Visitors Guide to
Bird's Point
Mississippi County, Missouri

The history of Birdís Point dates back to 1798 when the Bird family, headed by Abraham Bird, received a grant from the Spanish government for land opposite the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. The Lewis and Clark expedition arrived at Bird's Point on November 16, 1803. Meriwether Lewis wrote in his journal that they had "reached the huts of some persons who had established themselves for the purpose of trading with the Indians." This was an important day for Lewis and Clark as it was the first time they set foot within the Louisiana Purchase, the area they had been sent to explore. In 1805 Bird established a plantation to take advantage of the trade from the two major rivers. Periodic flooding forced Bird to abandon the site in 1815 but members of his family stayed and ran various business ventures on both sides of the river and made Bird's Point as an important steamboat landing.

Bird's Point was a strategic site during the Civil War. The Battle of Charleston occurred in the vicinity on August 19, 1861. Union cavalry guarded the region for the early part of the war, deterring Confederate attempts to regain control of the vital supply routes. Once secure from enemy threat, Bird's Point was transformed into an important supply and repair site, training camp, and military post for the Union army and navy. Following the war, many of the military buildings were converted to civilian usage, including the boat yard.

In the 1880s, the area was an important railroad and river terminus for cotton distribution, and a series of ferries facilitated movement of cargo and passengers from Birdís Point to the Illinois. Bird's Point was at its peak during the 1890s as the population grew to approximately 400 and boasted two hotels and five general stores. Four major disasters - a tornado in 1896, a flood in 1897, a fire in 1905, and another flood in 1908 - kept destroying large sections of the town. The 1908 flood severely eroded the riverbank, sending most of the town site into the water. Because the railroads were now able to redirect traffic to the bridge at Thebes, Illinois they were able to discontinue the ferry transfers. Bird's Point as town was effectively dead but remains today as an unincorporated community.

The Lewis and Clark Connection
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark first set foot on Missouri soil at this location on November 16, 1803. ďPassed the Missippi this day and went down on the other side after landing at the upper habitation on the oposite side. we found here som Shawnees and Delewars incamped.Ē Here the captains encountered the Birdís Point American settlement and a Native American encampment. Today, a wayside offers a dramatic view from the Missouri side of the meeting of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. An interpretive exhibit about Lewis and Clark is located at the Henry S. Whipple Park in nearby Charleston.
Visit our special Lewis and Clark Section to learn more about the Corps of Discoveryís experience during their stay in the Middle Mississippi River Valley. greatriverroad.comís special coverage includes information on all of the regionís sites and events as well as supplemental articles relating to the expeditionís experience during the winter of 1803-04.

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