Lewis and Clark traveled through the area that became Rocheport, Missouri, (population 208) on June 7, 1804. A more permanent settlement at the convergence of the Missouri River and Moniteau Creek came later, and Rocheport was founded in 1825, serving as a trading post for settlers and Native Americans.
Rocheport grew rapidly, paralleling the development of steamboat transportation on the Missouri River. The Civil War subjected the town to frequent guerilla raids by Confederate and Union troops alike. After the Civil War, Rocheport prospered as a business center, and in 1892 the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad was built through the town. Today Rocheport is a scenic gateway to the Katy Trail, America’s longest rails-to-trails project. The Katy Trail spans a total of 225 miles across Missouri. Rocheport’s economy relies on providing bike rentals, shops, and lodging to users of the trail.
The Katy Trail brings about 56,000 people near Rocheport each year, and the town is working to better connect those visitors with the community. Rocheport has developed an “Accessing the Missouri River Corridor” project. This public-private partnership involves reconnecting the historic river town to the Missouri River culturally, historically, recreationally, and economically. Rocheport has funded the development and creation of a new river access for paddlers and boats that will connect to the commercial corridor of the town through a series of hiking and walking trails. A new pocket park will interpret the area’s history, and improvements are being made to the downtown area as well.
Rocheport is actively participating in the Missouri River Heritage Tourism Initiative (MRHTI). MRHTI is a grassroots, community-based planning process spearheaded by the Missouri River Communities Network. The goal of the project is to create a regional destination-marketing strategy. AmeriCorps VISTA members help local committees in central Missouri assess existing heritage tourism resources, create a local tourism development plan, identify the resources needed to implement the plan, and start working with other nearby communities to implement the plan. As a result of the MRHTI, Rocheport created a Web site that helps visitors plan trips, and has also created walking and biking tours of the historic buildings in Rocheport.
While striving to attract tourists to Rocheport, the community also works to protect its historic resources. The Rocheport Historic Preservation Commission leads preservation in the town, based on the 1999 Rocheport Comprehensive Plan and a historic preservation ordinance passed in 2002. The entire town of Rocheport was placed on the National Register in 1976.
Rocheport hosted two events celebrating the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial, the Lewis and Clark Rendezvous in 2004 and the Missouri River Celebration in 2006. The events featured Lewis and Clark reenactments, children’s events, oral histories, Missouri River educational displays, traditional music, and a bike-a-thon. Rocheport received a grant from the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) that enabled them to use the Lewis and Clark Exploration Outpost during the Missouri River Celebrations. About 120,000 people attended the events. The MDC also awarded a $10,000 Lewis and Clark replica keelboat to Rocheport. The community has actively raised funds to build a structure in which to house the boat, a stipulation of the award.
Designated a Preserve America Community in July 2008.