Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center Sioux City, Iowa Visited: June 30, 2004 NPS Site Visited: Not an NPS Site Local Website
WHAT IS IT? One of many Interpretive Centers that have recently sprung up along the Lewis and Clark Trail in anticipation of the ongoing bicentennial celebration of the explorers’ journey. The Center in Sioux City, Iowa focuses on the portion of the trek that took place along the Missouri River from outside St. Louis and into southwestern South Dakota.
BEAUTY (3/10) The brand new facility sits on the bank of the Missouri. Mixed grass prairie is being cultivated around the building. A huge 15 stars, 15 stripes flag flies outside next to a handsome statue of Lewis, Clark and their dog Seaman. What the building lacks in pizzazz on the outside is made up for inside with a good design and pleasant use of space.
HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (6/10) It is hard not to be fascinated by the Corps of Discovery. We know, we tried. Before we started the USA-C2C journey, we were unfazed by all the Lewis and Clark bicentennial hoopla. Now every brown trail sign, the ones where either Lewis or Clark points you on your way, makes us excited. Every site along the Trail holds historic significance. This Site marks a place of tragedy, the only instance during the two-year trip where someone died: Sergeant Floyd.
CROWDS (8/10) We were not the only ones having fun at this site. Also giddy was a 40-ish woman with her teenage daughter, a few elderly couples, a 30-something man, little kids, everybody. We all stamped our L&C workbooks, traced with crayons and laughed at the animatronic Newfoundland and prairie dog. What a great time. Even though the site was crowded we had never waited to experience any of the numerous interactive displays.
EASE OF USE/ACCESS (5/5) The L&C Interpretive Center sits right off Interstate 29 near downtown Sioux City, Iowa. The Site is next door to the Iowa Welcome Center. The building is one story and is completely accessible to people in wheelchairs.
CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (5/5) We cite this bookstore as the place where we finally admitted to having the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial fever. The small gift store had an amazing wealth of L&C items. We purchased a charming children’s book for Michael’s kindergarten teacher mom that tells the story from the perspective of Lewis’ Newfoundland dog. We were tempted to buy everything else in the store, including: the largest selection of L&C books, a stuffed Corps of Discovery canoe, a stuffed Newfoundland dog with collar reading “World’s Greatest Traveling Dog”, a shrink wrapped L&C T-shirt, bookmarks hand-drawn by local elementary school students, patches, mags, pins and so much more.
COSTS (4/5) This wonderful Site is free.
RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (2/5) There were no Rangers on site. The Interpretive Center, while a part of an NPS Historic Trail, is not administered by the NPS. The volunteer working at the bookstore was a local middle school teacher and was available to answer questions. He told us that there are frequent lectures and craft demonstration done at the Site.
TOURS/CLASSES (7/10) When you enter the site, pick up a little blank booklet. Just as Lewis and Clark documented their travels along the Missouri, so can you. In the first display, enter what you believe to be your three strongest traits and a computer screen recommends at which position you would be most useful for the Corps of Discovery: private, cook, scout, sergeant, etc. For our visit, Gab was Lewis; Michael was Clark.
Numerous types of interactive displays walk you through guard duty, ask how you might react to situations on the road and at camp, invite you to match illnesses to their contemporary cures, test your observation skills and much more. After each activity, stamp your journal page and write a journal entry if you like. At the end of your journey, visit the wall which lists all members of the Corps of Discovery and see how they (you) fared during the rest of the expedition and afterwards.
Had there been a staff person at the site dedicated to answering questions or posted in the exhibit area, this site would be near perfect.
There was a film, which we skipped. We were having far too much fun moving around.
FUN (8/10) Stamp books are fun. Interactive learning is fun. Huge animatronics Newfoundlands that shed are fun. We had far too much fun in the fantastic bookstore. It was very hard to leave with just a small bag of goodies. The display area was well planned, visitors could move through events chronologically or not. This allows one to go directly to the least crowded display and walk around unrestricted by a strict path or design. Explanations were clear, understandable and interesting and staff were very friendly. This site was thoroughly enjoyable.
WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (8/10) Most definitely. Even though the site focuses on one of the more tragic periods of the Corps of Discovery adventure, the overall tone is upbeat and optimistic. One truly gets a flavor of life on the expedition. The site is easily reached by a major interstate and sits next to the Welcome Center for the state of Iowa so you can accomplish multiple tasks at one exit. The facility is new and offers nice amenities plus the price is right. Free.
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