Journals of Lewis and Clark: Dates July 1805 - Part Six
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Journals of Lewis and Clark
Dates: July 19, 1805 - July 21, 1805


This article provides interesting facts about their historic journey taken from the Journals of Lewis and Clark dates July 19, 1805 - July 21, 1805.

Lewis and cClark Expedition: Jounal Dates July 19, 1805 - July 21, 1805

The Journals of Lewis and Clark: Dates July 1805

The Journals of Lewis and Clark: Dates July 19, 1805 - July 21, 1805
The following excerpts are taken from entries of the Journals of Lewis and Clark. Dates: July 19, 1805 - July 21, 1805

July 19, 1805
Friday 19. He pursued his route early in the morning, and soon passed the remains of several Indian camps formed of willow brush, which seemed to have been deserted this spring. At the same time he observed that the pine trees had been stripped of their bark about the same season, which our Indian woman say her countrymen do in order to obtain the sap and the soft parts of the wood and bark for food. About eleven o'clock he met a herd of elk and killed two of them, but such was the want of wood in the neighborhood that he was unable to procure enough to make a fire, and he was therefore obliged to substitute the dung of the buffalo, with which he cooked his breakfast. They then resumed their course along an old Indian road. In the afternoon they reached a handsome valley watered by a large creek, both of which extend a considerable distance into the mountain: this they crossed, and during the evening traveled over a mountainous country covered with sharp fragments of flint-rock: these bruised and cut their feet very much, but were scarcely less troublesome than the prickly pear of the open plains, which have now become so abundant that it is impossible to avoid them, and the thorns are so strong that they pierce a double soal of dressed deer skin: the best resource against them is a soal of buffalo hide in parchment. At night they reached the river much fatigued, having passed two mountains in the course of the day and having traveled thirty miles. Captain Clarke's first employment on lighting a fire was to extract from his feet the briars, which he found seventeen in number.

In the meantime we proceeded on very well, though the water appears to increase in rapidity as we advance: the current has indeed been strong during the day and obstructed by some rapids, which are not however much broken by rocks, and are perfectly safe: the river is deep, and its general width is from one hundred to one hundred and fifty yards wide. For more than thirteen miles we went along the numerous bends of the river and then reached two small islands; three and three quarter miles beyond which is a small creek in a bend to the left, above a small island on the right side of the river. We were regaled about ten o'clock P.M. with a thunder storm of rain and hail which lasted for an hour, but during the day in this confined valley, through which we are passing, the heat is almost insupportable; yet whenever we obtain a glimpse of the lofty tops of the mountains we are tantalized with a view of the snow. These mountains have their sides and summits partially varied with little copses of pine, cedar, and balsam fir. A mile and a half beyond this creek the rocks approach the river on both sides, forming a most sublime and extraordinary spectacle. For five and three quarter miles these rocks rise perpendicularly from the water's edge to the height of nearly twelve hundred feet. They are composed of a black granite near its base, but from its lighter color above and from the fragments we suppose the upper part to be flint of a yellowish brown and cream color. Nothing can be imagined more tremendous than the frowning darkness of these rocks, which project over the river and menace us with destruction.

The river, of one hundred and fifty yards in width, seems to have forced its channel down this solid mass, but so reluctantly has it given way that during the whole distance the water is very deep even at the edges, and for the first three miles there is not a spot except one of a few yards, in which a man could stand between the water and the towering perpendicular of the mountain: the convulsion of the passage must have been terrible, since at its outlet there are vast columns of rock torn from the mountain which are strewed on both sides of the river, the trophies as it were of the victory. Several fine springs burst out from the chasms of the rock, and contribute to increase the river, which has now a strong current, but very fortunately we are able to overcome it with our oars, since it would be impossible to use either the cord or the pole. We were obliged to go on some time after dark, not being able to find a spot large enough to encamp on, but at length about two miles above a small inland in the middle of the river we met with a spot on the left side, where we procured plenty of lightwood and pitchpine. This extraordinary range of rocks we called the Gates of the Rocky mountains. We had made twenty-two miles; and four and a quarter miles from the entrance of the gates. The mountains are higher to-day than they were yesterday. We saw some big-horns, a few antelopes and beaver, but since entering the mountains have found no buffalo: the otter are however in great plenty: the mosquitoes have become less troublesome than they were.

July 20, 1805
Saturday 20. By employing the towrope whenever the banks permitted the use of it, the river being too deep for the pole, we were enabled to overcome the current which is still strong. At the distance of half a mile we came to a high rock in a bend to the left in the Gates. Here the perpendicular rocks cease, the hills retire from the river, and the valleys suddenly widen to a greater extent than they have been since we entered the mountains. At this place was some scattered timber, consisting of the narrow-leafed cottonwood, the aspen, and pine. There are also vast quantities of gooseberries, serviceberries, and several species of currant, among which is one of a black color, the flavor of which is preferable to that of the yellow, and would be deemed superior to that of any currant in the United States. We here killed an elk which was a pleasant addition to our stock of food. At a mile from the Gates, a large creek comes down from the mountains and empties itself behind an island in the middle of a bend to the north. To this stream which is fifteen yards wide we gave the name of Potts's creek, after John Potts, one of our men.

