Part 2 out of 6
were so free from wildness that they fed on, undisturbed, while the explorers
walked around and among them. The captains named a bold and beautiful stream,
which here entered the Missouri from the north,--Porcupine River; but modern
geography calls the water-course Poplar River; at the mouth of the river,
in Montana, is now the Poplar River Indian Agency and military post.
The waters of this stream, the explorers found, were clear and transparent,--
an exception to all the streams, which, discharging into the Missouri,
give it its name of the Big Muddy. The journal adds:--
"A quarter of a mile beyond this river a creek falls in on
the south, to which, on account of its distance from the mouth
of the Missouri, we gave the name of Two-thousand-mile creek.
It is a bold stream with a bed thirty yards wide.
At three and one-half miles above Porcupine River, we reached
some high timber on the north, and camped just above an old
channel of the river, which is now dry. We saw vast quantities
of buffalo, elk, deer,--principally of the long-tailed kind,--
antelope, beaver, geese, ducks, brant, and some swan.
The porcupines too are numerous, and so careless and clumsy
that we can approach very near without disturbing them, as they
are feeding on the young willows. Toward evening we also found
for the first time the nest of a goose among some driftwood,
all that we had hitherto seen being on the top of a broken
tree on the forks, invariably from fifteen to twenty or more
feet in height."
"Next day," May 4, says the journal, "we passed some old Indian hunting-camps,
one of which consisted of two large lodges, fortified with a circular
fence twenty or thirty feet in diameter, made of timber laid horizontally,
the beams overlying each other to the height of five feet, and covered
with the trunks and limbs of trees that have drifted down the river.
The lodges themselves are formed by three or more strong sticks
about the size of a man's leg or arm and twelve feet long, which are
attached at the top by a withe of small willows, and spread out so as
to form at the base a circle of ten to fourteen feet in diameter.
Against these are placed pieces of driftwood and fallen timber,
usually in three ranges, one on the other; the interstices are covered
with leaves, bark, and straw, so as to form a conical figure about
ten feet high, with a small aperture in one side for the door.
It is, however, at best a very imperfect shelter against the inclemencies
of the seasons."
Wolves were very abundant along the route of the explorers, the most
numerous species being the common kind, now known as the coyote
(pronounced kyote), and named by science the canis latrans.
These animals are cowardly and sly creatures, of an intermediate size
between the fox and dog, very delicately formed, fleet and active.
"The ears are large, erect, and pointed; the head is long
and pointed, like that of the fox; the tail long and bushy;
the hair and fur are of a pale reddish-brown color, though much
coarser than that of the fox; the eye is of a deep sea-green color,
small and piercing; the talons are rather longer than those of the wolf
of the Atlantic States, which animal, as far as we can perceive,
is not to be found on this side of the Platte. These wolves usually
associate in bands of ten or twelve, and are rarely, if ever,
seen alone, not being able, singly, to attack a deer or antelope.
They live and rear their young in burrows, which they fix near
some pass or spot much frequented by game, and sally out in a
body against any animal which they think they can overpower;
but on the slightest alarm retreat to their burrows, making a noise
exactly like that of a small dog.
"A second species is lower, shorter in the legs, and thicker than the
Atlantic wolf; the color, which is not affected by the seasons, is of every
variety of shade, from a gray or blackish-brown to a cream-colored white.
They do not burrow, nor do they bark, but howl; they frequent the woods
and plains, and skulk along the skirts of the buffalo herds, in order
to attack the weary or wounded."
Under date of May 5, the journal has an interesting story of an encounter
with a grizzly bear, which, by way of variety, is here called "brown,"
instead of "white." It is noticeable that the explorers dwelt with
much minuteness upon the peculiar characteristics of the grizzly;
this is natural enough when we consider that they were the first
white men to form an intimate acquaintance with "Ursus horribilis."
The account says:--
"Captain Clark and one of the hunters met, this evening, the largest
brown bear we have seen. As they fired he did not attempt to attack,
but fled with a most tremendous roar; and such was his extraordinary
tenacity of life, that, although he had five balls passed
through his lungs, and five other wounds, he swam more than half
across the river to a sand-bar, and survived twenty minutes.
He weighed between five and six hundred pounds at least,
and measured eight feet seven inches and a half from the nose
to the extremity of the hind feet, five feet ten inches and a half
round the breast, three feet eleven inches round the neck, one foot
eleven inches round the middle of the fore leg, and his claws
five on each foot, were four inches and three-eighths in length.
This animal differs from the common black bear in having his
claws much longer and more blunt; his tail shorter; his hair
of a reddish or bay brown, longer, finer, and more abundant;
his liver, lungs, and heart much larger even in proportion to his size,
the heart, particularly, being equal to that of a large ox;
and his maw ten times larger. Besides fish and flesh, he feeds
on roots and every kind of wild fruit."
On May 8 the party discovered the largest and most important of the northern
tributaries of the Upper Missouri. The journal thus describes the stream:--
"Its width at the entrance is one hundred and fifty yards;
on going three miles up, Captain Lewis found it to be of the same
breadth and sometimes more; it is deep, gentle, and has a large
quantity of water; its bed is principally of mud; the banks
are abrupt, about twelve feet in height, and formed of a dark,
rich loam and blue clay; the low grounds near it are wide and fertile,
and possess a considerable proportion of cottonwood and willow.
It seems to be navigable for boats and canoes; by this circumstance,
joined to its course and quantity of water, which indicates that it
passes through a large extent of country, we are led to presume
that it may approach the Saskaskawan [Saskatchewan] and afford
a communication with that river. The water has a peculiar whiteness,
such as might be produced by a tablespoonful of milk in a dish of tea,
and this circumstance induced us to call it Milk River."
Modern geography shows that the surmise of Captain Lewis was correct.
Some of the tributaries of Milk River (the Indian name of which signifies
"The River that Scolds at all Others") have their rise near St. Mary's River,
which is one of the tributaries of the Saskatchewan, in British America.
The explorers were surprised to find the bed of a dry river,
as deep and as wide as the Missouri itself, about fifteen
miles above Milk River. Although it had every appearance
of a water-course, it did not discharge a drop of water.
Their journal says:--
"It passes through a wide valley without timber; the surrounding country
consists of waving low hills, interspersed with some handsome level plains;
the banks are abrupt, and consist of a black or yellow clay, or of a rich
sandy loam; though they do not rise more than six or eight feet above the bed,
they exhibit no appearance of being overflowed; the bed is entirely
composed of a light brown sand, the particles of which, like those of
the Missouri, are extremely fine. Like the dry rivers we passed before,
this seemed to have discharged its waters recently, but the watermark
indicated that its greatest depth had not been more than two feet.
This stream, if it deserve the name, we called Bigdry [Big Dry] River."
And Big Dry it remains on the maps unto this day.
In this region the party recorded this observation:--
"The game is now in great quantities, particularly the elk and buffalo,
which last is so gentle that the men are obliged to drive them out of the way
with sticks and stones. The ravages of the beaver are very apparent;
in one place the timber was entirely prostrated for a space of three acres
in front on the river and one in depth, and great part of it removed,
though the trees were in large quantities, and some of them as thick
as the body of a man.
Yet so great have been the ravages of man among these gentle creatures,
that elk are now very rarely found in the region, and the buffalo
have almost utterly disappeared from the face of the earth.
Just after the opening of the Northern Pacific Railway, in 1883,
a band of sixty buffaloes were heard of, far to the southward
of Bismarck, and a party was organized to hunt them.
The BOLD hunters afterwards boasted that they killed every one
of this little band of survivors of their race.
The men were now (in the middle of May) greatly troubled with boils,
abscesses, and inflamed eyes, caused by the poison of the alkali
that covered much of the ground and corrupted the water.
Here is an entry in the journal of May 11:--
"About five in the afternoon one of our men [Bratton], who had been
afflicted with boils and suffered to walk on shore, came running to
the boats with loud cries, and every symptom of terror and distress.
For some time after we had taken him on board he was so much out
of breath as to be unable to describe the cause of his anxiety;
but he at length told us that about a mile and a half below he had
shot a brown bear, which immediately turned and was in close pursuit
of him; but the bear being badly wounded could not overtake him.
Captain Lewis, with seven men, immediately went in search of him;
having found his track they followed him by the blood for a mile,
found him concealed in some thick brushwood, and shot him with two
balls through the skull. Though somewhat smaller than that killed
a few days ago, he was a monstrous animal, and a most terrible enemy.
Our man had shot him through the centre of the lungs; yet he had pursued
him furiously for half a mile, then returned more than twice that distance,
and with his talons prepared himself a bed in the earth two feet
deep and five feet long; he was perfectly alive when they found him,
which was at least two hours after he had received the wound.
The wonderful power of life which these animals possess renders
them dreadful; their very track in the mud or sand, which we have
sometimes found eleven inches long and seven and one-fourth wide,
exclusive of the talons, is alarming; and we had rather encounter
two Indians than meet a single brown bear. There is no chance of
killing them by a single shot unless the ball goes through the brain,
and this is very difficult on account of two large muscles which cover
the side of the forehead and the sharp projection of the centre
of the frontal bone, which is also thick.
"Our camp was on the south, at the distance of sixteen miles from that of
last night. The fleece and skin of the bear were a heavy burden for two men,
and the oil amounted to eight gallons."
The name of the badly-scared Bratton was bestowed upon a creek
which discharges into the Missouri near the scene of this encounter.
Game continued to be very abundant. On the fourteenth, according to
the journal, the hunters were hunted, to their great discomfiture.
The account says:--
"Toward evening the men in the hindmost canoes discovered a large
brown [grizzly] bear lying in the open grounds, about three
hundred paces from the river. Six of them, all good hunters,
immediately went to attack him, and concealing themselves
by a small eminence came unperceived within forty paces of him.
Four of the hunters now fired, and each lodged a ball
in his body, two of them directly through the lungs.
The furious animal sprang up and ran open-mouthed upon them.
"As he came near, the two hunters who had reserved their fire
gave him two wounds, one of which, breaking his shoulder,
retarded his motion for a moment; but before they could reload
he was so near that they were obliged to run to the river,
and before they had reached it he had almost overtaken them.
Two jumped into the canoe; the other four separated, and, concealing
themselves in the willows, fired as fast as they could reload.
They struck him several times, but, instead of weakening the monster,
each shot seemed only to direct him towards the hunters,
till at last he pursued two of them so closely that they threw
aside their guns and pouches, and jumped down a perpendicular
bank of twenty feet into the river: the bear sprang after them,
and was within a few feet of the hindmost, when one of the hunters
on shore shot him in the head, and finally killed him.
They dragged him to the shore, and found that eight balls
had passed through him in different directions. The bear
was old, and the meat tough, so that they took the skin only,
and rejoined us at camp, where we had been as much terrified
by an accident of a different kind.
"This was the narrow escape of one of our canoes, containing all
our papers, instruments, medicine, and almost every article indispensable
for the success of our enterprise. The canoe being under sail,
a sudden squall of wind struck her obliquely and turned her considerably.
The man at the helm, who was unluckily the worst steersman of the party,
became alarmed, and, instead of putting her before the wind, luffed her up
into it. The wind was so high that it forced the brace of the square-sail out
of the hand of the man who was attending it, and instantly upset the canoe,
which would have been turned bottom upward but for the resistance made
by the awning. Such was the confusion on board, and the waves ran so high,
that it was half a minute before she righted, and then nearly full of water,
but by bailing her out she was kept from sinking until they rowed ashore.
Besides the loss of the lives of three men, who, not being able to swim,
would probably have perished, we should have been deprived of nearly
everything necessary for our purposes, at a distance of between two and
three thousand miles from any place where we could supply the deficiency."
