Lewis and Clark Visitor Center has busy year ahead

Julie Davis
Nebraska City News-Press

It promises to be a busy summer and fall at the Missouri River Basin-Lewis and Clark Visitor Center.

The center has been designated as an official Nebraska Welcome Center, which means that Traveler Counselor Jenny Bates is available to answer visitors’ questions about local, regional, and statewide attractions. It is one of 12 official Nebraska Welcome Centers across the state.

Nebraska Tourism Commissioner Jeanna Stavas recommended that the center be designated as an official state welcome center, said Doug Friedli, executive director of the MRB-Lewis and Clark Visitor Center.

“We are grateful for her recommendation and support,” he said. 

A new face at the center since June is VISTA Volunteer Intern Monroe Pruett of Omaha. Originally from Kansas City, Mo., Pruett received her bachelor’s degree in environmental science with a minor in studio art.

She has been tasked with developing a tree trail for the 79-acre center property and creating a garden that will represent edible and medicinal plants Lewis and Clark might have encountered in the area between 1804 and 1806.

To that end, she is seeking funding sources for an irrigation system for the garden, as well as volunteers with gardening experience to help plant the garden next spring so that visitors can smell and touch the plants when they visit.

Friedli said the garden will provide another opportunity for the center to add the Native American perspective to the Lewis and Clark story and also give nature lovers more reasons to come visit.

“These plants have been used for good purposes for thousands of years,” he said, “Lewis and Clark didn’t ‘discover’ them...they observed the natives. who knew all about the plants and their uses, using them.”

Pruett also wants to develop an audio tour for the center to better serve visitors who are visually impaired, and she hopes to expand the center’s audience through grant-writing opportunities that will make it possible to offer tours to more schools and other groups. 

“I’m supposed to leave it better than I found it, but that will be hard to do, because it’s pretty awesome,” she said.

Friedli said another big project at the center has been the eradication of non-native tree species. Although visitors might not notice the change immediately, removing the non-native trees gives the native species a better chance at resources, such as sunlight, soil, and water, and more room to grow on the property.

New exhibits this year included a traveling exhibit of Lewis and Clark maps, which were on display at the center in June, as well as a buffalo skull that was found on the propert of John and Dr. Sara Crook, and a display table made with wood from a Lewis and Clark replica boat built by Butch Bouvier. 

The center has a variety of activities planned through the rest of the summer, including the monthly Saturday with a Soldier on the second Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and a Business After Hours event from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 19, which will celebrate Lewis and Clark’s August birthdays. The annual Lewis and Clark Reunion will take place the first weekend of AppleJack on Sept. 19 and 20.

A special event this year, said Friedli, is the 175th anniversary of the Morman Battalion Trail. 

“We expect thousands of people to travel that trail this summer along Bluff Road in Fremont County, Iowa,” he said. 

A new app from the National Park Service promotes things to do, along with restaurants and lodging along the Lewis and Clark Trail, said Friedli. 

The center is also participating in the NPS Junior Ranger Program, which gives young people (and the young at heart) the opportunity to earn awards online or in person.

Earlier in the summer, the center’s upstairs conference room was named the Nancy Hoch Conference Room to honor the woman who was instrumental in getting the center funded and constructed. 

Center hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

The center is located at 100 Valmont Way. Visit lewisandlcarkvisitorcenter.org or call 402-874-9900 for more information.

One of the new features at the center is this Seed Spot sign, which gives visitors a daily update on which plants are creating seeds now.
This bison skull was found on the property of John and Dr. Sara Crook. It is estimated to be hundreds of years old.
The upstairs conference room at the center was recently renamed to honor Nancy Hoch, who was instrumental in getting the center funded and built.
The Missouri River Basin-Lewis and Clark Visitor Center has a variety of programs in development to enhance visitors’ understanding of the work of the Corps of Discovery.
From left, center Executive Director Doug Friedli, Traveler Counselor Jenny Bates, and VISTA Volunteer Intern Monroe Pruett wait to greet visitors.