Up this valley about seven miles we discovered a great smoke, as if the whole country had been set on fire; but were at a loss to decide whether it had been done accidentally by captain Clarke's party, or by the Indians as a signal on their observing us. We afterwards learnt that this last was the fact; for they had heard a gun fired by one of captain Clarke's men, and believing that their enemies were approaching had fled into the mountains, first setting fire to the plains as a warning to their countrymen. We continued our course along several islands, and having made in the course of the day fifteen miles, encamped just above an island, at a spring on a high bank on the left side of the river. In the latter part of the evening we had passed through a low range of mountains, and the country became more open, though still unbroken and without timber, and the lowlands not very extensive: and just above our camp the river is again closed in by the mountains. We found on the banks an elk which captain Clarke had left us, with a note mentioning that he should pass the mountains just above us and wait our arrival at some convenient place. We saw but could not procure some redheaded ducks and sandhill cranes along the sides of the river, and a woodpecker about the size of the lark-woodpecker, which seems to be a distinct species: it is as black as a crow with a long tail, and flies like a jaybird. The whole country is so infested by the prickly pear that we could scarcely find room to lie down at our camp.

Captain Clarke on setting out this morning had gone through the valley about six miles to the right of the river. He soon fell into an old Indian road which he pursued till he reached the Missouri, at the distance of eighteen miles from his last encampment, just above the entrance of a large creek, which we afterwards called Whiteearth creek. Here he found his party so much cut and pierced with the sharp flint and the prickly pear that he proceeded only a small distance further, and then halted to wait for us. Along his track he had taken the precaution to strew signals, such as pieces of cloth, paper and linen, to prove to the Indians, if by accident they met his track, that we were white men. But he observed a smoke some distance ahead, and concluded that the whole country had now taken the alarm.

July 21, 1805
Sunday 21. On leaving our camp we passed an island at half a mile, and reached at one mile a bad rapid at the place where the river leaves the mountain: here the cliffs are high and covered with fragments of broken rocks, the current is also strong, but although more rapid the river is wider and shallower, so that we are able to use the pole occasionally, though we principally depend on the towline. On leaving this rapid which is about half a mile in extent, the country opens on each side; the hills become lower; at one mile is a large island on the left side, and four and a half beyond it a large and bold creek twenty-eight yards wide, coming in from the north, where it waters a handsome valley: we called it Pryor's creek after one of the sergeants, John Pryor. At a mile above this creek on the left side of the Missouri we obtained a meridian altitude, which gave 46 10' 32" 9"' as the latitude of the place. For the following four miles, the country, like that through which we passed during the rest of the day, is rough and mountainous as we found it yesterday; but at the distance of twelve miles, we came towards evening into a beautiful plain ten or twelve miles wide and extending as far the eye could reach. This plain or rather valley is bounded by two nearly parallel ranges of high mountains whose summits are partially covered with snow, below which the pine is scattered along the sides down to the plain in some places, though the greater part of their surface has no timber and exhibits only a barren soil with no covering except dry parched grass or black rugged rocks.

On entering the valley the river assumes a totally different aspect; it spreads to more than a mile in width, and though more rapid than before, is shallow enough in almost every part for the use of the pole, while its bed is formed of smooth stones and some large rocks, as it has been indeed since we entered the mountains: it is also divided by a number of islands some of which are large near the northern shore. The soil of the valley is a rich black loam apparently very fertile, and covered with a fine green grass about eighteen inches or two feet in height; while that of the high grounds is perfectly dry and seems scorched by the sun. The timber though still scarce is in greater quantities in this valley than we have seen it since entering the mountains, and seems to prefer the borders of the small creeks to the banks of the river itself. We advanced three and a half miles in this valley and encamped on the left side, having made in all fifteen and a half miles.

Our only large game to-day was one deer. We saw however two pheasants of a dark brown color, much larger than the same species of bird in the United States. In the morning too, we saw three swans which, like the geese, have not yet recovered the feathers of the wing, and were unable to fly: we killed two of them, and the third escaped by diving and passing down the current. These are the first we have seen on the river for a great distance, and as they had no young with them, we presume that they do not breed in this neighborhood. Of the geese we daily see great numbers, with their young perfectly feathered except on the wings, where both young and old are deficient; the first are very fine food, but the old ones are poor and unfit for use. Several of the large brown or sandhill crane are feeding in the low grounds on the grass which forms their principal food. The young crane cannot fly at this season: they are as large as a turkey, of a bright reddish bay color. Since the river has become shallow we have caught a number of trout to-day, and a fish, white on the belly and sides, but of a bluish cast on the back, and a long pointed mouth opening somewhat like that of the shad.

This morning captain Clarke wishing to hunt but fearful of alarming the Indians, went up the river for three miles, when finding neither any of them nor of their recent tracks returned, and then his little party separated to look for game. They killed two bucks and a doe, and a young curlew nearly feathered: in the evening they found the mosquitoes as troublesome as we did: these animals attack us as soon as the labors and fatigues of the day require some rest, and annoy us till several hours after dark, when the coldness of the air obliges them to disappear; but such is their persecution that were it not for our biers we should obtain no repose.

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Journals of Lewis and Clark - Dates: July 19, 1805 - July 21, 1805

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