The Journals of Lewis & Clark: July 17, 1806

by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
July 16, 1806
July 18, 1806

July 17, 1806

Thursday July 17th 1806. I arrose early this morning and made a drawing of the falls. after which we took breakfast and departed. it being my design to strike Maria's river about the place at which I left it on my return to it's mouth in the begining of June 1805. I steered my course through the wide and level plains which have somewhat the appearance of an ocean, not a tree nor a shrub to be seen. the land is not fertile, at least far less so, than the plains of the Columbia or those lower down this river, it is a light coloured soil intermixed with a considerable proportion of coarse gravel without sand, when dry it cracks and appears thursty and is very hard, in it's wet state, it is as soft and slipry as so much soft soap the grass is naturally but short and at present has been rendered much more so by the graizing of the buffaloe, the whole face of the country as far as the eye can reach looks like a well shaved bowlinggreen, in which immence and numerous herds of buffaloe were seen feeding attended by their scarcely less numerous sheepherds the wolves. we saw a number of goats as usual today, also the party coloured plover with the brick red head and neck; this bird remains about the little ponds which are distributed over the face of these plains and here raise their young. we killed a buffaloe cow as we passed throug the plains and took the hump and tonge which furnish ample rations for four men one day. at 5 P.M. we arrived at rose rivers where I purposed remaining all night as I could not reach maria's river this evening and unless I did there would be but little probability of our finding any wood and very probably no water either. on our arrival at the river we saw where a wounded and bleading buffaloe had just passed and concluded it was probable that the indians had been runing them and were near at hand. the Minnetares of Fort de prarie and the blackfoot indians rove through this quarter of the country and as they are a vicious lawless and reather an abandoned set of wretches I wish to avoid an interview with them if possible. I have no doubt but they would steel our horses if they have it in their power and finding us weak should they happen to be numerous wil most probably attempt to rob us of our arms and baggage; at all events I am determined to take every possible precaution to avoid them if possible. I hurried over the river to a thick wood and turned out the horses to graize; sent Drewyer to pursue and kill the wounded buffaloe in order to determine whether it had been wounded by the indians or not, and proceeded myself to reconnoitre the adjacent country having sent R. Fields for the same purpose a different rout. I ascended the river hills and by the help of my glass examined the plains but could make no discovery, in about an hour I returned to camp, where I met with the others who had been as unsuccessfull as myself. Drewyer could not find the wounded buffaloe. J. Fields whom I had left at camp had already roasted some of the buffaloe meat and we took dinner after which I sent Drewyer and R. Fields to resume their resurches for the indians; and set myself down to record the transactions of the day. rose river is at this place fifty yards wide, the water which is only about 3 feet deep occupys about 35 yds. and is very terbid of a white colour. the general course of this river is from East to west so far as I can discover it's track through the plains, it's bottoms are wide and well timbered with cottonwood both the broad and narrow leafed speceis. the bed of this stream is small gravel and mud; it's banks are low but never overflow, the hills are about 100 or 150 feet high; it possesses bluffs of earth like the lower part of the Missouri; except the debth and valocity of it's stream and it is the Missouri in miniture. from the size of rose river at this place and it's direction I have no doubt but it takes it's source within the first range of the Rocky mountains. the bush which bears the red berry is here in great plenty in the river bottoms The spies returned having killed 2 beaver and a deer. they reported that they saw no appearance of Indians.-

Thursday 17th July 1806

The rain of last night wet us all. I had the horses all Collected early and Set out, proceeded ove the point of a ridge and through an open low bottom crossed a large Creek which heads in a high Snow toped Mountain to the N W. imediately opposit to the enterance of the Creek one Something larger falls in from the high Snow mountains to the S W. & South those Creeks I call Rivers across they contain Some timber in their Vallys at the distance of ____ Miles by water we arive at the enterance of two Small rivers or large Creeks which fall in nearly opposit to each other the one on the N E side is 30 yards wide. I call it Otter River the other Beaver R below the enterance of this Creek I halted as usial to let the Horses graze &c. I saw a Single Pelicon which is the first which I have Seen on this river. after Dinner I proceeded on Down the Rochejhone passing over a low ridge through a Small bottom and on the Side of a Stoney hill for 2 miles and through a Small bottom and again on the Side of a high hill for 11/2 M. to a bottom in which we Incamped opposit a Small Island. The high lands approach the river on either side much nearer than it does above and their Sides are partially covered with low pine & Cedar, none of which are Sufficently large for Canoes, nor have I Seen a Cotton tree in the low bottoms Sufficently large for that purpose. Buffalow is getting much more plenty than they were above. not so many Elk & more deer Shannon killed one deer. I Saw in one of those Small bottoms which I passed this evening an Indian fort which appears to have been built last Summer. this fort was built of logs and bark. the logs was put up very Closely capping on each other about 5 feet and Closely chinked. around which bark was Set up on end so as to Cover the Logs. the enterance was also guarded by a work on each Side of it and faceing the river. this work is about 50 feet Diameter & nearly round. the Squaw informs me that when the war parties find themselves pursued they make those forts to defend themselves in from the pursuers whose Superior numbers might other wise over power them and cut them off without receiveing much injurey on hors back &c.