The Journals of Lewis & Clark: May 12, 1805

by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
May 11, 1805
May 13, 1805

May 12, 1805

Sunday May 12th 1805.

Set out at an early hour, the weather clear and Calm; I walked on shore this morning for the benifit of exersize which I much wanted, and also to examine the country and it's productions, in these excurtions I most generally went alone armed with my rifle and espontoon; thus equiped I feel myself more than an equal match for a brown bear provided I get him in open woods or near the water, but feel myself a little diffident with respect to an attack in the open plains, I have therefore come to a resolution to act on the defencive only, should I meet these gentlemen in the open country. I ascended the hills and had a view of a rough and broken country on both sides of the river; on the North side the summits of the hills exhibit some scattering pine and cedar, on the South side the pine has not yet commenced tho there is some cedar on the face of the hills and in the little ravines. the choke cherry also grows here in the hollows and at the heads of the gullies; the choke Cherry has been in blume since the ninth inst. this growth has freequently made it's appearance on the Missouri from the neighbourhood of the Baldpated Prarie, to this place in the form of it's leaf colour and appearance of it's bark, and general figure of it's growth it resembles much the Morillar cherry,1 tho much smaller not generally rising to a greater hight than from 6 to 10 feet and ascociating in thick clusters or clumps in their favorit situations which is usually the heads of small ravines or along the sides of small brooks which flow from the hills. the flowers which are small and white are supported by a common footstalk as those of the common wild cherry are, the corolla consists of five oval petals, five stamen and one pistillum, and of course of the Class and order Pentandria Monogynia. it bears a fruit which much resembles the wild cherry in form and colour tho larger and better flavoured; it's fruit ripens about the begining of July and continues on the trees untill the latter end of September- The Indians of the Missouri make great uce of this cherry which they prepare for food in various ways, sometimes eating when first plucked from the trees or in that state pounding them mashing the seed boiling them with roots or meat, or with the prarie beans and white-apple; again for their winter store they geather them and lay them on skins to dry in the sun, and frequently pound them and make them up in small roles or cakes and dry them in the sun; when thus dryed they fold them in skins or put them in bags of parchment and keep them through the winter either eating them in this state or boiling them as before mentioned. the bear and many birds also feed on these burries. the wild hysop sage, fleshey leaf thorn, and some other herbs also grow in the plains and hills, particularly the arromatic herb on which the Antelope and large hare feed. The soil has now changed it's texture considerably; the base of the hills and river bottoms continue the same and are composed of a rich black loam while the summits of the hills and about half their hight downwards are of a light brown colour, poor sterile and intermixed with a coarse white sand. about 12 OClock the wind veered about to the N. W. and blew so hard that we were obliged to Ly by the ballance of the day. we saw great quantities of game as usual. the bottom lands still becomeing narrower.

About sunset it began to rain, and continued to fall a few drops at a time untill midnight; the wind blew violently all night.

May 12th Sunday 1805.

Set out at an early hour, the morning Clear and Calm, Capt. Lewis walked on Shore this morning about 12 oClock the wind becam Strong from the E. about half past one oClock the wind Shifted round to the N. W. and blew verry hard all the latter part of the day, which obliged us to Lay by- The Countrey is hilley & rugged and the earth of a lightish brown and but indifferent, Some Small Cedar is Scattered on the Sides of the hils & in the hollars, Some pine ridges is also to be Seen on the North Side, we observe great quantites of game as usual. I killed a beaver in the water, Saw Several Sitting on the bank near the waters edge about Sunset it began to rain, and rained very moderately only a fiew drops at a time for about half the night, wind Continued violent all night