To get the full flavor of this historic site there are a number of places to visit in the local area, each with a different viewpoint. 

There are actually two replicas of the Camp, one is Lewis & Clark State Historic Site located about two miles south of the actual location and the other is a replica constructed by the Wood River Heritage Council and located close to the actual location. Associated with the State Historic Site replica is a memorial stone and marker at riverside. The replica itself is located at the visitor center behind a levee.

A short distance north of the State Historic Site is the new Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower which provides a view of the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. This is a 150' tower with a view of the confluence and thankfully, an elevator.
Camp River Dubois Replica Captain's Quarters
Camp River Dubois Replica Captain's Quarters

Tours of the State Historic Site camp replica are offered from the visitor's center. It is well done and the interior of the central captains quarters are especially detailed. The replica does have issues, three of the four corner buildings were not open to visitors because of safety problems and many of the logs used in the construction seemed to have rot problems. 

Keel Boat Replica Cabin Cutaway
Keel Boat Replica Cabin Cutaway

The highlight of the visit to the State Historic Site was the 55' cutaway replica of the expedition's keel boat located in the museum. The keel boat replica succeeds in telling the story of what it took to make the expedition work. The cutaway portion of the boat exposes how everything was stored from gunpowder to hams. The captains cabin reveals just how tight the quarters were. The keel boat was used as far as Fort Mandan and in April 1805 it was sent back down river with everything collected to that point, including maps, reports and letters.
Camp Du Bois Sign
Camp Du Bois Sign

The second camp replica is known as Camp Du Bois and is apparently not open for visitors on a regular basis but it can be viewed from the outside. It is set alongside what could be the Wood River and appears to be recently constructed and in good condition. It is located at the northeast corner of the intersection of routes 3 and 143 in Wood River, Illinois. Follow the road at the sign all the way back until you see the camp.

See the page for Camp River Dubois for more information and links.

1 comment:

  1. The replica boat and cutaway cabin look really cool. It's also interesting, for someone living in Oregon and surrounded by Lewis & Clark reminders, to see a marker honoring the explorers so far east...sometimes I forget how huge their journey really was.