Like St. Joseph farther upriver, Kansas City and Independence, MO, formed a jumping off point for the westward journeys of thousands beginning in the 1830s and 40s. A generation earlier, when Lewis and Clark passed by, this area had been seen by only small numbers of nonnative travelers, mostly fur traders. In Independence is an interpretive center called the National Frontier Trails Museum (http://ci.independence.mo.us/nftm/) that examines several of the roads to the west, including the L&C Trail, the Oregon Trail, and the Santa Fe Trail, an important, back-and-forth trade route to the southwest and all the way down into Mexico. I thought the exhibits were generally well-done, incorporating a great deal of information.
Example of an exhibit at the National Frontier Trails Museum, featuring photos, paintings, and so forth, arranged along a map of the L&C trail. Many interpretive centers offer a similar type of exhibit.
Most interpretive centers showcase various items of material culture that would have been used by the expedition.
The museum seems to have an active demonstration and presentation program. I had fun attending a presentation on foods of the Santa Fe Trail. We sampled goat stew, a sort of round cookie made with cornmeal and dried cherries, avocado ice cream, rhubarb pie, and smoked oysters on sourdough bread. Apparently, those freighters on the trail really knew how to eat!
All along the L&C route, I have seen numerous murals and other public art. One of the most attractive—and enormous—murals was right here in Kansas City. For some reason, visitor’s guides to L&C sites usually include statues, but rarely tell people how to find murals and non-statuary. This is too bad, because I have stumbled upon many great works, almost always by accident. Who knows how many other artworks are out there that I will never see?
Big, colorful mural covering the side of a building in one of Kansas City's historical districts.
In Kansas City (MO) on what is probably the highest point is Case Park, also referred to as Clark’s Point or Lewis and Clark Point. Members of the expedition climbed this hill and looked out upon the prairies to the west. They thought it might be a good site for a fort, but none was ever built here. (Fort Osage was built a few miles away.) A huge commemorative statue now adorns the crest of the hill, with many interpretive signs scattered about the park.
Commemorative statue in Case Park in Kansas City. This side features the captains and Sacagawea. The sculptor is Eugene Daub.
The other side of the statue includes York and the dog, Seaman.
[All photos by K. Dahl, copyright 2005.]