The Journals of Lewis & Clark: July 26, 1806
July 26, 1806
Saturday July 26th 1806. The moring was cloudy and continued to rain as usual, tho the cloud seemed somewhat thiner. I therefore posponed seting out untill 9 A.M. in the hope that it would clear off but finding the contrary result I had the horses caught and we set out biding a lasting adieu to this place which I now call camp disappointment. I took my rout through the open plains S. E. 5 ms. passing a small creek at 2 ms. from the mountains wher I changed my direction to S. 75 E. for 7 ms. further and struck a principal branch of Maria's river 65 yds. wide, not very deep, I passed this stream to it's south side and continued down it 2 ms. on the last mentioned course when another branch of nearly the same dignity formed a junction with it, coming from the S. W. this last is shallow and rappid; has the appearance of overflowing it's banks frequently and discharging vast torrants of water at certain seasons of the year. the beds of both these streams are pebbly particularly the S. branch. the water of the N. branch is very terbid while that of the S. branch is nearly clear not withstanding the late rains. I passed the S. branch just above it's junction and continued down the river which runs a little to the N of E 1 ms. and halted to dine and graize our horses here I found some indian lodges which appeared to have been inhabited last winter in a large and fertile bottom well stocked with cottonwood timber. the rose honeysuckle and redberry bushes constitute the undergrowth there being but little willow in this quarter both these rivers abov their junction appeared to be well stocked with timber or comparitively so with other parts of this country. here it is that we find the three species of cottonwood which I have remarked in my voyage assembled together that speceis common to the Columbia I have never before seen on the waters of the Missouri, also the narrow and broad leafed speceis. during our stay at this place R. Fields killed a buck a part of the flesh of which we took with us. we saw a few Antelopes some wolves and 2 of the smallest speceis of fox of a redish brown colour with the extremity of the tail black. it is about the size of the common domestic cat and burrows in the plains. after dinner I continued my rout down the river to the North of Eat about 3 ms. when the hills putting in close on the S side I determined to ascend them to the high plain which I did accordingly, keeping the Fields with me; Drewyer passed the river and kept down the vally of the river. I had intended to decend this river with it's course to it's junction with the fork which I had ascended and from thence have taken across the country obliquely to rose river and decend that stream to it's confluence with Maria's river. the country through which this portion of Maria's river passes to the fork which I ascended appears much more broken than that above and between this and the mountains. I had scarcely ascended the hills before I discovered to my left at the distance of a mile an assembleage of about 30 horses, I halted and used my spye glass by the help of which I discovered several indians on the top of an eminence just above them who appeared to be looking down towards the river I presumed at Drewyer. about half the horses were saddled. this was a very unpleasant sight, however I resolved to make the best of our situation and to approach them in a friendly manner. I directed J. Fields to display the flag which I had brought for that purpose and advanced slowly toward them, about this time they discovered us and appeared to run about in a very confused manner as if much allarmed, their attention had been previously so fixed on Drewyer that they did not discover us untill we had began to advance upon them, some of them decended the hill on which they were and drove their horses within shot of it's summit and again returned to the hight as if to wate our arrival or to defend themselves. I calculated on their number being nearly or quite equal to that of their horses, that our runing would invite pursuit as it would convince them that we were their enimies and our horses were so indifferent that we could not hope to make our escape by flight; added to this Drewyer was seperated from us and I feared that his not being apprized of the indians in the event of our attempting to escape he would most probably fall a sacrefice. under these considerations I still advanced towards them; when we had arrived within a quarter of a mile of them, one of them mounted his horse and rode full speed towards us, which when I discovered I halted and alighted from my horse; he came within a hundred paces halted looked at us and turned his horse about and returned as briskly to his party as he had advanced; while he halted near us I held out my hand and becconed to him to approach but he paid no attention to my overtures. on his return to his party they all decended the hill and mounted their horses and advanced towards