Fortunately, there was no great loss from this accident, which was caused
by the clumsiness and timidity of the steersman, Chaboneau. Captain Lewis's
account of the incident records that the conduct of Chaboneau's wife,
Sacajawea, was better than that of her cowardly husband. He says:--
"The Indian woman, to whom I ascribe equal fortitude and resolution
with any person on board at the time of the accident, caught and preserved
most of the light articles which were washed overboard."
In the Solitudes of the Upper Missouri
Under date of May 17, the journal of the party has the
following interesting entries:--
"We set out early and proceeded on very well; the banks being firm and the
shore bold, we were enabled to use the towline, which, whenever the banks will
permit it, is the safest and most expeditious mode of ascending the river,
except under sail with a steady breeze. At the distance of ten and one-half
miles we came to the mouth of a small creek on the south, below which
the hills approach the river, and continue near it during the day.
Three miles further is a large creek on the north; and again, six and
three-quarters miles beyond this, is another large creek, to the south;
both containing a small quantity of running water, of a brackish taste.
The last we called Rattlesnake Creek, from our seeing that animal near it.
Although no timber can be observed on it from the Missouri, it throws out
large quantities of driftwood, among which were some pieces of coal brought
down by the stream. . . . . . . . . .
The game is in great quantities, but the buffalo are not so numerous
as they were some days ago; two rattlesnakes were seen to-day, and one
of them was killed. It resembles those of the Middle Atlantic States,
being about thirty inches long, of a yellowish brown on the back and sides,
variegated with a row of oval dark brown spots lying transversely
on the back from the neck to the tail, and two other rows of circular
spots of the same color on the sides along the edge of the scuta;
there are one hundred and seventy-six scuta on the belly, and seventeen
on the tail."
Two days later, the journal records that one of the party
killed a grizzly bear, "which, though shot through the heart,
ran at his usual pace nearly a quarter of a mile before he fell."
The mouth of the Musselshell River, which was one of the notable
points that marked another stage in the journey, was reached
on the twentieth of May. This stream empties into the Missouri
two thousand two hundred and seventy miles above its mouth,
and is still known by the name given it by its discoverers.
The journal says:
"It is one hundred and ten yards wide, and contains more water
than streams of that size usually do in this country; its current
is by no means rapid, and there is every appearance of its being
susceptible of navigation by canoes for a considerable distance.
Its bed is chiefly formed of coarse sand and gravel, with an
occasional mixture of black mud; the banks are abrupt and nearly
twelve feet high, so that they are secure from being overflowed;
the water is of a greenish-yellow cast, and much more transparent
than that of the Missouri, which itself, though clearer than below,
still retains its whitish hue and a portion of its sediment.
Opposite the point of junction the current of the Missouri is gentle,
and two hundred and twenty-two yards in width; the bed is principally
of mud, the little sand remaining being wholly confined to the points,
and the water is still too deep to use the setting-pole.
"If this be, as we suppose, the Musselshell, our Indian information
is that it rises in the first chain of the Rocky mountains not far
from the sources of the Yellowstone, whence in its course to this
place it waters a high broken country, well timbered, particularly on
its borders, and interspersed with handsome fertile plains and meadows.
We have reason, however, to believe, from their giving a similar
account of the timber where we now are, that the timber of which they
speak is similar to that which we have seen for a few days past,
which consists of nothing more than a few straggling small pines and dwarf
cedars on the summits of the hills, nine-tenths of the ground being
totally destitute of wood, and covered with short grass, aromatic herbs,
and an immense quantity of prickly-pear; though the party who explored
it for eight miles represented the low grounds on the river to be well
supplied with cottonwood of a tolerable size, and of an excellent soil.
They also report that the country is broken and irregular, like that
near our camp; and that about five miles up, a handsome river,
about fifty yards wide, which we named after Chaboneau's wife,
Sacajawea's or the Bird-woman's River, discharges into the Musselshell
on the north or upper side."
Later explorations have shown that the Musselshell rises
in the Little Belt Mountains, considerably to the north of
the sources of the Yellowstone. Modern geography has also taken
from the good Sacajawea the honor of having her name bestowed
on one of the branches of the Musselshell. The stream once
named for her is now known as Crooked Creek: it joins the river
near its mouth, in the central portion of Montana. The journal,
under date of May 22, has this entry:--
"The river [the Missouri] continues about two hundred and fifty
yards wide, with fewer sand-bars, and the current more gentle
and regular. Game is no longer in such abundance since leaving
the Musselshell. We have caught very few fish on this side of
the Mandans, and these were the white catfish, of two to five pounds.
We killed a deer and a bear. We have not seen in this quarter
the black bear, common in the United States and on the lower parts
of the Missouri, nor have we discerned any of their tracks.
They may easily be distinguished by the shortness of the talons
from the brown, grizzly, or white bear, all of which seem to be
of the same species, which assumes those colors at different seasons
of the year. We halted earlier than usual, and camped on the north,
in a point of woods, at the distance of sixteen and one half miles
[thus past the site of Fort Hawley, on the south]."
Notwithstanding the advance of the season, the weather
in those great altitudes grew more and more cold. Under date
of May 23, the journal records the fact that ice appeared along
the edges of the river, and water froze upon their oars.
But notwithstanding the coolness of the nights and mornings,
mosquitoes were very troublesome.
The explorers judged that the cold was somewhat unusual for that locality,
inasmuch as the cottonwood trees lost their leaves by the frost,
showing that vegetation, generally well suited to the temperature of
its country, or habitat, had been caught by an unusual nip of the frost.
The explorers noticed that the air of those highlands was so pure and
clear that objects appeared to be much nearer than they really were.
A man who was sent out to explore the country attempted to reach a ridge
(now known as the Little Rocky Mountains), apparently about fifteen miles
from the river. He travelled about ten miles, but finding himself not
halfway to the object of his search, he returned without reaching it.
The party was now just westward of the site of the present town
of Carroll, Montana, on the Missouri. Their journal says:--
"The low grounds are narrow and without timber; the country is
high and broken; a large portion of black rock and brown sandy
rock appears in the face of the hills, the tops of which are
covered with scattered pine, spruce, and dwarf cedar; the soil
is generally poor, sandy near the tops of the hills, and nowhere
producing much grass, the low grounds being covered with little
else than the hyssop, or southernwood, and the pulpy-leaved thorn.
Game is more scarce, particularly beaver, of which we have seen
but few for several days, and the abundance or scarcity of which
seems to depend on the greater or less quantity of timber.
At twenty-four and one-half miles we reached a point of woodland
on the south, where we observed that the trees had no leaves,
and camped for the night."
The "hyssop, or southernwood," the reader now knows to be
the wild sage, or sage-brush. The "pulpy-leaved thorn"
mentioned in the journal is the greasewood ; and both
of these shrubs flourish in the poverty-stricken, sandy,
alkaline soil of the far West and Northwest. The woody fibre
of these furnished the only fuel available for early overland
emigrants to the Pacific.
The character of this country now changed considerably as the explorers
turned to the northward, in their crooked course, with the river.
On the twenty-fifth of May the journal records this:--
"The country on each side is high, broken, and rocky; the rock
being either a soft brown sandstone, covered with a thin stratum
of limestone, or else a hard, black, rugged granite, both usually
in horizontal strata, and the sand-rock overlaying the other.
Salts and quartz, as well as some coal and pumice-stone, still appear.
The bars of the river are composed principally of gravel;
the river low grounds are narrow, and afford scarcely any timber;
nor is there much pine on the hills. The buffalo have now become scarce;
we saw a polecat [skunk] this evening, which was the first for
several days; in the course of the day we also saw several herds
of the bighorned animals among the steep cliffs on the north,
and killed several of them."
The bighorned animals, the first of which were killed here,
were sometimes called "Rocky Mountain sheep." But sheep
they were not, bearing hair and not wool. As we have said,
they are now more commonly known as bighorns.
The patience of the explorers was rewarded, on Sunday, May 26, 1806, by their
first view of the Rocky Mountains. Here is the journal's record on that date:--
"It was here [Cow Creek, Mont.] that, after ascending the highest summit
of the hills on the north side of the river, Captain Lewis first caught
a distant view of the Rock mountains--the object of all our hopes,
and the reward of all our ambition. On both sides of the river,
and at no great distance from it, the mountains followed its course.
Above these at the distance of fifty miles from us, an irregular
range of mountains spread from west to northwest from his position.
To the north of these, a few elevated points, the most remarkable
of which bore N. 65'0 W., appeared above the horizon; and as the sun
shone on the snows of their summits, he obtained a clear and satisfactory
view of those mountains which close on the Missouri the passage
to the Pacific."
As they continued to ascend the Missouri they found themselves confronted
by many considerable rapids which sometimes delayed their progress.
They also set forth this observation: "The only animals we have observed
are the elk, the bighorn, and the hare common to this country."
Wayfarers across the plains now call this hare the jack-rabbit. The river
soon became very rapid with a marked descent, indicating their nearness
to its mountain sources. The journal says:--
"Its general width is about two hundred yards; the shoals are more frequent,
and the rocky points at the mouths of the gullies more troublesome to pass.
Great quantities of stone lie in the river and on its bank, and seem
to have fallen down as the rain washed away the clay and sand in which
they were imbedded. The water is bordered by high, rugged bluffs,
composed of irregular but horizontal strata of yellow and brown or black clay,
brown and yellowish-white sand, soft yellowish-white sandstone,
and hard dark brown freestone; also, large round kidney-formed irregular
separate masses of a hard black ironstone, imbedded in the clay and sand;
some coal or carbonated wood also makes its appearance in the cliffs,
as do its usual attendants, the pumice-stone and burnt earth. The salts
and quartz are less abundant, and, generally speaking, the country is,
if possible, more rugged and barren than that we passed yesterday;
the only growth of the hills being a few pine, spruce, and dwarf cedar,
interspersed with an occasional contrast, once in the course of some miles,
of several acres of level ground, which supply a scanty subsistence
for a few little cottonwoods."
But, a few days later, the party passed out of this inhospitable
region, and, after passing a stream which they named Thompson's
(now Birch) Creek, after one of their men, they were glad to make
this entry in their diary:
"Here the country assumed a totally different aspect: the hills retired
on both sides from the river, which spreads to more than three times
its former size, and is filled with a number of small handsome islands
covered with cottonwood. The low grounds on its banks are again wide,
fertile, and enriched with trees: those on the north are particularly wide,
the hills being comparatively low, and opening into three large valleys,
which extend themselves for a considerable distance towards the north.
These appearances of vegetation are delightful after the dreary hills
among which we have passed; and we have now to congratulate ourselves
at having escaped from the last ridges of the Black Mountains. On leaving
Thompson's Creek we passed two small islands, and at twenty-three miles'
distance encamped among some timber; on the north, opposite to a small creek,
which we named Bull Creek. The bighorn are in great quantities, and must
bring forth their young at a very early season, as they are now half grown.
One of the party saw a large bear also; but, being at a distance from
the river, and having no timber to conceal him, he would not venture to fire."
A curious adventure happened on the twenty-eighth, of which the journal,
next day, makes this mention:--
"Last night we were alarmed by a new sort of enemy.
A buffalo swam over from the opposite side, and to the spot
where lay one of our canoes, over which he clambered to the shore:
then, taking fright, he ran full speed up the bank towards
our fires, and passed within eighteen inches of the heads of some
of the men before the sentinel could make him change his course.
Still more alarmed, he ran down between four fires,
and within a few inches of the heads of a second row of the men,
and would have broken into our lodge if the barking of the dog
had not stopped him. He suddenly turned to the right,
and was out of sight in a moment, leaving us all in confusion,
every one seizing his rifle and inquiring the cause of the alarm.
