The Journals of Lewis & Clark: May 20, 1805

by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
May 19, 1805
May 21, 1805

May 20, 1805

Monday May 20th 1805

Set out at an early hour as usual, the banks being favourable and water strong we employed the toe rope principally; river narrow and croked; country much as that of yesterday; immence number of the prickley pears in the plains and on the hills. At the distance of 21/4 miles passed the entrance of a large Creek, affording but little water; this stream we named Blowing Fly Creek, from the immence quantities of those insects found in this neighbourhood, they infest our meat while roasting or boiling, and we are obliged to brush them off our provision as we eat. At 11 A.M. we arrived at the entrance of a handsome bold river which discharges itself into the Missouri on the Lard. side; this stream we take to be that called by the Minnetares the ____ or Muscleshell River; if it be the same, of which I entertain but little doubt, it takes it's rise, by their information in the 1st Chain of the Rocky Mountains at no great distance from the Yellow stone river, from whence in it's course to this place it passes through a high and broken country pretty well timbered, particularly on it's borders, and intersperced with handsome fertile plains and medows. but from the circumstance of the same Indians informing us that we should find a well timbered country in the neighbourhood of it's mouth, I am induced to beleive that the timbered country of which they speak is similar to that we have passed for a day or two, or that in our view above, which consists of nothing more than a few scattering small scrubby pine and dwarf cedar on the summits of some of the highest hills nine tenths of the country being wholy destitute of timber of any kind, covered with a short grass, arromatic herbs and the prickley pear; the river bottom however, so far as we have explored it or 8 m. are well stocked with Cottonwood timber of tollerable size, & lands of excellent quality. We halted at thentrance of the river on the point formed by it's junction with the Missouri determining to spend the day, make the necessary observations and send out some hunters to explore the country. The Muscle Shell river falls into the Missouri 2270 miles above it's mouth, and is 110 yards in width, it affords much more water than streams of it's width generally do below, it's courant is by no means rappid, and from appearances it might be navigated with canoes a considerable distance; it's bed is coarse sand and gravel principally with an occasion mixture of black mud; it's banks abbrupt and about 12 feet high yet never appear to overflow; the waters of this river is of a greenish yellow cast, much more transparent than the Missouri, which last is also much more transparent than below but still retains it's whiteish hue and a proportion of it's sedement. the Missouri opposite to this point is deep, gentle in it's courant, and 222 yards in width. The hunters returned this evening and informed us that the country continued much the same in appearance as that we saw where we were or broken, and that about five miles abe the mouth of shell river a handsome river of about fifty yards in width discharged itself into the shell river on the Stard. or upper side; this stream we called Sah-ca-gar me-ah or bird woman's River, after our interpreter the Snake woman. Shields also found a bould spring or fountain issuing from the foot of the Lard. hills about 4 miles up the Missouri; a fountain in this plain country is a great novelty; I have not seen a bould fountain of pure water except one since I left the Mandans; there a number of small ones but all without exception are impregnated with the salts which abound in this country, and with which I believe the Missoury itself considerably impregnated but to us in the habit of useing it not perceptible; the exception I make is a very fine fountain under the bluffs on the Lard. side of the Missouri and at a distance from the river about five miles below the entrance of the yellowstone River. The sands of the Missouri are not so abundant as they have been for some time past, being confined to the points only; the bed of the river principally mud and still too deep to use the seting pole. Capt. Clark walked out today and killed two deer and an Elk, the hunters killed 4 deer and elk and a buffaloe. I saw two large Owls with remarkable long feathers on the sides of the head which resembled ears; I take them to be the large hooting owl tho they are somewhat larger and their colours brighter than those common to the J States.-

May 20th Monday 1805

a fine morning wind from the N E. river falling a little We Set out at 7 oClock and proceeded on verry well as usial by the assistance of the Cord passed Some verry Swift water, river narrow and Crooked, at 11 oClock arrived at the mouth of Shell river on the Lard Side and formed a Camp for the present. haveing passed a large Creek about 4 miles below on the Ld Side which we call Blowing fly Creek from the emence quantites of those insects which geather on our meat in Such numbers that we are oblige to brush them off what we eate.

muscle Shell River falls in on Lard Side 2270 miles up Contains a greater perportion of water than Rivers of its Size below, I measured it and find it to be 110 yards wide, the water of a Greenish yellow Colour, and appers to be navagable for Small Craft, The Minetarras inform us that this river heads in the 1st of the rockey Mountains & passes through a broken Countrey. its head at no great distance from the Yellow Stone River The Countrey about this river as described yesterday we took the Meredian altitude 59° 50' 0" back observation and found the Latd. to be 47° 0' 24"

The Missouri at the mouth of Shell River is 222 yards wide with a Smoth Current the Missouri water is not So muddey as below, but retains nearly its usial Cholour, and the Sands principally Confined to the points I killed two Deer & an Elk, the hunters killed an Elk & Several deer mearly for their Skins to make Leagins,- Sent men out in every derection, the Countrey generally verry broken Some leavel plains up the Shell river The bottoms of the Shell river is well timbered as also a Small river which falls into that river on the upper Side 5 miles above its mouth. The hills on the Lard. Contain Scattering Pine & Cedar.