Gathering Information

The party with me killed a female brown bear. She was but meager, and appeared to have suckled young very recently. Captain Clark narrowly escaped being bitten by a rattlesnake in the course of his walk. The party killed one this evening at our encampment which, he informed me, was similar to that he had seen. This snake is smaller than those common to the Middle Atlantic States, being about 2 feet 6 inches long. It is of a yellowish-brown color on the back and sides, variegated with one row of oval spots of a dark-brown color lying transversely over the back from the neck to the tail, and two other rows of small circular spots of the same color which garnish the sides along the edge of the scuta. Its belly contains 176 scuta on the belly and 17 on the tail.

We were roused late at night by the sergeant of the guard and warned of the danger we were in from a large tree that had taken fire and which leaned immediately over our lodge. We had the lodge removed, and a few minutes after a large proportion of the top of the tree fell on the place the lodge had stood. Had we been a few minutes later, we should have been crushed to atoms. The wind blew so hard that, notwithstanding the lodge was fifty paces distant from the fire, it sustained considerable injury from the burning coals which were thrown on it. The party were much harassed also by this fire, which communicated to a collection of fallen timber and could not be extinguished.

Captain Lewis, 17 May 1805

 

The wind blew hard this morning from the west. We were enabled to employ our tow line the greater part of the day and therefore proceeded on tolerably well. There are now but few sandbars. The river is narrow and current gentle. The timber consists of a few cottonwood trees along the verge of the river; the willow has in great measure disappeared. In the latter part of the day the hills widened, the bottoms became larger and contained more timber. Captain Clark in the course of his walk this evening killed four deer, two of which were the black-tailed, or mule, deer. The skins are now good. They have not yet produced their young. We saw a number of buffalo, elk, deer, and antelope.

Captain Lewis, 18 May 1805

 

The last night was disgreeably cold. We were unable to set out until 8 o'clock A.M. in consequence of a heavy fog which obscured the river in such a manner that we could not see our way. This is the first we have experienced in anything like so great a degree. There was also a fall of dew last evening, which is the second we have experienced since we have entered this extensive open country. At eight we set out and proceeded as yesterday, by means of the cord principally. The hills are high and the country similar to that of yesterday. Captain Clark walked on shore with two of the hunters and killed a brown bear. Notwithstanding that it was shot through the heart, it ran at its usual pace nearly a quarter of a mile before it fell. One of the party wounded a beaver, and my dog, as usual, swam in to catch it. The beaver bit him through the hind leg and cut the artery. It was with great difficulty that I could stop the blood. I fear it will yet prove fatal to him.

This afternoon the river was crooked, rapid, and containing more sawyers than we have seen in the same place since we left the entrance of the River Platte. Captain Clark, in the course of his walk, killed three deer and a beaver. I also walked on shore this evening a few miles and killed an elk, a buck, and a beaver. The party killed and caught 4 other beaver and 3 deer.

Captain Lewis, 19 May 1805

 

At 11 A.M., we arrived at the entrance of a handsome bold river, which discharges itself into the Missouri on the larboard side. This stream we take to be that called by the Minnetarees the Musselshell River. If it be the same, of which I entertain but little doubt, it takes its rise, by their information, in the first chain of the Rocky Mountains, at no great distance from the Yellowstone River, from whence in its course to this place it passes through a high and broken country, pretty well timbered, particularly on its borders, and interspersed with handsome fertile plains and meadows.

Captain Lewis, 20 May 1805

 

We have caught but few fish since we left the Mandans. They do not bite freely. What we took were the white cat of 2 to 5 pounds. I presume that fish are scarce in this part of the river. We encamped earlier this evening than usual in order to render the oil of a bear which we killed. I do not believe that the black bear, common to the lower part of this river and the Atlantic states, exists in this quarter. We have neither seen one of them nor their tracks, which would be easily distinguished by its shortness of talons when compared with the brown grizzly, or white bear. I believe that it is the same species or family of bears which assumes all those colors at different ages and seasons of the year.

Captain Lewis, 22 May 1805

 

The two canoes which we left behind yesterday to bring on the meat did not arrive this morning until 8 A.M., at which time we set out. The wind being against us, we did not proceed with so much ease or expedition as yesterday. We employed the towline principally, which the banks favored the use of. The current was strong, particularly around the points against which the current happened to set, and at the entrances of the little gullies from the hills, these rivulets having brought down con- siderable quantities of stone, and deposited it at their entrances, forming partial barriers to the water of the river to the distance of 40 or 50 feet from the shore. Around these, the water ran with great violence and compelled us, in some instances, to double our force in order to get a pirogue or canoe by them.

Captain Lewis, 25 May 1805

 

In my walk of this day, I saw mountains on either side of the river at no great distance. Those mountains appeared to be detached, and not ranges as laid down by the Minnetarees. I also think I saw a range of high mountains at a great distance to the south-southwest but am not certain, as the horizon was not clear enough to view it with certainty.

Captain Clark, 25 May 1805

 

We set out early and proceeded as yesterday. Wind from the S.W. The river enclosed with very high hills on either side. I took one man and walked out this morning, and ascended the high country to view the mountains which I thought I saw yesterday. From the first summit of the hill I could plainly see the mountains on either side, which I saw yesterday, and at no great distance from me. Those on the starboard side are an irregular range, the two extremities of which bore west and N. west from me. Those mountains on the larboard side appeared to be several detached knobs or mountains rising from a level open country, at different distances from me, from southwest to southeast.

On one, the most southwesterly of those mountains, there appeared to be snow. I crossed a deep hollow and ascended a part of the plain elevated much higher than where I first viewed the above mountains. From this point, I beheld the Rocky Mountains for the first time, with certainty. I could only discover a few of the most elevated points above the horizon, the most remarkable of which, by my pocket compass, I found bore S. 60 W. Those points of the Rocky Mountains were covered with snow, and the sun shone on it in such a manner as to give me a most plain and satisfactory view.

Whilst I viewed those mountains, I felt a secret pleasure in finding myself so near the head of the - heretofore conceived - boundless Missouri. But when I reflected on the difficulties which this snowy barrier would most probably throw in my way to the Pacific Ocean, and the sufferings and hardships of myself and party in them, it in some measure counterbalanced the joy I had felt in the first moments in which I gazed on them. But, as I have always held it little short of criminality to anticipate evils, I will allow it to be a good, comfortable road until I am compelled to believe otherwise.

The high country in which we are at present, and have been passing for some days, I take to be a continuation of what the Indians, as well as the French engages, call the Black Hills. This tract of country, so called, consists of a collection of high, broken, and irregular hills, and short chains of mountains, sometimes 100 miles in width, and again becoming much narrower, but always much higher than the country on either side. They commence about the head of the Kansas River, and to the west of that river, near the Arkansas River, from whence they take their course, a little to the west of N.W., approaching the Rocky Mountains obliquely, passing the River Platte near the forks, and intercepting the Yellowstone River near the bend of that river, and passing the Missouri at this place, and probably continuing to swell the country as far north as the Saskatchewan River, though they are lower here than they are described to the south, and may therefore terminate before they reach the Saskatchewan. The Black Hills, in their course northerly, appear to approach more nearly the Rocky Mountains.

Captain Clark, 26 May 1805

 

This morning we set forward at an early hour; the weather dark and cloudy, the air smoky, had a few drops of rain. We employed the cord, generally, to which we also gave the assistance of the pole at the riffles and rocky points. These are as numerous, and many of them much worse than those we passed yesterday. Around those points the water drives with great force, and we are obliged, in many instances, to steer our vessels through the apertures formed by the points of large, sharp rocks which reach a few inches above the surface of the water. Here, should our cord give way, the bow is instantly driven outward by the stream and the vessel thrown with her side on the rocks, where she must inevitably overset or perhaps be dashed to pieces. Our ropes are but slender--all of them, except one, being made of elk skin and much worn--frequently wet, and, exposed to the heat of the weather, are weak and rotten. They have given way several times in the course of the day, but happily at such places that the vessel had room to wheel free of the rocks and therefore escaped injury. With every precaution we can take, it is with much labor and infinite risk that we are enabled to get around these points.

Found a new Indian lodge pole today which had been brought down by the stream. It was worn at one end as if dragged by dogs or horses. A football also, and several other articles, were found, which have been recently brought down by the current. These are strong evidences of Indians being on the river above us, and probably at no great distance. The football is such as I have seen among the Minnetarees, and therefore think it most probable that they are a band of the Minnetarees of Fort de Prairie.

Captain Lewis, 28 May 1805

 

Last night we were all alarmed by a large buffalo bull which swam over from the opposite shore and coming along the side of the white pirogue, climbed over it to land. He, then alarmed, ran up the bank in full speed directly toward the fires, and was within 18 inches of the heads of some of the men who lay sleeping, before the sentinel could alarm him or make him change his course. Still more alarmed, he now took his direction immediately toward our lodge, passing between 4 fires, and within a few inches of the heads of one range of the men as they yet lay sleeping

When he came near the tent, my dog saved us by causing him to change his course a second time, which he did by turning a little to the right, and was quickly out of sight leaving us by this time all in an uproar with our guns in our hands, inquiring of each other the cause of the alarm, which after a few moments was explained by the sentinel. We were happy to find no one hurt.

