BGES’ Americana Field University Program
Presented by Neil Mangum
June 20-29, 2022; from Great Falls, Montana
The Louisiana Purchase, the largest land expansion in American history, gave the United States land from the Mississippi River toward Canada and the Pacific Northwest. Not knowing what America had acquired, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned two military officers—Meriwether Lewis and William Clark—and sent them west to St. Louis, instructing them to examine the territory. Their journey captured the spirit of American expansionism and courage, providing the central government in Washington, D.C., information about its newest possession.
Organized into an expedition, Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery—some 40 to 50 people—probed wild rivers and wilderness areas, crossed daunting mountains, and encountered numerous Native American peoples as they blazed a trail across the country. Their journey of 8,000 miles over more than two years cannot be covered in one or, for that matter four, trips, so we have selected the period from June 13, 1805, to August 2, 1806. The story is compelling, and the scenery spectacular! Come and join us.
Monday, June 20, 2022
5 PM: Check in at the headquarters hotel in Grand Falls. Your reservations have been made and paid for. Neil and Len will meet you in the lobby and distribute readings and other information about the program. We will make a dinner run in which you can join us, but pay on your own. Hotel included.
Tuesday, June 21, 2022
8:30 AM: Up and out by at 8:30 AM as we commence yet another of Neil Mangum’s Americana tours. Of all Len has done with him, he says this is the one he is most looking forward to. Lewis and Clark have recently been maligned for violating the sanctity of the Native American way of life and for exploiting people like Sacajawea. Yet these are frontiersmen who left their homes for over two years to explore and report on the unknown, facing unknown dangers and not knowing if they would ever return home—what guts! We meet them 14 months and more than 1300 miles into their trip. Right from the beginning, we go to Decision Point where two rivers forked and Lewis and Clark had to decide which direction to go. They made the correct choice despite near total opposition to their decision. We will use our proximity to visit old Fort Benton along the Missouri River—outside of our story, but worth the stop. We will then take you to the Lewis and Clark Interpretative Center, where you will ground yourself in the expedition to date and to follow.
Breakfast is provided, lunch and dinner are on your own. We will drive 120 miles today. Hotel is provided.
Wednesday, June 22, 2022
We are on the road early. Our destination is Dillon, Montana, some 246 miles distant. Our stops include Tower Rock State Park, the Montana Historical Society in Helena, Missouri River Headwaters State Park, and Clark’s Lookout. Drive-by spots include Gates of the Mountain State Park and Beaverhead State Park. Several points here. The expedition is a moving and living event that doesn’t travel as fast as we will. The sites we select as stops are illustrative of this lengthy expedition and have probative value to your understanding of the expedition at that stage. Neil’s expertise and insight will create mini-symposiums between points and on-sites. If we drive by something without stopping, it is because Neil wants to show you a higher value spot. He will address the significance of drive-bys. From Great Falls, it took six weeks to portage the expedition around the impassible river. Today, we cover the period from June 13, 1805, through August 8, 1805.
Breakfast, lunch, and hotel are included.
Thursday, June 23, 2022
For those who did the Nez Perce with us, we return to familiar grounds today and will settle down in Lolo, Montana, tonight. Our first stop will be at Camp Fortunate, and then we will cross into Idaho across Lemhi Pass in the Bitterroot Mountains. If that is too rough—and it may be—then we will take the tenderfoot route through Bannock Pass. We will examine Sacajawea’s role in the campaign and see more of her and her people at the Interpretative Center in Salmon, Idaho, where we will have lunch. After lunch, we will examine Ross Hole—our timeline is August 12 through September 11. This looks to be a short day, but it is the longest so far, with 275 miles passing under our feet. Why important? Consider the Expedition’s pace.
We will provide breakfast, lunch, and the hotel, but dinner is on your own.
Friday, June 24, 2022
Today is slightly shorter as we will travel 217 miles over a two-week period in the Expedition (September 11–September 26). In this trek, the scenery will pick up as we leave the plains and move into daunting and mountainous areas. We will start at the Lolo Pass Visitor Center along the Bitterroot summit and then drop into Weippe Prairie, where the Expedition will have its first encounter with the Nez Perce tribe. We will then head to Orofino (a spectacularly scenic town) for lunch and head on to the Nez Perce National Historical Park near Lewiston, where we will call it a day.
Breakfast, lunch, and lodging are included.
Saturday, June 25, 2022
Today we have a carrot and stick with a long ride of some 347 miles, which covers the period from September 26 through November 15. We will do some road time to get to a spot where we can have a lunch cruise on the Columbia River. We then press west to nearly get to the Pacific Ocean and, like the intrepid travelers, we will think we have hit the Pacific at Vancouver, Washington, where we overnight.
