Pacific Railroad Survey of the 47th and 49th Parallels

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The Pacific Railroad Survey of the 47th and 49th parallels explored the wilderness of Washington Territory under the the command of Governor Isaac I. Stevens. In 1853, U.S. Congress allotted $150,000 towards six expeditions to find the most practical path to carry a railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Governor Isaac I. Stevens led the northern-most survey along the 47th to 49th parallels. In April 1853 George Suckley was appointed assistant surgeon and naturalist to the Pacific Railroad Survey of the 47th and 49th parallels between St. Paul, Minnesota, and Fort Vancouver, Washington Territory. The survey included a 1,049 mile, 53-day canoe trip down the Bitter Root, Clark's Fork, and Columbia Rivers to Fort Vancouver, during which time extensive natural history collections were made. Due to the difficult terrain, the expedition was divided into two divisions, which later converged at the Columbia Basin. The eastern division was led by Stevens and was accompanied by Suckley. The western division, which commenced from Washington Territory and explored potential passes through the Cascade Mountains, was led by Captain George B. McClellan and was accompanied by naturalists George Gibbs and James G. Cooper. The expedition moved into the Great Plains region near the Columbia River.


SIA RU007191, Suckley, George 1830-1869, George Suckley Papers, 1849-1861, retrieved from

Date Range

1853 - 1855


  • Geology
  • Zoology
  • Biology
  • Plants
  • Botany


  • Montana
  • United States
  • Minnesota
  • North Dakota
  • Idaho
  • Washington


Expedition name