SHSND Home > Exhibits > Online Exhibits > Lewis & Clark > Era Intro > Other Attempts to Explore the West > Other Exploration Attempts

People Encountered - Other Exploration Attempts

blue triangle

early map of North AmericaGeorge Rogers Clark:
The older brother of William Clark, George Rogers won enduring fame for his exploits during the Revolutionary War. He was originally one of Thomas Jefferson’s first choices to head up a small expedition to explore the upper reaches of the Missouri River.

John Ledyard:
One of the early proposed explorers of the Trans-Mississippi west during the 1780's, Ledyard approached Jefferson with a less than credible proposal to walk across Russia, cross the Bering Strait, and then walk across North America to Philadelphia where he planned to submit his report of what he had found. His small expedition was arrested in Russia when Catherine the Great became suspicious and effectively ended what was a dubious plan at best.

John Sinclair:
Yet another early explorer Thomas Jefferson tapped to map out the upper reaches of the Missouri River. An army officer like Meriwether Lewis, his small expedition got as far as St. Louis when he determined an upstream trip was not feasible. Despite Sinclair and the others failures, Jefferson never gave up and eventually chose Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to lead an expedition–a choice that could not have been more appropriate nor successful.

Hunter and Dunbar:
At virtually the same time that Lewis and Clark were sent on their epic journey, explorers/surveyors Hunter and Dunbar were sent to map out the lower reaches of the Louisiana Purchase. While not nearly as publicly noticed as Lewis and Clark, Hunter and Dunbar nonetheless provided a valuable service in determining the dividing line between American and Spanish possessions in the south. Though not without disputes with the Spanish, American claims were established and set the stage for the division of the Louisiana Territory with a minimum of conflict.

General James Wilkinson:
James Wilkinson today holds the reputation of being among the worst traitors in American History, perhaps second only to Benedict Arnold. While military head of the trans- Appalachian west, he secretly negotiated with the Spanish and conspired with Aaron Burr for the creation of a state independent of the United States. Although never caught, he continued as a top US military official and Spanish spy. It was his information that led to the capture of Zebulon Pike in the American Southwest.

Zebulon Pike:
A less than capable explorer, Pike first came to public attention when he was assigned the take of finding the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Minnesota. For a number of reasons, part of which was his competency as an explorer, he had difficulty with this task. With this inauspicious beginning, it is something of a mystery as to why, in 1809, he was chosen to find the northern boundary of Spanish possessions in the American Southwest. This mystery is explained when one realizes that it was General James Wilkinson who chose him for the task. Wilkinson was a paid agent of the Spanish for many years and kept them abreast of American plans for the southeast, the Louisiana Purchase, exploration of the same. Pike again became confused on this trip and ended up in Colorado where he discovered the mountain today bearing his name. The Spanish later arrested Pike when, after finally finding the Red River and Spanish boundary, built a post on the wrong side of the river. His command was sent to Mexico City where he was eventually released.

Back to other attempts to explore the west

612 East Boulevard Ave.
Bismarck, North Dakota 58505
Get Directions

State Museum and Store: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. M-F; Sat. & Sun. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
We are closed New Year's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
State Archives: 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. M-F, except state holidays; 2nd Sat. of each month, 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Appointments are recommended. To schedule an appointment, please contact us at 701.328.2091 or
State Historical Society offices: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. M-F, except state holidays.

Contact Us:
phone: 701.328.2666

Social Media:
See all social media accounts