Those Tremendous Mountains: The Story Of The Lewis And Clark Expedition

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by David Freeman Hawke W. W. Norton 42 illustrations, 273 pages, $12.95

The Lewis and Clark Expedition is one of the set pieces of American history. Multivolume works have recorded every known detail of that extraordinary two-and-a-half-year “Voyage of Discovery.” But for the general reader, here is a new, expert, and swift telling of the tale that makes the skin prickle with excitement.

Primarily, Jefferson wanted Meriwether Lewis to find “the direct water communication from sea to sea,” but he also ordered him to map rivers, study animals, plants, weather, minerals, and Indians, and to take care not to lose all his data by getting killed.

Miraculously, all the members of the expedition survived. They returned in September, 1806, with an astonishing accumulation of scientific samples and records. In their search for a direct water route across the Rockies—which they proved to their satisfaction didn’t exist—they had “discovered 24 Indian tribes, 178 plants, and 122 animals then unknown to the world.”

It confounds the imagination.