The Journals of Lewis & Clark: Lewis, July 27, 1805

Lewis, July 27, 1805

Saturday July 27th 1805.

We set out at an early hour and proceeded on but slowly the current still so rapid that the men are in a continual state of their utmost exertion to get on, and they begin to weaken fast from this continual state of violent exertion. at the distance of 13/4 miles the river was again closely hemned in by high Clifts of a solid limestone rock which appear to have tumbled or sunk in the same manner of those discribed yesterday. the limestone appears to be of an excellent quality of deep blue colour when fractured and of a light led colour where exposed to the weather. it appears to be of a very fine grain the fracture like that of marble. we saw a great number of the bighorn on those Clifts. at the distance of 33/4 ms. further we arrived at 9 A.M. at the junction of the S. E. fork of the Missouri and the country opens suddonly to extensive and beatifull plains and meadows which appear to be surrounded in every direction with distant and lofty mountains; supposing this to be the three forks of the Missouri I halted the party on the Lard. shore for breakfast and walked up the S. E. fork about 1/2 a mile and ascended the point of a high limestone clift from whence I commanded a most perfect view of the neighbouring country. From this point I could see the S. E. fork about 7 miles. it is rapid and about 70 yards wide. throughout the distance I saw it, it passes through a smoth extensive green meadow of fine grass in it's course meandering in several streams the largest of which passes near the Lard. hills, of which, the one I stand on is the extremity in this direction. a high wide and extensive plain succeeds the meadow and extends back several miles from the river on the Stard. sade and with the range of mountains up the Lard. side of the middle fork. a large spring arrises in this meadow about 1/4 of a mile from the S. E. fork into which it discharges itself on the Stard. side about 400 paces above me. from E to S. between the S. E. and middle forks a distant range of lofty mountains rose their snow-clad tops above the irregular and broken mountains which lie adjacent to this beautifull spot. the extreme point to which I could see the S. E. fork boar S. 65° E. distant 7 ms. as before observed. between the middle and S. E. forks near their junctions with the S. W. fork there is a handsom site for a fortification it consists of a limestone rock of an oblong form; it's sides perpendicular and about 25 ft high except at the extremity towards the middle fork where it ascends gradually and like the top is covered with a fine terf of greenswoard. the top is level and contains about 2 Acres. the rock rises from the level plain as if it had been designed for some such purpose. the extream point to which I can see the bottom and meandering of the Middle fork bears S. 15 E distant about 14 miles. here it turns to the right around a point of a high plain and disappears to my view. it's bottoms are several miles in width and like that of the S. E. fork form one smoth and beautifull green meadow. it is also divided into several streams. betwen this and the S. W. fork there is an extensive plain which appears to extend up both those rivers many miles and back to the mountains. the extreme point to which I can see the S. W. fork bears S. 30 W. distant about 12 miles. this stream passes through a similar country with the other two and is more divided and serpentine in it's course than either of the others; it also possesses abundanly more timber in it's bottoms. the timber here consists of the narrowleafed cottonwood almost entirely. but little box alder or sweet willow the underbrush thick and as heretofore discribed in the quarter of the missouri. a range of high mountains at a considerable distance appear to reach from South to West and are partially covered with snow the country to the right of the S. W. fork like that to the left of the S. E. fork is high broken and mountainous as is that also down the missouri behind us, through which, these three rivers after assembling their united force at this point seem to have forced a passage these bottom lands tho not more than 8 or 9 feet above the water seem never to overflow. after making a draught of the connection and meanders of these streams I decended the hill and returned to the party, took breakfast and ascended the S. W. fork 13/4 miles and encamped at a Lard. bend in a handsome level smooth plain just below a bayou, having passed the entrance of the middle fork at 1/2 a mile. here I encamped to wait the return of Capt. Clark and to give the men a little rest which seemed absolutely necessary to them. at the junction of the S. W. and Middle forks I found a note which had been left by Capt. Clark informing me of his intended rout, and that he would rejoin me at this place provided he did not fall in with any fresh sighn of Indians, in which case he intended to pursue untill he over took them calculating on my taking the S. W. fork, which I most certainly prefer as it's direction is much more promising than any other. beleiving this to be an essential point in the geography of this western part of the Continent I determined to remain at all events untill I obtained the necessary data for fixing it's latitude Longitude &c. after fixing my camp I had the canoes all unloaded and the baggage stoed away and securely covered on shore, and then permitted several men to hunt. I walked down to the middle fork and examined and compared it with the S. W. fork but could not satisfy myself which was the largest stream of the two, in fact they appeared as if they had been cast in the same mould there being no difference in character or size, therefore to call either of these streams the Missouri would be giving it a preference wich it's size dose not warrant as it is not larger then the other. they are each 90 yds. wide. in these meadows I saw a number of the duckanmallad with their young which are now nearly grown. Currants of every species as well as goosberries are found here in great abundance and perfection. a large black goosberry which grows to the hight of five or six feet is also found here. this is the growth of the bottom lands and is found also near the little rivulets which make down from the hills and mountains it puts up many stems from the same root, some of which are partialy branched and all reclining. the berry is attatched seperately by a long peduncle to the stem from which they hang pendant underneath. the berry is of an ovate form smooth as large as the common garden goosberry when arrived at maturity and is as black as jet, tho the pulp is of a cimson colour. this fruit is extreemly asced. the leaf resembles the common goosberry in form but is reather larger and somewhat proportioned to the superior size of it's stem when compared with the common goosberry. the stem is covered with very sharp thorns or bryers. below the tree forks as we passed this morning I observed many collections of the mud nests of the small martin attatched to the smooth face of the limestone rocks sheltered by projections of the same rock above. Our hunters returned this evening with 6 deer 3 Otter and a musk rat. they informed me that they had seen great numbers of Antelopes, and much sign of beaver Otter deer Elk, &c. at 3 P.M. Capt Clark arrived very sick with a high fever on him and much fatiegued and exhausted. he informed me that he was very sick all last night had a high fever and frequent chills & constant aking pains in all his mustles. this morning notwithstanding his indisposition he pursued his intended rout to the middle fork about 8 miles and finding no recent sign of Indians rested about an hour and came down the middle fork to this place. Capt. C. thought himself somewhat bilious and had not had a passage for several days; I prevailed on him to take a doze of Rushes pills, which I have always found sovereign in such cases and to bath his feet in warm water and rest himself. Capt. C's indisposition was a further inducement for my remaining here a couple of days; I therefore informed the men of my intention, and they put their deer skins in the water in order to prepare them for dressing tomorrow. we begin to feel considerable anxiety with rispect to the Snake Indians. if we do not find them or some other nation who have horses I fear the successfull issue of our voyage will be very doubtfull or at all events much more difficult in it's accomplishment. we are now several hundred miles within the bosom of this wild and mountanous country, where game may rationally be expected shortly to become scarce and subsistence precarious without any information with rispect to the country not knowing how far these mountains continue, or wher to direct our course to pass them to advantage or intersept a navigable branch of the Columbia, or even were we on such an one the probability is that we should not find any timber within these mountains large enough for canoes if we judge from the portion of them through which we have passed. however I still hope for the best, and intend taking a tramp myself in a few days to find these yellow gentlemen if possible. my two principal consolations are that from our present position it is impossible that the S. W. fork can head with the waters of any other river but the Columbia, and that if any Indians can subsist in the form of a nation in these mountains with the means they have of acquiring food we can also subsist. Capt. C. informed me that there is a part of this bottom on the West side of the Middle fork near the plain, which appears to overflow occasionally and is stony.