The Journals of Lewis & Clark: April 26, 1805
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.-
26th of April Friday 1805
last night was verry Cold. the Thermometer Stood at 32 abov 0 this morning. I Set out at an early hour, as it was cold I walked on the bank, & in my walk Shot a beaver & 2 Deer, one of the Deer in tolerable order, the low bottom of the river is generaly Covered with wood willows & rose bushes, red berry, wild Cherry & red or arrow wood intersperced with glades The timber is Cottonwood principally, Elm Small ash also furnish a portion of the timber, The Clay of the bluffs appear much whiter than below, and Contain Several Stratums of Coal, on the hill Sides I observe pebbles of different Size & Colour- The river has been riseing for Several days, & raised 3 inches last night, at 12 oClock arrived at the forks of the Roche Johne & Missouri and formed a Camp on the point Soon after George Drewyer Came from Capt Lewis & informed me that he was a little way up the Roche johne and would join me this evining, I Sent a canoe up to Capt Lewis and proceeded measure the width of the rivers, and find the debth. The Missouri is 520 yards wide above the point of yellow Stone and the water covers 330 yards; the YellowStone River is 858 yards wide includeing its Sand bar, the water covers 297 yards and the deepest part is 12 feet water, it is at this time falling, the Missouri rising The Indians inform that the yellow Stone River is navagable for Perogues to near its Source in the Rocky Mountains, it has many tributary Streams, principally on the S. E. Side, and heads at no great distance from the Missouri, the largest rivers which fall into it is Tongue river which heads with the waters of River Platt, and Big horn river which also heads with Platt & Tongue R the current of this river is Said to be rapid near its mouth it is verry jentle, and its water is of a whitish colour much Clearer of Sediment than the Missouri. the Countrey on this river is Said to be broken in its whole Course & Contains a great deel of wood, the countrey about its mouth is verry fine, the bottoms on either Side is wooded with Cotton wood, ash, Elm &c. near the banks of the river back is higher bottoms and Covered with red berry, Goose berry & rose bushes &. interspersed with Small open Glades, and near the high land is Generally open rich bottoms- at our arrival at the forks I observed a Drove of Buffalow Cows & Calves on a Sand bar in the point, I directed the men to kill the fattest Cow, and 3 or 4 Calves, which they did and let the others pass, the Cows are pore, Calves fine veele.
Capt Lewis joined me in the evening after takeing equal altitudes a little way up the YellowStone river the Countrey in every direction is plains except the moist bottoms of the river, which are covered with Some indifferent timber Such as Cotton wood Elm & Small ash, with different kind of Stubs & bushes in the forks about 1 mile from the point at which place the 2 rivers are near each other a butifull low leavel plain Commences, and extends up the Missourie & back, this plain is narrow at its commencement and widens as the Missouri bends north, and is bordered by an extencive wood land for many miles up the yellow Stone river, this low plain is not Subject to over flow, appear to be a few inches above high water mark and affords a butifull commanding Situation for a fort near the commencement of the Prarie, about ____ miles from the Point & ____ yards from the Missouri a Small lake is Situated, from this lake the plain rises gradually to a high butifull Countrey, the low Plain continues for Some distance up both rivers on the Yellow Stone it is wide & butifull opsd. the point on the S. Side is Some high timbered land, about 11/2 miles below on the Same Side a little distance from the water is an elivated plain- Several of the party was up the yellow Stone R Several miles, & informed that it meandered throught a butifull Countrey Joseph Fields discovered a large Creek falling into the Yellowstone River on the S E Side 8 miles up near which he Saw a big horn animal, he found in the Prarie the horn of one of those animals which was large and appeared to have laid Several years I Saw maney buffalow dead on the banks of the river in different places Some of them eaten by the white bears & wolves all except the Skin & bones, others entire, those animals either drounded in attempting to Cross on the ice dureing the winter or Swiming across to bluff banks where they Could not get out & too weak to return we Saw several in this Situation.
emence numbers of antelopes in the forks of the river, Buffalow & Elk & Deer is also plenty beaver is in every bend. I observe that the Magpie Goose duck & Eagle all have their nests in the Same neighbourhood, and it is not uncommon for the Magpie to build in a few rods of the eagle, the nests of this bird is built verry Strong with Sticks Covered verry thickly with one or more places through which they enter or escape, the Goose I make no doubt falls a pray to those vicious eagles