The next morning we found that the buffalo, in passing the pirogue, had trodden on a rifle which belonged to Captain Clark's black man, who had negligently left her in the pirogue. The rifle was much bent. He had also broken the spindle, pivot, and shattered the stock of one of the blunderbusses on board. With this damage I felt well content - happy, indeed, that we had sustained no further injury. It appears that the white pirogue, which contains our most valuable stores, is attended by some evil genius.

This morning we set out at an early hour and proceeded as usual by the cord. At the distance of 2 1/2 miles, passed a handsome river which discharged itself on the larboard side. I walked on shore and ascended this river about a mile and a half in order to examine it. I found this river about 100 yards wide from bank to bank, the water occupying about 75 yards. The bed was formed of gravel and mud, with some sand. It appeared to contain much more water than the Musselshell River; was more rapid, but equally navigable. There were no large stones or rocks in its bed to obstruct the navigation. The banks were low, yet appeared seldom to overflow. The water of this river is clearer, much, than any we have met with.

Great abundance of the Argalia or big-horned animals in the high country through which this river passes. Captain Clark, who ascended this river much higher than I did, has thought proper to call it Judith's River. The bottoms of this stream, as far as I could see, were wider and contained more timber than the Missouri. Here I saw some box alder intermixed with the cottonwood willow; rosebushes and honeysuckle, with some red willow, constitute the under- growth.

On the Missouri, just above the entrance of the Big Horn (Judith) River, I counted the remains of the fires of 126 Indian lodges which appeared to be of very recent date, perhaps 12 or 15 days. Captain Clark also saw a large encampment just above the entrance of this river on the starboard side of rather older date; probably they were the same Indians. The Indian woman with us examined the moccasins which we found at these encampments and informed us that they were not of her nation, the Snake Indians. But she believed they were some of the Indians who inhabit the country on this side of the Rocky Mountains and north of the Missouri, and I think it most probable that they were the Minnetarees of Fort de Prairie.

At the distance of 6 l/2 miles from our encampment of last night, we passed a very bad rapid to which we gave the name of the Ash Rapid, from a few trees of that wood growing near them. This is the first ash I have seen for a great distance. At this place, the hills again approach the river closely on both sides, and the same scene which we had on the 27th and 28th in the morning, again presents itself, and the rocky points and riffles rather more numerous and worse. There was but little timber. Salts, coal, &c., still appear.

Today we passed, on the starboard side, the remains of a vast many mangled carcasses of buffalo, which had been driven over a precipice of 120 feet by the Indians, and perished. The water appeared to have washed away a part of this immense pile of slaughter, and still there remained the fragments of at least a hundred carcasses. They created a most horrid stench. In this man- ner, the Indians of the Missouri destroy vast herds of buffalo at a stroke. For this purpose, one of the most active and fleet young men is selected and disguised in a robe of buf- falo skin, having also the skin of the buffalo's head with the ears and horns fastened on his head in form of a cap. Thus caparisoned, he places himself at a convenient distance between a herd of buffalo and a precipice proper for the purpose, which happens in many places on this river for miles together. The other Indians now surround the herd on the back and flanks and, at a signal agreed on, all show themselves at the same time moving forward toward the buffalo.

The disguised Indian or decoy has taken care to place himself sufficiently near the buffalo to be noticed by them when they take to flight, and running before them, they follow him in full speed to the precipice; the cattle behind driving those in front over and, seeing them go, do not look or hesitate about following until the whole are precipitated down the precipice, forming one common mass of dead and mangled carcasses. The decoy, in the meantime, has taken care to secure himself in some cranny or crevice of the cliff which he has previously prepared for that purpose.

The part of the decoy, I am informed, is extremely dangerous. If they are not very fleet runners, the buffalo tread them underfoot and crush them to death, and sometimes drive them over the precipice also, where they perish in common with the buffalo. We saw a great many wolves in the neighborhood of these mangled carcasses. They were fat and extremely gentle. Captain Clark, who was on shore, killed one of them with his espontoon.

Just above this place we came to for dinner, opposite the entrance of a bold running river 40 yards wide which falls in on the larboard side. This stream we called Slaughter River. Its bottoms are but narrow and contain scarcely any timber. Our situation was a narrow bottom on the starboard, possessing some cottonwood. Soon after we landed it began to blow and rain, and as there was no appearance of even wood enough to make our fires for some distance above, we determined to remain here until the next morning, and accordingly fixed our camp and gave each man a small dram. Notwithstanding the allowance of spirits we issued did not exceed one-half gill per man, several of them were considerably affected by it. Such is the effect of abstaining for some time the use of spirituous liquors. They were all very merry. The hunters killed an elk this evening, and Captain Clark killed two beaver.

Captain Lewis, 29 May 1805

 

The obstructions of rocky points and riffles still continue as yesterday. At those places the men are compelled to be in the water even to their armpits, and the water is yet very cold, and so frequent are those points that they are one- fourth of their time in the water. Added to this, the banks and bluffs along which they are obliged to pass are so slippery, and the mud so tenacious, that they are unable to wear their moccasins, and in that situation, dragging the heavy burden of a canoe, and walking occasionally for several hundred yards over the sharp fragments of rocks which tumble from the cliffs and garnish the borders of the river. In short, their labor is incredibly painful and great, yet those faithful fellows bear it without a murmur. The towrope of the white pirogue--the only one, indeed, of hemp, and that on which we most depended--gave way today at a bad point. The pirogue swung and but slightly touched a rock, yet was very near oversetting. I fear her evil genius will play so many pranks with her that she will go to the bottom one of these days.

Captain Clark walked on shore this morning but found it so excessively bad that he shortly returned. At 12 o'clock M. we came to for refreshment and gave the men a dram, which they received with much cheerfulness--and well de- served.

The hills and river cliffs which we passed today exhibit a most romantic appearance. The bluffs of the river rise to the height of from two to three hundred feet, and in most places perpendicular. They are formed of remarkable white sandstone which is sufficiently soft to give way readily to the impression of water.

Two or three thin horizontal strata of white freestone, on which the rains or water make no impression, lie imbedded in these cliffs of soft stone, near the upper part of them. The earth on the top of these cliffs is a dark rich loam which, forming a gradually ascending plain, extends back from 1/2 a mile to a mile, where the hills commence and rise abruptly to a height of about 300 feet more. The water, in the course of time, in descending from those hills and plains, on either side of the river, has trickled down the soft sand cliffs and worn it into a thousand grotesque figures which, with the help of a little imagination, and an oblique view, at a distance are made to represent elegant ranges of lofty free- stone buildings, having their parapets well stocked with statuary.

Columns of various scupture, both grooved and plain, are also seen supporting long galleries in front of those buildings. In other places, on a much nearer approach and with the help of less imagination, we see the remains or ruins of elegant buildings: some columns standing and al- most entire, with their pedestals and capitals; others retain- ing their pedestals but deprived by time or accident of their capitals; some lying prostrate and broken; others in the form of vast pyramids of conic structure bearing a series of other pyramids on their tops, becoming less as they ascend and finally terminating in a sharp point. Niches and alcoves of various forms and sizes are seen at different heights as we pass.

Captain Lewis, 31 May 1805

 

Game becoming more abundant this morning, I thought it best now to lose no time or suffer an opportunity to escape in providing the necessary quantity of elk skins to cover my leather boat, which I now expect I shall be obliged to use shortly. Accordingly, I walked on shore most of the day with some of the hunters for that purpose, and killed 6 elk, 2 buffalo, 2 mule deer, and a bear. These animals were all in good order. We therefore took as much of the meat as our canoes and pirogues could conveniently carry.

The bear was very near catching Drouilliard. It also pursued Charbonneau,who fired his gun in the air as he ran but fortunately eluded the vigilance of the bear, by secreting himself very securely in the bushes, until Drouilliard finally killed it by a shot in the head--the only shot, indeed, that will conquer the ferocity of those tremendous animals.

Captain Lewis, 2 June 1805

 

This morning early we passed over and formed a camp on the point formed by the junction of two large rivers. An interesting question was now to be determined: Which of these rivers was the Missouri, or that which the Minnetarees call Amahte Arzzha, or Missouri, and which they had described to us as approaching very near to the Columbia River. To mistake the stream at this period of the season-- two months of the traveling season having now elapsed-- and to ascend such stream to the Rocky Mountains or perhaps much farther before we could inform ourselves whether it did approach the Columbia or not, and then be obliged to return and take the other stream, would not only lose us the whole of this season but would probably so dishearten the party that it might defeat the expedition altogether.

