Snake-Columbia River Observations
Robert N. Bergantino
Research Associate Professor,
Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology
Bob Bergantino owes his interest in Lewis and Clark to his father, who was a surveyor for the U.S. Corps of Engineers at Fort Peck during the 1930s. Bob earned a degree in geology at the University of Montana, meanwhile gaining experience as a surveyor along the Missouri River in Montana and North Dakota, and then worked with the U.S. Navy Oceanographic Office in Washington, D.C., making bathymetric and seismic surveys, and mapping the sea floor. In 1974 he and his family moved to Butte, Montana, where he was hired as a hydrogeologist by the Bureau of Mines and Geology at Montana Tech.
In 1970, as a hobby, he and his wife Sharon studied the escape route of Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, and corrected some historical misperceptions. Next, drawing upon his interests, education, and experience, Bob set out to map the Lewis and Clark survey points, routes and campsites through Montana, steadily refining his conclusions with the maps and aerial photos available at the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology. He also mapped the portage route around the Falls of the Missouri.
Beginning in 1986 Dr. Bergantino was engaged in preparing the basic texts for the geologic and geomorphic footnotes for Gary E. Moulton's new edition of the Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and assisted in locating campsites and identifying creeks and other geographic features mentioned in the journals.
At about the same time he became greatly interested in the Expedition's celestial observations. He eventually recalculated all their conclusions regarding latitudes, extended the data they collected for longitudes, and also mapped magnetic declinations for the explorers' entire route.
In 1991 Dr. Bergantino provided the National Park Service with a database of the campsite coordinates from Wood River to Fort Clatsop and return. In 2002 he completed a GIS-compatible database of the entire Lewis and Clark route through Montana, for the Continuing Education at the University of Montana, as a resource for teaching map interpretation, and a basis for further research.