On learning what had happened, we had to rejoice at suffering
no more injury than some damage to the guns that were in the canoe
which the buffalo crossed.
..."We passed an island and two sand-bars, and at the distance of two
and a half miles came to a handsome river, which discharges itself on
the South, and which we ascended to the distance of a mile and a half:
we called it Judith's River. It rises in the Rocky Mountains,
in about the same place with the Musselshell, and near the
Yellowstone River. Its entrance is one hundred yards wide from one bank
to the other, the water occupying about seventy-five yards, and being
in greater quantity than that of the Musselshell River. . . . There
were great numbers of the argalea, or bighorned animals, in the high
country through which it passes, and of beaver in its waters.
Just above the entrance of it we saw the ashes of the fires of one
hundred and twenty-six lodges, which appeared to have been deserted
about twelve or fifteen days."
Leaving Judith's River, named for a sweet Virginia lass,
the explorers sailed, or were towed, seventeen miles up the river,
where they camped at the mouth of a bold, running river to which they
gave the name of Slaughter River. The stream is now known as the Arrow;
the appropriateness of the title conferred on the stream by Lewis
and Clark appears from the story which they tell of their experience
just below "Slaughter River," as follows:
"On the north we passed a precipice about one hundred and twenty feet high,
under which lay scattered the fragments of at least one hundred
carcasses of buffaloes, although the water which had washed away
the lower part of the hill must have carried off many of the dead.
These buffaloes had been chased down the precipice in a way very common
on the Missouri, by which vast herds are destroyed in a moment.
The mode of hunting is to select one of the most active and fleet
young men, who is disguised by a buffalo-skin round his body;
the skin of the head with the ears and horns being fastened on his
own head in such a way as to deceive the buffalo. Thus dressed,
he fixes himself at a convenient distance between a herd of buffalo
and any of the river precipices, which sometimes extend for some miles.
His companions in the mean time get in the rear and side of the herd,
and at a given signal show themselves and advance toward the buffaloes.
These instantly take the alarm, and finding the hunters beside them,
they run toward the disguised Indian or decoy, who leads them
on at full speed toward the river; when, suddenly securing himself
in some crevice of the cliff which he had previously fixed on,
the herd is left on the brink of the precipice. It is then
in vain for the foremost buffaloes to retreat or even to stop;
they are pressed on by the hindmost rank, which, seeing no danger
but from the hunters, goad on those before them till the whole
are precipitated, and the shore is strewn with their dead bodies.
Sometimes, in this perilous seduction, the Indian is himself either
trodden under foot by the rapid movements of the buffaloes, or missing
his footing in the cliff is urged down the precipice by the falling herd.
The Indians then select as much meat as they wish; the rest
is abandoned to the wolves, and creates a most dreadful stench.
The wolves which had been feasting on these carcasses were very fat,
and so gentle that one of them was killed with an espontoon."
 A short spear.
The dryness and purity of the air roused the admiration of the explorers,
who noticed that the woodwork of the cases of their instruments shrank,
and the joints opened, although the wood was old and perfectly seasoned.
A tablespoonful of water, exposed to the air in an open saucer,
would wholly evaporate in thirty-six hours, when the thermometer did not
mark higher than the "Temperate" point at the warmest hour of the day.
Contrary to their expectations, they had not yet met with any Indians,
although they saw many signs of their having recently been in that vicinity.
The journal says:
"In the course of the day [May 30] we passed several encampments
of Indians, the most recent of which seemed to have been evacuated
about five weeks since; and, from the several apparent dates,
we supposed that they were formed by a band of about one
hundred lodges, who were travelling slowly up the river.
Although no part of the Missouri from the Minnetarees to this
place exhibits signs of permanent settlements, yet none seem
exempt from the transient visits of hunting-parties. We know
that the Minnetarees of the Missouri extend their excursions
on the south side of the river as high as the Yellowstone,
and the Assiniboins visit the northern side, most probably
as high as Porcupine River. All the lodges between that place
and the Rocky Mountains we supposed to belong to the Minnetarees
of Fort de Prairie, who live on the south fork of the Saskashawan."
The party now entered upon some of the natural wonders of the West,
which have since become famous. Their journal says:--
"These hills and river-cliffs exhibit a most extraordinary and
romantic appearance. They rise in most places nearly perpendicular from
the water, to the height of between two hundred and three hundred feet,
and are formed of very white sandstone, so soft as to yield readily
to the impression of water, in the upper part of which lie imbedded two
or three thin horizontal strata of white freestone, insensible to the rain;
on the top is a dark rich loam, which forms a gradually ascending plain,
from a mile to a mile and a half in extent, when the hills again
rise abruptly to the height of about three hundred feet more.
In trickling down the cliffs, the water has worn the soft sandstone
into a thousand grotesque figures, among which, with a little fancy,
may be discerned elegant ranges of freestone buildings, with columns
variously sculptured, and supporting long and elegant galleries,
while the parapets are adorned with statuary. On a nearer approach they
represent every form of elegant ruins--columns, some with pedestals
and capitals entire, others mutilated and prostrate, and some rising
pyramidally over each other till they terminate in a sharp point.
These are varied by niches, alcoves, and the customary appearances
of desolated magnificence. The illusion is increased by the number
of martins, which have built their globular nests in the niches,
and hover over these columns, as in our country they are accustomed
to frequent large stone structures. As we advance there seems no end
to the visionary enchantment which surrounds us.
"In the midst of this fantastic scenery are vast ranges of walls,
which seem the productions of art, so regular is the workmanship.
They rise perpendicularly from the river, sometimes to the height
of one hundred feet, varying in thickness from one to twelve feet,
being as broad at the top as below. The stones of which they
are formed are black, thick, durable, and composed of a large
portion of earth, intermixed and cemented with a small quantity
of sand and a considerable proportion of talk [talc] or quartz.
These stones are almost invariably regular parallelopipeds of unequal
sizes in the wall, but equally deep and laid regularly in ranges
over each other like bricks, each breaking and covering the interstice
of the two on which it rests; but though the perpendicular interstice
be destroyed, the horizontal one extends entirely through the whole work.
The stones are proportioned to the thickness of the wall in
which they are employed, being largest in the thickest walls.
The thinner walls are composed of a single depth of the parallelopiped,
while the thicker ones consist of two or more depths.
These walls pass the river at several places, rising from the water's
edge much above the sandstone bluffs, which they seem to penetrate;
thence they cross in a straight line, on either side of the river,
the plains, over which they tower to the height of from ten to
seventy feet, until they lose themselves in the second range of hills.
Sometimes they run parallel in several ranges near to each other,
sometimes intersect each other at right angles, and have the appearance
of walls of ancient houses or gardens."
The wall-like, canyon formations were charted by Lewis and Clark
as "The Stone Walls." Their fantastic outlines have been admired
and described by modern tourists, and some of them have been
named "Cathedral Rocks," "Citadel Rock," "Hole in the Wall,"
and so on.
Passing out of this wonderful region, the expedition entered upon
a more level country, here and there broken by bluffy formations which
extended along the river, occasionally interspersed with low hills.
Their journal says:
"In the plains near the river are the choke-cherry, yellow and red
currant bushes, as well as the wild rose and prickly pear, both of which are
now in bloom. From the tops of the river-hills, which are lower than usual,
we enjoyed a delightful view of the rich, fertile plains on both sides,
in many places extending from the river-cliffs to a great distance back.
In these plains we meet, occasionally, large banks of pure sand,
which were driven apparently by the southwest winds and there deposited.
The plains are more fertile some distance from the river than near its banks,
where the surface of the earth is very generally strewed with small pebbles,
which appear to be smoothed and worn by the agitation of the waters with
which they were, no doubt, once covered."
Under date of June 2d, the journal says:--
"The current of the river is strong but regular, the timber increases
in quantity, the low grounds become more level and extensive,
and the bluffs are lower than before. As the game is very abundant,
we think it necessary to begin a collection of hides for the purpose
of making a leathern boat, which we intend constructing shortly.
The hunters, who were out the greater part of the day,
brought in six elk, two buffalo, two mule-deer, and a bear.
This last animal had nearly cost us the lives of two of our hunters,
who were together when he attacked them. One of them narrowly escaped
being caught, and the other, after running a considerable distance,
concealed himself in some thick bushes, and, while the bear
was in quick pursuit of his hiding-place, his companion came up,
and fortunately shot the animal through the head."
Here the party came to the mouth of a large river which entered
the Missouri from the northwest, at the site of the latter-day
town of Ophir, Montana. This stream they named Maria's River,
in honor of another Virginia damsel. So large and important
in appearance was Maria's River that the explorers were not certain
which was the main stream, that which came in from the north,
or that which, flowing here in a general course from southwest
to northeast, was really the true Missouri. The journal says:
"It now became an interesting question, which of these two streams
is what the Minnetarees call Ahmateahza, or Missouri, which they
describe as approaching very near to the Columbia. On our right
decision much of the fate of the expedition depends; since if,
after ascending to the Rocky Mountains or beyond them, we should find
that the river we were following did not come near the Columbia,
and be obliged to return, we should not only lose the travelling season,
two months of which have already elapsed, but probably dishearten
the men so much as to induce them either to abandon the enterprise,
or yield us a cold obedience, instead of the warm and zealous
support which they have hitherto afforded us. We determined,
therefore, to examine well before we decided on our future course.
For this purpose we despatched two canoes with three men up each of
the streams, with orders to ascertain the width, depth, and rapidity
of the current, so as to judge of their comparative bodies of water.
At the same time parties were sent out by land to penetrate the country,
and discover from the rising grounds, if possible, the distant bearings
of the two rivers; and all were directed to return toward evening.
. . . . . . . . .
Both parties returned without bringing any information that would settle
the point. Which was the true Missouri still remained uncertain.
Under these circumstances, it became necessary that there
should be a more thorough exploration, and the next morning
Captains Lewis and Clark set out at the head of two separate parties,
the former to examine the north, and the latter the south fork.
In his progress Captain Lewis and his party were frequently
obliged to quit the course of the river and cross the plains
and hills, but he did not lose sight of its general direction,
and carefully took the bearings of the distant mountains.
On the morning of the third day he became convinced that this river
pursued a course too far north for his contemplated route to the Pacific,
and he accordingly determined to return, but judged it advisable
to wait till noon, that he might obtain a meridian altitude.
In this, however, he was disappointed, owing to the state of the weather.
Much rain had fallen, and their return was somewhat difficult,
and not unattended with danger, as the following incident,
which occurred on June 7th, will show:
"In passing along the side of a bluff at a narrow pass thirty
yards in length, Captain Lewis slipped, and, but for a fortunate
recovery by means of his spontoon, would have been precipitated
into the river over a precipice of about ninety feet.
He had just reached a spot where, by the assistance of his spontoon,
he could stand with tolerable safety, when he heard a voice
behind him cry out, `Good God, captain, what shall I do?'
He turned instantly, and found it was Windsor, who had
lost his foothold about the middle of the narrow pass,
and had slipped down to the very verge of the precipice,
where he lay on his belly, with his right arm and leg over it,
while with the other leg and arm he was with difficulty
holding on, to keep himself from being dashed to pieces below.
His dreadful situation was instantly perceived by Captain Lewis,
who, stifling his alarm, calmly told him that he was in no danger;
that he should take his knife out of his belt with his right hand,
and dig a hole in the side of the bluff to receive his right foot.
With great presence of mind he did this, and then raised
himself on his knees. Captain Lewis then told him to take
off his moccasins and come forward on his hands and knees,
holding the knife in one hand and his rifle in the other.
He immediately crawled in this way till he came to a secure spot.
