On the Lewis and CLark Expedition Today and 200 Years Ago The questions I constantly ask myself as I work my way up the Missouri are: How do the river and landscape look today compared to 200 years ago, and how does my effort compare to that of the Corps of Discovery? The river looks much different today. Levees, wing dikes, dredging and channeling and of course the dams I will encounter much further upstream, have significantly changed the shape of the river. The current on the river so far is only slightly stronger than what Lewis and Clark encountered - 7 mph compared to the 5 1/2-6 mph they measured - but the dikes and dredging have for the most part controlled bank erosion and cleared most of the more troublesome sandbars. I don't have to face many of the obstacles faced by Lewis and Clark, who had to contend with collapsing river banks, countless snags, and unpredictable sandbars. Occasionally I will encounter a section of collapsed bank, a stretch of downed trees jutting out into the river, or a nettlesome sandbar, giving me an inkling of what Lewis and Clark found, but in a kayak these are more a nuisance than the major obstruction they posed for the Corps of Discovery. Paddling upstream is difficult, especially when I have to circumvent all the dikes that are now exposed because of the low level of the river, but it is nothing compared to the effort it must have taken to haul three heavy and unwieldy boats (a keel boat and two large pirogues), loaded with a couple of tons of supplies upstream against a stiff current. What I find so remarkable about the Lewis and CLark journals is that there is so little mention of how arduous a task it must have been for them to make any headway at all. I have been surprised to find as many similarities along the river today, compared to what Lewis and Clark encountered. True, the area has been settled. Barge and dredging activity continues as far north as Sioux City. Coal-burning power plants, with their huge smoke stacks, periodically occupy the banks. The huge metropolis of Kansas City, and several lesser cities, break the even plane of the horizon. But sections of the river, even in Missouri, retain some of the characteristics described in the Lewis and Clark journals. The bluffs along the banks in eastern Missouri gradually give way to rolling bottomland and the flatter plains of Kansas. Much of this land is farmed today, but along the riverbanks it has been left alone, and the cottonwoods, poplars, and willows described in the journals remain. There are no longer bear and elk here, but wildlife abounds. The river is teeming with catfish and waterfowl, and the banks are alive with deer, beaver, and wild turkeys. I have had several days already where I haven't seen a soul - it's just me, the splash of my paddle in the water, and the sounds of the birds as I pass by.