The Journals of Lewis & Clark: May 29, 1805

by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
May 28, 1805
May 30, 1805

May 29, 1805

Wednesday May 29th 1905. Last night we were all allarmed by a large buffaloe Bull, which swam over from the opposite shore and coming along side of the white perogue, climbed over it to land, he then alarmed ran up the bank in full speed directly towards the fires, and was within 18 inches of the heads of some of the men who lay sleeping before the centinel could allarm him or make him change his course, still more alarmed, he now took his direction immediately towards our lodge, passing between 4 fires and within a few inches of the heads of one range of the men as they yet lay sleeping, when he came near the tent, my dog saved us by causing him to change his course a second time, which he did by turning a little to the right, and was quickly out of sight, leaving us by this time all in an uproar with our guns in or hands, enquiring of each other the case of the alarm, which after a few moments was explained by the centinel; we were happy to find no one hirt. The next morning we found that the buffaloe in passing the perogue had trodden on a rifle, which belonged to Capt. Clark's black man, who had negligently left her in the perogue, the rifle was much bent, he had also broken the spindle, pivit, and shattered the stock of one of the bluntderbushes on board, with this damage I felt well content, happey indeed, that we had sustaned no further injury. it appears that the white perogue, which contains our most valuable stores, is attended by some evil gennii. This morning we set out at an early hour and proceded as usual by the Chord. at the distance of 21/2 miles passed a handsome river which discharged itself on the Lard. side, I walked on shore and acended this river about a mile and a half in order to examine it. I found this river about 100 yds. wide from bank to bank, the water occupying about 75 yard. the bed was formed of gravel and mud with some sand; it appeared to contain much more water as the Muscle-Shell river, was more rappid but equally navigable; there were no large stone or rocks in it's bed to obstruct the navigation; the banks were low yet appeared seldom to overflow; the water of this River is Clear than any we have met with great abundance of the Argalia or Bighorned animals in the high country through which this river passes Cap. C who assended this R. much higher than I did has thought proper to call it Judieths River. The bottoms of this stream as far as I could see were wider and contained more timber than the Missouri; here I saw some box alder intermixed with the Cottonwood willow rose bushes and honeysuckle with some red willow constitute the undergrowth. on the Missouri just above the entrance of the Big Horn River I counted the remains of the fires of 126 Indian lodges which appeared to be of very recent date perhaps 12 or 15 days. Capt. Clark also saw a large encampent just above the entrance of this river on the Stard. side of reather older date, probably they were the same Indians. The Indian woman with us exmined the mockersons which we found at these encampments and informed us that they were not of her nation the Snake Indians, but she beleived they were some of the Indians who inhabit the country on this side of Rocky Mountains and North of the Missoury and I think it most probable that they were the Minetaries of Fort de Prarie. At the distance of six 1/2 ms. from our encampment of last night we passed a very bad rappid to which we gave the name of the Ash rappid from a few trees of that wood growing near them; this is the first ash I have seen for a great distance. at this place the hills again approach the river closely on both sides, and the same seen which we had on the 27th and 28th in the morning again presents itself, and the rocky points and riffles reather more numerous and worse; there was but little timber; salts coal &c still appear. today we passed on the Stard. side the remains of a vast many mangled carcases of Buffalow which had been driven over a precipice of 120 feet by the Indians and perished; the water appeared to have washed away a part of this immence pile of slaughter and still their remained the fragments of at least a hundred carcases they created a most horrid stench. in this manner the Indians of the Missouri distroy vast herds of buffaloe at a stroke; for this purpose one of the most active and fleet young men is scelected and disguised in a robe of buffaloe skin, having also the skin of the buffaloe's head with the years and horns fastened on his head in form of a cap, thus caparisoned he places himself at a convenient distance between a herd of buffaloe and a precipice proper for the purpose, which happens in many places on this river for miles together; the other indians now surround the herd on the back and flanks and at a signal agreed on all shew themselves at the same time moving forward towards the buffaloe; the disguised indian or decoy has taken care to place himself sufficiently nigh the buffaloe to be noticed by them when they take to flight and runing before them they follow him in full speede to the precepice, the cattle behind driving those in front over and seeing them go do not look or hesitate about following untill the whole are precipitated down the precepice forming one common mass of dead an mangled carcases; the decoy in the mean time has taken care to secure himself in some cranney or crivice of the clift which he had previously prepared for that purpose. the part of the decoy I am informed is extreamly dangerous, if they are not very fleet runers the buffaloe tread them under foot and crush them to death, and sometimes drive them over the precepice also, where they perish in common with the buffaloe.- we saw a great many wolves in the neighbourhood of these mangled carcases they were fat and extreemly gentle, Capt. C. who was on shore killed one of them with his espontoon. just above this place we came too for dinner opposite the entrance of a bold runing river 40 yds. wide which falls in on Lard. side. this stream we called slaughter river. it's bottoms are but narrow and contain scarcely any timber. our situation was a narrow bottom on the Stard. possessing some cottonwood. soon after we landed it began to blow & rain, and as there was no appearance of even wood enough to make our fires for some distance above we determined to remain here untill the next morning, and accordingly fixed our camp and gave each man a small dram. notwithstanding the allowance of sperits we issued did not exceed 1/2 pn. man several of them were considerably effected by it; such is the effects of abstaining for some time from the uce of sperituous liquors; they were all very merry.- The hunters killed an Elk this evening, and Capt. C. killed two beaver.

May 29th Wednesday 1805

In the last night we were alarmed by a Buffalow which Swam from the opposit Shore landed opposit the Perogue in which Capt Lewis & my Self were in he Crossed the perogue, and went with great force up to the fire where Several men were Sleeping and was 18 inches of their heads, when one man Sitting up allarmed him and he turned his course along the range of men as they lay, passing between 4 fires and within a fiew Inches of Some of the mens heads as they lay imediately in a direction to our lodge about which Several men were lying. our Dog flew out & he changed his course & passed without doeing more damage than bend a rifle & brakeing hir Stock and injureying one of the blunder busts in the perogue as he passed through- We Set out this morning at the usial hour & proceeded on at 21/2 miles passed the mouth of a river ____ yards wide, discharging a great quantity of water, and Containing more wood in its bottoms than the Missouri- this river Capt Lewis walked up for a Short distance & he Saw an old encampment of Indians (I also saw large encampment on the Stard Side at the mouth of a Small Creek of about 100 Lodges which appeared to be 5 or 6 weeks past, the Indian woman examined the mockersons &c. and told us they were the Indians which resided below the rocky mountains & to the North of this river,that her nation make their mockersons differently) at 61/2 miles passed a considerable rapid at which place the hills approach near the river on both Sides, leaveing a narrow bottom on the Stard. Side, (ash rapid) and continue Close all day but little timber, I walked on the bank in the evening and saw the remains of a number of buffalow, which had been drove down a Clift of rocks I think from appearances that upwards of 100 of those animals must have perished here, Great numbers of wolves were about this place & verry jentle I killed one of them with my Spear. The hills above ash rapid Contains more rock and Coal, and the more rapid points. we Came too for Dinner opposit the enterence of a Small river which falls in on the Lard Side and is about ____ yards wide, has a bold running Stream, Soon after we Came too it began to rain & blow hard, and as we were in a good harbor & Small point of woods on the Stard Side, and no timber for some distance above, induced us to conclude to Stay all night. we gave the men a dram, altho verry Small it was Sufficent to effect Several men. one of our hunters killed an elk this evening- I killed 2 beaver on the Side of the bank a table Spoon full of water exposed to the air in a Saucer would avaperate in 36 hours when the mercury did not Stand higher than the temperate point in the heat of the day.