Geology on the Lewis & Clark Trail in North Dakota

Review: Geology on the Lewis & Clark Trail in North Dakota, John W. Hoganson and Edward C. Murphy, 2003.

Following somewhat in the format of the Roadside Geology series from the same publisher, Mountain Press Publishing Company, this book is as well produced and formatted as that series. However, it also has a crossover appeal for history buffs.

The authors, both members of the North Dakota Geological Survey, retrace the footsteps of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in North Dakota. The expedition spent from October 14,1804 and April 1805 on their outward trip to the Pacific Ocean, much of it in winter camp near modern day Mandan, North Dakota. The much faster return trip had them in the future state from August 3, 1806 to August 19, 1806. There trip was, of course, via the Missouri.

The first chapter lays out the scientific equipment and journals kept of the expedition. It was charged with many scientific purposes: measurements of climate, soil evaluation, to find if mastodons and other large beasts were really extinct or still lived in the heart of North America, and, also, to note geological resources. The latter were listed by President Thomas Jefferson:

mineral productions of every kind; but more particularly metals, limestone, pit coal, & saltpetre; salines & mineral waters, noting temperature of the last, & such circumstances as may indicate their character

The first 45 pages of this 247-page book cover the charter and preparation of the expedition and North Dakota’s general geology including a nice map of the northward flow of the state’s rivers before the last ice age.

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