The Journals of Lewis & Clark: Lewis, May 8, 1805
Lewis, May 8, 1805
Wednesday May 8th 1805.
Set out at an early hour under a gentle brieze from the East. a black cloud which suddonly sprung up at S. E. soon over shaddowed the horizon; at 8 A.M. it gave us a slight sprinke of rain, the wind became much stronger but not so much so as to detain us. we nooned it just above the entrance of a large river which disimbogues on the Lard. side; I took the advantage of this leasure moment and examined the river about 3 miles; I found it generally 150 yards wide, and in some places 200. it is deep, gentle in it's courant and affords a large boddy of water; it's banks which are formed of a dark rich loam and blue clay are abbrupt and about 12 feet high. it's bed is principally mud. I have no doubt but it is navigable for boats perogues and canoes, for the latter probably a great distance. the bottoms of this stream ar wide, level, fertile and possess a considerable proportion of timber, principally Cottonwood. from the quantity of water furnised by this river it must water a large extent of country; perhaps this river also might furnish a practicable and advantageous communication with the Saskashiwan river; it is sufficiently large to justify a belief that it might reach to that river if it's direction be such. the water of this river possesses a peculiar whiteness, being about the colour of a cup of tea with the admixture of a tablespoonful) of milk. from the colour of it's water we called it Milk river. (we think it possible that this may be the river called by the Minitares the river which scoalds at all others or ____) Capt Clark who walked this morning on the Lard. shore ascended a very high point opposite to the mouth of this river; he informed me that he had a perfect view of this river and the country through which it passed for a great distance (probably 50 or 60 Miles,) that the country was level and beautifull on both sides of the river, with large herds of Buffaloe distributed throughout that the river from it's mouth boar N. W. for 12 or 15 Miles when it forked, the one taking a direction nearly North, and the other to the West of N. West. from the appearance of the vallies and the timber on each of these streams Capt. C. supposed that they were about the same size. great appearance of beaver on this river, and I have no doubt but what they continue abundant, there being plenty of cottonwood and willow, the timber on which they subsist. The country on the Lard. side of the river is generally high broken hills, with much broken, grey black and brown grannite scattered on the surface of the earth in a confused manner. The wild Licquorice is found on the sides of these hills, in great abundance. at a little distance from the river there is no timber to be seen on either side; the bottom lands are not more than one fifth covered with timber; the timber as below is confined to the borders of the river. in future it will be understood that there is no timber of any discription on the upland unless particularly mentioned; and also that one fifth of the bottom lands being covered with timber is considered a large proportion. The white apple is found in great abundance in this neighbourhood; it is confined to the highlands principally. The whiteapple, so called by the French Engages, is a plant which rises to the hight of 6 or 9 Inchs. rarely exceeding a foot; it puts forth from one to four and sometimes more stalks from the same root, but is most generally found with one only, which is branched but not defusely, is cylindric and villose; the leafstalks, cylindric, villose and very long compared with the hight of the plant, tho gradually diminish in length as they ascend, and are irregular in point of position; the leaf, digitate, from three to five in number, oval 1 Inch long, absolutely entire and cottony; the whole plant of a pale green, except the under disk of the leaf which is of a white colour from the cottony substance with which it is covered. the radix a tuberous bulb; generally ova formed, sometimes longer and more rarely partially divided or brancing; always attended with one or more radicles at it's lower extremity which sink from 4 to 6 inches deep. the bulb covered with a rough black, tough, thin rind which easily seperates from the bulb which is a fine white substance, somewhat porus, spungy and moist, and reather tough before it is dressed; the center of the bulb is penitrated with a small tough string or ligament, which passing from the bottom of the stem terminates in the extremity of the radicle, which last is also covered by a prolongation of the rind which invellopes the bulb. The bulb is usually found at the debth of 4 inches and frequently much deeper. This root forms a considerable article of food with the Indians of the Missouri, who for this purpose prepare them in several ways. they are esteemed good at all seasons of the year, but are best from the middle of July to the latter end of Autumn when they are sought and gathered by the provident part of the natives for their winter store. when collected they are striped of their rhind and strung on small throngs or chords and exposed to the sun or placed in the smoke of their fires to dry; when well dryed they will keep for several years, provided they are not permitted to become moist or damp; in this situation they usually pound them between two stones placed on a piece of parchment, untill they reduce it to a fine powder thus prepared they thicken their soope with it; sometimes they also boil these dryed roots with their meat without breaking them; when green they are generally boiled with their meat, sometimes mashing them or otherwise as they think proper. they also prepare an agreeable dish with them by boiling and mashing them and adding the marrow grease of the buffaloe and some buries, until the whole be of the consistency of a haisty pudding. they also eat this root roasted and frequently make hearty meals of it raw without sustaining any inconvenience or injury therefrom. The White or brown bear feed very much on this root, which their tallons assist them to procure very readily. the white apple appears to me to be a tastless insippid food of itself tho I have no doubt but it is a very healthy and moderately nutricious food. I have no doubt but our epicures would admire this root very much, it would serve them in their ragouts and gravies in stead of the truffles morella.
We saw a great number buffaloe, Elk, common and Black taled deer, goats beaver and wolves. Capt C. killed a beaver and a wolf, the party killed 3 beaver and a deer. We can send out at any time and obtain whatever species of meat the country affords in as large quantity as we wish. we saw where an Indian had recently grained, or taken the hair off of a goatskin; we do not wish to see those gentlemen just now as we presume they would most probably be the Assinniboins and might be troublesome to us. Capt C. could not be certain but thought he saw the smoke and some Indian lodges at a considrable distance up Milk river.