To the teacher . . .

Jed Smith’s explorations offer you an excellent opportunity to teach the geography of the American West.

Lesson One

As preparation for this geography lesson, we recommend the biography of Jed on this website and our interactive maps. Here are two other brief online sources you and your students may find helpful:

Barbour, Barton. “Jedediah Strong Smith (1799-1831).)” Oregon Encyclopedia. Oregon Historical Society. 2020. Updated July 1, 2022.

Despain, S. Matthew, and Fred R. Gowans. “Jedediah S. Smith.” Utah History Encyclopedia. Utah Division of State History. 1994. Jedediah S. Smith | History to Go (

  • For comparison and contrast, you may wish to begin this lesson by showing students the route taken by Lewis and Clark in 1804-1806. Several maps are available online.
source: Brittanica
  • For elementary students, you could then summarize the article(s) above or simply show students a chronology of the main events in Jed’s life in the West. For older students, you could assign the biography included on this website (or those listed above) to be read independently.
  • After your elementary students gain a basic familiarity with Jed’s life, project a simple US map on your classroom screen and point to the places listed below.
  • Ask upper-level students to locate these places themselves, which are presented in chronological order here. (Keep in mind that Jed visited some places more than once.) You or your students may wish to add other places to this list.

St. Louis (Jed left here in 1822)
Missouri River
Yellowstone River
Rocky Mountains
Great Salt Lake
Colorado River

Mojave Desert
Mexican California
Sierra Nevada
Fort Vancouver
(return to) St. Louis
Santa Fe Trail and the Cimmaron River (where Jed was killed)

Lesson Two

  • Another approach is to provide this list of places to your students as you teach them about the land-features Jed encountered. For example, students will see rivers, mountains, a lake, and a desert, and you could easily add others. This lesson would teach the remarkable variety of western geography witnessed by Jed.
  • A good geography textbook will contain photos of these features as will the internet.
  • A raised relief globe might be very useful in this regard.