History is brought to life at the new visitor center in Onawa - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

History is brought to life at the new Lewis and Clark Visitor Center

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ONAWA, Iowa (KTIV) -

There's a new place in Onawa, Iowa where visitors can take a step back in time to the 1800s and relive part of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

The oxbow lake near Onawa left behind by the changing Missouri River was one stopping point as Captain Meriweather Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark made their trek to the west.

More than 200 years later, the Iowa state park named in their honor is bringing history back to life.

"It draws people here. It teaches them about Lewis and Clark. It gives them an opportunity to be educated," Park Historian Butch Bouvier said.

Inside the new facility, which cost just over $3.5 million, visitors will find four replica boats just like the ones used by the Corps of Discovery.

People who stop by the Lewis and Clark Visitor Center will also get to check out what was in Lewis and Clark's cabin. Local officials hope this draws in historians and students.

"It's going to be important for our kids, for the bus trips out here, there is going to be so much they can learn," Onawa Mayor Bob Skelton said.

"It's cool to be on one of the boats because they're old and they're pretty cool," 2nd Grader Kamron Thiele said.

But, one of the main draws is getting to experience what it was like on the river. Butch Bouvier built the barge that visitors will be able to ride on around Blue Lake. He said if you're interested in taking a boat ride, be sure to plan ahead, and confirm a time with the center before you go.

Bouvier said riding on the boat will provide visitors with a unique experience they can't find anywhere else.

"And have the opportunity to literally step in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark and feel what it felt like back then," Bouvier said.

"The educational value, this will be great for grade school on up," Frank Rickerl, with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said.

After eleven years of fighting for funding, and even battling flooding, the community's hard work has paid off. And, the hope is it'll do the same for business.

"For Onawa, the numerous amount of people that come out here, visit this campground, visit this new center, they come into the community and it's a lot of economic expenditures," Skelton said.

And, to keep it fresh, park officials plan to add new exhibits frequently, so people have a reason to come back each year.

There are still plans to add a research library.

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