The men who had not attempted this passage were ordered
to return and wade the river at the foot of the bluff,
where they found the water breast-high. This adventure taught
them the danger of crossing the slippery heights of the river;
but as the plains were intersected by deep ravines,
almost as difficult to pass, they continued down the river,
sometimes in the mud of the low grounds, sometimes up to their
arms in the water; and when it became too deep to wade,
they cut footholds with their knives in the sides of the banks.
In this way they travelled through the rain, mud, and water,
and having made only eighteen miles during the whole day, camped in
an old Indian lodge of sticks, which afforded them a dry shelter.
Here they cooked part of six deer they had killed in the course
of their walk, and having eaten the only morsel they had tasted
during the whole day, slept comfortably on some willow-boughs."
To the Great Falls of the Missouri
Next day, June 8, the Lewis party returned to the main body of
the expedition. They reported that timber was scarce along the river,
except in the lowlands, where there were pretty groves and thickets.
These trees, the journal says, were the haunts of innumerable birds,
which, as the sun rose, sung delightfully:--
"Among these birds they distinguished the brown thrush, robin,
turtle-dove, linnet, gold-finch, large and small blackbird,
wren, and some others. As they came along, the whole party
were of opinion that this river was the true Missouri;
but Captain Lewis, being fully persuaded that it was neither
the main stream, nor that which it would be advisable to ascend,
gave it the name of Maria's River. After travelling all day
they reached camp about five o'clock in the afternoon, and found
Captain Clark and the party very anxious for their safety.
As they had stayed two days longer than had been expected,
and as Captain Clark had returned at the appointed time,
it was feared that they had met with some accident."
As we now know, the stream that came in from the north was that which is still
called Maria's (or Marais) River, and the so-called branch from the southwest
was the Missouri River. Lewis and Clark, however, were in the dark as to the
relations of the two streams. Which was the parent? Which was the branch?
After pondering all the evidence that could be collected to bear on
the important question, the two captains agreed that the southern stream
was the true Missouri, and the northern stream was an important branch.
The journal says:
"These observations, which satisfied our minds completely, we communicated
to the party; but every one of them was of a contrary opinion.
Much of their belief depended on Crusatte, an experienced waterman on
the Missouri, who gave it as his decided judgment that the north fork was
the genuine Missouri. The men, therefore, mentioned that, although they
would most cheerfully follow us wherever we should direct, yet they were
afraid that the south fork would soon terminate in the Rocky Mountains,
and leave us at a great distance from the Columbia. In order that
nothing might be omitted which could prevent our falling into an error,
it was agreed that one of us should ascend the southern branch by land,
until we reached either the falls or the mountains. In the meantime,
in order to lighten our burdens as much as possible, we determined
to deposit here one of the pirogues, and all the heavy baggage which we
could possibly spare, as well as some provision, salt, powder, and tools.
This would at once lighten the other boats, and give them the crew
which had been employed on board the pirogue."
On the tenth of June, the weather being fair and pleasant,
they dried all their baggage and merchandise and secreted them
in places of deposits, called caches, as follows:--
"These deposits--or caches, as they are called by
the Missouri traders--are very common, particularly among
those who deal with the Sioux, as the skins and merchandise
will keep perfectly sound for years, and are protected
from robbery. Our cache was built in the usual manner.
In the high plain on the north side of the Missouri, and forty
yards from a steep bluff, we chose a dry situation, and then,
describing a small circle of about twenty inches diameter,
removed the sod as gently and carefully as possible:
the hole was then sunk perpendicularly for a foot deep.
It was now worked gradually wider as it descended, till at length
it became six or seven feet deep, shaped nearly like a kettle,
or the lower part of a large still with the bottom somewhat sunk
at the centre. As the earth was dug it was handed up in a vessel,
and carefully laid on a skin or cloth, in which it was carried
away and thrown into the river, so as to leave no trace of it.
A floor of three or four inches in thickness was then made
of dry sticks, on which was placed a hide perfectly dry.
The goods, being well aired and dried, were laid on this floor,
and prevented from touching the wall by other dried sticks,
as the merchandise was stowed away. When the hole was
nearly full, a skin was laid over the goods, and on this earth
was thrown and beaten down, until, with the addition of the sod
first removed, the whole was on a level with the ground,
and there remained not the slightest appearance of an excavation.
In addition to this, we made another of smaller dimensions,
in which we placed all the baggage, some powder, and our
blacksmith's tools, having previously repaired such of the tools
as we carry with us that require mending. To guard against accident,
we had two parcelss of lead and powder in the two places.
The red pirogue was drawn up on the middle of a small island,
at the entrance of Maria's River, and secured, by being
fastened to the trees, from the effects of any floods.
We now took another observation of the meridian altitude
of the sun, and found that the mean latitude of Maria's River,
as deduced from three observations, is 49'0 25' 17.2" N."
In order to make assurance doubly sure, Captain Lewis resolved
to take four men with him and ascend the south branch (that is,
the true Missouri), before committing the expedition to that route
as the final one. His proposition was that his party should proceed
up the river as rapidly as possible in advance of the main party.
On the second day out, says the journal:--
"Captain Lewis left the bank of the river in order to avoid the steep ravines,
which generally run from the shore to the distance of one or two miles
in the plain. Having reached the open country he went for twelve
miles in a course a little to the W. of S.W.; when, the sun becoming
warm by nine o'clock, he returned to the river in quest of water,
and to kill something for breakfast; there being no water in the plain,
and the buffalo, discovering them before they came within gunshot,
took to flight. They reached the banks in a handsome open low ground
with cottonwood, after three miles' walk. Here they saw two large
brown bears, and killed them both at the first fire--a circumstance
which has never before occurred since we have seen that animal.
Having made a meal of a part, and hung the remainder on a tree,
with a note for Captain Clark, they again ascended the bluffs into
the open plains. Here they saw great numbers of the burrowing-squirrel,
also some wolves, antelopes, mule-deer, and vast herds of buffalo.
They soon crossed a ridge considerably higher than the surrounding plains,
and from its top had a beautiful view of the Rocky Mountains, which are
now completely covered with snow. Their general course is from S.E. to
N. of N.W., and they seem to consist of several ranges which successively
rise above each other, till the most distant mingles with the clouds.
After travelling twelve miles they again met the river, where there
was a handsome plain of cottonwood."
Again leaving the river, Captain Lewis bore off more to the north,
the stream here bearing considerably to the south, with difficult
bluffs along its course. But fearful of passing the Great Falls
before reaching the Rocky Mountains, he again changed his course and,
leaving the bluffs to his right he turned towards the river.
The journal gives this description of what followed:--
"In this direction Captain Lewis had gone about two miles, when his
ears were saluted with the agreeable sound of a fall of water, and as
he advanced a spray, which seemed driven by the high southwest wind,
arose above the plain like a column of smoke, and vanished in an instant.
Toward this point he directed his steps; the noise increased as he approached,
and soon became too tremendous to be mistaken for anything but the Great Falls
of the Missouri. Having travelled seven miles after first hearing the sound,
he reached the falls about twelve o'clock. The hills as he approached
were difficult of access and two hundred feet high. Down these he hurried
with impatience; and, seating himself on some rocks under the centre
of the falls, enjoyed the sublime spectacle of this stupendous object,
which since the creation had been lavishing its magnificence upon the desert,
unknown to civilization.
"The river immediately at this cascade is three hundred yards wide,
and is pressed in by a perpendicular cliff on the left, which rises
to about one hundred feet and extends up the stream for a mile;
on the right the bluff is also perpendicular for three hundred
yards above the falls. For ninety or one hundred yards from
the left cliff, the water falls in one smooth, even sheet,
over a precipice of at least eighty feet. The remaining part
of the river precipitates itself with a more rapid current,
but being received as it falls by the irregular and somewhat projecting
rocks below, forms a splendid prospect of perfectly white foam,
two hundred yards in length and eighty in perpendicular elevation.
This spray is dissipated into a thousand shapes, sometimes flying
up in columns of fifteen or twenty feet, which are then oppressed
by larger masses of the white foam, on all of which the sun impresses
the brightest colors of the rainbow. Below the fall the water
beats with fury against a ledge of rocks, which extends across
the river at one hundred and fifty yards from the precipice.
From the perpendicular cliff on the north to the distance
of one hundred and twenty yards, the rocks are only a few feet
above the water; and, when the river is high, the stream finds
a channel across them forty yards wide, and near the higher
parts of the ledge, which rise about twenty feet, and terminate
abruptly within eighty or ninety yards of the southern side.
Between them and the perpendicular cliff on the south, the whole
body of water runs with great swiftness. A few small cedars grow
near this ridge of rocks, which serves as a barrier to defend
a small plain of about three acres, shaded with cottonwood;
at the lower extremity of which is a grove of the same trees,
where are several deserted Indian cabins of sticks; below which
the river is divided by a large rock, several feet above the surface
of the water, and extending down the stream for twenty yards.
At the distance of three hundred yards from the same ridge
is a second abutment of solid perpendicular rock, about sixty
feet high, projecting at right angles from the small plain on
the north for one hundred and thirty-four yards into the river.
After leaving this, the Missouri again spreads itself to its
previous breadth of three hundred yards, though with more than
its ordinary rapidity."
One of Lewis's men was sent back to inform Captain Clark of this
momentous discovery, which finally settled all doubt as to which was the
true Missouri. The famous Great Falls of the river had been finally reached.
Captain Lewis next went on to examine the rapids above the falls.
The journal says:--
"After passing one continued rapid and three cascades, each three
or four feet high, he reached, at the distance of five miles,
a second fall. The river is here about four hundred yards wide,
and for the distance of three hundred rushes down to the depth
of nineteen feet, and so irregularly that he gave it the name
of the Crooked Falls. From the southern shore it extends obliquely
upward about one hundred and fifty yards, and then forms an acute
angle downward nearly to the commencement of four small islands close
to the northern side. From the perpendicular pitch to these islands,
a distance of more than one hundred yards, the water glides down
a sloping rock with a velocity almost equal to that of its fall:
above this fall the river bends suddenly to the northward.
While viewing this place, Captain Lewis heard a loud roar above him,
and, crossing the point of a hill a few hundred yards, he saw one
of the most beautiful objects in nature: the whole Missouri is
suddenly stopped by one shelving rock, which, without a single niche,
and with an edge as straight and regular as if formed by art,
stretches itself from one side of the river to the other for at least
a quarter of a mile. Over this it precipitates itself in an even,
uninterrupted sheet, to the perpendicular depth of fifty feet,
whence, dashing against the rocky bottom, it rushes rapidly down,
leaving behind it a sheet of the purest foam across the river.
The scene which it presented was indeed singularly beautiful;
since, without any of the wild, irregular sublimity of the lower falls,
it combined all the regular elegancies which the fancy of a painter
would select to form a beautiful waterfall. The eye had scarcely
been regaled with this charming prospect, when at the distance
of half a mile Captain Lewis observed another of a similar kind.
To this he immediately hastened, and found a cascade stretching across
the whole river for a quarter of a mile, with a descent of fourteen feet,
though the perpendicular pitch was only six feet. This, too, in any
other neighborhood, would have been an object of great magnificence;
but after what he had just seen, it became of secondary interest.
His curiosity being, however, awakened, he determined to go on,
even should night overtake him, to the head of the falls.
"He therefore pursued the southwest course of the river,
which was one constant succession of rapids and small cascades,
at every one of which the bluffs grew lower, or the bed of the
river became more on a level with the plains. At the distance
of two and one-half miles he arrived at another cataract,
of twenty-six feet. The river is here six hundred yards wide,
but the descent is not immediately perpendicular, though the river
falls generally with a regular and smooth sheet; for about
one-third of the descent a rock protrudes to a small distance,
receives the water in its passage, and gives it a curve.
