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September 20, 2000
The Great Unknown

This vintage 1803 map represented the absolute cutting edge of available intelligence regarding the route which Lewis and Clark were to cross. Most notable, and nearly disastrous to the Corps of Discovery, was the idea that the Rocky Mountains consisted of a single, easily-crossed range.

A close look at Montana reveals, though, a fairly detailed knowledge of the general course of the Missouri, including the Marias River, and even the three forks at the source. The story of how this information reached the mapmaker is an intriguing one, which will be the subject of a further page here.

Consider, though: In recountings of the expedition, have you ever seen this map depicted? I thought not. Takes a bit of the lustre off of the L & C mythos, does it not? Popular historians are not above a little spin-doctoring it would seem.

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