Lewis and Clark in Kentucky

Historical Marker #2124 at Big Bone Lick State Park in Union commemorates Lewis and Clark’s contributions to American Vertebrae Paleontology.

In October, 1803 Meriwether Lewis traveled to Big Bone Lick on his way to join William Clark and the men assembling in Louisville for the Corps of Discovery. On this expedition they would travel thousands of miles and encounter land, rivers, and people that no American had ever seen before. They provided the first scientific descriptions of many plants and animals and documented the geography of this unfamiliar land. It was a successful journey that paved a new future for our growing nation.

In 1807 Clark was chosen to head a 3 week fossil collecting excursion to Big Bone Lick, Kentucky. President Thomas Jefferson wanted him to acquire a specimen of every representative bone available, as well as duplicates of each, so other scientific institutions here and abroad could have collections of their own. Clark returned to Louisville in the spring of 1807 with plans to conduct the bone gathering expedition that fall.

William Clark arrived in Boone County on September 6, 1807. He was joined by his famous older brother, General George Rogers Clark, not so much for his assistance in the project, but so he could keep an eye on him. George was an alcoholic and William was so devoted to him that he wanted to ensure George's health and safety. Although it is not documented, William's personal man-servant and slave, York, was probably there as well.

William Clark had accomplished another mission at the request of President Thomas Jefferson, the Father of American Vertebrate Paleontology, and secured the distinction of Home of American Vertebrate Paleontology for Big Bone Lick, Kentucky. The Lewis and Clark Expedition ended here at Big Bone Lick.