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 Here the hills on the north, which had withdrawn from the bank, closely border the river, which, for the space of three hundred and twenty poles, makes its way over the rocks, with a descent of thirty feet.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."