The Journals of Lewis & Clark: Lewis, August 10, 1805
Lewis, August 10, 1805
Saturday August 10th 1805.
We set out very early this morning and continued our rout through the wide bottom on the Lard. side of the river after passing a large creek at about 5 miles we fel in with a plain Indian road which led towards the point that the river entered the mountain we therefore pursued the road I sent Drewyer to the wright to kill a deer which we saw feeding and halted on the river under an immencely high perpendicular clift of rocks where it entered the mountain here we kindled a fire and waited for Drewyer. he arrived in about an hour and a half or at noon with three deer skins and the flesh of one of the best of them, we cooked and eat a haisty meal and departed, returning a shot distance to the Indian road which led us the best way over the mountains, which are not very high but ar ruggid and approach the river closely on both sides just below these mountains I saw several bald Eagles and two large white headed fishinghawks boath these birds were the same common to our country.
from the number of rattle snakes about the Clifts at which we halted we called them the rattle snake clifts. this serpent is the same before discribed with oval spots of yellowish brown. the river below the mountains is rapid rocky, very crooked, much divided by islands and withal shallow. after it enters the mountains it's bends are not so circuetous and it's general course more direct, but it is equally shallow les divided more rocky and rapid. we continued our rout along the Indian road which led us sometimes over the hills and again in the narrow bottoms of the river till at the distance of fifteen Ms. from the rattle snake Clifts we arrived in a hadsome open and leavel vally where the river divided itself nearly into two equal branches; here I halted and examined those streams and readily discovered from their size that it would be vain to attempt the navigation of either any further. here also the road forked one leading up the vally of each of these streams. I therefore sent Drewer on one and Shields on the other to examine these roads for a short distance and to return and compare their information with respect to the size and apparent plainness of the roads as I was now determined to pursue that which appeared to have been the most traveled this spring. in the mean time I wrote a note to Capt. Clark informing him of the occurrences which had taken place, recommending it to him to halt at this place untill my return and informing him of the rout I had taken which from the information of the men on their return seemed to be in favour of the S W or Left hand fork which is reather the smallest. accordingly I put up my note on a dry willow pole at the forks, and set out up the S. E. fork, after proceeding about 11/2 miles I discovered that the road became so blind that it could not be that which we had followed to the forks of Jefferson's river, neither could I find the tracks of the horses which had passed early in the spring along the other; I therefore determined to return and examine the other myself, which I did, and found that the same horses had passed up the West fork which was reather largest, and more in the direction that I wished to pursue; I therefore did not hesitate about changing my rout but determined to take the western road. I now wrote a second note to Capt C. informing him of this change and sent Drewyer to put it with the other at the forks and waited untill he returned. there is scarcely any timber on the river above the R. Snake Clifts, nor is there anything larger than willow brush in sight of these forks. immediately in the level plain between the forks and about 1/2 a mile distance from them stands a high rocky mountain, the base of which is surrounded by the level plain; it has a singular appearance. the mountains do not appear very high in any direction tho the tops of some of them are partially covered with snow. this convinces me that we have ascended to a great hight since we have entered the rocky Mountains, yet the ascent has been so gradual along the vallies that it was scarcely perceptable by land. I do not beleive that the world can furnish an example of a river runing to the extent which the Missouri and Jefferson's rivers do through such a mountainous country and at the same time so navigable as they are. if the Columbia furnishes us such another example, a communication across the continent by water will be practicable and safe. but this I can scarcely hope from a knowledge of its having in it comparitively short course to the ocean the same number of feet to decend which the Missouri and Mississippi have from this point to the Gulph of Mexico.
The valley of the west fork through which we passed for four miles boar a little to N of West and was about 1 mile wide hemned in on either side by rough mountain and steep Clifts of rock at 41/2 miles this stream enters a beatifull and extensive plain about ten miles long and from 5 to six in width. this plain is surrounded on all sides by a country of roling or high wavy plains through which several little rivulets extend their wide vallies quite to the Mountains which surround the whole in an apparent Circular manner; forming one of the handsomest coves I ever saw, of about 16 or 18 miles in diameter. just after entering this cove the river bends to the N. W. and runs close under the Stard. hills. here we killed a deer and encamped on the Stard.,side and made our fire of dry willow brush, the only fuel which the country produces. there are not more than three or four cottonwood trees in this extensive cove and they are but small. the uplands are covered with prickly pears and twisted or bearded grass and are but poor; some parts of the bottom lands are covered with grass and tolerably fertile; but much the greater proportion is covered with prickly pears sedge twisted grass the pulpy leafed thorn southernwood wild sage &c and like the uplands is very inferior in point of soil. we traveled by estimate 30 Ms. today, that is 10 to the Rattle snake Clift, 15 to the forks of Jefferson's river and 5 to our camp in the cove. at the apparent extremity of the bottom above us two perpendicular clifts of considerable hight stand on either side of the river and appers at this distance like a gate, it is about 10 M. due West.
Capt Clark set out at sunrise this morning and pursued his rout; found the river not rapid but shallow also very crooked. they were obliged to drag the canoes over many riffles in the course of the day. they passed the point which the natives call the beaver's head. it is a steep rocky clift of 150 feet high near the Stard. side of the river, opposite to it at the distance of 300 yards is a low clift of about 50 feet which is the extremity of a spur of the mountains about 4 miles distant on Lard. at 4 P.M. they experienced a heavy shower of rain attended with hail thunder and Lightning which continued about an hour. the men defended themselves from the hail by means of the willow bushes but all the party got perfectly wet. after the shower was over they pursued their march and encamped on the stard side only one deer killed by their hunters today. tho they took up another by the way which had been killed three days before by Jos. Fields and hung up near the river.