The Lewis and Clark Expedition Across Missouri - Washington, MO
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member YoSam.
N 38° 33.651 W 091° 00.595
15S E 673392 N 4269922
"Retrograde Bend" May 24, 1804. Fast, shallow water with collapsing banks.
Waymark Code: WMJZYF
Location: Missouri, United States
Date Posted: 01/23/2014
Published By:Groundspeak Premium Member Geo Ferret
Views: 1

County of marker: Franklin County
Location of Marker: Elbert St., Rennick Riverfront park, Washington
Marker erected by: Missouri Department of Natural Resources
Sign produced by: The City of Washington, The Washington Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Committee, the Washington Area Chamber of Commerce
Map prepared by: James D. Harlan, University of Missouri Geographical Resources Center, for Lewis and Clark Historic Landmark Project funded by the Office of the Secretary of State.

Marker Text:
    "Set out early ... passed wood river [today's Dubois Creek near Washington, Missouri] on the Lbd [larboard
    or south] Side ... Camped at the mouth of a Creek called River a Chauritte [La Charrette] above a small
    french Village of 7 houses and as many families..."
    William Clark, May 25, 1804

On May 24 and 25, 1804, the Lewis and Clark Expedition wa in the vicinity of present-day Washington. At South Point (the southernmost point on the Missouri River), three miles east of Washington, one of the most harrowing incidents in the early phase of the journey occurred. Here, on May 24, they had a frightening brush with disaster, and in the process learned the limitations of the large keelboat that was the main vessel of the expedition flotilla. William Clark described South Point as a "Verry bad part of the river." The expedition experienced why the Missouri was the most dreaded of all great western rivers for navigators.

To avoid a narrow channel with collapsing banks on the south side of the river, the flotilla attempted to go around the north side of an island. Here, they found that the water was swift, shallow and shifting sandbars. The crew tried to tow the boat through this stretch with a cordelling rope, but the keelboat soon ran aground on a shifting sandbar. The powerful current pressed against the now helpless boat, and the tow rope snapped, causing the boat to turn broadside to the current and list to one side. The crew members jumped into the river and managed to hold the boat upright until the moving sands washed out from under it. This drama was repeated twice more, as the boat again grounded and wheeled. Finally, a line was fixed to its stern and the boat was worked into safer waters.

A shaken Clark wrote in his journal that evening that "nothing saved her [the keelboat] but..." He left the sentence unfinished. Clark characterized this stretch, which he called "Retrograde Bend," as the "worst ever saw." This "worst ever saw" list would be revised several times in the coming weeks.

After returning to the south side of the river and working the boat through the narrow chute they had avoided in the first attempt, the exhausted crew camped at an "old house" a few miles below present-day Washington, Mo.

The difficulty Lewis and Clark encountered at Retrograde Bend could be repeated numerous times as the expedition made its way up river. This was largely to the size and design of the keelboat (no one had previously attempted to take such a large boat up the Missouri). The 20-oared boat was 55 feet long and 8 feet 4 inches wide at the beam.

The boat's 3 to 4 foot draft mad it susceptible to grounding in the shallow waters of the river the drew of the boat frequently had to navigate through. Once grounded on the dreaded shifting sandbars, the rounded bottom of the boat caused it to roll on its side when struck by the swift currents of the river. On these occasions, the boat was repeatedly saved by the exertions of the crew.

Web link: [Web Link]

History of Mark:
From the journals on the 25th, writers name in bracketts: [Ordway] "Friday May 25th 1804, came 3 miles passed a Creek called wood River on S Side land handsome the Soil Rich &C— high Banks, encamped at a French village N. S. called St John, this is the last Settlement of whites on this River, " [Floyd] " Friday may 25th 1804 Set out and Came 4 miles passed a Creek Called Wood River on the South Side the Land is Good & handsom the Soil Rich & high Banks encamped at a French village Called St Johns this is the Last Setelment of whites on this River— " [Gass] "Friday 25th. We proceeded three miles and passed a creek on the south side, called Wood river the banks of the river are here high and the land rich: arrived at St. John's, a small French village situated on the north side, and encamped a quarter of a mile above it. This is the last settlement of white people on the river" [Whitehouse] "Friday 25th May 1804. we Set out eairly passed a Smal river on the Stard. Side. the Soil of this part of the country rich. towards evening we arived at a french village called St. Johns, on the Stard. Side a boat came here loaded with fur & Skins had been a long destance up the River tradeing with the Savages &c we Camped near this Small village this is the last Settlement of white people on this River. "Friday May 25th This morning we set out early, passed a small River on the North side, the name unknown, The soil appeared very rich, towards evening we arrived at a French Village called Saint Johns or Charette on the North side of the River. We passed (River Boef) shortly after our arrival at this place, a boat arrived laden with Furrs and peltry (deer Skins) which was returning from a Trading Voyage, the persons who were on board of it having been a great distance, up the Mesouri River; trading with the Indians. This small Village, is the last settlement of white people on this River; we camped near it -- The course of the River being (still) West by South."

Additional point: Not Listed

Visit Instructions:
A clear picture of the Marker or Plaque taken by you.
Also would appreciate you input on the text and location.
Search for... Google Map
Google Maps
Bing Maps
Nearest Waymarks
Nearest Missouri Historical Markers
Nearest Geocaches
Create a scavenger hunt using this waymark as the center point
Recent Visits/Logs:
There are no logs for this waymark yet.