Lewis & Clark’s contact with the natural world just entered the digital age. Courtesy of Oregon State University, their natural history findings are mapped, archived, clickable, and zoom-able. Thomas Jefferson would be so envious.
A complete day-by-day map of Lewis and Clark’s route across the western United States allows users to chart their progress from St. Louis to the Pacific and back. More importantly, each day’s record includes a count of the wildlife they saw, animals they killed, human settlements they encountered, and even the vegetation that they passed through.
200 years ago yesteday, for example, on the Columbia, just below the mouth of the Walla Walla River, they recorded 40 dog kills (I presume this means they killed 40 dogs?), saw grouse, and also saw occupied lodges, but found no wood except for small willows.
Even today, the Corps of Discovery’s journals are an important resource for biologists establishing the historical abundance and distribution of wildlife. They can also be an important reference point for understanding the current conditions of our natural heritage. Today, for instance, sage grouse no longer inhabit the regions of Washington where Lewis recorded them "in great abundance."