The Journals of Lewis & Clark: May 26, 1805

by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
May 25, 1805
May 27, 1805

May 26, 1805

Sunday May 26th 1805.

Set out at an early hour and proceeded principally by the toe line, using the oars mearly to pass the river in order to take advantage of the shores. scarcely any bottoms to the river; the hills high and juting in on both sides, to the river in many places. the stone tumbleing from these clifts and brought down by the rivulets as mentioned yesterday became more troublesome today. the black rock has given place to a very soft sandstone which appears to be washed away fast by the river, above this and towards the summits of the hills a hard freestone of a brownish yellow colour shews itself in several stratas of unequal thicknesses frequently overlain or incrusted by a very thin strata of limestone which appears to be formed of concreted shells. Capt. Clark walked on shore this morning and ascended to the summit of the river hills he informed me on his return that he had seen mountains on both sides of the river runing nearly parrallel with it and at no great distance; also an irregular range of mountains on lard. about 50 mes. distant, the extremities of which boar W and N. W. from his station. he also saw in the course of his walk, some Elk, several herds of the Big horn, and the large hare; the latter is common to every part of this open country. scarcely any timber to be seen except the few scattering pine and spruce which crown the high hills, or in some instances grow along their sides. In the after part of the day I also walked out and ascended the river hills which I found sufficiently fortiegueing. on arriving to the summit one of the highest points in the neighbourhood I thought myself well repaid for any labour; as from this point I beheld the Rocky Mountains for the first time, I could only discover a few of the most elivated points above the horizon, the most remarkable of which by my pocket compass I found bore N. 65° W. being a little to the N. of the N. W. extremity of the range of broken mountains seen this morning by Capt. C. these points of the Rocky Mountains were covered with snow and the sun shone on it in such manner as to give me the most plain and satisfactory view. while I viewed these mountains I felt a secret pleasure in finding myself so near the head of the heretofore conceived boundless Missouri; but when I reflected on the difficulties which this snowey barrier would most probably throw in my way to the Pacific, and the sufferings and hardships of myself and party in them, it in some measure counterballanced the joy I had felt in the first moments in which I gazed on them; but as I have always held it a crime to anticipate evils I will believe it a good comfortable road untill I am compelled to beleive differently. saw a few Elk & bighorns at a distance on my return to the river I passed a creek about 20 yds. wide near it's entrance it had a handsome little stream of runing water; in this creek I saw several softshelled Turtles which were the first that have been seen this season; this I believe proceeded reather from the season than from their non existence in the portion of the river from the Mandans hither. on the Stard. shore I killed a fat buffaloe which was very acceptable to us at this moment; the party came up to me late in the evening and encamped for the night on the Lard. side. it was after dark before we finished butchering the buffaloe, and on my return to camp I trod within five inches of a rattle snake but being in motion I passed before he could probably put himself in a striking attitude and fortunately escaped his bite, I struck about at random with my espontoon being directed in some measure by his nois untill I killed him. Our hunters had killed two of the Bighorned Anamals since I had left them. we also passed another creek a few miles below Turtle Creek on the Stard. 30 yds in width which also had runing water bed rockey.- late this evening we passed a very bad rappid which reached quite across the river, the party had considerable difficulty in ascending it altho they doubled their crews and used both the rope and the pole. while they were passing this rappid a female Elk and it's fawn swam down throught the waves which ran very high, hence the name of Elk rappids which they instantly gave this place, these are the most considerable rappids which we have yet seen on the missouri and in short the only place where there has appeared to be a suddon decent. opposite to these rappids there is a high bluff and a little above on Lard. a small cottonwood bottom in which we found sufficient timber for our fires and encampment. here I rejoined the party after dark. The appearances of coal in the face of the bluffs, also of birnt hills, pumice stone salt and quarts continue as yesterday. This is truly a desert barren country and I feel myself still more convinced of it's being a continuation of the black hills. we have continued every day to pass more or less old stick lodges of the Indians in the timbered points, there are two even in this little bottom where we lye.-

