The Journals of Lewis & Clark: September 17, 1804

Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff
by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
September 16, 1804
September 18, 1804

September 17, 1804

Monday September 17th

Having for many days past confined myself to the boat, I determined to devote this day to amuse myself on shore with my gun and view the interior of the country lying between the river and the Corvus Creek- accordingly before sunrise I set out with six of my best hunters, two of whom I dispatched to the lower side of Corvus creek, two with orders to hunt the bottoms and woodland on the river, while I retained two others to acompany me in the intermediate country. one quarter of a mile in rear of our camp which was situated in a fine open grove of cotton wood passed a grove of plumb trees loaded with fruit and now ripe. observed but little difference between this fruit and that of a similar kind common to the Atlantic States. the trees are smaller and more thickly set. this forrest of plumb trees garnish a plain about 20 feet more lelivated than that on which we were encamped; this plain extends back about a mile to the foot of the hills one mile distant and to which it is gradually ascending this plane extends with the same bredth from the creek below to the distance of near three miles above parrallel with the river, and is intirely occupyed by the burrows of the barking squril hertefore discribed; this anamal appears here in infinite numbers, and the shortness and virdue of grass gave the plain the appearance throughout it's whole extent of beatifull bowlinggreen in fine order. it's aspect is S. E. a great number of wolves of the small kind, balks and some pole-cats were to be seen. I presume that those anamals feed on this squirril.- found the country in every direction for about three miles intersected with deep reveries and steep irregular hills of 100 to 200 feet high; at the tops of these hills the country breakes of as usual into a fine leavel plain extending as far as the eye can reach. from this plane I had an extensive view of the river below, and the irregular hills which border the opposite sides of the river and creek. the surrounding country had been birnt about a month before and young grass had now sprung up to hight of 4 Inches presenting the live green of the spring. to the West a high range of hills, strech across the country from N. to S and appeared distant about 20 miles; they are not very extensive as I could plainly observe their rise and termination no rock appeared on them and the sides were covered with virdue similar to that of the plains this senery already rich pleasing and beatiful, was still farther hightened by immence herds of Buffaloe deer Elk and Antelopes which we saw in every direction feeding on the hills and plains. I do not think I exagerate when I estimate the number of Buffaloe which could be compreed at one view to amount to 3000. my object was if possible to kill a female Antelope having already procured a male; I pursued my rout on this plain to the west flanked by my two hunters untill eight in the morning when I made the signal for them to come to me which they did shortly after. we rested our selves about half an hour, and regailed ourselves on half a bisquit each and some jirk of Elk which we had taken the precaution to put in our pouches in the morning before we set out, and drank of the water of a small pool which had collected on this plain from the rains which had fallen some days before. We had now after various windings in pursuit of several herds of antelopes which we had seen on our way made the distance of about eight miles from our camp. we found the Antelope extreemly shye and watchfull insomuch that we had been unable to get a shot at them; when at rest they generally seelect the most elivated point in the neighbourhood, and as they are watchfull and extreemly quick of sight and their sense of smelling very accute it is almost impossible to approach them within gunshot; in short they will frequently discover and flee from you at the distance of three miles. I had this day an opportunity of witnessing the agility and superior fleetness of this anamal which was to me really astonishing. I had pursued and twice surprised a small herd of seven, in the first instance they did not discover me distinctly and therefore did not run at full speed, tho they took care before they rested to gain an elivated point where it was impossible to approach them under cover except in one direction and that happened to be in the direction from which the wind blew towards them; bad as the chance to approach them was, I made the best of my way towards them, frequently peeping over the ridge with which I took care to conceal myself from their view the male, of which there was but one, frequently incircled the summit of the hill on which the females stood in a group, as if to look out for the approach of danger. I got within about 200 paces of them when they smelt me and fled; I gained the top of the eminece on which they stood, as soon as possible from whence I had an extensive view of the country the antilopes which had disappeared in a steep revesne now appeared at the distance of about three miles on the side of a ridge which passed obliquely across me and extended about four miles. so soon had these antelopes gained the distance at which they had again appeared to my view I doubted at ferst that they were the same that I had just surprised, but my doubts soon vanished when I beheld the rapidity of their flight along the ridge before me it appeared reather the rappid flight of birds than the motion of quadrupeds. I think I can safely venture the asscertion that the speed of this anamal is equal if not superior to that of the finest blooded courser.- this morning I saws

17th of Septr. Monday 1804 above White river Dried all those articles which had got wet by the last rain, a fine day Capt Lewis went hunting with a vew to seethe Countrey &its productions, he was out all Day Killed a Buffalow & a remarkable bird of the Spicies of Corvus, long tail of a Greenish Purple, Varigated a Beck like a Crow white round its neck comeing to a point on its back, its belley white feet like a Hawk abt. the size of a large Pigeon Capt Lewis returned at Dark. I took the Meridian & equal altitudes to day made the Lattitude.