Breakfast, lunch, and the hotel are included. Dinner is on your own.
Sunday, June 26, 2022
Today on Sunday, like the triumphant explorers, we will find the Pacific Ocean. What a sense they must have had, realizing what was in front of them and what they had accomplished since May 14, 1804. Now on December 8, 1805, 18 months and 25 days later, they reached the Apex of their journey with a journal full of information, discoveries, contacts and lessons learned—a journal we can read today. BUT, they are not done, because there is no jetliner awaiting them to carry them from Seattle to Washington, D.C.—no, they must return the same way they came.
Like them, we will take some time to recover and restock. We will visit their bivouac site at what will become Fort Clatsop, and we will see sites they saw along the coast and visit the visitor center at Camp Disappointment. We will overnight along the stunning Oregon Coast in either Cannon Beach or Seaside, Oregon. A short day by comparative standards, just 115 miles.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as the hotel, are included.
Monday, June 27, 2022
Yes, they came home. Like so many great events, the return seems a bit of an anticlimax, and yet there is important additional research, discovery, and observation to do. They spend three months recovering and finally depart, headed east on March 23, 1806. They will be home in St. Louis on September 23, just six months compared to nearly 19 months going—been there, done that! We will follow in that track today from the coast to Walla Walla, stopping at the Columbia River Gorge Interpretative Center and the Whitman Mission National Historic Site—some 243 miles down the road.
Breakfast, lunch, and hotel are included. Dinner is on your own.
Tuesday, June 28, 2022
We will continue to chat about the accomplishments of the Expedition and the new items they discover returning to St. Louis. We have some 305 miles to put behind us, but the view is mighty nice. This period for the Expedition was May 5, 1806, to June 10, 1806. We will stop along the way, with our major stop en route to Lolo being the Spaulding Mission and the Lolo Trail. Lewis and Clark continued onward and reported in person to Jefferson in December 1806 and January 1807. America had gotten a great deal!
We will provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner along with the hotel in Lolo.
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
Two stops on the 165-mile run back to Great Falls: Lewis and Clark’s Travelers Rest State Park and the Lewis and Clark Pass. The period covered was June 14 to August 2. They would be in St. Louis in 7 ½ weeks—their mission completed. We should hit Great Falls by 1 PM. You can catch a flight home or overnight another night at your own expense and head home on Thursday.
Breakfast is included.
About the Faculty
Neil Mangum is one of the nation’s foremost historians and is an expert on frontier life. A retired National Park Service official, he served as superintendent at the Little Big Horn National Battlefield as it transitioned from Custer National Battlefield. The popular Mangum only allows himself four or five tours a year, and BGES is fortunate to enjoy his favor. He enjoys the clientele and the small folksy nature of the group that is usually well-prepared. Neil is author of The Battle of the Rosebud: Prelude to the Little Big Horn. He has a following, and most people on this trip will have traveled with him before, which makes this event even nicer.
Your registration fee includes 10 nights single or double occupancy lodging. We will base at a hotel near the Great Falls Airport. Hotels will be announced by May 15.
The arrival airport is Great Falls (GTF). If you drive to Great Falls, we will make arrangements for you to leave your car parked there. Airlines servicing Great Falls include Delta, United, and Alaska. There is not a full flight schedule.
You will be provided with a reading book and maps upon arrival. The following books are suggested to enhance your readiness for the program. Amazon.com has a program to support non-profits IF YOU SIGN UP to support Blue and Gray Education Society (EIN 54-1720582) at AmazonSmile. When you sign up there rather than the normal Amazon site, one-half of one percent of your purchase price will be provided to BGES as a donation from Amazon. This will apply not only to this purchase but others you may make at other times. Thank you.
- Stephen Ambrose: Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West
- Alvin Josephy: Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes: Nine Indian Writers on the Legacy of the Expedition
- Gary Moulton: The Lewis and Clark Expedition Day-by-Day
- David Nicandri: River of Promise: Lewis and Clark on the Columbia
Registration includes 10 nights lodging, 10 breakfasts, 7 lunches, and 2 dinners; a Columbia River cruise; a reading book with maps; the academic program; support of a professional historian and tour director; all admissions; and transportation. We will also provide snacks, bottled water, and a limited selection of sodas. Transportation will be appropriate to the registration. A coach bus requires 20 full paid registrants; for less, we will use transportation to include passenger vans.
Register for this program using a secure PayPal link
To register by mail or fax, download this printable registration form: The Lewis and Clark Expedition June 1805-August 1806
Questions? Need more information? Please contact us.