Convinced we were that the utmost circumspection and caution was necessary in deciding on the stream to be taken. To this end, an investigation of both streams was the first thing to be done--to learn their widths, depths, comparative rapidity of their currents, and thence the comparative bodies of water furnished by each. Accordingly, we dispatched two light canoes with three men in each up those streams. We also sent out several small parties by land, with instructions to penetrate the country as far as they conveniently can, permitting themselves to return this evening, and endeavor, if possible, to discover the distant bearing of those rivers by ascending the rising grounds. Between the time of my A.M. and meridian, Captain Clark and myself strolled out to the top of the heights in the fork of these rivers, from whence we had an extensive and most enchanting view. The country, in every direction around us, was one vast plain in which innumerable herds of buffalo were seen, attended by their shepherds, the wolves. The solitary antelope, which now had their young, were distributed over its face. Some herds of elk were also seen. The verdure perfectly clothed the ground. The weather was pleasant and fair. To the south we saw a range of lofty mountains which we supposed to be a continuation of the S. mountains, stretching themselves from S.E. to N.W., terminating abruptly about S. west from us. These were partially covered with snow. Behind these mountains, and at a great distance, a second and more lofty range of mountains appeared to stretch across the country in the same direction with the others, reaching from west, to the N. of N.W., where their snowy tops lost themselves beneath the horizon. This last range was perfectly covered with snow. The direction of the rivers could be seen but little way, soon losing the break of their channels to our view in the common plain.

On our return to camp, we bore a little to the left and discovered a handsome little river falling into the N. fork on larboard side about 1 l/2 miles above our camp. This little river has as much timber in its bottoms as either of the larger streams. There are a great number of prickly pears in these plains. The chokecherry grows here in abundance, both in the river bottoms and in the steep ravines along the river bluffs. Saw the yellow and red currants, not yet ripe; also the gooseberry, which begins to ripen. The wild rose, which grows here in great abundance in the bottoms of all these rivers, is now in full bloom, and adds not a little to the beauty of the scenery.

We took the width of the two rivers, found the left-hand or S. fork 372 yards, and the N. fork 200. The north fork is deeper than the other, but its current not so swift. Its waters run in the same boiling and rolling manner which has uniformly characterized the Missouri throughout its whole course so far. Its waters are of a whitish brown color, very thick and turbid, also characteristic of the Missouri, while the south fork is perfectly transparent, runs very rapid, but with a smooth, unruffled surface, its bottom composed of round and flat smooth stones like most rivers issuing from a mountainous country. The bed of the N. fork composed of some gravel but principally mud.

In short, the air and character of this river is so precisely that of the Missouri below that the party with very few exceptions have already pronounced the N. fork to be the Missouri. Myself and Captain Clark, not quite so precipitate have not yet decided, but if we were to give our opinions I believe we should be in the minority.

Certain it is that the north fork gives the coloring matter and character which is retained from hence to the Gulf of Mexico. I am confident that this river rises in and passes a great distance through an open plain country. I expect that it has some of its sources on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, south of the Saskatchewan, but that it does not penetrate the first range of these mountains, and that much the greater part of its sources are in a northwardly direction toward the lower and middle parts of the Saskatchewan in the open plains. Convinced I am that, if it penetrated the Rocky Mountains to any great distance, its waters would be clearer, unless it should run an immense distance indeed after leaving those mountains through these level plains in order to acquire its turbid hue. What astonishes us a little is that the Indians, who appeared to be so well acquainted with the geography of this country, should not have mentioned this river on right hand, if it be not the Missouri. The River That Scolds at All Others, as they call it-- if there is in reality such a one--ought, agreeably to their account, to have fallen in a considerable distance below. And, on the other hand, if this right-hand or north fork be the Missouri, I am equally astonished at their not mentioning the south fork, which they must have passed in order to get to those large falls which they mention on the Missouri. Thus have our cogitating faculties been busily employed all day.

Those who have remained at camp today have been busily engaged in dressing skins for clothing, notwithstanding that many of them have their feet so mangled and bruised with the stones and rough ground over which they passed barefoot that they can scarcely walk or stand. At least, it is with great pain they do either. For some days past, they were unable to wear their moccasins. They have fallen off considerably, but notwithstanding the difficulties past or those which seem now to menace us, they still remain perfectly cheerful.

In the evening, the parties whom we had sent out returned, agreeably to instructions. The parties who had been sent up the rivers in canoes informed that they ascended some distance and had then left their canoes and walked up the rivers a considerable distance farther, barely leaving themselves time to return. The north fork was not so rapid as the other and afforded the easiest navigation, of course. Six [7] feet appeared to be the shallowest water of the S. branch, and 5 feet that of the N. Their accounts were by no means satisfactory, nor did the information we acquired bring us nigher to the decision of our question, or determine us which stream to take.

Joseph and Reuben Fields reported that they had been up the south fork about seven miles on a straight course, somewhat N. of W., and that there the little river which discharges itself into the north fork just above us, was within 100 yards of the S. fork; that they came down this little river and found it a bold running stream about 40 yards wide, containing much timber in its bottom, consisting of the narrow- and wide-leafed cottonwood with some birch and box alder, undergrowth willows, rosebushes, currants, &c. They saw a great number of elk on this river, and some beaver.

Those accounts being by no means satisfactory as to the fundamental point, Captain Clark and myself concluded to set out early the next morning with a small party each, and ascend these rivers until we could perfectly satisfy ourselves of the one which it would be most expedient for us to take on our main journey to the Pacific. Accordingly, it was agreed that I should ascend the right-hand fork and he the left. I gave orders to Sergeant Pryor, Drouilliard, Shields, Windsor, Cruzat, and Lepage, to hold themselves in readiness to accompany me in the morning. Captain Clark also selected Reuben and Joseph Fields, Sergeant Gass, Shannon, and his black man, York, to accompany him. We agreed to go up those rivers one day and a half's march, or further if it should appear necessary to satisfy us more fully of the point in question. The hunters killed 2 buffalo, 6 elk, and 4 deer today. The evening proved cloudy. We took a drink of grog this evening and gave the men a dram, and made all matters ready for an early departure in the morning. I had now my sack and blanket wrapped in readiness to swing on my back, which is the first time in my life that I had ever prepared a burden of this kind, and I am fully convinced that it will not be the last.

Captain Lewis, 3 June 1805

 

This morning early, Captain Clark departed, and at the same time I passed the right-hand fork opposite to our camp below a small island. From hence, I steered N. 30 W. 4 1/2 to a commanding eminence. Here I took the following bearings of the mountains which were in view: The North Mountains appear to change their direction from that of being parallel with the Missouri, turning to the north and terminating abruptly, their termination bearing N. 48 E., distant, by estimate, 30 miles. The South Mountains appear to turn to the S., also terminating abruptly, their extremity bearing S. 8 W., distant 25 miles. The Barn Mountain, a lofty mountain so called from its resemblance to the roof of a large barn, is a separate mountain, and appears rather to the right of, and retreating from, the extremity of the S. Mountains. This bore S. 38 W., distant 35 miles. The north fork, which I am now ascending, lies to my left and appears to make a considerable bend to the N.W. On its western border, a range of hills about 10 miles long appear to lie parallel with the river, and from hence bear N. 60 W. To the N. of this range of hills, an elevated point of the river bluff on its larboard side bore N. 72 W., distant 12 miles. To this last object I now directed my course through a high, level, dry, open plain. The whole country, in fact, appears to be one continued plain to the foot of the mountains or as far as eye can reach. Ths soil appears dark, rich, and fertile, yet the grass is by no means as high nor does it look so luxuriant as I should have expected. It is short, just sufficient to conceal the ground. Great abundance of prickly pears, which are extremely troublesome, as the thorns very readily pierce the foot through the moccasin. They are so numerous that it requires one-half of the traveler's attention to avoid them.

Captain Lewis, 4 June 1805

 

Some little rain and snow last night. The mountains to our S.E. covered with snow this morning. Air very cold and raining a little. We saw 8 buffalo opposite. They made two attempts to cross, the water being so swift they could not. About the time we were setting out, three white bear approached our camp. We killed the three and ate part of one; and set out, and proceeded on N. 20 W., 11 miles. Struck the river at many places in this distance, to a ridge on the N. side from the top of which I could plainly see a mountain to the south and west covered with snow, at a long distance. The mountains opposite to us, to the S.E., are also covered with snow this morning. A high ridge from those mountains approaches the river on the S.E. side, forming some cliffs of hard dark stone. From the ridge at which place I struck the river last, I could discover that the river ran west of south a long distance, and has a strong rapid current. As this river continued its width, depth, and rapidity, and the course west of south, going up further would be useless. I determined to return. I accordingly set out through the plain on a course N. 30 E. on my return and struck the little river, at 20 miles, passing through a level plain. At the little river we killed 2 buck elk and dined on their marrowbones. Proceeded on a few miles and camped, having killed 2 deer which were very fat. Some few drops of rain today, the evening fair, wind hard from the N.E. I saw great numbers of elk and white-tailed deer, some beaver, antelope, mule deer, and wolves, and one bear on this little river. Marked my name in a tree N. side near the ridge where the little river breaks through.

