29. Blue Lake, Onawa, Iowa

Missouri River

View south

Aerial photo of curvy blue lake iowa

© 2000 Airphoto—Jim Wark


This oxbow was once part of the main channel of the Missouri, but by 1804 the river had already cut it off, turning it into a lake "6 leagues [eighteen miles] around." On 9 August 1804 the Corps probably camped on the river, just visible on the far upper right side of the picture. Ordway remarked that the "Grapes are verry pleanty," and Clark observed a "great deel of Beaver Sign." On the downside, the captain recorded, "Musquetors worse this evening than ever I have Seen them."

Today, the former riverbend is known as Blue Lake named not for the color of the water but for nearby bluffs of blue-gray shale. Blue Lake is the centerpiece of Lewis and Clark State Park, where replicas of the keelboat and pirogues today sail without threat of collapsing banks or other hazards such as rolling sandbars, or boat-eating snags and sawyers.

Homeward bound, the Corps camped near the end of the oxbow's left leg on 5 September 1806. Lewis was "still in a Convelesent State," recovering from the wound he suffered in a hunting accident on 11 August, when one-eyed Pierre Cruzatte mistook the buckskin-clad captain for an elk and shot him in the buttocks.


From Discovering Lewis & Clark from the Air
Photography by Jim Wark

Text by Joseph Mussulman
Reproduced by permission of Mountain Press