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Two Rivers Run Through It
A plan envisions a 200-square-mile greenway at the confluence of the Missouri and the Mississippi.
By David Boyd

Photo Courtesy Srenco Photography
Photo Courtesy Srenco Photography

In the spring of 1804, just north of the city of St. Louis and near what is today the village of Hartford in southwestern Illinois, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark prepared their Corps of Discovery for one of the greatest expeditions this country has known. Encamped near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, the two greatest rivers in North America, the corps spent long hours in preparation for their two-year journey up the Missouri River and into the uncharted western frontier of the fledgling United States. Each day the explorers crossed the mile-wide Mississippi River, navigating the treacherous currents where the waters of the Missouri River come crashing into the Mississippi, in order to reach their base camp located in the swamps and backwaters that form along the rivers' edges. Lewis and Clark had chosen this spot not only because of its strategic location near their point of embarkation, but also because the area was typical of the harsh conditions they anticipated encountering on their journey.

Despite its beauty and its location a mere 11 miles north of downtown St. Louis, the confluence went largely ignored for the next 200 years by the forces of development that have encroached on so many other scenic sites and historic vistas across this country. Not that the area escaped completely unscathed. Although agricultural adaptation and industrial uses have left scars upon the landscape, the area retains its majestic beauty. Representing the heart of a 3,740-mile river system with a watershed of 1.2 million square miles (nearly one-eighth of the North American continent), the confluence isn't merely a regional attraction-it is a treasure of global proportions, worthy of perpetual protection.

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