On the south side is a beautiful plain, a few feet above the level
of the falls; on the north, the country is more broken, and there
is a hill not far from the river. Just below the falls is a little
island in the middle of the river, well covered with timber.
Here on a cottonwood tree an eagle had fixed her nest, and seemed
the undisputed mistress of a spot, to contest whose dominion neither
man nor beast would venture across the gulfs that surround it,
and which is further secured by the mist rising from the falls.
This solitary bird could not escape the observation of the Indians,
who made the eagle's nest a part of their description of the falls,
which now proves to be correct in almost every particular,
except that they did not do justice to the height.
"Just above this is a cascade of about five feet, beyond which,
as far as could be discerned, the velocity of the water seemed to abate.
Captain Lewis now ascended the hill which was behind him, and saw
from its top a delightful plain, extending from the river to the base
of the Snowy [Rocky] Mountains to the south and southwest.
Along this wide, level country the Missouri pursued its
winding course, filled with water to its smooth, grassy banks,
while about four miles above, it was joined by a large river
flowing from the northwest, through a valley three miles in width,
and distinguished by the timber which adorned its shores.
The Missouri itself stretches to the south, in one unruffled stream
of water, as if unconscious of the roughness it must soon encounter,
and bearing on its bosom vast flocks of geese, while numerous
herds of buffalo are feeding on the plains which surround it.
"Captain Lewis then descended the hill, and directed
his course towards the river falling in from the west.
He soon met a herd of at least a thousand buffalo, and,
being desirous of providing for supper, shot one of them.
The animal immediately began to bleed, and Captain Lewis,
who had forgotten to reload his rifle, was intently watching
to see him fall, when he beheld a large brown bear which was
stealing on him unperceived, and was already within twenty steps.
In the first moment of surprise he lifted his rifle; but,
remembering instantly that it was not charged, and that he had no
time to reload, he felt that there was no safety but in flight.
It was in the open, level plain; not a bush nor a tree
within three hundred yards; the bank of the river sloping,
and not more than three feet high, so that there was no possible
mode of concealment. Captain Lewis, therefore, thought of
retreating with a quick walk, as fast as the bear advanced,
towards the nearest tree; but, as soon as he turned,
the bear rushed open-mouthed, and at full speed, upon him.
Captain Lewis ran about eighty yards, but finding that the animal
gained on him fast, it flashed on his mind that, by getting
into the water to such a depth that the bear would be obliged
to attack him swimming, there was still some chance of his life;
he therefore turned short, plunged into the river about waist-deep,
and facing about presented the point of his espontoon.
The bear arrived at the water's edge within twenty feet of him;
but as soon as he put himself in this posture of defence,
the bear seemed frightened, and wheeling about, retreated with
as much precipitation as he had pursued. Very glad to be
released from this danger, Captain Lewis returned to the shore,
and observed him run with great speed, sometimes looking back
as if he expected to be pursued, till he reached the woods.
He could not conceive the cause of the sudden alarm of the bear,
but congratulated himself on his escape when he saw his own track
torn to pieces by the furious animal, and learned from the whole
adventure never to suffer his rifle to be a moment unloaded."
Captain Lewis now resumed his progress towards the western, or Sun, River,
then more commonly known among the Indians as Medicine River. In going
through the lowlands of this stream, he met an animal which he thought
was a wolf, but which was more likely a wolverine, or carcajou.
The journal says:--
"It proved to be some brownish yellow animal, standing near its burrow,
which, when he came nigh, crouched, and seemed as if about to spring on him.
Captain Lewis fired, and the beast disappeared in its burrow.
From the track, and the general appearance of the animal, he supposed
it to be of the tiger kind. He then went on; but, as if the beasts
of the forest had conspired against him, three buffalo bulls,
which were feeding with a large herd at the distance of half a mile,
left their companions, and ran at full speed towards him.
He turned round, and, unwilling to give up the field, advanced to meet them:
when they were within a hundred yards they stopped, looked at him for
some time, and then retreated as they came. He now pursued his route
in the dark, reflecting on the strange adventures and sights of the day,
which crowded on his mind so rapidly, that he should have been inclined
to believe it all enchantment if the thorns of the prickly pear,
piercing his feet, had not dispelled at every moment the illusion.
He at last reached the party, who had been very anxious for his safety,
and who had already decided on the route which each should take
in the morning to look for him. Being much fatigued, he supped,
and slept well during the night."
On awaking the next morning, Captain Lewis found a large rattlesnake
coiled on the trunk of a tree under which he had been sleeping.
He killed it, and found it like those he had seen before,
differing from those of the Atlantic States, not in its colors,
but in the form and arrangement of them. Information was
received that Captain Clark had arrived five miles below,
at a rapid which he did not think it prudent to ascend,
and that he was waiting there for the party above to rejoin him.
After the departure of Captain Lewis, Captain Clark had remained
a day at Maria's River, to complete the deposit of such articles
as they could dispense with, and started on the twelfth of June.
Four days later, Captain Clark left the river, having sent
his messenger to Captain Lewis, and began to search for a
proper portage to convey the pirogue and canoes across to
the Columbia River, leaving most of the men to hunt, make wheels
and draw the canoes up a creek which they named Portage Creek,
as it was to be the base of their future operations.
The stream is now known as Belt Mountain Creek. But the explorers
soon found that although the pirogue was to be left behind,
the way was too difficult for a portage even for canoes.
The journal says:--
"We found great difficulty and some danger in even ascending
the creek thus far, in consequence of the rapids and rocks
of the channel of the creek, which just above where we brought
the canoes has a fall of five feet, with high steep bluffs beyond it.
We were very fortunate in finding, just below Portage Creek,
a cottonwood tree about twenty-two inches in diameter, large enough
to make the carriage-wheels. It was, perhaps, the only one of the same
size within twenty miles; and the cottonwood which we are obliged
to employ in the other parts of the work is extremely soft and brittle.
The mast of the white pirogue, which we mean to leave behind,
supplied us with two axle-trees.
"There are vast quantities of buffalo feeding on the plains or watering
in the river, which is also strewed with the floating carcasses and limbs
of these animals. They go in large herds to water about the falls,
and as all the passages to the river near that place are narrow and steep,
the foremost are pressed into the river by the impatience of those behind.
In this way we have seen ten or a dozen disappear over the falls in a
few minutes. They afford excellent food for the wolves, bears, and birds
of prey; which circumstance may account for the reluctance of the bears
to yield their dominion over the neighborhood.
"The pirogue was drawn up a little below our camp, and secured in a thick
copse of willow-bushes. We now began to form a cache or place of deposit,
and to dry our goods and other articles which required inspection. The wagons
are completed. Our hunters brought us ten deer, and we shot two out of a
herd of buffalo that came to water at Sulphur Spring. There is a species
of gooseberry, growing abundantly among the rocks on the sides of the cliffs.
It is now ripe, of a pale red color, about the size of the common gooseberry,
and like it is an ovate pericarp of soft pulp enveloping a number of small
whitish seeds, and consisting of a yellowish, slimy, mucilaginous substance,
with a sweet taste; the surface of the berry is covered glutinous,
adhesive matter, and its fruit, though ripe, retains its withered corolla.
The shrub itself seldom rises more than two feet high, is much branched,
and has no thorns. The leaves resemble those of the common gooseberry,
except in being smaller, and the berry is supported by separate peduncles
or foot-stalks half an inch long. There are also immense quantities
of grasshoppers, of a brown color, on the plains; they, no doubt,
contribute to the lowness of the grass, which is not generally more than
three inches high, though it is soft, narrow-leaved, and affords a fine
pasture for the buffalo."
A the Heart of the Continent
Captain Clark continued his observations up the long series
of rapids and falls until he came to a group of three small
islands to which he gave the name of White Bear Islands,
from his having seen numerous white, or grizzly, bears on them.
On the nineteenth of June, Captain Clark, after a careful survey
of the country on both sides of the stream, decided that the best
place for a portage was on the south, or lower, side of the river,
the length of the portage being estimated to be about eighteen
miles, over which the canoes and supplies must be carried.
Next day he proceeded to mark out the exact route of the portage,
or carry, by driving stakes along its lines and angles.
From the survey and drawing which he made, the party now had
a clear and accurate view of the falls, cascades, and rapids
of the Missouri; and, it may be added, this draught, which is
reproduced on another page of this book, is still so correct
in all its measurements that when a Montana manufacturing
company undertook to build a dam at Black Eagle Falls,
nearly one hundred years afterwards, they discovered that their
surveys and those of Captain Clark were precisely alike.
The total fall of the river, from the White Bear Islands,
as Lewis and Clark called them, to the foot of the Great Falls,
is four hundred twelve and five-tenths feet; the sheer drop
of the Great Fall is seventy-five and five-tenths feet.
The wild, trackless prairie of Lewis and Clark's time is
now the site of the thriving town of Great Falls, which has
a population of ten thousand.
Here is a lucid and connected account of the falls and rapids,
discovered and described by Lewis and Clark:
"This river is three hundred yards wide at the point where it
receives the waters of Medicine [Sun] River, which is one hundred
and thirty-seven yards in width. The united current continues three
hundred and twenty-eight poles to a small rapid on the north side,
from which it gradually widens to fourteen hundred yards, and at
the distance of five hundred and forty-eight poles reaches the head
of the rapids, narrowing as it approaches them. Here the hills
on the north, which had withdrawn from the bank, closely border
the river, which, for the space of three hundred and twenty poles,
makes its way over the rocks, with a descent of thirty feet.
In this course the current is contracted to five hundred and eighty yards,
and after throwing itself over a small pitch of five feet, forms a
beautiful cascade of twenty-six feet five inches; this does not,
however, fall immediately or perpendicularly, being stopped by a part
of the rock, which projects at about one-third of the distance.
After descending this fall, and passing the cottonwood island on
which the eagle has fixed her nest, the river goes on for five hundred
and thirty-two poles over rapids and little falls, the estimated
descent of which is thirteen and one-half feet, till it is joined
by a large fountain boiling up underneath the rocks near the edge
of the river, into which it falls with a cascade of eight feet.
The water of this fountain is of the most perfect clearness,
and of rather a bluish cast; and, even after falling into the Missouri,
it preserves its color for half a mile. From the fountain the river
descends with increased rapidity for the distance of two hundred
and fourteen poles, during which the estimated descent is five feet;
and from this, for a distance of one hundred and thirty-five poles,
it descends fourteen feet seven inches, including a perpendicular
fall of six feet seven inches. The Missouri has now become pressed
into a space of four hundred and seventy-three yards, and here forms
a grand cataract, by falling over a plain rock the whole distance
across the river, to the depth of forty-seven feet eight inches.
After recovering itself, it then proceeds with an estimated descent
of three feet, till, at the distance of one hundred and two poles,
it is precipitated down the Crooked Falls nineteen feet perpendicular.
Below this, at the mouth of a deep ravine, is a fall of five feet;
after which, for the distance of nine hundred and seventy poles,
the descent is much more gradual, not being more than ten feet,
and then succeeds a handsome level plain for the space of one hundred
and seventy-eight poles, with a computed descent of three feet,
the river making a bend towards the north. Thence it descends,
for four hundred and eighty poles, about eighteen and one-half feet,
when it makes a perpendicular fall of two feet, which is ninety poles
beyond the great cataract; in approaching which, it descends thirteen
feet within two hundred yards, and, gathering strength from its
confined channel, which is only two hundred and eighty yards wide,
rushes over the fall to the depth of eighty-seven feet.