Captain Clark, 5 June 1805

 

I now became well convinced that this branch of the Missouri had its direction too much to the north for our route to the Pacific, and therefore determined to return the next day after taking an observation of the meridian altitude in order to fix the latitude of the place. The fore part of the last evening was fair, but in the latter part of the night clouded up and continued so with short intervals of sunshine until a little before noon, when the whole horizon was overcast, and I, of course, disappointed in making the observation which I much wished.

I had sent Sergeant Pryor and Windsor, early this morning, with orders to proceed up the river to some commanding eminence and take its bearing as far as possible. In the meantime, the four others and myself were busily engaged in making two rafts on which we purposed descending the river. We had just completed this work when Sergeant Pryor and Windsor returned, it being about noon. They reported that they had proceeded from hence S. 70 W. 6 miles to the summit of a commanding eminence from whence the river on their left was about 2 l/2 miles distant; that a point of its larboard bluff, which was visible, bore S. 80 W., distant about 15 miles; that the river on their left bent gradually around to this point, and from thence seemed to run northwardly.

We now took dinner and embarked with our plunder and five elk skins on the rafts, but were soon convinced that this mode of navigation was hazardous, particularly with those rafts, they being too small and slender. We wet a part of our baggage and were near losing one of our guns. I therefore determined to abandon the rafts and return as we had come--by land. I regretted much being obliged to leave my elk skins, which I wanted to assist in forming my leather boat, those we had prepared at Fort Mandan being injured in such manner that they would not answer.

We again swung our packs and took our way through the open plains for about 12 miles, when we struck the river. The wind blew a storm from N.E., accompanied by frequent showers of rain. We were wet and very cold. Continued our route down the river only a few miles before the abruptness of the cliffs and their near approach to the river compelled us to take the plains and once more face the storm. Here we bore rather too much to the north and it was late in the evening before we reached the river. In our way, we killed two buffalo and took with us as much of the flesh as served us that night and a part of the next day. We encamped a little below the entrance of the large dry creek called Lark Creek, having traveled but 23 miles since noon. It continues to rain and we have no shelter; an uncomfortable night's rest is the natural consequence.

Captain Lewis, 6 June 1805

 

A cloudy, cold, raw day. Wind hard from the N.E. We set out early and traveled down the little river which was immediately in our course. On this river we killed 7 deer for their skins. The bottoms of this little river are, in every respect (except in extent), like the large bottoms of the Missouri below the forks, containing a great proportion of a kind of cottonwood with a leaf resembling a wild cherry. I also observed wild tansy on this little river in great quantities. We halted at 12 o'clock and ate a part of a fat buck. After dinner we ascended the plain, at which time it began to rain, and continued all day. At 5 o'clock, we arrived at our camp on the point, where I expected to meet Captain Lewis. He did not return this evening. Myself and party much fatigued, having walked constantly as hard as we could march over a dry hard plain, descending and ascending steep river hills and gullies. In my absence the party had killed an elk and two buffalo. I sent out for the meat, a part of which was brought in. Nothing remarkable had transpired at camp in my absence.

Captain Clark, 6 June 1805

 

It continued to rain almost without intermission last night, and, as I expected, we had a most disagreeable and restless night. Our camp possessing no allurements, we left our watery beds at an early hour and continued our route down the river. It still continues to rain, the wind hard from N.E., and cold; the ground remarkably slippery, insomuch that we were unable to walk on the sides of the bluffs where we had passed as we ascended the river. Notwithstanding the rain that has now fallen, the earth of these bluffs is not wet to a greater depth than 2 inches. In its present state it is precisely like walking over frozen ground which is thawed to a small depth, and slips equally bad. This clay not only appears to require more water to saturate it, as I before observed, than any earth I ever observed, but when saturated it appears, on the other hand, to yield its moisture with equal difficulty.

In passing along the face of one of these bluffs today, I slipped at a narrow pass about 30 yards in length, and but for a quick and fortunate recovery by means of my espontoon, I should have been precipitated into the river down a craggy precipice of about ninety feet. I had scarcely reached a place on which I could stand with tolerable safety, even with the assistance of my espontoon, before I heard a voice behind me cry out, "Good God, Captain, what shall I do?"

On turning about, I found it was Windsor, who had slipped and fallen about the center of this narrow pass, and was Iying prostrate on his belly, with his right-hand arm and leg over the precipice while he was holding on with the left arm and foot as well as he could, which appeared to be with much difficulty. I discovered his danger, and the trepidation which he was in gave me still further concern, for I expected every instant to see him lose his strength and slip off.

Although much alarmed at his situation, I disguised my feelings and spoke very calmly to him, and assured him that he was in no kind of danger to take the knife out of his belt behind him with his right hand, and dig a hole with it in the face of the bank to receive his right foot, which he did, and then raised himself to his knees. I then directed him to take off his moccasins and to come forward on his hands and knees, holding the knife in one hand and the gun in the other. This he happily effected and escaped. Those who were some little distance behind returned by my orders and waded the river at the foot of the bluff, where the water was breast deep. It was useless we knew, to attempt the plains on this part of the river in consequence of the numerous steep ravines which intersected, and which were quite as bad as the river bluffs We therefore continued our route down the river, sometimes in the mud and water of the bottom lands, at others in the river to our breasts, and when the water became so deep that we could not wade, we cut footsteps in the face of the steep bluffs with our knives and proceeded. We continued our disagreeable march through the rain, mud, and water until late in the evening, having traveled only about 18 miles, and encamped in an old Indian stick lodge which afforded us a dry and comfortable shelter.

Captain Lewis, 7 June 1805

 

Great Falls of the Missouri

It continued to rain moderately all last night. This morning was cloudy until about ten o'clock, when it cleared off and became a fine day. We breakfasted, and set out about sunrise and continued our route down the river bottoms through the mud and water as yesterday, though the road was somewhat better than yesterday, and we were not so often compelled to wade in the river. We passed some dangerous and difficult bluffs. The river bottoms affording all the timber which is to be seen in the country, they are filled with innumerable little birds that resort thither, either for shelter or to build their nests. When sun began to shine today, these birds appeared to be very gay and sang most enchantingly. I observed among them the brown thrush, robin, turtledove, linnet, goldfinch, the large and small blackbird, wren, and several other birds of less note. Some of the inhabitants of the prairies also take refuge in these woods at night, or from a storm.

The whole of my party to a man, except myself, were fully persuaded that this river was the Missouri. But, being fully of opinion that it was neither the main stream, nor that which it would be advisable for us to take, I determined to give it a name, and in honor of Miss Maria W--d, called it Maria's River. It is true that the hue of the waters of this turbulent and troubled stream but illy comport with the pure, celestial virtues and amiable qualifications of that lovely fair one. But, on the other hand, it is a noble river, one destined to become, in my opinion, an object of contention between the two great powers of America and Great Britain with respect to the adjustment of the northwesterly boundary of the former. And that it will become one of the most interesting branches of the Missouri in a commercial point of view I have but little doubt as it abounds with animals of the fur kind, and most probably furnishes a safe and direct communication to that productive country of valuable furs exclusively enjoyed at present by the subjects of His Britannic Majesty. In addition to which, it passes through a rich, fertile, and one of the most beautifully picturesque countries that I ever beheld, through the wide expanse of which innumerable herds of living animals are seen, its borders garnished with one continued garden of roses, while its lofty and open forests are the habitation of myriads of the feathered tribes who salute the ear of the passing traveler with their wild and simple yet sweet and cheerful melody.

I arrived at camp about 5 o'clock in the evening much fatigued, where I found Captain Clark and the balance of the party waiting our return with some anxiety for our safety, having been absent near two days longer than we had engaged to return. On our way to camp we had killed 4 deer and two antelopes, the skins of which, as well as those we killed while on the route, we brought with us. Maria's River may be stated generally from sixty to a hundred yards wide, with a strong and steady current and possessing 5 feet of water in the most shallow parts.

I now gave myself this evening to rest from my labors, took a drink of grog, and gave the men who had accompanied me each a dram. Captain Clark plotted the courses of the two rivers as far as we had ascended them. I now began more than ever to suspect the veracity of Mr. Fidler, or the correctness of his instruments. For I see that Arrowsmith, in his late map of N. America, has laid down a remarkable mountain in the chain of the Rocky Mountains, called the Tooth, nearly as far south as latitude 45, and this is said to be from the discoveries of Mr. Fidler. We are now within a hundred miles of the Rocky Mountains and I find from my observation of the 3rd inst. that the latitude of this place is 47 24' 12" 8. The river must, therefore, turn much to the south between this and the Rocky Mountains to have permitted Mr. Fidler to have passed along the eastern border of these mountains as far S. as nearly 45 without even seeing it. But from hence, as far as Captain Clark had ascended the S. fork or Missouri, being the distance of 55 miles (45 miles in a straight line), its course is S. 29° W., and it still appeared to bear considerably to the W. of south as far as he could see it. I think, therefore, that we shall find that the Missouri enters the Rocky Mountains to the north of 45°.