us leaving their horses behind them, we also advanced to meet them. I counted eight of them but still supposed that there were others concealed as there were several other horses saddled. I told the two men with me that I apprehended that these were the Minnetares of Fort de Prarie and from their known character I expected that we were to have some difficulty with them; that if they thought themselves sufficiently strong I was convinced they would attempt to rob us in which case be their numbers what they would I should resist to the last extremity prefering death to that of being deprived of my papers instruments and gun and desired that they would form the same resolution and be allert and on their guard. when we arrived within a hundred yards of each other the indians except one halted I directed the two men with me to do the same and advanced singly to meet the indian with whom I shook hands and passed on to those in his rear, as he did also to the two men in my rear; we now all assembled and alighted from our horses; the Indians soon asked to smoke with us, but I told them that the man whom they had seen pass down the river had my pipe and we could not smoke untill he joined us. I requested as they had seen which way he went that they would one of them go with one of my men in surch of him, this they readily concented to and a young man set out with R. Fields in surch of Drewyer. I now asked them by sighns if they were the Minnetares of the North which they answered in the affermative; I asked if there was any cheif among them and they pointed out 3 I did not believe them however I thought it best to please them and gave to one a medal to a second a flag and to the third a handkercheif, with which they appeared well satisfyed. they appeared much agitated with our first interview from which they had scarcely yet recovered, in fact I beleive they were more allarmed at this accedental interview than we were. from no more of them appearing I now concluded they were only eight in number and became much better satisfyed with our situation as I was convinced that we could mannage that number should they attempt any hostile measures. as it was growing late in the evening I proposed that we should remove to the nearest part of the river and encamp together, I told them that I was glad to see them and had a great deel to say to them. we mounted our horses and rode towards the river which was at but a short distance, on our way we were joined by Drewyer Fields and the indian. we decended a very steep bluff about 250 feet high to the river where there was a small bottom of nearly 1/2 a mile in length and about 250 yards wide in the widest part, the river washed the bluffs both above and below us and through it's course in this part is very deep; the bluffs are so steep that there are but few places where they could ,be ascended, and are broken in several places by deep nitches which extend back from the river several hundred yards, their bluffs being so steep that it is impossible to ascend them; in this bottom there stand tree solitary trees near one of which the indians formed a large simicircular camp of dressed buffaloe skins and invited us to partake of their shelter which Drewyer and myself accepted and the Fieldses lay near the fire in front of the sheter. with the assistance of Drewyer I had much conversation with these people in the course of the evening. I learned from them that they were a part of a large band which lay encamped at present near the foot of the rocky mountains on the main branch of Maria's river one 1/2 days march from our present encampment; that there was a whiteman with their band; that there was another large band of their nation hunting buffaloe near the broken mountains and were on there way to the mouth of Maria's river where they would probably be in the course of a few days. they also informed us that from hence to the establishment where they trade on the Suskasawan river is only 6 days easy march or such as they usually travel with their women and childred which may be estimated at about 150 ms. that from these traders they obtain arm amunition sperituous liquor blankets &c in exchange for wolves and some beaver skins. I told these people that I had come a great way from the East up the large river which runs towards the rising sun, that I had been to the great waters where the sun sets and had seen a great many nations all of whom I had invited to come and trade with me on the rivers on this side of the mountains, that I had found most of them at war with their neighbours and had succeeded in restoring peace among them, that I was now on my way home and had left my party at the falls of the missouri with orders to decend that river to the entrance of Maria's river and there wait my arrival and that I had come in surch of them in order to prevail on them to be at peace with their neighbours particularly those on the West side of the mountains and to engage them to come and trade with me when the establishment