Fort Belle Fontaine Park has been a St. Louis County Park since 1986. Few are aware that this was the first United States military installation west of the Mississippi River, established in 1805. Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery expedition (1804-1806) spent the first night of their expedition on an island opposite Cold Water Creek and their last night two years later at the fort, which had been established in their absence. Other major expeditions left from this site betweem 1805 and 1819 to explore the newly acquired Louisiana Territory. Until it was replaced by Jefferson Barracks in 1826, Fort Belle Fontaine was an important gathering place in the wilderness for officers and enlisted men, Native American, French, Spanish and American settlers, trappers and traders, and the local businessmen and farmers who supplied the fort with necessities.
The Park comprises 305.6 acres on the Missouri River in north St. Louis County, about three miles west of the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. It contains four main areas: the Missouri River; Belle Fontaine Spring; Coldwater Creek; and a 50-acre upland prairie and wetlands. A visit to this site reveals the beauty of the land and wildlife Lewis and Clark observed in 1804 and 1806. The Lewis & Clark Interpretative Trail in Fort Belle Fontaine is a 3-mile multi-purpose trail which includes a trailhead and interpretive signage which guides visitors to all four main areas of the park. The trail also passes massive stonework features that the Works Progress Administration added in the 1930s when the City of St. Louis owned the property.
All these features, natural and historical, are 25 minutes from downtown St. Louis and accessible to over 2.5 million people in the metropolitan area. The park is located at the far north end of Bellefontaine Road, where it shares an entrance drive with the Missouri Hills Campus of the Missouri Division of Youth Services. Visitors may be asked to stop at the guard house at the entrance to the property, where they will be directed to parking areas.