Captain Lewis, 8 June 1805

 

Rained moderately all the last night and some this morning until 10 o'clock. I am somewhat uneasy for Captain Lewis and party as days have now passed the time he was to have returned. I had all the arms put in order and permitted several men to hunt, aired and dried our stores, &c. The rivers at this point have fallen 6 inches since our arrival. At 10 o'clock cleared away and became fair. The wind all the morning from the S.W., and hard. The water of the south fork is of a reddish-brown color this morning; the other river of a whitish color, as usual. The mountains to the south covered with snow. Wind shifted to the N.E the evening. About 5 o'clock Captain Lewis arrived with the party, much fatigued, and informed me that he had as- cended the river about 60 miles by land, and that the river had a bold current about 80 or 100 yards wide, the bottoms of gravel and mud, and may be estimated at 5 feet water in shoalest parts.

Some rain in the evening. The left-hand fork rose a little.

Captain Clark 8 June 1805

 

We determined to deposit at this place the large red pirogue, all the heavy baggage which we could possibly do without, and some provisions, salt, tools, powder and lead &c., with a view to lighten our vessels and at the same time to strengthen their crews by means of the seven hands who have been heretofore employed in navigating the red pirogue. Accordingly we set some hands to digging a hole or cellar for the reception of our stores. These holes in the ground, or deposits, are called, by the engages, "caches." On inquiry I found that Cruzat was well acquainted with this business and therefore left the management of it entirely to him. Today we examined our maps and compared the information, derived as well from them as from the Indians, and fully settled in our minds the propriety of adopting the south fork for the Missouri, as that which it would be most expedient for us to take.

The information of Mr. Fidler, incorrect as it is, strongly argued the necessity of taking the south fork, for if he has been along the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains as far as even latitude 47 °, which I think fully as far south as he ever was in that direction, and saw only small rivulets making down from those mountains, the presumption is very strong that those little streams do not penetrate the Rocky Mountains to such distance as would afford rational grounds for a conjecture that they had their sources near any navigable branch of the Columbia. And if he has seen those rivulets as far south as 47°, they are most probably the waters of some northern branch of the Missouri or south fork, probably the river called by the Indians Medicine River. We therefore cannot hope by going northwardly of this place, being already in latitude 47 ° 24", to find a stream between this place and the Saskatchewan which does penetrate the Rocky Mountains and which, agreeably to the information of the Indians with respect to the Missouri, does possess a navigable current some distance in those mountains. The Indian information also argued strongly ín favor of the south fork. They informed us that the water of the Missouri was nearly transparent at the Great Falls (this is the case with the water of the south fork), that the falls lay a little to the south of sunset from them (this is also probable, as we are only a few minutes north of Fort Mandan, and the south fork bears considerably south from hence to the mountains); and that falls are below the Rocky Mountains and near the northern termination of one range of those mountains. A range of mountains which appear behind the S. mountains (and which appear to terminate S.W. from this place and on this side of the unbroken chain of the Rocky Mountains) gives us hope that this part of their information is also correct, and there is sufficient distance between this and the mountains for many, and I fear, for us, much too many falls.

Another impression on my mind is that, if the Indians had passed any stream as large as the south fork on their way to the Missouri, they would not have omitted mentioning it. And the south fork, from its size and complexion of its waters, must enter the Rocky Mountains and, in my opinion, penetrates them to a great distance, or else whence such an immense body of water as it discharges? It cannot proceed from the dry plains to the N.W. of the Yellowstone River on the east side of the Rocky Mountains, for those numerous large dry channels which we witnessed on that side as we ascended the Missouri forbid such a conjecture. And that it should take its sources to the N.W. under those mountains, the travels of Mr. Fidler forbid us to believe.

Those ideas as they occurred to me I endeavored to impress on the minds of the party, all of whom, except Captain Clark, being still firm in the belief that the N. fork was the Missouri and that which we ought to take. They said, very cheerfully, that they were ready to follow us anywhere we thought proper to direct; but that they still thought that the other was the river, and that they were afraid that the south fork would soon terminate in the mountains and leave us at a great distance from the Columbia.

Cruzat, who had been an old Missouri navigator and who, from his integrity, knowledge, and skill as a waterman, had acquired the confidence of every individual of the party, declared it as his opinion that the N. fork was the true genuine Missouri and could be no other.

Finding them so determined in this belief, and wishing, if we were in an error, to be able to detect it and rectify it as soon as possible, it was agreed between Captain Clark and myself that one of us should set out with a small party by land up the south fork, and continue our route up it until we found the falls or reached the snowy mountains, by which means we should be enabled to determine this question pretty accurately.

This expedition I preferred undertaking, as Captain Clark is the best waterman, &c., and determined to set out the day after tomorrow. I wished to make some further observations at this place, and as we had determined to leave our blacksmith's bellows and tools here, it was necessary to repair some of our arms, and particularly my air gun, the main spring of which was broken, before we left this place. These and some other preparations will necessarily detain us two, perhaps three, days.

I felt myself very unwell this morning, and took a portion of salts, from which I feel much relief this evening.

The cache being completed, I walked to it and examined its construction. It is in a high plain about 40 yards distant from a steep bluff of the south branch on its northern side The situation a dry one, which is always necessary. A place being fixed on for a cache, a circle about 20 inches in diameter is first described, the turf or sod of this circle is carefully removed, being taken out as entire as possible in order that it may be replaced in the same situation when the cache is filled and secured. This circular hole is then sunk perpendicularly to the depth of one foot, if the ground be not firm, somewhat deeper. They then begin to work it out wider as they proceed downward, until they get it about six or seven feet deep, giving it nearly the shape of the kettle, or lower part of a large still. Its bottom is also somewhat sunk in the center.

The dimensions of the cache are in proportion to the quantity of articles intended to be deposited. As the earth is dug, it is handed up in a vessel and carefully laid on a skin or cloth, and then carried to some place where it can be thrown in such manner as to conceal it, usually into some running stream where it is washed away and leaves no traces which might lead to the discovery of the cache.

Before the goods are deposited, they must be well dried. A parcel of small dry sticks are then collected, and with them a floor is made, three or four inches thick, which is then covered with some dry hay or a raw hide well dried. On this, the articles are deposited, taking care to keep them from touching the walls by putting other dry sticks between as you stow away the merchandise. When nearly full, the goods are covered with a skin, and earth thrown in and well rammed until, with the addition of the turf first removed, the hole is on a level with the surface of the ground. In this manner, dried skins or merchandise will keep perfectly sound for several years.

The traders of the Missouri, particularly those engaged in the trade with the Sioux, are obliged to have frequent recourse to this method in order to avoid being robbed.

Most of the men are busily engaged dressing skins for clothing. In the evening, Cruzat gave us some music on the violin and the men passed the evening in dancing, singing, &c., and were extremely cheerful.

Captain Lewis, 9 June 1805

 

The day being fair and fine, we dried all our baggage and merchandise. Shields renewed the mainspring of my air gun. We have been much indebted to the ingenuity of this man on many occasions. Without having served any regular apprenticeship to any trade, he makes his own tools, principally, and works extremely well in either wood or metal, and in this way has been extremely serviceable to us, as well as being a good hunter and an excellent waterman.

In order to guard against accidents, we thought it well to conceal some ammunition here, and accordingly buried a tin canister of 4 lbs. of powder and an adequate quantity of lead near our tent, a canister of 6 lbs. lead and an axe, in a thicket up the S. fork, three hundred yards distant from the point. We concluded that we still could spare more ammunition for this deposit. Captain Clark was therefore to make a further deposit in the morning. In addition to one keg of 20 lbs. and an adequate proportion of lead which had been laid by to be buried in the large cache, we now selected the articles to be deposited in this cache which consisted of two best falling axes, one auger, a set of planes, some files, blacksmith's bellows, and hammers, stake, tongs, &c., 1 keg of flour, 2 kegs of parched meal, 2 kegs of pork, 1 keg of salt, some chisels, a cooper's awl, some tin cups, 2 muskets, 3 brown bearskins, beaver skins, horns of the big-horned animal, a part of the men's robes, clothing, and all their superfluous baggage of every description, and beaver traps.

We drew up the red pirogue into the middle of a small island at the entrance of Maria's River, and secured and made her fast to the trees to prevent the high floods from carrying her off. Put my brand on several trees standing near her, and covered her with brush to shelter her from the effects of the sun. At 3 P.M. we had a hard wind from the S.W., which continued about an hour, attended with thunder and rain. As soon as the shower had passed over we drew out our canoes, corked, repaired, and loaded them I still feel myself somewhat unwell with the dysentery, but determined to set out in the morning up the south fork or Missouri, leaving Captain Clark to complete the deposit and follow me by water with the party. Accordingly, gave orders to Drouilliard, Joseph Fields, Gibson, and Goodrich to hold themselves in readiness to accompany me in the morning. Sacagawea, our Indian woman, is very sick this evening. Captain Clark bled her. The night was cloudy with some rain.

