The Journals of Lewis & Clark: June 17, 1805

by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
June 16, 1805
June 18, 1805

June 17, 1805

Monday June 17th 1805.

Capt. Clark set out early this morning with five men to examine the country and survey the river and portage as had been concerted last evening. I set six men at work to pepare four sets of truck wheels with couplings, toungs and bodies, that they might either be used without the bodies for transporting our canoes, or with them in transporting our baggage I found that the Elk skins I had prepared for my boat were insufficient to compleat her, some of them having become dammaged by the weather and being frequently wet; to make up this deficiency I sent out two hunters this morning to hunt Elk; the ballance of the party I employed first in unloading the white perogue, which we intend leaving at this place, and bring the whole of our baggage together and arranging it in proper order near our camp. this duty being compleated I employed them in taking five of the small canoes up the creek which we now call portage creek about 13/4 miles; here I had them taken out and lyed in the sun to dry. from this place ther is a gradual ascent to the top of the high plain to which we can now take them with ease; the bluffs of this creek below and those of the river above it's entrance are so steep that it would be almost impracticable to have gotten them on the plain. we found much difficulty in geting the canoes up this creek to the distance we were compelled to take them, in consequence of the rappids and rocks which obstruct the channel of the creek. one of the canoes overset and was very near injuring 2 men essencially. just above the canoes the creek has a perpendicular fall of 5 feet and the cliffts again become very steep and high. we were fortunate enough to find one cottonwood tree just below the entrance of portage creek that was large enough to make our carrage wheels about 22 Inches in diameter; fortunate I say because I do not beleive that we could find another of the same size perfectly sound within 20 miles of us. the cottonwood which we are obliged to employ in the other parts of the work is extreemly illy calculated for it being soft and brittle. we have made two axeltrees of the mast of the white peroge, which I hope will answer tolerably well tho it is reather small. The Indian woman much better today, I have still continued the same course of medecine; she is free from pain clear of fever, her pulse regular, and eats as heartily as I am willing to permit her of broiled buffaloe well seasoned with pepper and salt and rich soope of the same meat; I think therefore that there is every rational hope of her recovery. saw a vast number of buffaloe feeding in every direction arround us in the plains, others coming down in large herds to water at the river; the fragments of many carcases of these poor anamals daily pass down the river, thus mangled I pesume in decending those immence cataracts above us. as the buffaloe generally go in large herds to water and the passages to the river about the falls are narrow and steep the hinder part of the herd press those in front out of their debth and the water instatly takes them over the cataracts where they are instantly crushed to death without the possibility of escaping. in this manner I have seen ten or a douzen disappear in a few minutes. their mangled carcases ly along the shores below the falls in considerable quantities and afford fine amusement for the bear wolves and birds of prey; this may be one reason and I think not a bad one either that the bear are so tenatious of their right of soil in this neighbourhood.

June 17th Monday 1805

a fine morning wind as usial Capt. Lewis with the party unloaded the Perogue & he determined to keep the party employed in getting the loading to the Creek about 1 mile over a low hill in my absence on the Portage.

I Set out with 5 men at 8 oClock, and proceeded on up the Creek Some distance to examine that & if possable assend that Suffcently high, that a Streight Cours to the mouth of Medison river would head the 2 reveins, the Creek I found Confined rapid and Shallow generalley

Monday 17th of June passed through an open roleing Prarie, So as to head the two reveins after heading two we Stand our Course So as to Strike the river below the great pitch on our Course to the river Crossed a Deep rivein near its mouth with Steep Clifts this rivein had running water which was very fine, the river at this place is narrow & Confined in perpindicular clifts of 170 feet from the tops of those Clifts the Countrey rises with a Steep assent for about 250 feet more we proceeded up the river passing a Sucession of rapids & Cascades to the Falls, which we had herd for Several miles makeing a dedly Sound, I beheld those Cateracts with astonishment the whole of the water of this great river Confined in a Channel of 280 yards and pitching over a rock of 97 feet 3/4 of an, from the foot of the falls arrises a Continued mist which is extended for 150 yds. down & to near the top of the Clifts on L Sd. the river below is Confined a narrow Chanl. Of 93 yards haveing a Small bottom of timber on the Stard Side which is definded by a rock, rangeing Cross wise the river a little below the Shoot, a Short distance below this Cataract a large rock divides the Stream, I in assendending the Clifts to take the hith of the fall was near Slipping into the water, at which place I must have been Sucked under in an instant, and with deficuelty and great risque I assended again, and decended the Clift lower down (but few places Can be descended to the river) and took the hight with as much accuricy as possible with a Spirit Leavels &c. dined at a fine Spring 200 yards below the pitch near which place 4 Cotton willow trees grew. on one of them I marked my name the date, and hight of the falls,- we then proceeded up on the river passing a Continued Cascade & rapid to a fall of 19 feet at 4 Small Islands, this fall is diaguanally across the river from the Lard Side, forming an angle of 3/4 of the width from the Lard. from which Side it pitches for 2/3 of that distance. on the Stard Side is a rapid decline- below this Shoot a Deep revein falls in which we Camped for the night which was Cold (The mountains in every derection has Snow on Them) The plain to our left is leavel we Saw one Bear & inumerable numbers of Buffalow, I Saw 2 herds of those animals watering immediately above a considerable rapid, they decended by a narrow pass to the bottom Small, the rier forced those forwd into the water Some of which was taken down in an instant, and Seen no more others made Shore with difficuelty, I beheld 40 or 50 of those Swimming at the Same time those animals in this way are lost and accounts for the number of buffalow carcases below the rapids