Journals of Lewis and Clark: Dates August 1805 - Part Five
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Journals of Lewis and Clark
Dates: August 10, 1805 - August 11, 1805


This article provides interesting facts about their historic journey taken from the Journals of Lewis and Clark dates August 10, 1805 - August 11, 1805 .

Lewis and cClark Expedition: Jounal Dates August 10, 1805 - August 11, 1805

The Journals of Lewis and Clark: Dates August 1805

The Journals of Lewis and Clark: Dates August 10, 1805 - August 11, 1805
The following excerpts are taken from entries of the Journals of Lewis and Clark. Dates: August 10, 1805 - August 11, 1805

August 10, 1805
Saturday, 10. Captain Lewis continued his route at an early hour through the wide bottom along the left bank of the river. At about five miles he passed a large creek, and then fell into an Indian road leading towards the point where the river entered the mountain. This he followed till he reached a high perpendicular cliff of rocks where the river makes its passage through the hills, and which he called the Rattlesnake cliff, from the number of that animal which he saw there: here he kindled a fire and waited the return of Drewyer, who had been sent out on the way to kill a deer: he came back about noon with the skin of three deer and the flesh of one of the best of them. After a hasty dinner they returned to the Indian road which they had left for a short distance to see the cliff. It led them sometimes over the hills, sometimes in the narrow bottoms of the river, till at the distance of fifteen miles from the Rattlesnake cliffs they reached a handsome open and level valley, where the river divided into two nearly equal branches.

The mountains over which they passed were not very high, but are rugged and continue close to the river side. The river, which before it enters the mountain was rapid, rocky, very crooked, much divided by islands, and shallow, now becomes more direct in its course as it is hemmed in by the hills, and has not so many bends nor islands, but becomes more rapid and rocky, and continues as shallow. On examining the two branches of the river it was evident that neither of them was navigable further. The road forked with the river; and Captain Lewis therefore sent a man up each of them for a short distance, in order that by comparing their respective information he might be able to take that which seemed to have been most used this spring. From their account he resolved to choose that which led along the southwest branch of the river which was rather the smaller of the two: he accordingly wrote a note to captain Clarke informing him of the route, and recommending his staying with the party at the forks till he should return: This he fixed on a dry willow pole at the forks of the river, and then proceeded up the southwest branch; but after going a mile and a half the road became scarcely distinguishable, and the tracks of the horses which he had followed along the Jefferson were no longer seen. Captain Lewis therefore returned to examine the other road himself, and found that the horses had in fact passed along the western or right fork which had the additional recommendation of being larger than the other.

This road he concluded to take, and therefore sent back Drewyer to the forks with a second letter to captain Clarke apprising him of the change, and then proceeded on. The valley of the west fork through which he now passed, bears a little to the north of west, and is confined within the space of about a mile in width, by rough mountains and steep cliffs of rock. At the distance of four and a half miles it opens into a beautiful and extensive plain about ten miles long and five or six in width: this is surrounded on all sides by higher rolling or waving country, intersected by several little rivulets from the mountains, each bordered by its wide meadows. The whole prospect is bounded by these mountains, which nearly surround it, so as to form a beautiful cove about sixteen or eighteen miles in diameter. On entering this cove the river bends to the northwest, and bathes the foot of the hills to the right. At this place they halted for the night on the right side of the river, and having lighted a fire of dry willow brush, the only fuel which the country affords, supped on a deer. They had traveled to-day thirty miles by estimate: that is ten to the Rattlesnake cliff, fifteen to the forks of Jefferson river, and five to their encampment. In this cove some parts of the low grounds are tolerably fertile, but much the greater proportion is covered with prickly pear, sedge, twisted grass, the pulpy-leafed thorn, southern-wood, and wild sage, and like the uplands have a very inferior soil. These last have little more than the prickly pear and the twisted or bearded grass, nor are there in the whole cove more than three or four cottonwood trees, and those are small.

At the apparent extremity of the bottom above, and about ten miles to the westward, are two perpendicular cliffs rising to a considerable height on each side of the river, and at this distance seem like a gate. In the meantime we proceeded at sunrise, and found the river not so rapid as yesterday, though more narrow and still very crooked, and so shallow that we were obliged to drag the canoes over many ripples in the course of the day. At six and a half miles we had passed eight bends on the north, and two small bayous on the left, and came to what the Indians call the Beaver's-head, a steep rocky cliff about one hundred and fifty feet high, near the right side of the river. Opposite to this at three hundred yards from the water is a low cliff about fifty feet in height, which forms the extremity of a spur of the mountain about four miles distant on the left. At four o'clock we were overtaken by a heavy shower of rain, attended with thunder, lightning and hail. The party were defended from the hail by covering themselves with willow bushes, but they got completely wet, and in this situation, as soon as the rain ceased, continued till we encamped. This we did at a low bluff on the left, after passing in the course of six and a half miles, four islands and eighteen bends on the right, and a low bluff and several bayous on the same side. We had now come thirteen miles, yet were only four on our route towards the mountains. The game seems to be declining, for our hunters procured only a single deer, though we found another for us that had been killed three days before by one of the hunters during an excursion, and left for us on the river.

August 11, 1805
Sunday, August 11. Captain Lewis again proceeded on early, but had the mortification to find that the track which he followed yesterday soon disappeared. He determined therefore to go on to the narrow gate or pass of the river which he had seen from the camp, in hopes of being able to recover the Indian path. For this purpose he waded across the river, which was now about twelve yards wide, and barred in several places by the dams of the beaver, and then went straight forward to the pass, sending one man along the river to his left, and another on the right, with orders to search for the road, and if they found it to let him know by raising a hat on the muzzle of their guns. In this order they went along for about five miles, when Captain Lewis perceived with the greatest delight a man on horseback at the distance of two miles coming down the plain towards them.