This morning I felt much better but somewhat weakened by my disorder. At 8 A.M., I swung my pack and set forward with my little party. Proceeded to the point where Rose [Tansy] River, a branch of Maria's River, approaches the Missouri so nearly. From this height we discovered a herd of elk on the Missouri, just above us, to which we descended and soon killed four of them. We butchered them and hung up the meat and skins in view of the river in order that the party might get them.

I determined to take dinner here, but before the meal was prepared I was taken with such violent pain in the intestines that I was unable to partake of the feast of marrowbones My pain still increased, and toward evening was attended with a high fever. Finding myself unable to march, I determined to prepare a camp of some willow boughs and remain all night. Having brought no medicine with me, I resolved to try an experiment with some simplex, and the chokecherry which grew abundantly in the bottom first struck my attention.

I directed a parcel of the small twigs to be gathered stepped of their leaves, cut into pieces of about two inches in length, and boiled in water until a strong black decoction of an astringent bitter taste was produced. At sunset I took a pint of this decoction, and about an hour after repeated the dose. By 10 in the evening, I was entirely relieved from pain, and in fact, every symptom of the disorder forsook me. My fever abated, a gentle perspiration was produced, and I had a comfortable and refreshing night's rest.

Goodrich, who is remarkably fond of fishing, caught several dozen fish of two different species, one about 9 inches long, of white color, round, and in form and fins resembling the white chub common to the Potomac. The other species is precisely the form and about the size of the well-known fish called the hickory shad, or old wife.

Captain Lewis, 10 June 1805

 

This morning I felt myself quite revived, took another portion of my decoction, and set out at sunrise. I now bore out from the river in order to avoid the steep ravines of the river, which usually make out in the plain to the distance of one or two miles. After gaining the level plain, my course was a little to the west of S.W. Having traveled about 12 miles by 9 in the morning, the sun became warm, and I bore a little to the south in order to gain the river, as well to obtain water to allay my thirst as to kill something for breakfast. For the plain through which we had been passing possesses no water, and is so level that we cannot approach the buffalo within shot before they discover us and take to flight. We arrived at the river about 10 A.M. having traveled about 15 miles. At this place there is a handsome open bottom with some cottonwood timber. Here we met with two large bear and killed them both at the first fire, a circumstance which, I believe, has never happened with the party in killing the brown bear before. We dressed the bear, breakfasted on a part of one of them, and hung the meat and skins on the trees out of the reach of the wolves. I left a note on a stick near the river for Captain Clark informing him of my progress, &c. After refreshing ourselves about two hours, we again ascended the bluffs and gained the high plain. Saw a great number of burrowing squirrels in the plains today, also wolves, antelopes, mule deer, and immense herds of buffalo. We passed a ridge of land considerably higher than the adjacent plain on either side. From this height, we had a most beautiful and picturesque view of the Rocky Mountains which were perfectly covered with snow, and reaching from S.E. to the N. of N W. They appear to be formed of several ranges, each succeeding range rising higher than the preceding one, until the most distant appear to lose their snowy tops in the clouds. This was an august spectacle and still rendered more formidable by the recollection that we had them to pass. We traveled about twelve miles when we again struck the Missouri at a handsome little bottom of cottonwood timber, and although the sun had not yet set, I felt myself somewhat weary, being weakened, I presume, by my late disorder and therefore determined to remain here during the balance of the day and night, having marched about 27 miles today. On our way, in the evening, we had killed a buffalo, an antelope, and three mule deer, and taken a sufficient quantity of the best of the flesh of these animals for three meals, which we had brought with us. This evening I ate very heartily, and after penning the transactions of the day amused myself catching those white fish mentioned yesterday. They are here in great abundance. I caught upwards of a dozen in a few minutes.

Captain Lewis, 12 June 1805

 

Saw a number of rattlesnakes today. One of the men caught one by the head, in catching hold of a bush on which his head lay reclined. Three canoes were in great danger today; one dipped water, another very near turning over, &c. At 2 o'clock P.M. a few drops of rain. I walked through a point and killed a buck elk and deer, and we camped on the starboard side. The interpreter's woman very sick. One man has a felon rising on his hand; the other, with the toothache, has taken cold in the jaw, &c.

Captain Clark, 12 June 1805

 

This morning we set out about sunrise after taking breakfast off our venison and fish. We again ascended the hills of the river and gained the level country. Fearing that the river bore to the south, and that I might pass the Falls if they existed between this and the snowy mountains, I altered my course nearly to the south and proceeded through the plain. I sent Fields on my right and Drouilliard and Gibson on my left, with orders to kill some meat and join me at the river, where I should halt for dinner.

I had proceeded on this course about two miles with Goodrich at some distance behind me, when my ears were saluted with the agreeable sound of a fall of water, and advancing a little further. I saw the spray rise above the plain like a column of smoke. which would frequently disappear again in an instant, caused, I presume, by the wind which blew pretty hard from the S.W. I did not, however, lose my direction to this point, which soon began to make a roaring too tremendous to be mistaken for any cause short of the Great Falls of the Missouri. Here I arrived about 12 o clock, having traveled, by estimate, about 15 miles. I hurried down the hill, which was about 200 feet high and difficult of access, to gaze on this sublimely grand spectacle. I took my position on the top of some rocks about 20 feet high opposite the center of the Falls. This chain of rocks appears once to have formed a part of those over which the waters tumbled, but in the course of time has been separated from it to the distance of 150 yards, lying parallel to it, and an abutment against which the water, after falling over the precipice, beats with great fury. This barrier extends on the right to the perpendicular cliff which forms that border of the river, but to the distance of 120 yards next to the cliff it is but a few feet above the level of the water, and here the water in very high tides appears to pass in a channel of 40 yards next to the higher part of the ledge of rocks. On the left, it extends within 80 or 90 yards of the larboard cliff, which is also perpendicular. Between this abrupt extremity of the ledge of rocks and the perpendicular bluff, the whole body of water passes with incredible swiftness.

Immediately at the cascade, the river is about 300 yards wide. About 90 or 100 yards of this, next the larboard bluff, is a smooth even sheet of water falling over a precipice of at least 80 feet; the remaining part, about 200 yards wide, on my right, forms the grandest sight I ever beheld. The height of the fall is the same as the other, but the irregular and somewhat projecting rocks below receive the water in its passage down, and break it into a perfect white foam which assumes a thousand forms in a moment, sometimes flying up in jets of sparkling foam to the height of fifteen or twenty feet, which are scarcely formed before large rolling bodies of the same beaten and foaming water are thrown over and conceal them. In short, the rocks seem to be most happily fixed to present a sheet of the whitest beaten froth for 200 yards in length and about 80 feet perpendicular.

The water, after descending, strikes against the abutment before mentioned, or that on which I stand, and seems to reverberate, and being met by the more impetuous current, they roll and swell into half-formed billows of great height which rise and again disappear in an instant. The abutment of rock defends a handsome little bottom of about three acres which is diversified and agreeably shaded with some cottonwood trees.

In the lower extremity of the bottom there is a very thick grove of the same kind of trees which are small. In this wood, there are several Indian lodges formed of sticks. A few small cedar grow near the ledge of rocks where I rest. Below the point of these rocks, at a small distance, the river is divided by a large rock which rises several feet above the water, and extends downward with the stream for about 20 yards. About a mile before the water arrives at the pitch, it descends very rapidly, and is confined on the larboard side by a perpendicular cliff of about 100 feet. On the starboard side it is also perpendicular for about three hundred yards above the pitch, where it is then broken by the discharge of a small ravine, down which the buffalo have a large beaten road to the water, for it is but in very few places that these animals can obtain water near this place, owing to the steep and inaccessible banks. I see several skeletons of the buffalo lying in the edge of the water near the starboard bluff which I presume have been swept down by the current and precipitated over this tremendous fall.

About 300 yards below me, there is another abutment of solid rock with a perpendicular face and about 60 feet high, which projects from the starboard side at right angles to the distance of 134 yards, and terminates the lower part nearly of the bottom before mentioned, there being a passage around the end of this abutment, between it and the river, of about 20 yards. Here the river again assumes its usual width, soon spreading to near 300 yards but still continuing its rapidity. From the reflection of the sun on the spray or mist which arises from these Falls, there is a beautiful rainbow produced which adds not a little to the beauty of this majestically grand scenery.

After writing this imperfect description, I again viewed the Falls, and was so much disgusted with the imperfect idea which it conveyed of the scene, that I determined to draw my pen across it and begin again; but then reflected that I could not perhaps succeed better than penning the first impressions of the mind. I wished for the pencil of Salvator Rosa, a Titian, or the pen of Thomson, that I might be enabled to give to the enlightened world some just idea of this truly magnificent and sublimely grand object which has, from the commencement of time, been concealed from the view of civilized man. But this was fruitless and vain. I most sincerely regretted that I had not brought a camera obscure with me, by the assistance of which even I could have hoped to have done better, but alas, this was also out of my reach.

I therefore, with the assistance of my pen only, endeavored to trace some of the stronger features of this scene by the assistance of which, and my recollection aided by some able pencil, I hope still to give to the world some faint idea of an object which at this moment fills me with such pleasure and astonishment; and which of its kind, I will venture to assert, is second to but one in the known world.