"After raging among the rocks, and losing itself in foam, it is
compressed immediately into a bed of ninety-three yards in width:
it continues for three hundred and forty poles to the entrance of a run
or deep ravine, where there is a fall of three feet, which, added to
the decline during that distance, makes the descent six feet.
As it goes on, the descent within the next two hundred and forty poles
is only four feet; from this, passing a run or deep ravine, the descent
in four hundred poles is thirteen feet; within two hundred and forty poles,
another descent of eighteen feet; thence, in one hundred and sixty poles,
a descent of six feet; after which, to the mouth of Portage Creek,
a distance of two hundred and eighty poles, the descent is ten feet.
From this survey and estimate, it results that the river experiences
a descent of three hundred and fifty-two feet in the distance of two
and three quarter miles, from the commencement of the rapids to the mouth
of Portage Creek, exclusive of the almost impassable rapids which extend
for a mile below its entrance."
On the twenty-first of the month, all the needed preparations having
been finished, the arduous work of making the portage, or carry,
was begun. All the members of the expedition were now together,
and the two captains divided with their men the labor of hunting,
carrying luggage, boat-building, exploring, and so on.
They made three camps, the lower one on Portage Creek,
the next at Willow Run [see map], and a third at a point opposite
White Bear Islands. The portage was not completed until July second.
They were often delayed by the breaking down of their
rude carriages, and during the last stage of their journey
much of their luggage was carried on the backs of the men.
They were also very much annoyed with the spines of the prickly pear,
a species of cactus, which, growing low on the ground,
is certain to be trampled upon by the wayfarer. The spines ran
through the moccasins of the men and sorely wounded their feet.
Thus, under date of June twenty-fourth, the journal says
(It should be understood that the portage was worked from above
and below the rapids):--
"On going down yesterday Captain Clark cut off several angles
of the former route, so as to shorten the portage considerably,
and marked it with stakes. He arrived there in time to have two
of the canoes carried up in the high plain, about a mile in advance.
Here they all repaired their moccasins, and put on double soles to protect
them from the prickly pear, and from the sharp points of earth which have
been formed by the trampling of the buffalo during the late rains.
This of itself is sufficient to render the portage disagreeable
to one who has no burden; but as the men are loaded as heavily
as their strength will permit, the crossing is really painful.
Some are limping with the soreness of their feet; others are scarcely
able to stand for more than a few minutes, from the heat and fatigue.
They are all obliged to halt and rest frequently; at almost every
stopping-place they fall, and many of them are asleep in an instant;
yet no one complains, and they go on with great cheerfulness.
At the camp, midway in the portage, Drewyer and Fields joined them;
for, while Captain Lewis was looking for them at Medicine River,
they returned to report the absence of Shannon, about whom they had
been very uneasy. They had killed several buffalo at the bend of
the Missouri above the falls, dried about eight hundred pounds of meat,
and got one hundred pounds of tallow; they had also killed some deer,
but had seen no elk."
Under this date, too, Captain Lewis, who was with another branch
of the expedition, makes this note: "Such as were able to shake
a foot amused themselves in dancing on the green to the music
of the violin which Cruzatte plays extremely well."
The journal continues:--
"We were now occupied [at White Bear camp] in fitting up a boat of skins,
the frame of which had been prepared for the purpose at Harper's Ferry
in Virginia. It was made of iron, thirty-six feet long, four and
one-half feet in the beam, and twenty-six inches wide in the bottom.
Two men had been sent this morning for timber to complete it,
but they could find scarcely any even tolerably straight sticks four
and one-half feet long; and as the cottonwood is too soft and brittle,
we were obliged to use willow and box-elder."
On the twenty-seventh, the main party, which was working on the upper
part of the portage, joined that of Captain Clark at the lower camp,
where a second cache, or place of deposit, had been formed,
and where the boat-swivel was now hidden under the rocks.
The journal says:--
"The party were employed in preparing timber for the boat, except two
who were sent to hunt. About one in the afternoon a cloud arose from
the southwest, and brought with it violent thunder, lightning, and hail.
Soon after it passed, the hunters came in, from about four miles above us.
They had killed nine elk and three bears. As they were hunting on
the river they saw a low ground covered with thick brushwood, where from
the tracks along shore they thought a bear had probably taken refuge.
They therefore landed, without making a noise, and climbed a tree
about twenty feet above the ground. Having fixed themselves securely,
they raised a loud shout, and a bear instantly rushed toward them.
These animals never climb, and therefore when he came to the tree and stopped
to look at them, Drewyer shot him in the head. He proved to be the largest
we had yet seen; his nose appeared to be like that of a common ox;
his fore feet measured nine inches across; the hind feet were seven
inches wide and eleven and three quarters long, exclusive of the talons.
One of these animals came within thirty yards of the camp last night,
and carried off some buffalo-meat which we had placed on a pole."
The party were very much annoyed here by the grizzlies
which infested their camp at night. Their faithful dog
always gave warning of the approach of one of these monsters;
but the men were obliged to sleep with their guns by their side,
ready to repel the enemy at a moment's notice.
Captain Clark finally broke up the camp on Portage Creek, June 28, having
deposited in his cache whatever could be left behind without inconvenience.
"On the following day," the journal says:--
"Finding it impossible to reach the upper end of the portage
with the present load, in consequence of the state of the road
after the rain, he sent back nearly all his party to bring
on the articles which had been left yesterday. Having lost
some notes and remarks which he had made on first ascending
the river, he determined to go up to the Whitebear Islands
along its banks, in order to supply the deficiency.
He there left one man to guard the baggage, and went on to the falls,
accompanied by his servant York, Chaboneau, and his wife
with her young child.
"On his arrival there he observed a very dark cloud rising in the west,
which threatened rain, and looked around for some shelter;
but could find no place where the party would be secure
from being blown into the river, if the wind should prove
as violent as it sometimes does in the plains. At length,
about a quarter of a mile above the falls, he found a deep ravine,
where there were some shelving rocks, under which he took refuge.
They were on the upper side of the ravine near the river,
perfectly safe from the rain, and therefore laid down their guns,
compass, and other articles which they carried with them.
The shower was at first moderate; it then increased
to a heavy rain, the effects of which they did not feel;
but soon after, a torrent of rain and hail descended.
The rain seemed to fall in a solid mass, and instantly,
collecting in the ravine, came rolling down in a dreadful current,
carrying the mud, rocks, and everything that opposed it.
Captain Clark fortunately saw it a moment before it reached them,
and springing up with his gun and shot-pouch in his left hand,
with his right clambered up the steep bluff, pushing on the Indian
woman with her child in her arms; her husband too had seized
her hand and was pulling her tip the hill, but he was so
terrified at the danger that he remained frequently motionless;
and but for Captain Clark, himself and his wife and child would
have been lost. So instantaneous was the rise of the water that,
before Captain Clark had reached his gun and begun to ascend the bank,
the water was up to his waist, and he could scarcely get up
faster than it rose, till it reached the height of fifteen feet,
with a furious current which, had they waited a moment longer,
would have swept them into the river just above the Great Falls,
down which they must inevitably have been precipitated.
They reached the plain in safety and found York, who had
separated from them just before the storm to hunt some buffalo,
and was now returning to find his master. They had been obliged
to escape so rapidly that Captain Clark lost his compass
[that is, circumferentor] and umbrella, Chaboneau left his gun,
with Captain Lewis' wiping-rod, shot-pouch, and tomahawk,
and the Indian woman had just time to grasp her child,
before the net in which it lay at her feet was carried
down the current."
Such a storm is known in the West as a cloud-burst. Overland emigrants in
the early rush to California often suffered loss from these sudden deluges.
A party of men, with wagons and animals, have been known to be swept away
and lost in a flood bursting in a narrow canyon in the mountains.
"Captain Clark now relinquished his intention of going up the river,
and returned to the camp at Willow Run. Here he found that
the party sent this morning for the baggage had all returned
to camp in great confusion, leaving their loads in the plain.
On account of the heat, they generally go nearly naked, and with no
covering on their heads. The hail was so large, and driven so furiously
against them by the high wind, that it knocked several of them down:
one of them, particularly, was thrown on the ground three times, and most
of them were bleeding freely, and complained of being much bruised.
Willow Run had risen six feet since the rain; and, as the plains
were so wet that they could not proceed, they passed the night
at their camp.
"At the White Bear camp, also," (says Lewis), "we had not been
insensible to the hailstorm, though less exposed. In the morning
there had been a heavy shower of rain, after which it became fair.
After assigning to the men their respective employments,
Captain Lewis took one of them, and went to see the large fountain
near the falls. . . . It is, perhaps, the largest in America,
and is situated in a pleasant level plain, about twenty-five yards
from the river, into which it falls over some steep, irregular rocks,
with a sudden ascent of about six feet in one part of its course.
The water boils up from among the rocks, and with such force near
the centre that the surface seems higher there than the earth on
the sides of the fountain, which is a handsome turf of fine green grass.
The water is extremely pure, cold, and pleasant to the taste,
not being impregnated with lime or any foreign substance.
It is perfectly transparent, and continues its bluish cast for half
a mile down the Missouri, notwithstanding the rapidity of the river.
After examining it for some time, Captain Lewis returned to the camp.
. . . "Two men were sent [June 30] to the falls to look for the
articles lost yesterday; but they found nothing but the compass,
covered with mud and sand, at the mouth of the ravine. The place at which
Captain Clark had been caught by the storm was filled with large rocks.
The men complain much of the bruises received yesterday from the hail.
A more than usual number of buffalo appeared about the camp to-day,
and furnished plenty of meat. Captain Clark thought that at one view
he must have seen at least ten thousand."
Of the party at the upper camp, opposite White Bear Islands,
the journal makes this observation:--
"The party continues to be occupied with the boat, the cross-bars
for which are now finished, and there remain only the strips
to complete the woodwork. The skins necessary to cover it have
already been prepared; they amount to twenty-eight elk-skins
and four buffalo-skins. Among our game were two beaver, which we
have had occasion to observe are found wherever there is timber.
We also killed a large bull-bat or goatsucker, of which there
are many in this neighborhood, resembling in every respect
those of the same species in the United States. We have not
seen the leather-winged bat for some time, nor are there any
of the small goatsucker in this part of the Missouri. We have
not seen that species of goatsucker called the whippoorwill,
which is commonly confounded in the United States with the large
goatsucker which we observe here. This last prepares no nest,
but lays its eggs on the open plains; they generally begin to sit
on two eggs, and we believe raise only one brood in a season;
at the present moment they are just hatching their young."
Dr. Coues says that we should bear in mind that this was written
"when bats were birds and whales were fishes for most persons."
The journal confounds bats, which are winged mammals, with goatsuckers,
or whippoorwills, which are birds.
The second of July was an interesting date for the explorers.
On that day we find the following entry in their journal:--
"A shower of rain fell very early this morning. We then
despatched some men for the baggage left behind yesterday,
and the rest were engaged in putting the boat together.
This was accomplished in about three hours, and then we began
to sew on the leather over the crossbars of iron on the inner
side of the boat which form the ends of the sections.
By two o'clock the last of the baggage arrived, to the great
delight of the party, who were anxious to proceed.
The mosquitoes we find very troublesome.
"Having completed our celestial observations, we went over to the large
island to make an attack upon its inhabitants, the bears, which have annoyed
us very much of late, and were prowling about our camp all last night.
We found that the part of the island frequented by the bears
forms an almost impenetrable thicket of the broad-leaved willow.
Into this we forced our way in parties of three; but could see only
one bear, which instantly attacked Drewyer. Fortunately, as he was
rushing on, the hunter shot him through the heart within twenty
paces and he fell, which enabled Drewyer to get out of his way.
