Top 5 Westward Expansion sites on the Katy Trail
It would be impossible to go bike touring on the Katy Trail across Missouri without encountering historical places. These spots tell the story of the settlers who traveled across and explored the land, and helped incorporate it into what we know today as the United States. Over half the trail’s length follows the Missouri River, or Big Muddy, or Mighty Mo, which Lewis and Clark navigated during their mission to explore the West, as appointed by Thomas Jefferson.
Katy Trail Quick Facts:
- It measures 237.7 miles
- It is America’s longest “rail-trail”
- The name “Katy” comes from the MKT (Missouri- Kansas-Texas) Railroad
- The Katy Trail was added to the Rails-to Trails Conservancy Hall of Fame in 2007
If you are fascinated by stories of triumph, entrepreneurship and exploration, here’s a list of 5 places not to miss along the Katy Trail, as you will see them on our Katy Trail Bike Tour:
1- Boonville – Day 2, mile 36.5
Named after famed explorer and woodsman Daniel Boone, Boonville saw a lot of traffic headed west, as the Boonslick Trail, the Santa Fe Trail, the Lewis and Clark Exploration and the MKT railroad line all converged here at some point in time.
Daniel Boone’s sons, Nathan and Daniel Morgan established a salt works to utilize the three natural salt water springs found in the area, and commercialized it in nearby St. Charles and St. Louis. Without a doubt the fertility of the land (salt, timber, wild game and water) made in part possible the Westward Expansion of the 1800’s.
2- Rocheport- Day 2, mile 50.5
This quaint town might trick you into thinking it has always been a peaceful, super-picturesque location, but in reality, “Rocky Port” was a trading post for settlers and Native Americans, long before Lewis and Clark stopped by in 1804. They focused on the local flora and fauna of the place, and the curious pictographs painted by Native Americans. These ancient paintings can be seen along the trail some 4 miles SW (downstream) of Rocheport, on the rock face right above a prominent cave. Bald eagles have been spotted by our groups on this section of trail, making it one of the most anticipated days of the tour!
3- Jefferson City- Day 3, mile 38.3
At the center of the Westward Expansion in the early 1800’s was Thomas Jefferson, who managed to acquire the land that was to be surveyed by Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and about a dozen other participants, all members of the Corps of Discovery.
While structuring the territory of Missouri just a few years after the Expedition, Lohman’s Landing was chosen to be a good strategic point for settling the state’s capital. Located at about half way between St. Louis and Kansas City, founders opted to dedicate the capital to Thomas Jefferson, calling it Jefferson City instead of the originally proposed name “Missouriopolis.”
We visit the capital city and its many historic buildings and special landmarks on our bike tour. The Missouri State Capitol, Supreme Court Building, Governor’s Mansion and charming Downtown are just a few of the architectural treasures that anchor this unique community.
4- Marthasville- Day 4, mile 25.5
Today we see Marthasville and its surroundings. Here, Daniel Boone once stood as a civil administrator, military leader and judge, appointed by the Spanish Government. During that period, Spain possessed the land before it was transferred to France, and finally the United States.
In Matson (Day 6, mile 5.8) you will find the Daniel Boone Judgement Tree Memorial, which commemorates the frontiersman’s official position and provides a detailed account of his life.
5- Lewis and Clark Boathouse and Museum
After days of riding through some of the actual places where the famed Expedition took place, what better way to finish your tour than to see a real-scale replica of the boat that made it all possible? (The Lewis and Clark Boathouse is where we meet on the first morning of the tour.)
Not only does the Boathouse and Museum have a fascinating permanent exhibit and gift shop, but it also hosts the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles, MO, a nationally recognized re-enactment group.
Historic St Charles is also one of the most picturesque towns in the Midwest, and a visit to its restaurants, gift shops, galleries, coffee shops and breweries will surely make you want to stay longer!
Bonus site: Gateway Arch in St. Louis
We don’t visit the Gateway Arch on this bike tour – but if you’re driving, to the start of the bike tour, you can make it into part of your vacation either before or after the trip!
Although (unofficially) known as the “Show Me” state, the phrase that best describes Missouri is probably “The Gateway to the West” as so many locations between St. Louis and Kansas City have been of great significance as departing hubs for travelers searching for opportunities in the early years of the nation.
When in St Louis, a visit to the Gateway Arch is a must. Ride a tram to the top of the tallest man-made arch, and the tallest monument in the Western hemisphere. This amazing structure dedicated to the Westward expansion is a masterpiece, boasting mind-bending engineering and breathtaking views from the top. A museum that tells a story of American ingenuity and the constant search for a better future is found underneath this incredible landmark, making your visit a worthwhile experience. (P.S. it’s another National Park you can check off your list!)
Learn more about our Missouri Katy Trail bike tour, an inn-to-inn, fully-supported tour where you’ll experience the best of historic Missouri!