I retired to the shade of a tree, where I determined to fix my camp for the present, and dispatch a man in the morning to inform Captain Clark and the party of my success in finding the Falls, and settle in their minds all further doubts as to the Missouri. The hunters now arrived, loaded with excellent buffalo meat, and informed me that they had killed three very fat cows about 3/4 of a mile from hence. I directed them, after they had refreshed themselves, to go back and butcher them and bring another load of meat each to our camp, determining to employ those who remained with me in drying meat for the party against their arrival. In about two hours, or at 4 o'clock P.M., they set out on this duty, and I walked down the river about three miles to discover, if possible, some place to which the canoes might arrive, or at which they might be drawn on shore in order to be taken by land above the falls, but returned without effecting either of these objectives.

The river was one continued scene of rapids and cascades, which I readily perceived could not be encountered with our canoes, and the cliffs still retained their perpendicular structure, and were from 150 to 200 feet high. In short, the river appears here to have worn a channel in the process of time through a solid rock.

On my return, I found the party at camp. They had butchered the buffalo and brought in some more meat, as I had directed. Goodrich had caught half a dozen very fine trout and a number of both species of the white fish. These trout (caught in the Falls) are from sixteen to twenty-three inches in length, precisely resemble our mountain or speckled trout in form and the position of their fins, but the specks on these are of a deep black instead of the red or gold color of those common to the U. States. These are furnished long sharp teeth on the palate and tongue, and have generally a small dash of red on each side behind the front ventral fins. The flesh is of a pale yellowish red or, when in good order, of a rose red.

I am induced to believe that the brown, the white, and the grizzly bear of this country are the same species, only differing in color from age or more probably from the same natural cause that many other animals of the same family differ in color. One of those which we killed yesterday was of a cream-colored white, while the other in company with it was of the common bay or reddish brown, which seems to be the most usual color of them. The white one appeared from its talons and teeth to be the youngest; it was smaller than the other, and although a monstrous beast, we supposed that it had not yet attained its growth, and that it was a little upwards of two years old. The young cubs which we have killed have always been of a brownish-white, but none of them as white as that we killed yesterday. One other that we killed some time since had a white stripe or list of about eleven inches wide entirely around his body just behind the shoulders, and was much darker than these bear usually are.

My fare is really sumptuous this evening: Buffalo's humps, tongues, and marrowbones, fine trout, parched meal, pepper and salt, and a good appetite. The last is not considered the least of the luxuries.

Captain Lewis, 13 June 1805

 

A fair morning. Some dew this morning. The Indian woman very sick. I gave her a dose of salts. We set out early. At a mile and l/2, passed a small rapid stream on the larboard side, which heads in a mountain to the S.E., 12 or 15 miles, which at this time is covered with snow. We call this stream Snow River, as it is the conveyance of the melted snow from that mountain at present. Numbers of geese and goslings. The geese cannot fly at this season. Gooseberries are ripe and in great abundance. The yellow currant is also common, not yet ripe. Killed a buffalo and camped on the larboard side, near an old Indian fortified camp. One man sick, and three with swellings. The Indian woman very sick.

Captain Clark, 13 June 1805

 

This morning at sunrise I dispatched Joseph Fields with a letter to Captain Clark, and ordered him to keep sufficiently near the river to observe its situation in order that he might be enabled to give Captain Clark an idea of the point at which it would be best to halt to make our portage. I set one man preparing a scaffold and collecting wood to dry the meat. Sent the others to bring in the balance of the buffalo meat; or at least the part which the wolves had left us, for those fellows are ever at hand, and ready to partake with us the moment we kill a buffalo. And there is no means of putting the meat out of their reach in those plains. The two men, shortly after, returned with the meat and informed me that the wolves had devoured the greater part of the meat.

About ten o'clock this morning, while the men were engaged with the meat, I took my gun and espontoon and thought I would walk a few miles and see where the rapids terminated above, and return to dinner. Accordingly, I set out and proceeded up the river about S.W. After passing one continued rapid and three small cascades of about four or five feet each at the distance of about five miles, I arrived at a fall of about 19 feet. The river is here about 400 yards wide. This pitch, which I called the Crooked Falls, occupies about three-fourths of the width of the river, commencing on the south side, extends obliquely upward about 150 yards, then, forming an acute angle, extends downward nearly to the commencement of four small islands lying near the N. shore. Among these islands and between them and the lower 1 extremity of the perpendicular pitch, being a distance of 100 yards or upwards, the water glides down the side of a sloping rock with a velocity almost equal to that of its perpendicular descent. Just above this rapid the river makes a sudden bend to the right, or northwardly. I should have returned from hence; but, hearing a tremendous roaring above me, I continued my route across the point of a hill a few hundred yards further, and was again presented by one of the most beautiful objects in nature, a cascade of about fifty feet perpendicular stretching at right angles across the river from side to side to the distance of at least a quarter of a mile. Here the river pitches over a shelving rock, with an edge as regular and as straight as if formed by art, without a niche or break in it. The water descends in one even and uninterrupted sheet to the bottom, where, dashing against the rocky bottom, it rises into foaming billows of great height and rapidly glides away, hissing, flashing, and sparkling as it departs. The spray rises, from one extremity to the other, to 50 feet. I now thought that if a skillful painter had been asked to make a beautiful cascade, he would most probably have presented the precise image of this one. Nor could I for some time determine on which of those two great cataracts to bestow the palm on this, or that which I had discovered yesterday. At length I determined between these two great rivals for glory, that this was pleasingly beautiful, while the other was sublimely grand.

I had scarcely unfixed my eyes from this pleasing object before I discovered another fall above at the distance of half a mile. Thus invited, I did not once think of returning, but hurried thither to amuse myself with this newly discovered object. I found this to be a cascade of about 14 feet, possessing a perpendicular pitch of about 6 feet. This was tolerably regular, stretching across the river, from bank to bank, where it was about a quarter of a mile wide. In any other neighborhood but this, such a cascade would probably be extolled for its beauty and magnificence, but here I passed it by with but little attention, determining, as I had proceeded so far, to continue my route to the head of the rapids if it should even detain me all night. At every rapid, cataract and cascade I discovered that the bluffs grew lower, or that the bed of the river rose nearer to a level with the plains.

Still pursuing the river, with its course about S.W., passing a continuous scene of rapids and small cascades, at the distance of 2 1/2 miles I arrived at another cataract of 26 feet. This is not immediately perpendicular. A rock about 1/3 of its descent seems to protrude to a small distance and receives the water in its passage downward and gives a curve to the water, though it falls mostly with a regular and smooth sheet.

The river is near six hundred yards wide at this place: a beautiful level plain on the S. side only a few feet above the level of the pitch; on the N. side, where I am, the country is more broken, and immediately behind me, near the river, a high hill. Below this fall, at a little distance, a beautiful little island, well timbered, is situated about the middle of the river. In this island, on a cottonwood tree, an eagle has placed her nest. A more inaccessible spot I believe she could not have found, for neither man nor beast dare pass those gulfs which separate her little domain from the shores. The water is also broken in such manner as it descends over this pitch that the mist or spray rises to a considerable height. This fall is certainly much the greatest I ever beheld except those two which I have mentioned. It is incomparably a greater cataract and a more noble, interesting object than the celebrated falls of Potomac or Schuylkill, &c.

Just above this is another cascade of about 5 feet, above which the water, as far as I could see, began to abate of its velocity, and I therefore determined to ascend the hill behind me, which promised a fine prospect of the adjacent country; nor was I disappointed at my arrival at its summit. From hence, I overlooked a most beautiful and extensive plain reaching from the river to the base of the snow-clad mountains to the S. and S.West. I also observed the Missouri, stretching its meandering course to the south through this plain to a great distance, filled to its even and grassy brim. Another large river flowed in on its western side, about four miles above me, and extended itself through a level and fertile valley of three miles in width, a great distance to the N.W., rendered more conspicuous by the timber which garnished its borders. In these plains, and more particularly in the valley just below me, immense herds of buffalo are feeding. The Missouri, just above this hill, makes a bend to the south, where it lies a smooth; even, and unruffled sheet of water, nearly a mile in width, bearing on its watery bosom vast flocks of geese which feed at pleasure in the delightful pasture on either border. The young geese are now completely feathered except the wings which, both in the young and old, are yet deficient.

After feasting my eyes on this ravishing prospect and resting myself a few minutes, I determined to proceed as far as the river which I saw discharge itself on the west side of the Missouri, convinced that it was the river which the Indians call Medicine River, and which they informed us fell into the Missouri just above the falls. I descended the hill and directed my course to the bend of the Missouri, near which there was a herd of at least a thousand buffalo. Here I thought it would be well to kill a buffalo and leave him until my return from the river, and if I then found that I had not time to get back to camp this evening, to remain all night here, there being a few sticks of driftwood lying along the shore which would answer for my fire, and a few scattering cottonwood trees a few hundred yards below, which would afford me at least the semblance of a shelter. Under this impression, I selected a fat buffalo and shot him very well, through the lungs.

