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The government-sponsored transcontinental expedition under the leadership of Captain Meriwether Lewis (right) and Lieutenant William Clark (left) set off down the Ohio River on August 31, 1803. The 40-member expedition wintered and trained near St. Louis before starting up the Missouri River in three boats on May 14, 1804. Lewis and Clark’s three-year journey of exploration and discovery to the Pacific Coast and back stimulated western settlement and proved that an overland route to the West Coast was possible.