Zebulon Montgomery Pike Trail to the sources of the Mississippi 1805 — 1806

Map of Zebulon Montgomery Pike Trail to the sources of the Mississippi Map of Zebulon Montgomery Pike Trail to the sources of the Mississippi
Map of Zebulon Montgomery Pike Trail to the sources of the Mississippi

In 2002 I follow the trail of Zebulon Montgomery Pike, who received the order from president Jefferson to explore the sources of the Mississippi, check out places for possible Forts and announce to trappers, traders and Indians in the north, that Great Britain is no longer in charge of this country, but the USA.

First I travel on Interstates from Pittsburgh to St. Louis. Like Lewis & Clark one year earlier, Pike also started his journey at Camp Wood. On August 9th, 1805, he set off with 20 men and a 60ft keelboat. They had to fight storms and rapids until they had on August 21st the first big council with Indians at nowadays Ft. Madison, Iowa. A murder had happened were Pike was asked for help to clarify. Pike was able to manage the situation diplomatically and they were able to travel on North. Again bad weather and rapids kept up the expedition. On September 1st they reached Dubuque, a town founded by Julien Dubuque. The main income in this area was lead mining. So the government was very interested to know the real amount from the mines for tax purposes. But Mr. Dubuque was able to keep Pike from visiting the mines to discover the real amount of mined lead.

Again the expedition had to fight bad weather. On September 5th, the expedition explored the mouth of the Wisconsin River. They also held councils with different tribes. They went on with smaller boats, until they reached on September 21st St. Paul. The river completely changed here. The water was now clearer and the river bed was getting much narrower. They also held councils in this area.

The weather was getting worse and the rapids more dangerous. On October 16th, the first snow felt. They were in the area of Little Falls, where they fought the rapids. There they built their first winter quarter and they started to build canoes. On October 28th Pike started another try to proceed, but the canoes sunk. So they had to build new ones and they also built sleighs. In the meantime, their provisions were getting low. They also had to hunt for the supply for the next winter months. On December 9th they made another attempt and they passed the rapids. But the weather was getting worse and worse. Sometimes they broke into the river with their sleighs, sometimes the sleighs themselves broke. Eventually they reached Sandy Lake on January 3rd. At the shores a big trader had settled down. From there they started a couple of expeditions to find out the river course and the source of the Mississippi. On February 1st, Pike reached Leech Lake, which he mistook as the source of the Mississippi. But he thought he has completed his mission and prepared for his way back. On April 30th he reached again St. Louis.

I follow the course of the Mississippi to its true sources at Lake Itasca. From there I start my journey back to Pittsburgh, this time along the north shores of Lake Superior and Lake Huron through Canada. At Port Huron I enter the USA again and visit my friends Matt & Jean in Detroit and take the opportunity to see the Henry Ford Museum. The next day I travel back to Pittsburgh.