While I was gazing attentively on the poor animal discharging blood in streams from his mouth and nostrils, expecting him to fall every instant, and having entirely forgotten to reload my rifle, a large white, or rather, brown, bear had perceived and crept on me within twenty steps before I discovered him. In the first moment, I drew up my gun to shoot but at the same instant recollected that she was not loaded, and that he was too near for me to hope to perform this operation before he reached me, as he was then briskly advancing on me. It was an open level plain, not a bush within miles nor a tree within less than three hundred yards of me. The river bank was sloping and not more than three feet above the level of the water. In short, there was no place by means of which I could conceal myself from this monster until I could charge my rifle.

In this situation, I thought of retreating in a brisk walk as fast as he was advancing until I could reach a tree about 300 yards below me, but I had no sooner turned myself about but he pitched at me, open-mouthed and full speed. I ran about 80 yards, and found he gained on me fast. I then ran into the water. The idea struck me to get into the water to such depth that I could stand and he would be obliged to swim, and that I could, in that situation, defend myself with my espontoon. Accordingly, I ran hastily into the water about waist deep and faced about and presented the point of my espontoon.

At this instant, he arrived at the edge of the water within about twenty feet of me. The moment I put myself in this attitude of defense, he suddenly wheeled about as if frightened, declined the combat on such unequal grounds, and retreated with quite as great precipitation as he had just before pursued me. As soon as I saw him run off in that manner, I returned to the shore and charged my gun, which I had still retained in my hand throughout this curious adventure. I saw him run through the level open plain about three miles, till he disappeared in the woods on Medicine River. During the whole of this distance he ran at full speed, sometimes appearing to look behind him as if he expected pursuit.

I now began to reflect on this novel occurrence and endeavored to account for this sudden retreat of the bear. I at first thought that perhaps he had not smelled me before he arrived at the water's edge so near me, but I then reflected that he had pursued me for about 80 or 90 yards before I took to the water, and on examination saw the ground torn with his talons immediately on the impression of my steps; and the cause of his alarm still remains with me mysterious and unaccountable. So it was, and I felt myself not a little gratified that he had declined the combat. My gun reloaded, I felt confidence once more in my strength, and determined not to be thwarted in my design of visiting Medicine River, but determined never again to suffer my piece to be longer empty than the time she necessarily required to charge her.

I passed through the plain nearly in the direction which the bear had run to Medicine River. Found it a handsome stream, about 200 yards wide, with a gentle current, apparently deep. Its waters clear, and banks, which were formed principally of dark brown and blue clay, were about the height of those of the Missouri, or from 3 to 5 feet. Yet they had not the appearance of ever being overflowed, a circumstance which I did not expect so immediately in the neighborhood of the mountains, from whence I should have supposed that sudden and immense torrents would issue at certain seasons of the year. But the reverse is absolutely the case. I am therefore compelled to believe that the snowy mountains yield their waters slowly, being partially affected every day by the influence of the sun only, and never suddenly melted down by hasty showers of rain.

Having examined Medicine River, I now determined to return, having by my estimate about 12 miles to walk. I looked at my watch and found it was half after six P.M. In returning through the level bottom of Medicine River, and about 200 yards distant from the Missouri, my direction led me directly to an animal that I at first supposed was a wolf. But on nearer approach, or about sixty paces distant, I discovered that it was not. Its color was a brownish yellow. It was standing near its burrow, and when I approached it thus nearly, it crouched itself down like a cat, looking immediately at me as if it designed to spring on me. I took aim at it and fired. It instantly disappeared in its burrow. I loaded my gun, and examined the place, which was dusty, and saw the track, from which I am still further convinced that it was of the tiger kind. Whether I struck it or not, I could not determine, but I am almost confident that I did. My gun is true, and I had a steady rest by means of my espontoon, which I have found very serviceable to me in this way, in the open plains.

It now seemed to me that all the beasts of the neighborhood had made a league to destroy me, or that some fortune was disposed to amuse herself at my expense, for I had not proceeded more than 300 yards from the burrow of this tiger cat, before three bull buffalo, which were feeding with a large herd about half a mile from me on my left, separated from the herd and ran full speed toward me. I thought at least to give them some amusement, and altered my direction to meet them. When they arrived within a hundred yards they made a halt, took a good view of me, and retreated with precipitation. I then continued my route homeward, passed the buffalo which I had killed, but did not think it prudent to remain all night at this place, which really, from the succession of curious adventures, wore the impression on my mind of enchantment. At some times, for a moment, I thought it might be a dream, but the prickly pears which pierced my feet very severely once in a while, particularly after it grew dark, convinced me that I was really awake, and that it was necessary to make the best of my way to camp.

It was some time after dark before I returned to the party. I found them extremely uneasy for my safety. They had formed a thousand conjectures, all of which equally forboding my death, which they had so far settled among them that they had already agreed on the route which each should take in the morning to search for me. I felt myself much fatigued, but ate a hearty supper and took a good night's rest. The weather being warm, I had left my leather overshirt and had worn only a yellow flannel one.

Captain Lewis, 14 June 1805

 

A fine morning. The Indian woman complaining all night, and excessively bad this morning. Her case is somewhat dangerous. Two men with the toothache, 2 with tumors, and one man with a tumor and a slight fever. Passed the camp Captain Lewis made the first night, at which place he had left part of two bears, their skins, &c. Three men with tumors went on shore and stayed out all night. One of them killed 2 buffalo, a part of which we made use of for breakfast.

The current excessively rapid, more so as we ascend. We find great difficulty in getting the pirogue and canoes up in safety. Canoes take in water frequently.

At 4 o'clock this evening, Joe Fields returned from Captain Lewis with a letter for me. Captain Lewis dates his letter from the Great Falls of the Missouri, which, Fields informs me, is about 20 miles in advance and about 10 miles above the place I left the river the time I was up last week. Captain Lewis informs me that those falls in part answer the description given of them by the Indians, much higher; the eagle's nest which they describe is there. From those signs, he is convinced of this being the river the Indians call the Missouri.

He intends examining the river above, until my arrival at a point from which we can make a portage, which he is apprehensive will be at least 5 miles, and both above and below there are several small pitches and swift troubled water. We made only 10 miles today, and camped on the larboard side. Much hard slate in the cliffs and but a small quantity of timber.

Captain Clark, 14 June 1805

 

This morning the men again were sent to bring in some more meat which Drouilliard had killed yesterday and continued the operation of drying it. I amused myself in fishing and sleeping away the fatigues of yesterday. I caught a number of very fine trout, which I made Goodrich dry. Goodrich also caught about two dozen and several small cat of a yellow color, which would weigh about 4 pounds. The tail was separated with a deep angular notch like that of the white cat of the Missouri, from which indeed they differed only in color.

When I awoke from my sleep today, I found a large rattlesnake coiled on the leaning trunk of a tree under the shade of which I had been lying at the distance of about ten feet from him. I killed the snake and found that he had 176 scuta on the abdomen and 17 half-formed scuta on the tail. It was of the same kind which I had frequently seen before. They do not differ in their colors from the rattlesnake common to the Middle Atlantic States, but considerably in the form and figures of those colors.

This evening after dark Joseph Fields returned and informed me that Captain Clark had arrived with the party at the foot of a rapid about 5 miles below which he did not think proper to ascend, and would wait my arrival there. I had discovered from my journey yesterday that a portage on this side of the river will be attended by much difficulty in consequence of several deep ravines which intersect the plains nearly at right angles with the river to a considerable distance, while the south side appears to be a delightful smooth, unbroken plain. The bearings of the river also make it probable that the portage will be shorter on that side than on this. I directed Fields to return early in the morning to Captain Clark and request him to send up a party of men for the dried meat which we had made. I find a very heavy dew on the grass about my camp every morning, which no doubt proceeds from the mist of the falls, as it takes place nowhere in the plains nor on the river, except here.

Captain Lewis, 15 June 1805

 

A fair morning and warm. We set out at the usual time and proceeded on with great difficulty, as the river is more rapid. We can hear the falls this morning very distinctly. Our Indian woman sick and low-spirited. I gave her the bark and applied it externally to her region, which revived her much.

The current excessively rapid and difficult to ascend. Great numbers of dangerous places, and the fatigue which we have to encounter is incredible: the men in the water from morning until night, hauling the cord and boats, walking on sharp rocks and round slippery stones which alternately cut their feet and throw them down. Notwithstanding all this difficulty, they go with great cheerfulness. Added to those difficulties, the rattlesnakes are innumerable and require great caution to prevent being bitten.

We passed a small river on the larboard side about 30 yards wide, very rapid, which heads in the mountains to the S.E. I went up this river 5 miles. It has some timber in its bottoms and a fall of 15 feet at one place. Above this river, the bluffs are of red earth mixed with strata of black stone. Below this little river, we passed a white clay which mixes with water like flour in every respect.

The Indian woman much worse this evening. She will not take any medicine. Her husband petitions to return, &c. River more rapid.

Captain Clark, 15 June 1805

 
 

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