HARTFORD, IL—Governor George H. Ryan today joined Congressman Jerry Costello, former State Senator Evelyn Bowles, State Representatives Tom Holbrook and Steve Davis and other dignitaries to open the new Lewis and Clark Visitors Center.
“Today marks the 199th anniversary of the crew’s arrival in Illinois,” Governor Ryan said. “Lewis and Clark spent 154 days here, second only to their 156-day stay in Fort Mandan, North Dakota. Their “Journey of Discovery” began from here on May 14, 1804, and we plan for this Visitors Center to be the focus of worldwide attention at the beginning of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial in May 2004.”
The 14,000 square-foot Visitors Center, built with a combination of $4 million of federal funds secured by Congressman Costello as well as $3 million in state appropriations, focuses on the often-untold story of Lewis and Clark. Exhibits discuss the preliminary information and knowledge gathered on the land west of the Mississippi River and the preparations, expectations and anticipation for the expedition.
“Clearly this site will mean great things for the State of Illinois,” said Governor Ryan. “It will not only bring greater recognition to Illinois for its role in Lewis and Clark’s expedition, but it will also serve as an educational and economic resource.”
The highlight of the Visitors Center is a 55-foot full-scale replica of the expedition’s keelboat, complete with mast and sail, with a cutaway section so visitors
may see how provisions for the journey were carried.
In the Center’s theater, visitors also have the opportunity to view a 12-minute film designed to evoke the emotion of the expedition. From the theater, visitors are invited to view life at Camp River DuBois, including the keelboat replica. Exhibits discuss the preparations, training and final arrangements made during the months the expedition wintered in Illinois. The final exhibits detail the “rest of the story”—after Lewis and Clark departed from their 1803-04 winter encampment, as well as the legacy of their historic expedition.
The Visitors Center is Site Number One on the National Lewis and Clark Heritage Trail. It will be the location of a nationally significant “signature event” on May 14, 2002, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the expedition’s departure from Illinois to begin their two-year journey. The 200th anniversary of the establishment of the winter camp will also be recognized with an observance on December 12, 2003.
Future plans for the site include the construction of a full-scale replica of Camp River DuBois, the establishment of nearly 20 acres of prairie, hiking and biking trails, picnic facilities, and day use areas.
The Lewis and Clark Visitors Center is administered by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and is located along Illinois Route 3 at the southern edge of Hartford, just north of I-270. It is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.