Fort Belle Fontaine 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 Coldwater Creek and their last night two and a half years later at the newly established fort. Other major expeditions left from this site between 1805 and 1819 to explore the Louisiana Territory. Fort Belle Fontaine was an important gathering place for officers and enlisted men, Native Americans, French, Spanish and American settlers, trappers and traders, and the local businessmen and farmers who supplied the fort with necessities. Jefferson Barracks replaced its primary function for the military in 1826; however, it was retained as a supply depot until 1833, when the U.S. Army abandoned it.
Established as a St. Louis County Park in 1986, Fort Belle Fontaine Park comprises 305.6 acres on the Missouri River in north St. Louis County, about seven miles west of the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. It contains five main areas: the Missouri River; the WPA structures; 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 and Clark Interpretative Trail in Fort Belle Fontaine is a 3-mile, multi-purpose trail, which includes a trailhead, and interpretive signage that guides visitors to all five 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 guardhouse at the entrance to the property, where they will be directed to parking areas.