is made at the entrance of this river to all which they readily gave their assent and declared it to be their wish to be at peace with the Tushepahs whom they said had killed a number of their relations lately and pointed to several of those present who had cut their hair as an evidince of the truth of what they had asserted. I found them extreemly fond of smoking and plyed them with the pipe untill late at night. I told them that if they intended to do as I wished them they would send some of their young men to their band with an invitation to their chiefs and warriors to bring the whiteman with them and come down and council with me at the entrance of Maria's river and that the ballance of them would accompany me to that place, where I was anxious now to meet my men as I had been absent from them some time and knew that they would be uneasy untill they saw me. that if they would go with me I would give them 10 horses and some tobacco. to this proposition they made no reply, I took the first watch tonight and set up untill half after eleven; the indians by this time were all asleep, I roused up R. Fields and laid down myself; I directed Fields to watch the movements of the indians and if any of them left the camp to awake us all as I apprehended they would attampt to seal steal our horses. this being done I fell into a profound sleep and did not wake untill the noise of the men and indians awoke me a little after light in the morning.-
Saturday 26th July 1806. Set out this morning very early proceeded on Passed Creeks very well. the Current of the river reagulilarly Swift much divided by Stoney islands and bars also handsome Islands Covered with Cotton wood the bottoms extensive on the Stard. Side on the Lard. the Clifts of high land border the river, those clifts are composed of a whitish rock of an excellent grit for Grindstones. The Country back on each Side is wavering lands with Scattering pine. passed 2 Small Brooks on the Stard. Side and two large ones on the Lard. Side. I shot a Buck from the Canoe and killed one other on a Small Island. and late in the evening passed a part of the river which was rock under the Lard. Clifts fortunately for us we found an excellent Chanel to pass down on the right of a Stony Island half a mile below this bad place, we arived at the enterance of Big Horn River on the Stard. Side here I landed imediately in the point which is a Sof mud mixed with the Sand and Subject to overflow for Some distance back in between the two rivers. I walked up the big horn 1/2 a mile and crossed over to the lower Side, and formed a Camp on a high point. I with one of my men Labeech walked up the N E Side of Big horn river 7 miles to th enterance of a Creek which falls in on the N E. Side and is 28 yds wide Some running water which is very muddy this Creek I call Muddy Creek Some fiew miles above this Creek the river bent around to the East of South. The Courses as I assended it as follows Viz:
The bottoms of the Big Horn river are extencive and Covered with timber principally Cotton. it's Current is regularly Swift, like the Missouri, it washes away its banks on one Side while it forms extensive Sand bars on the other. Contains much less portion of large gravel than the R. Rochjhone and its water more mudy and of a brownish colour, while that of the rochejhone is of a lightish Colour. the width of those two rivers are very nearly the Same imediately at their enterances the river Rochejhone much the deepest and contain most water. I measured the debth of the bighorn quit across a 1/2 a mile above its junction and found it from 5 to 7 feet only while that of the River is in the deepest part 10 or 12 feet water on the lower Side of the bighorn is extencive boutifull and leavil bottom thinly covered with Cotton wood under which there grows great quantities of rose bushes. I am informed by the Menetarres Indians and others that this River takes its rise in the Rocky mountains with the heads of the river plate and at no great distance from the river Rochejhone and passes between the Coat Nor or Black Mountains and the most Easterly range of Rocky Mountains. it is very long and Contains a great perpotion of timber on which there is a variety of wild animals, perticularly the big horn which are to be found in great numbers on this river. Buffalow, Elk, Deer and Antelopes are plenty and the river is Said to abound in beaver. it is inhabited by a great number of roveing Indians of the Crow Nation, the paunch Nation and the Castahanas all of those nations who are Subdivided rove and prosue the Buffalow of which they make their principal food, their Skins together with those of the Big horn and Antilope Serve them for Clothes. This river is Said to be navagable a long way for perogus without falls and waters a fine rich open Country. it is 200 yds water & 1/4 of a Me. wd. I returned to Camp a little after dark, haveing killed one deer, finding my Self fatigued went to bead without my Supper. Shields killed 2 Bull & 3 Elk.