by Ken Karsmizki, Columbia Gorge Discovery Center
Carolyn Purcell, Columbia Gorge Discovery Center

In this webquest, students in grades 9-12 investigate scientific inquiry on the Lewis and Clark expedition, by examining their roles as ethnographers, linguists, and paleontologists.


June 20th, 1803, President Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter containing instructions to Captain Meriwether Lewis, 1st regiment, Infantry , U.S. Army.  Jefferson had chosen Lewis to lead an exploration of the Missouri and Columbia Rivers , instructing him to “acquire what knowledge you can” and describe “objects worthy of notice.”  Jefferson asked his colleagues, the best botanists, geologists, mathematicians, surveyors/navigators, and other scientists to supply Captain Lewis with information that could assist with the exploration and the collection of specimens.  The expedition returned with descriptions of what they observed and, to the extent possible, specimens new to science.  In 200 years since the Lewis and Clark expedition passed down the Columbia River, countless scientists have explored the Columbia River region.  Scientists today often refer back to the documented observations of the Lewis and Clark expedition.