On examining him with the glass, Captain Lewis saw that he was of a different nation from any Indians we had hitherto met: he was armed with a bow and a quiver of arrows; mounted on an elegant horse without a saddle, and a small string attached to the under jaw answered as a bridle. Convinced that he was a Shoshone, and knowing how much of our success depended on the friendly offices of that nation, Captain Lewis was full of anxiety to approach without alarming him, and endeavor to convince him that he was a white man. He therefore, proceeded on towards the Indian at his usual pace, when they were within a mile of each other the Indian suddenly stopped, Captain Lewis immediately followed his example, took his blanket from his knapsack, and holding it with both hands at the two corners, threw it above his head and unfolded it as he brought it to the ground as if in the act of spreading it. This signal which originates in the practice of spreading a robe or a skin, as a seat for guests to whom they wish to show a distinguished kindness, is the universal sign of friendship among the Indians on the Missouri and the Rocky mountains. As usual, Captain Lewis repeated this signal three times: still the Indian kept his position, and looked with an air of suspicion on Drewyer and Shields who were now advancing on each side. Captain Lewis was afraid to make any signal for them to halt, lest he should increase the suspicions of the Indian, who began to be uneasy, and they too distant to hear his voice. He, therefore, took from his pack some beads, a looking-glass and a few trinkets, which he had brought for the purpose, and leaving his gun advanced unarmed towards the Indian. He remained in the same position till Captain Lewis came within two hundred yards of him, when he turned his horse, and began to move off slowly; Captain Lewis then called out to him, in as loud a voice as he could, repeating the word, tabba bone! which in the Shoshone language means white man; but looking over his shoulder the Indian kept his eyes on Drewyer and Shields, who were still advancing, without recollecting the impropriety of doing so at such a moment, till Captain Lewis made a signal [356]to them to halt; this Drewyer obeyed, but Shields did not observe it, and still went forward: seeing Drewyer halt the Indian turned his horse about as if to wait for Captain Lewis who now reached within one hundred and fifty paces, repeating the word tabba bone, and holding up the trinkets in his hand, at the same time stripping up the sleeve of his shirt to show the color of his skin. The Indian suffered him to advance within one hundred paces, then suddenly turned his horse, and giving him the whip, leaped across the creek, and disappeared in an instant among the willow bushes: with him vanished all the hopes which the sight of him had inspired of a friendly introduction to his countrymen.

Though sadly disappointed by the imprudence of his two men, Captain Lewis determined to make the incident of some use, and therefore calling the men to him they all set off after the track of the horse, which they hoped might lead them to the camp of the Indian who had fled, or if he had given the alarm to any small party, their track might conduct them to the body of the nation. They now fixed a small flag of the United States on a pole, which was carried by one of the men as a signal of their friendly intentions, should the Indians observe them as they were advancing. The route lay across an island formed by a nearly equal division of the creek in the bottom: after reaching the open grounds on the right side of the creek, the track turned towards some high hills about three miles distant. Presuming that the Indian camp might be among these hills, and that by advancing hastily he might be seen and alarm them, Captain Lewis sought an elevated situation near the creek, had a fire made of willow brush, and took breakfast. At the same time he prepared a small assortment of beads, trinkets, awls, some paint and a looking glass, and placed them on a pole near the fire, in order that if the Indians returned they might discover that the party were white men and friends.

Whilst making these preparations a very heavy shower of rain and hail came on, and wet them to the skin: in about twenty minutes it was over, and Captain Lewis then renewed his pursuit, but as the rain had made the grass which the horse had trodden down rise again, his track could with difficulty be distinguished. As they went along they passed several places where the Indians seemed to have been digging roots to-day, and saw the fresh track of eight or ten horses, but they had been wandering about in so confused a manner that he could not discern any particular path, and at last, after pursuing it about four miles along the valley to the left under the foot of the hills, he lost the track of the fugitive Indian. Near the head of the valley they had passed a large bog covered with moss and tall grass, among which were several springs of pure cold water: they now turned a little to the left along the foot of the high hills, and reached a small creek where they encamped for the night, having made about twenty miles, though not more than ten in a direct line from their camp of last evening.

The morning being rainy and wet we did not set out with the canoes till after an early breakfast. During the first three miles we passed three small islands, six bayous on different sides of the river, and the same number of bends towards the right. Here we reached the lower point of a large island which we called Three-thousand-mile island, on account of its being at that distance from the mouth of the Missouri. It is three miles and a half in length, and as we coasted along it we passed several small bends of the river towards the left, and two bayous on the same side. After leaving the upper point of Three-thousand-mile island, we followed the main channel on the left side, which led us by three small islands and several small bayous, and fifteen bends towards the right. Then at the distance of seven miles and a half we encamped on the upper end of a large island near the right. The river was shallow and rapid, so that we were obliged to be in the water during a great part of the day, dragging the canoes over the shoals and ripples. Its course too was so crooked, that notwithstanding we had made fourteen miles by water, we were only five miles from our encampment of last night. The country consists of a low ground on the river about five miles wide, and succeeded on both sides by plains of the same extent which reach to the base of the mountains. These low grounds are very much intersected by bayous, and in those on the left side is a large proportion of bog covered with tall grass, which would yield a fine turf. There are very few trees, and those small narrow-leafed cottonwood: the principal growth being the narrow-leafed willow, and currant bushes, among which were some bunches of privy near the river. We saw a number of geese, ducks, beaver, otter, deer and antelopes, of all which one beaver was killed with a pole from the boat, three otters with a tomahawk, and the hunters brought in three deer and an antelope.

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Journals of Lewis and Clark - Dates: August 10, 1805 - August 11, 1805

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