The Lewis and Clark Expedition Across Missouri - Little Tavern Creek - near Portland, MO
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member YoSam.
N 38° 42.603 W 091° 40.516
15S E 615179 N 4285434
Neither the Ohio nor Mississippi rivers prepared the expedition for the perils that lay around every bend on the Missouri River.
Waymark Code: WMKR96
Location: Missouri, United States
Date Posted: 05/21/2014
Published By:Groundspeak Premium Member Geo Ferret
Views: 2

County of marker: Callaway County
Location of marker: Kat Trail State Park, Little Tavern Creek Bridge, 2.3 miles E. of Portland
Marker erected by: Missouri Department of Natural Resources & The Leiws & Clark Trail Foundation

Marker Text:
   "Rained all last night Set out at 6 oClock after a heavy Shower, and proceeded on, passed a large Island
   a Creek opposite on the St. Side Just abov a Cave Called Monbrun Tavern & River ... we Made 14 miles to day,
   a river Continue to rise, the County on each Side appear full of Water"
   William Clark, May 30, 1804

Shortly after leaving camp on the morning of May 30, 1804, the Lewis and Clark Expedition passed by a well-known river landmark called Montbrun (or Monbrun) Tavern that was located at the mouth of Little Tavern Creek. This was the second "Tavern" that the expedition had passed. On May 23, Captain William Clark had been set ashore at a river landmark called Tavern Cave; Clark saw Indian pictographs and the names of French explorers painted on its walls.

The expedition did not stop at Montbrun's Tavern, although members were aware of its existence. It is unclear why both this shelter cave and Tavern Cave were called "Taverns." River travelers probably used them as camping shelters whose spacious and dry interiors provided protection against the elements. Given the sparse populations along the lower Missouri, it is unlikely that either shelter was a business establishment. The site appears on a map Lewis and Clark had with them that had been prepared by James Mackay and John Evans. Tavern and Little Tavern Creeks, in today's Callaway County, were probably named after Montbrun Tavern.

Montbrun Tavern was described two decades later, in 1823, by Duke Paul of Württemberg, a German naturalist who made several trips up the Missouri River. Duke Paul described a 300-foot-high bluff next to the creek with a 30-foot overhang: "The lowest level is most deeply hollowed out, forming a long, commodious chamber, which extends crescent-shaped some hundred feel along the creek and the Missouri. In the space created, several hundred persons could seek shelter from rain and bad weather ... I found many traces of Indian painting on the walls of the bluffs ... very well preserved." The cave was probably named after Etienne Boucher de Monbrun, a retired militia officer.

Sadly, Montbrun Tavern, or Cave, does not exist today. Most likely it was destroyed by the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad during track construction in the 1890s, or during quarrying by the U.S. Corps of Engineers in the 1930s. A few smaller overhangs still exist along the creek bluff. The Lewis and Clark Expedition continued upriver another 15 miles before camping opposite present-day Mokane.

The Missouri River looked different in 1804, but also was far more difficult to navigate. The main channel tended to be relatively free of debris, but the current there was too strong for the expedition's three boats, a 55-foot long keelboat and two smaller pirogues. The Corps of Discovery was forced to hug to one shore or the other where the water was less swift. Near the shore, their boats were vulnerable to other hazards including shifting sandbars, collapsing banks, floating mats of logs (called embarras by the French) and snags and sawyers (trees with one end embedded in the bottom of the river). Lewis and Clark hired experienced French boatmen such as Pierre Cruzatte and François Labiche specifically to deal with navigating the keelboat through this dangerous obstacle course. In May and June 1804, the river was fast and high from heavy rains. Above the Grand River in central Missouri, the Missouri was even more treacherous. Pierre-Antoine Tabeau, who traded extensively with Missouri River Indians, wrote that " is only by unbelievable efforts and precautions that the Missouri can be navigated. The extreme rapidity of the water over a bottom none too firm makes navigation difficult as well as perilous."

Web link: [Web Link]

History of Mark:
Please see above

Additional point: N 38° 42.582 W 091° 43.009

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