Colter Killed a Goat, & a Curious kind of Deer, a Darker grey than Common the hair longer & finer, the ears verry large & long a Small resepitical under its eye its tail round and white to near the end which is black & like a Cow in every other respect like a Deer, except it runs like a goat. large.

The hunters brought in 8 fallow Deer & 5 Common Deer to day, Great numbers of Buffalow in the Praries, also a light Coloured woolf Covered with hair & corse fur, also a Small wolf with a large bushey tail- Some Goats of a Different Kind Seen to day,- Great many Plumbs, rabits, Porcupines & barking Squrels, Capt Lewis Killed a rattle Snake in a village of the Squirel's and Saw a Hair to day. Wind from the S. W. we finished Drying our Provisions Some of which was wet and Spoiled,

17th of September Monday 1804

Dried all our wet articles this fine Day, Capt Lewis went out with a View to see the Countrey and its productions, he was out all day he killed a Buffalow and a remarkable Bird of the Corvus Species long tail the upper part of the feathers & also the wing is of a purplish variated Green, the black, a part of the wing feather are white edjed with black, white belley, white from the root of the wings to Center of the back is white, the head nake breast & other parts are black the Becke like a Crow. abt. the Size of a large Pigion. a butifull thing (See Suplement in No. 3)

I took equal altitudes and a meridian altitude. Capt. Lewis returned at Dark, Colter Killed a Goat like the one I killed and a curious kind of deer of a Dark gray Colr. more so than common, hair long & fine, the ears large & long, a Small reseptical under the eyes; like an Elk, the Taile about the length of Common Deer, round (like a Cow) a tuft of black hair about the end, this Speces of Deer jumps like a goat or Sheep

8 fallow Deer 5 Common & 3 buffalow killed to day, Capt. Lewis Saw a hare & Killed a Rattle Snake in a village of B. squerels The wind from S. W. Dryed our provisions, Some of which was much Damaged.

Sept. 17th

one of the hunters killed a bird of the Corvus genus and order of the pica & about the size of a jack-daw with a remarkable long tale. beautifully variagated. it note is not disagreeable though loudit is twait twait twait, twait; twait, twait twait, twait.

F I from tip to tip of wing 1 10 Do. beak to extremity of tale 1 81/2 of which the tale occupys 1 1 from extremity of middle toe to hip 51/2

it's head, beak, and neck are large for a bird of it's size; the beak is black, and of a convex and cultrated figure, the chops nearly equal, and it's base large and beset with hairs- the eyes are black encircled with a narrow ring of yellowish black it's head, neck, brest & back within one inch of the tale are of a fine glossey black, as are also the short fathers of the under part of the wing, the thies and those about the root of the tale. the belly is of a beatifull white which passes above and arround the but of the wing, where the feathers being long reach to a small white spot on the rump one inch in width- the wings have nineteen feathers, of which the ten first have the longer side of their plumage white in the midde of the feather and occupying unequal lengths of the same from one to three inches, and forming when the wing is spead a kind of triangle the upper and lower part of these party coloured feathers on the under side of the wing being of dark colour but not jut or shining black. the under side of the remaining feathers of the wing are darker. the upper side of the wing, as well as the short side of the plumage of the party coloured feathers is of a dark blackis or bluish green sonetimes presenting as light orange yellow or bluish tint as it happens to be presented to different exposures of ligt- the plumage of the tale consits of 12 feathers of equal lengths by pairs, those in the center are the longest, and the others on each side deminishing about an inch each pair- the underside of the feathers is a pale black, the upper side is a dark bluefish green which like the outer part of the wings is changable as it reflects different portions of light. towards the the extremely of these feathers they become of an orrange green, then shaded pass to a redish indigo blue, and again at the extremity assume the predominant colour of changeable green- the tints of these feathers are very similar and equally as beatiful and rich as the tints of blue and green of the peacock- it is a most beatifull bird.- the legs and toes are black and imbricated. it has four long toes, three in front and one in rear, each terminated with a black sharp tallon from 3/8ths to 1/2 an inch in length.- these birds are seldom found in parties of more than three or four and most usually at this season single as the balks and other birds of prey usually are- it's usual food is flesh- this bird dose not spread it's tail when it flys and the motion of it's wings when flying is much like that of a Jay-bird-

The White turkey of the black hills from information of a french lad who wintered with the Chien Indians About the size of the common wild turkey the plumage perfectly white- this bird is booted as low as the toes-