We then followed him one hundred yards, and found that the wound
had been mortal.
"Not being able to discover any more of these animals, we returned
to camp. Here, in turning over some of the baggage, we caught a rat
somewhat larger than the common European rat, and of a lighter color;
the body and outer parts of the legs and head of a light lead color;
the inner side of the legs, as well as the belly, feet, and ears, white;
the ears are not covered with hair, and are much larger than those of
the common rat; the toes also are longer; the eyes are black and prominent,
the whiskers very long and full; the tail is rather longer than the body,
and covered with fine fur and hair of the same size with that on
the back, which is very close, short, and silky in its texture.
This was the first we had met, although its nests are very frequent
in the cliffs of rocks and hollow trees, where we also found large
quantities of the shells and seed of the prickly-pear."
The queer rat discovered by Lewis and Clark was then unknown to science.
It is now known in the Far West as the pack-rat. It lives in holes and
crevices of the rocks, and it subsists on the shells and seeds of the prickly
pear, which is usually abundant in the hunting grounds of the little animal.
The explorers were now constantly in full view of the Rocky Mountain,
on which, however, their present title had not then been conferred.
Under date of July 2, the journal says:--
"The mosquitoes are uncommonly troublesome. The wind was again high
from the southwest. These winds are in fact always the coldest
and most violent which we experience, and the hypothesis which we
have formed on that subject is, that the air, coming in contact
with the Snowy Mountains, immediately becomes chilled and condensed,
and being thus rendered heavier than the air below, it descends
into the rarefied air below, or into the vacuum formed by
the constant action of the sun on the open unsheltered plains.
The clouds rise suddenly near these mountains, and distribute
their contents partially over the neighboring plains.
The same cloud will discharge hail alone in one part, hail and
rain in another, and rain only in a third, all within the space
of a few miles; while at the same time there is snow falling
on the mountains to the southeast of us. There is at present no
snow on those mountains; that which covered them on our arrival,
as well as that which has since fallen, having disappeared.
The mountains to the north and northwest of us are still entirely
covered with snow; indeed, there has been no perceptible
diminution of it since we first saw them, which induces
a belief either that the clouds prevailing at this season do
not reach their summits or that they deposit their snow only.
They glisten with great beauty when the sun shines on them
in a particular direction, and most probably from this glittering
appearance have derived the name of the Shining Mountains."
A mysterious noise, heard by the party, here engaged their attention,
as it did years afterwards the attention of other explorers.
The journal says:--
"Since our arrival at the falls we have repeatedly heard a strange noise
coming from the mountains in a direction a little to the north of west.
It is heard at different periods of the day and night (sometimes when the air
is perfectly still and without a cloud), and consists of one stroke only,
or of five or six discharges in quick succession. It is loud, and resembles
precisely the sound of a six-pound piece of ordnance at the distance of
three miles. The Minnetarees frequently mentioned this noise, like thunder,
which they said the mountains made; but we had paid no attention to it,
believing it to have been some superstition, or perhaps a falsehood.
The watermen also of the party say that the Pawnees and Ricaras give the same
account of a noise heard in the Black Mountains to the westward of them.
The solution of the mystery given by the philosophy of the watermen is,
that it is occasioned by the bursting of the rich mines of silver confined
within the bosom of the mountains."
Of these strange noises there are many explanations, the most plausible
being that they are caused by the explosion of the species of stone known
as the geode, fragments of which are frequently found among the mountains.
The geode has a hollow cell within, lined with beautiful crystals
of many colors.
Independence Day, 1805, was celebrated with becoming patriotism
and cheerfulness by these far-wandering adventurers.
Their record says:--
"An elk and a beaver are all that were killed to-day;
the buffalo seem to have withdrawn from our neighborhood,
though several of the men, who went to-day to visit the falls for
the first time, mention that they are still abundant at that place.
We contrived, however, to spread not a very sumptuous but a
comfortable table in honor of the day, and in the evening gave
the men a drink of spirits, which was the last of our stock.
Some of them appeared sensible to the effects of even so small
a quantity; and as is usual among them on all festivals,
the fiddle was produced and a dance begun, which lasted till nine
o'clock, when it was interrupted by a heavy shower of rain.
They continued their merriment, however, till a late hour."
Their bill-of-fare, according to Captain Lewis, was bacon, beans,
suet dumplings, and buffalo meat, which, he says, "gave them no just
cause to covet the sumptuous feasts of our countrymen on this day."
More than a year passed before they again saw and tasted spirits.
Great expectations were entertained of the boat that was built here on
the iron frame brought all the way from Harper's Ferry, Virginia. The frame
was covered with dressed skins of buffalo and elk, the seams being coated with
a composition of powdered charcoal and beeswax, in default of tar or pitch.
This craft was well named the "Experiment," and a disappointing experiment
it proved to be. Here is Captain Lewis' account of her failure:
"The boat having now become sufficiently dry, we gave her a coat
of the composition, which after a proper interval was repeated,
and the next morning, Tuesday, July 9th, she was launched into the water,
and swam perfectly well. The seats were then fixed and the oars fitted;
but after we had loaded her, as well as the canoes, and were on the point
of setting out, a violent wind caused the waves to wet the baggage,
so that we were forced to unload the boats. The wind continued
high until evening, when to our great disappointment we discovered
that nearly all the composition had separated from the skins and left
the seams perfectly exposed; so that the boat now leaked very much.
To repair this misfortune without pitch is impossible, and as none of that
article is to be procured, we therefore, however reluctantly, are obliged
to abandon her, after having had so much labor in the construction.
We now saw that the section of the boat covered with buffalo-skins
on which hair had been left answered better than the elk-skins,
and leaked but little; while that part which was covered with hair
about one-eighth of an inch retained the composition perfectly,
and remained sound and dry. From this we perceived that had we employed
buffalo instead of elk skins, not singed them so closely as we did,
and carefully avoided cutting the leather in sewing, the boat would
have been sufficient even with the present composition; or had we
singed instead of shaving the elk-skins, we might have succeeded.
But we discovered our error too late; the buffalo had deserted us,
and the travelling season was so fast advancing that we had no time
to spare for experiments; therefore, finding that she could be no
longer useful, she was sunk in the water, so as to soften the skins,
and enable us the more easily to take her to pieces.
"It now became necessary to provide other means for transporting
the baggage which we had intended to stow in her.
For this purpose we shall want two more canoes; but for many miles--
from below the mouth of the Musselshell River to this place--
we have not seen a single tree fit to be used in that way.
The hunters, however, who have hitherto been sent after timber,
mention that there is a low ground on the opposite side of the river,
about eight miles above us by land, and more than twice that
distance by water, in which we may probably find trees large
enough for our purposes. Captain Clark determined, therefore,
to set out by land for that place with ten of the best workmen,
who would be occupied in building the canoes till the rest
of the party, after taking the boat to pieces, and making
the necessary deposits, should transport the baggage, and join
them with the other six canoes.
"He accordingly passed over to the opposite side of the river
with his party next day, and proceeded on eight miles by land,
the distance by water being twenty-three and three quarter miles.
Here he found two cottonwood trees; but, on cutting them down,
one proved to be hollow, split at the top in falling, and both
were much damaged at the bottom. He searched the neighborhood,
but could find none which would suit better, and therefore
was obliged to make use of those which he had felled,
shortening them in order to avoid the cracks, and supplying
the deficiency by making them as wide as possible.
They were equally at a loss for wood of which they might make
handles for their axes, the eyes of which not being round,
they were obliged to split the timber in such a manner
that thirteen of the handles broke in the course of the day,
though made of the best wood they could find for the purpose,
which was the chokecherry.
"The rest of the party took the frame of the boat to pieces,
deposited it in a cache or hole, with a draught of the country
from Fort Mandan to this place, and also some other papers
and small articles of less importance."
High winds prevented the party from making rapid progress,
and notwithstanding the winds they were greatly troubled with mosquitoes.
Lest the reader should think the explorers too sensitive on the subject
of these troublesome pests, it should be said that only western travellers
can realize the numbers and venom of the mosquitoes of that region.
Early emigrants across the continent were so afflicted by these
insects that the air at times seemed full of gray clouds of them.
It was the custom of the wayfarers to build a "smudge," as it
was called, a low, smouldering fire of green boughs and brush,
the dense smoke from which (almost as annoying as the mosquitoes)
would drive off their persecutors as long, as the victims sat in the smoke.
The sleeping tent was usually cleared in this way before "turning in"
at night, every opening of the canvas being afterwards closed.
Captain Lewis, on the thirteenth of July, followed Captain Clark up
the river; crossing the stream to the north bank, with his six canoes
and all his baggage, he overtook the other party on the same day
and found them all engaged in boat-building.
"On his way he passed a very large Indian lodge, which was probably
designed as a great council-house; but it differed in its construction
from all that we had seen, lower down the Missouri or elsewhere.
The form of it was a circle two hundred and sixteen feet in circumference
at the base; it was composed of sixteen large cottonwood poles about
fifty feet long and at their thicker ends, which touched the ground,
about the size of a man's body. They were distributed at equal distances,
except that one was omitted to the cast, probably for the entrance.
From the circumference of this circle the poles converged toward the centre,
where they were united and secured by large withes of willow-brush. There
was no covering over this fabric, in the centre of which were the remains
of a large fire, and around it the marks of about eighty leathern lodges.
He also saw a number of turtle-doves, and some pigeons, of which he shot one,
differing in no respect from the wild pigeon of the United States.
. . . . . . . . .
The buffalo have not yet quite gone, for the hunters brought in three,
in very good order. It requires some diligence to supply us plentifully,
for as we reserve our parched meal for the Rocky Mountains,
where we do not expect to find much game, our principal article
of food is meat, and the consumption of the whole thirty-two persons
belonging to the party amounts to four deer, an elk and a deer,
or one buffalo, every twenty-four hours. The mosquitoes and gnats
persecute us as violently as below, so that we can get no sleep
unless defended by biers [nets], with which we are all provided.
We here found several plants hitherto unknown to us, of which
we preserved specimens."
On the fourteenth of July, the boats were finally launched,
and next day the journal records this important event:
"We rose early, embarked all our baggage on board the canoes, which,
though eight in number, are heavily loaded, and at ten o'clock
set out on our journey. . . . At the distance of seven and a half
miles we came to the lower point of a woodland, at the entrance
of a beautiful river, which, in honor of the Secretary of the Navy,
we called Smith's River. This stream falls into a bend on
the south side of the Missouri, and is eighty yards wide.
As far as we could discern its course, it wound through a charming
valley towards the southeast, in which many herds of buffalo
were feeding, till, at the distance of twenty-five miles,
it entered the Rocky Mountains and was lost from our view. . . .
"We find the prickly pear, one of the greatest beauties as well
as greatest inconveniences of the plains, now in full bloom.
The sunflower, too, a plant common on every part of the Missouri
from its entrance to this place, is here very abundant, and in bloom.
The lamb's-quarter, wild cucumber, sand-rush, and narrow dock,
are also common."
The journal here records the fact that the great river had now become
so crooked that it was expedient to note only its general course,
leaving out all description of its turns and windings.
The Missouri was now flowing due north, leaving its bends out of account,
and the explorers, ascending the river, were therefore travelling south;
and although the journal sets forth "the north bank" and "the
south bank," it should be understood that west is meant by the one,
and east by the other. Buffalo were observed in great numbers.
Many obstacles to navigating the river were encountered.
Under date of July 17, the journal says:
"The navigation is now very laborious. The river is deep,
but with little current, and from seventy to one hundred yards wide;
the low grounds are very narrow, with but little timber, and that chiefly
the aspen tree. The cliffs are steep, and hang over the river so much
that often we could not cross them, but were obliged to pass and repass
from one side of the river to the other, in order to make our way.
