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Expedition - What Kind of Boats Did the Expedition Use?

pirogue made from holowed out cottonwood tree

Up until they reached the Mandan villages in present-day North Dakota, the Corps of Discovery traveled in a keel boat specially designed for the task. Built in Pittsburgh, the keel boat traveled down the Ohio River until reaching the Mississippi River and eventually, St. Louis. Once upon the Missouri, the boat had to be pulled upstream, an arduous task by any standard, usually making around five miles a day. By the spring of 1805, the expedition switched to canoes and pirogues, the latter comprised of hollowed-out cottonwood logs often strapped together for stability. These boats provided the men with adequate transportation until reaching the Rocky Mountains, whereupon travel on foot and when they could obtain them, horseback, became common. On the return trip down the Missouri–traveling with the current–the expedition could make up to 70 miles a day, although the average was around 35 to 40.

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