May 26th Sunday 1805

We Set out early and proceeded as yesterday wind from the S. W. the river enclosed with very high hills on either Side. I took one man and walked out this morning, and ascended the high countrey to view the mountains which I thought I Saw yesterday, from the first Sumit of the hill I could plainly See the Mountains on either Side which I Saw yesterday and at no great distance from me, those on the Stard Side is an errigular range, the two extremities of which bore West and N. West from me. those Mountains on the Lard. Side appeared to be Several detached Knobs or mountains riseing from a leven open Countrey, at different distances from me, from South West to South East, on one the most S. Westerly of those Mountains there appeared to be Snow. I crossed a Deep holler and assended a part of the plain elevated much higher than where I first viewed the above mountains; from this point I beheld the Rocky Mountains for the first time with Certainty, I could only discover a fiew of the most elivated points above the horizon. the most remarkable of which by my pocket Compas I found bore S. 60 W. those points of the rocky Mountain were Covered with Snow and the Sun Shown on it in Such a manner as to give me a most plain and Satisfactory view. whilst I viewed those mountains I felt a Secret pleasure in finding myself So near the head of the heretofore Conceived boundless Missouri; but when I reflected on the difficulties which this Snowey barrier would most probably throw in my way to the Pacific Ocean, and the Sufferings and hardships of my Self and party in them, it in Some measure Counter ballanced the joy I had felt in the first moments in which I gazed on them; but as I have always held it little Short of Criminality to anticipate evils I will allow it to be a good Comfortable road untill I am Compelled to believe otherwise The high Country in which we are at present and have been passing for Some days I take to be a continuation of what the Indians as well as the French Engages call the Black hills. This tract of Country So Called Consists of a Collection of high broken and irregular hills and Short Chains of Mountains, sometimes 100 miles in width and again becoming much narrower, but always much higher than the Country on either Side; they commence about the head of the Kanzas river and to the west of that river near the Arkansaw river, from whence they take their Cource a little to the west of N. W. approaching the Rocky Mountains obliquely passing the river Platt near the forks, and intersepting the River Rochejhone near the big bend of that river, and passing the Missouri at this place-, and probably Continueing to Swell the Country as far North as the Saskashawan river. tho they are lower here than they are discribed to the South and may therefore termonate before they reach the Saskashawan. the Black hills in their Course northerly appear to approach more nearly the Rocky Mountains. I Saw a great number of white brant, also the common brown brant, Geese of the common Size & kind and a Small Species of geese, which differs considerably from the Common or Canadian Goose; their necks, head and backs are considerably thicker, Shorter and larger than the other in propotion to its Size they are also more than a third Smaller, and their note more like that of the brant or young goose which has not perfectly acquired his note, in all other respect they are the Same in Colour habits and the number of feathers in the tail, they frequently also ascocate with the large Geese when in flocks, but never Saw them pared off with the larger or common goose. The white Brant ascocates in very large flocks, they do not appear to be mated or pared off as if they intended to raise their young in this quarter, I therefore doubt whether they reside here dureing the Summer for that purpose. this bird is larger than the Common brown brant or 2/3 of the common goose. it is not So long by Six inches from point to point of the wings when extended as the other; the back head and neck are also larger and Stronger; their beak, legs and feet are of a redish flesh coloured white. the eye of a moderate Size, the puple of a deep Sea green encircled with a ring of yellowish brown. it has 16 feathers of equal length in the tail their note differs but little from the Common brant. they are of a pure white except the large feathers of the 1st and 2d joint of the wings which are jut black.

The country which borders the river is high broken and rocky, generally imbeded with a Soft Sand Stone higher up the hill the Stone is of a brownish yellow hard and gritty those Stones wash down from the hills into the river and cause the Shore to be rocky &c. which we find troublesom to assend there is Scerce any bottom between the Hills & river and but a fiew trees to be Seen on either Side except Scattering pine on the Sides of the emence hills; we passed 2 Creeks on the Stard Side both of them had running water in one of those Creek Capt Lewis tells me he saw Soft Shell Turtle Capt Lewis in his walk killed a fat Buffalow which we were in want of our hunters killed 2 Mountain rams or bighorns in the evening late we passed a rapid which extended quite across the river we assended it by the assistance of a Cord & poles on the Lard. Side the Cliffs jut over, the opposit Side is a Small leavel bottom, we Camped a little above in a Small grove of Cotton trees on the Lard. Side in the rapid we saw a Dow Elk & her faun, which gave rise to the name of Elk & faun Riffle we had a few drops of rain at Dark.- the Salts Coal & Burnt hills & Pumicston Still Continue, game Scerce this Countrey may with propriety I think be termed the Deserts of America, as I do not Conceive any part can ever be Settled, as it is deficent in water, Timber & too Steep to be tilled. We pass old Indian lodges in the woody points everry day & 2 at our camp &c

May 26, 1805.

One of the party killed a bighorned, the head and horns of which weighed 27 lbs. a hare was also killed which weighed 81/2 lbs. the hare are now of a plale lead brown colour-