In some places the banks are formed of dark or black granite rising
perpendicularly to a great height, through which the river seems,
in the progress of time, to have worn its channel. On these mountains
we see more pine than usual, but it is still in small quantities.
Along the bottoms, which have a covering of high grass, we observed
the sunflower blooming in great abundance. The Indians of the Missouri,
more especially those who do not cultivate maize, make great use of the seed
of this plant for bread, or in thickening their soup. They first parch
and then pound it between two stones, until it is reduced to a fine meal.
Sometimes they add a portion of water, and drink it thus diluted;
at other times they add a sufficient proportion of marrow-grease to reduce
it to the consistency of common dough, and eat it in that manner.
This last composition we preferred to all the rest, and thought it
at that time a very palatable dish."
They also feasted on a great variety of wild berries, purple, yellow,
and black currants, which were delicious and more pleasant to the palate than
those grown in their Virginia home-gardens; also service-berries, popularly
known to later emigrants as "sarvice-berries." These grow on small bushes,
two or three feet high; and the fruit is purple-skinned, with a white pulp,
resembling a ripe gooseberry.
The journal, next day, has the following entry:--
"This morning early, before our departure, we saw a large
herd of the big-horned animals, which were bounding among
the rocks on the opposite cliff with great agility.
These inaccessible spots secure them from all their enemies,
and their only danger is in wandering among these precipices,
where we would suppose it scarcely possible for any animal to stand;
a single false step would precipitate them at least five hundred
feet into the water.
"At one and one fourth miles we passed another single cliff on the left;
at the same distance beyond which is the mouth of a large river
emptying from the north. It is a handsome, bold, and clear stream,
eighty yards wide--that is, nearly as broad as the Missouri--with a
rapid current, over a bed of small smooth stones of various figures.
The water is extremely transparent; the low grounds are narrow,
but possess as much wood as those of the Missouri. The river has
every appearance of being navigable, though to what distance we
cannot ascertain, as the country which it waters is broken and mountainous.
In honor of the Secretary of War we called it Dearborn's River."
General Henry Dearborn, who was then Secretary of War,
in Jefferson's administration, gave his name, a few years later,
to a collection of camps and log-cabins on Lake Michigan;
and in due time Fort Dearborn became the great city
of Chicago. Continuing, the journal says:
"Being now very anxious to meet with the Shoshonees or Snake Indians,
for the purpose of obtaining the necessary information of our route,
as well as to procure horses, it was thought best for one of us
to go forward with a small party and endeavor to discover them,
before the daily discharge of our guns, which is necessary
for our subsistence, should give them notice of our approach.
If by an accident they hear us, they will most probably retreat
to the mountains, mistaking us for their enemies, who usually
attack them on this side." . . . . . . . . .
Captain Clark was now in the lead with a small party,
and he came upon the remains of several Indian camps formed
of willow-brush, Traces of Indians became more plentiful.
The journal adds:--
"At the same time Captain Clark observed that the pine trees
had been stripped of their bark about the same season,
which our Indian woman says her countrymen do in order to obtain
the sap and the soft parts of the wood and bark for food.
About eleven o'clock he met a herd of elk and killed two of them;
but such was the want of wood in the neighborhood that he was unable
to procure enough to make a fire, and was therefore obliged to substitute
the dung of the buffalo, with which he cooked his breakfast.
They then resumed their course along an old Indian road.
In the afternoon they reached a handsome valley, watered by a large creek,
both of which extended a considerable distance into the mountain.
This they crossed, and during the evening travelled over a mountainous
country covered with sharp fragments of flint rock; these bruised
and cut their feet very much, but were scarcely less troublesome
than the prickly-pear of the open plains, which have now become
so abundant that it is impossible to avoid them, and the thorns
are so strong that they pierce a double sole of dressed deer-skin;
the best resource against them is a sole of buffalo-hide in
parchment [that is, hard dried]. At night they reached the river
much fatigued, having passed two mountains in the course of the day,
and travelled thirty miles. Captain Clark's first employment,
on lighting a fire, was to extract from his feet the thorns,
which he found seventeen in number."
The dung of the buffalo, exposed for many years to the action of sun,
wind, and rain, became as dry and firm as the finest compressed hay.
As "buffalo chips," in these treeless regions, it was the overland emigrants'
sole dependence for fuel.
The explorers now approached a wonderful pass in the Rocky Mountains
which their journal thus describes:
"A mile and a half beyond this creek [Cottonwood Creek] the rocks approach
the river on both sides, forming a most sublime and extraordinary spectacle.
For five and three quarter miles these rocks rise perpendicularly
from the water's edge to the height of nearly twelve hundred feet.
They are composed of a black granite near their base, but from the lighter
color above, and from the fragments, we suppose the upper part to be flint
of a yellowish brown and cream color.
"Nothing can be imagined more tremendous than the frowning darkness of
these rocks, which project over the river and menace us with destruction.
The river, one hundred and fifty yards in width, seems to have forced
its channel down this solid mass; but so reluctantly has it given way,
that during the whole distance the water is very deep even at the edges,
and for the first three miles there is not a spot, except one of a few yards,
in which a man could stand between the water and the towering perpendicular
of the mountain. The convulsion of the passage must have been terrible,
since at its outlet there are vast columns of rock torn from the mountain,
which are strewed on both sides of the river, the trophies, as it were,
of its victory. Several fine springs burst out from the chasms of the rock,
and contribute to increase the river, which has a strong current,
but, very fortunately, we were able to overcome it with our oars,
since it would have been impossible to use either the cord or the pole.
We were obliged to go on some time after dark, not being able to find
a spot large enough to encamp on; but at length, about two miles above
a small island in the middle of the river, we met with a place on
the left side, where we procured plenty of light wood and pitch pine.
This extraordinary range of rocks we called the Gates of the Rocky Mountains."
Some of Captain Clark's men, engaged in hunting, gave the alarm
to roving bands of Shoshonee Indians, hunting in that vicinity.
The noise of their guns attracted the attention of the Indians,
who, having set fire to the grass as a warning to their comrades,
fled to the mountains. The whole country soon appeared to have
taken fright, and great clouds of smoke were observed in all directions.
Falling into an old Indian trail, Captain Clark waited, with his weary
and footsore men, for the rest of the party to come up with them.
The explorers had now passed south, between the Big Belt range of mountains
on the cast and the main chain of the Rocky Mountains on the west.
Meagher County, Montana, now lies on the cast of their trail, and on the west
side of that route is the county of Lewis and Clark. They were now--
still travelling southward--approaching the ultimate sources of the
great Missouri. The journal says:--
"We are delighted to find that the Indian woman recognizes the country;
she tells us that to this creek her countrymen make excursions
to procure white paint on its banks, and we therefore call it
Whiteearth Creek. She says also that the Three Forks of the Missouri
are at no great distance--a piece of intelligence which has cheered
the spirits of us all, as we hope soon to reach the head of that river.
This is the warmest day, except one, we have experienced this summer.
In the shade the mercury stood at eighty degrees, which is
the second time it has reached that height during this season.
We camped on an island, after making nineteen and three quarters miles.
"In the course of the day we saw many geese, cranes, small birds
common to the plains, and a few pheasants. We also observed
a small plover or curlew of a brown color, about the size of a
yellow-legged plover or jack-curlew, but of a different species.
It first appeared near the mouth of Smith's River,
but is so shy and vigilant that we were unable to shoot it.
Both the broad and narrow-leaved willow continue, though the sweet
willow has become very scarce. The rosebush, small honeysuckle,
pulpy-leaved thorn, southernwood, sage, box-elder, narrow-leaved
cottonwood, redwood, and a species of sumach, are all abundant.
So, too, are the red and black gooseberries, service-berry,
choke-cherry, and the black, yellow, red, and purple currants,
which last seems to be a favorite food of the bear.
Before camping we landed and took on board Captain Clark,
with the meat he had collected during this day's hunt,
which consisted of one deer and an elk; we had, ourselves, shot a
deer and an antelope."
The party found quantities of wild onions of good flavor and size.
They also observed wild flax, garlic, and other vegetable products of value.
The journal adds:--
"We saw many otter and beaver to-day [July 24th]. The latter seem
to contribute very much to the number of islands, and the widening
of the river. They begin by damming up the small channels of about
twenty yards between the islands: this obliges the river to seek
another outlet, and, as soon as this is effected, the channel stopped
by the beaver becomes filled with mud and sand. The industrious animal
is then driven to another channel, which soon shares the same fate,
till the river spreads on all sides, and cuts the projecting points
of the land into islands. We killed a deer, and saw great numbers
of antelopes, cranes, some geese, and a few red-headed ducks.
The small birds of the plains and the curlew are still abundant:
we saw a large bear, but could not come within gunshot of him.
There are numerous tracks of the elk, but none of the animals themselves;
and, from the appearance of bones and old excrement, we suppose that
buffalo sometimes stray into the valley, though we have as yet seen no
recent sign of them. Along the water are a number of snakes, some of a
uniform brown color, others black, and a third speckled on the abdomen,
and striped with black and a brownish yellow on the back and sides.
The first, which is the largest, is about four feet long; the second
is of the kind mentioned yesterday; and the third resembles in size
and appearance the garter-snake of the United States. On examining
the teeth of all these several kinds, we found them free from poison:
they are fond of the water, in which they take shelter on being pursued.
The mosquitoes, gnats, and prickly pear, our three persecutors,
still continue with us, and, joined with the labor of working the canoes,
have fatigued us all excessively."
On Thursday, July 25, Captain Clark, who was in the lead, as usual,
arrived at the famous Three Forks of the Missouri. The stream
flowing in a generally northeastern direction was the true,
or principal Missouri, and was named the Jefferson. The middle
branch was named the Madison, in honor of James Madison,
then Secretary of State, and the fork next to the eastward received
the name of Albert Gallatin, then Secretary of the Treasury;
and by these titles the streams are known to this day.
The explorers had now passed down to their furthest southern limit,
their trail being to the eastward of the modern cities
of Helena and Butte, and separated only by a narrow divide
(then unknown to them) from the sources of some of the streams
that fall into the Pacific Ocean. Under the date of July 27,
the journal says:--
"We are now very anxious to see the Snake Indians. After advancing
for several hundred miles into this wild and mountainous country,
we may soon expect that the game will abandon us. With no information
of the route, we may be unable to find a passage across the mountains
when we reach the head of the river--at least, such a pass as will lead
us to the Columbia. Even are we so fortunate as to find a branch
of that river, the timber which we have hitherto seen in these mountains
does not promise us any fit to make canoes, so that our chief
dependence is on meeting some tribe from whom we may procure horses.
Our consolation is that this southwest branch can scarcely head with
any other river than the Columbia; and that if any nation of Indians
can live in the mountains we are able to endure as much as they can,
and have even better means of procuring subsistence."
At the Sources of the Missouri
The explorers were now (in the last days of July, 1805) at the head
of the principal sources of the great Missouri River, in the fastnesses
of the Rocky Mountains, at the base of the narrow divide that separates
Idaho from Montana in its southern corner. Just across this divide
are the springs that feed streams falling into the majestic Columbia
and then to the Pacific Ocean. As has been already set forth, they named
the Three Forks for President Jefferson and members of his cabinet.
These names still survive, although Jefferson River is the true Missouri
and not a fork of that stream. Upon the forks of the Jefferson Lewis
bestowed the titles of Philosophy, Wisdom, and Philanthropy,
each of these gifts and graces being, in his opinion, "an attribute
of that illustrious personage, Thomas Jefferson," then President of the
United States. But alas for the fleeting greatness of geographical honor!