The smell of gunpowder filled the air at Sacajawea State Park as a group of Lewis and Clark enthusiasts moved about a makeshift riverfront camp skinning squirrels, crafting tools and swapping facts about the famous explorers.
Animal skins were strewn across the grass, dugout canoes floated in the water and a group of men dressed in 1800s-era garb surrounded an arsenal of antique rifles.
Some spent their time in the camp -- created this weekend to simulate Lewis and Clark's time along the Columbia -- making rope out of elk hide, brewing homemade tar and extracting salt from water.
Capts. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark traveled from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean and back from 1804-06.
The Pasco camp is just part of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation's annual meeting, which has brought an estimated 150 people to the Tri-Cities for a week of events. The group will visit historical sites, listen to guest speakers and explore the Mid-Columbia while in town.
"The mission is to preserve the Lewis and Clark legacy and trail," said Rennie Kubik, co-chairman of the meeting and secretary of the Washington chapter. "If they wouldn't have made it, you and I wouldn't be here."
History buffs filled the parks Saturday disguised as 18th century explorers, waiting to give unprompted lessons on the expedition across America.
Members of the group traveled from across the nation.
Tom Wilson and fellow members of the Hog Heaven Muzzle Loaders came from Idaho to set up camp and take part in the re-enactment.
The Muzzle Loaders travel around the Northwest taking part in the rendezvous, where tomahawk throwing and shooting contests are commonplace.
They teach others about the historical effect of the expedition and gather artifacts similar to those used during the voyage for visitors to view.
"We are pretty much nonstop in our history research," Wilson said. "This is a lifestyle. It's 100 percent a lifestyle. We have a passion for history that's just not content to sit and read."
Many in the foundation's more than 30 chapters use opportunities like this year's meeting to practice and test methods used by the explorers. John Fisher of Idaho concocted a nearly perfect batch of a tarlike substance Saturday that the explorers used to patch holes in their canoes.
It was Fisher's second time ever trying to make the substance.
The men and women also share research and certain specialized areas of expertise -- like canoe making or tool crafting -- with each other.
Oregon high school teacher David Ellingson was instructing another man how to skin a squirrel for the first time while he hand-crafted a pair of moccasins. Blood dripped from Ellingson's hand as he formed the shoes, though he just smiled, saying it made them more authentic.
"(The expedition) is just a cool story because it incorporates so much of the diversity and cultures of America," he said.
For more information about the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, go to lewisandclark.org.
-- Tyler Richardson: 509-582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @Ty_richardson