Little Interest in Lewis & Clark

Director Mainella at Fort Clatsop : NPS PhotoThe story of Lewis & Clark and their journey to the Pacific 200 years ago is so fascinating. It is a story that stretches across the entire nation, includes friendships, adventure, a bit of warfare, and a lot of exploration. We are still celebrating the bicentennial of that adventure, but it comes to a close this year. This past weekend, the Corps of Discovery II have left present day Astoria and the rebuilt Fort Clatsop for the journey back to St. Louis. If you know the story of Lewis & Clark, you'll remember that they had just as much adventure on the return home as they did on the way out.

It is a story so strong and so full of great detail that it could easily be made into a hit Hollywood film, but it probably won't be. Especially after seeing that the special events all along the trail drew such low interest and attendance. National Public Radio (NPR) had a story about this back in November, and is worth the listen (3 minutes long). The interpretive center in Great Falls, MT was expecting a crowd of about a million folks over the summer last year, but instead only had visitation in the tens of thousands. I live out West, and I've been surprised at how little coverage the bicentennial has had in the press. If there was a story at all, it was in the "lifestyles" section in the back of the paper. I wonder why. A few years ago, Stephen Ambrose's book "Undaunted Courage" was a best seller. I had thought that everyone who enjoyed reading about the adventure would come and visit it during these years of the bicentennial. So where was everyone? I don't have the answers, and I don't even know where I would find them on the 'net. So, I'm left to wonder, was it the really high gas prices of last summer that turned people off of the idea of a road trip across the West? Was it because of the war in Iraq, pushing stories of local interest like Lewis & Clark off the map? Was it because people are just tired of the story, having heard it many times over since grade school? Or, were people scared off by the idea that there might be a million people at these events? I wonder. What are your ideas?

If you'd like to go to a Lewis & Clark Bicentennial event, it isn't too late. The next big event is in Idaho called the Summer of Peace Among the Nimiipuu, June 14 - 17. Then the next event is Clark on the Yellowstone in Billings, MT July 22 - 25.

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