Lewis and Clark, 1804
"The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri river, & such principal stream of it, as, by its course & communication with the water of the Pacific ocean may offer the most direct & practicable water communication across this continent, for the purposes of commerce."
President Thomas Jefferson's Instructions to Meriwether Lewis, June 20, 1803
Shown here are the two pirogues and keelboat used in the Lewis and Clark Expedition for their voyage up the Missouri River. Pirogues were commonly used boats on the western waters. Keelboats, the most advanced type of river craft before the steamboat, had a keel running along the bottom to provide stability. Usually they had a cabin for cargo or passengers.
Before the use of steam, riverboat men had several techniques to get a boat upstream. The easiest was to use sails and wind power. If they could not use wind, the crew would sometimes use poles to push the boat forward. Another method, called cordelling, was to walk along the bank and pull the boat with ropes. While going downstream could be effortless, going upstream was not an easy feat until the advent of the steamboat.
Jefferson City, 1904
As the second image shows, this area changed dramatically in the 100 years since the Lewis and Clark Expedition. In 1821, the new state government picked this site for the state capitol due to its central location and position on the river. Additionally, the 19th century brought two major transportation innovations through the Missouri River corridor - the steamboat and the railroad.
As trade opened west of Missouri in the 19th century, steamboats brought goods and people through this area. Towns along the Missouri River, such as Jefferson City, became points of distribution for further western settlement.
Jefferson City, 2004
The final image, which shows the river corridor in 2004, completes the 200 year span of time. Again, the riverscape had changed dramatically after another 100 years. Clearly visible is the newer, larger Capitol building, as well as other large downtown buildings. Barges and tugboats make up most of the river traffic. Trains still carry goods and people through the Missouri River corridor. Katy Trail State Park on the north side of the river is a rail-trail conversion project that makes use of the MKT railroad bed. Riverboats, railroads and the Katy Trail enable the public to continue to use the Missouri River valley as a transportation corridor as people have done for centuries.
The illustrations here, courtesy Missouri Bankers Association, depict the Missouri Capitol and its surroundings during the years of 1804, 1904 and 2004. Completed by artist L. Edward Fisher for the Missouri Bankers Association, they were painted from a single view point on the north bank of the Missouri River. The art work demonstrates the significance of the Missouri River corridor in the transportation of people and goods across the state. The original paintings are on display in the James Kirkpatrick Missouri State Information Center in Jefferson City.