The Journals of Lewis & Clark: Lewis, April 26, 1805
Lewis, April 26, 1805
Friday April 26th 1805.
This morning I dispatched Joseph Fields up the yellowstone river with orders to examine it as far as he could conveniently and return the same evening; two others were directed to bring in the meat we had killed last evening, while I proceeded down the river with one man in order to take a view of the confluence of this great river with the Missouri, which we found to be two miles distant on a direct line N. W. from our encampment. the bottom land on the lower side of the yellowstone river near it's mouth for about one mile in width appears to be subject to inundation; while that on the opposite side of the Missouri and the point formed by the junction of these rivers is of the common elivation, say from twelve to 18 feet above the level of the water, and of course not liable to be overflown except in extreem high water, which dose not appear to be very frequent there is more timber in the neighbourhood of the junction of these rivers, and on the Missouri as far below as the White earth river, than there is on any part of the Missouri above the entrance of the Chyenne river to this place. the timber consists principally of Cottonwood, with some small elm, ash and boxalder. the under growth on the sandbars and verge of the river is the small leafed willow; the low bottoms, rose bushes which rise to three or four feet high, the redburry, servicebury, and the redwood; the high bottoms are of two discriptions either timbered or open; the first lies next to the river and it's under brush is the same with that of the low timbered bottoms with the addition of the broad leafed willow, Goosbury, choke cherry, purple currant; and honeysuckle bushis; the open bottoms border on the hills, and are covered in many parts by the wild hyssop which rises to the hight of two feet. I observe that the Antelope, Buffaloe Elk and deer feed on this herb; the willow of the sandbars also furnish a favorite winter food to these anamals as well as the growse, the porcupine, hare, and rabbit. about 12 Olock I heard the discharge of several guns at the junction of the rivers, which announced to me the arrival of the paty with Capt Clark; I afterwards learnt that they had fired on some buffaloe which they met with at that place, and of which they killed a cow and several Calves; the latter are now fine veal. I dispatched one of the men to Capt Clark requesting him to send up a canoe to take down the meat we had killed and our baggage to his encampmt, which was accordingly complyed with. after I had completed my observations in the evening I walked down and joined the party at their encampment on the point of land fromed by the junction of the rivers; found them all in good health, and much pleased at having arrived at this long wished for spot, and in order to add in some measure to the general pleasure which seemed to pervade our little community, we ordered a dram to be issued to each person; this soon produced the fiddle, and they spent the evening with much hilarity, singing & dancing, and seemed as perfectly to forget their past toils, as they appeared regardless of those to come. in the evening, the man I had sent up the river this morning returned, and reported that he had ascended it about eight miles on a streight line; that he found it crooked, meandering from side to side of the valley formed by it; which is from four to five miles wide. the corrent of the river gentle, and it's bed much interrupted and broken by sandbars; at the distance of five miles he passed a large Island well covered with timber, and three miles higher a large creek falls in on the S. E. sides above a high bluff in which there are several stratas of coal. the country bordering on this river as far as he could percieve, like that of the Missouri, consisted of open plains. he saw several of the bighorned anamals in the couse of his walk; but they were so shy that he could not get a shoot at them; he found a large horn of one of these anamals which he brought with him. the bed of the yellowstone river is entirely composed of sand and mud, not a stone of any kind to be seen in it near it's entrance. Capt Clark measured these rivers just above their confluence; found the bed of the Missouri 520 yards wide, the water occupying 330. it's channel deep. the yellowstone river including it's sandbar, 858 yds. of which, the water occupyed 297 yards; the depest part 12 feet; it was falling at this time & appeard to be nearly at it's summer tide.- the Indians inform that the yellowstone river is navigable for perogues and canoes nearly to it's source in the Rocky Mountains, and that in it's course near these mountains it passes within less than half a day's march of a navigable part of the Missouri. it's extreem sources are adjacent to those of the Missouri, river platte, and I think probably with some of the South branch of the Columbia river. the first part of its course lies through a mountanous rocky country tho well timbered and in many parts fertile; the middle, and much the most extensive portion of the river lies through a delightfull rich and fertile country, well covered with timber, intersperced with plains and meadows, and well watered; it is some what broken in many parts. the lower portion consists of fertile open plains and meadows almost entirely, tho it possesses a considerable proportion of timber on it's borders. the current of the upper portion is extreemly rappid, that of the middle and lower portions much more gentle than the Missouri. the water of this river is turbid, tho dose not possess as much sediment as that of the Missouri. this river in it's course recieves the waters of many large tributary strains principally from the S. E. of which the most considerable are the Tongue and bighorn rivers the former is much the largest, and heads with the river Platte and Bighorn river, as dose the latter with the Tongue river and the river Platte.- a suficient quantity of limestone may be readily procured for building near the junction of the Missouri and yellowstone rivers. I could observe no regular stratas of it, tho it lies on the sides of the river hills in large irregular masses, in considerable quantities; it is of a light colour, and appears to be of an excellent quality.-