Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Big Bone Lick park joins historic trail

Named Lewis & Clark site for link to famed explorers

By Jim Hannah,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        UNION — The Northern Kentucky site where explorer William Clark gathered bones of prehistoric animals to send to Thomas Jefferson's White House will be named one of four Lewis & Clark Heritage Trail Sites east of Missouri by the National Park Service.

        “It is hard to describe the honor that comes with being a part of history — and being recognized for it,” said Jonathan Barker, naturalist at Big Bone Lick State Park. “We will be part of the preservation effort so future generations can learn about Lewis and Clark.”

        There are 93 designated sites on the trail. None is in Ohio.

        The journey, commissioned by Jefferson, that mapped the American West celebrates its 200th anniversary next year.

        Meriwether Lewis and William Clark left Clarksville, Ind., in 1803, with their Corps of Discovery.

        On their journey to the Pacific, which took until 1805, they were to search for a navigable waterway from the Atlantic to the Pacific, map the Louisiana Purchase and record the culture of Indian tribes and the area's flora and fauna.

        Big Bone Lick State Park in Boone County was recognized because of its historical significance, said Midori Raymore, a spokeswoman for the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail, based in Omaha, Neb.

[photo] Shawna Hare (center) and her children, Landen, 3, (left) and Caylin, 8, look over the bog display at Big Bone Lick State Park, Boone County.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        Clark went to Big Bone Lick in 1807 to study and collect fossils of mastodons and mammoths at the request of Jefferson, who heard of the giant bones and thought the creatures might still live in the West.

        “When you read the (Lewis & Clark) journals, you see they talked about the possibility of meeting giant animals,” said Ms. Raymore. “They believed the bones came from creatures that still roamed the West.”

        The official announcement of the Big Bone Lick State Park site is expected to come during the park's 15th annual Salt Festival Oct 19-21, said Richard Williams, manager of the National Parks Service's Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail.

        Mr. Williams was in Louisville on Tuesday at a meeting of The Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation to name as a certified trail site a home where Lewis and Clark spent three weeks.

        The Louisville mansion, Locust Grove, was the estate of Clark's sister Lucy Clark Croghan.

        The two other certified sites east of Missouri are the Falls of the Ohio State Park in Clarksville, Ind., and Monticello, the Virginia home of Jefferson.

        The trip to Big Bone may have been the first organized paleontological expedition in the United States, said Jim Carroll, spokesman for the state Department of Parks.

        More than 300 bones were gathered and shipped to Washington via the Mississippi River.

        President Jefferson spread the collection on the floor of an empty room of the White House so he could study them at his leisure. Some of the bones were sent to Philadelphia, others to the National Institute of France.

        Clark was not the first to visit Big Bone, state officials said. French explorers from Canada had visited the site in 1739, collecting bones that were later sent to France and placed in the French king's collection of curiosities, the “Cabinet du Roi.”

        “The park is known as the birthplace of American vertebrate paleontology,” said Mr. Carroll. “It is very important to the North American scientific community.”

        The giant prehistoric animals were attracted to Big Bone, experts say, because of the salt and minerals in the area. Many of these prehistoric creatures became trapped and perished in the quagmire surrounding the former swamp's ancient sulfur springs.

        Mr. Williams said the designation gives the park national recognition.

        The state's long-term goal is to build a $6 million museum at the park, which is 22 miles southwest of Covington. Officials hope to break ground on a $600,000 visitors center this fall.


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