Between 1806 and 1821 the U.S. government organized a number of expeditions to explore the area it had purchased from France, known as the Louisiana Purchase. Several of these expeditions crossed Oklahoma. In 1806 Captain Richard Sparks organized an expedition in Louisiana to find the headwaters of the Red River; the expedition reached the southeastern corner of Oklahoma before Spanish troops forced it to turn back. The same year Zebulon Montgomery Pike led a party up the Missouri River toward the Rocky Mountains. Pike turned southwest at the mouth of the Osage River and proceeded to the Arkansas River.
There he sent Lieutenant James Wilkinson and five men to follow the river downstream to the Mississippi River, across what is today northeastern Oklahoma. An unusually severe cold spell set in the Arkansas River valley, and the Wilkinson party endured great hardship before reaching U.S. settlements. Major Stephen H. Long explored the region most extensively. In 1819 Long led a party from St. Louis, Missouri, to the Rocky Mountains. At the headwaters of the Arkansas River the party divided. Captain John R. Bell followed the Arkansas River across the plains to Fort Smith in present-day Arkansas, while Long followed the Canadian River east, eventually arriving at Fort Smith in 1821. "Oklahoma" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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