Journals of Lewis and Clark: Dates June 1805 - Part Five
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Journals of Lewis and Clark
Dates: June 14, 1805 - June 15, 1805


This article provides interesting facts about their historic journey taken from the Journals of Lewis and Clark dates June 14, 1805 - June 15, 1805.

Lewis and cClark Expedition: Jounal Dates June 14, 1805 - June 15, 1805

The Journals of Lewis and Clark: Dates June 1805

The Journals of Lewis and Clark: Dates June 14, 1805 - June 15, 1805
The following excerpts are taken from entries of the Journals of Lewis and Clark. Dates: June 14, 1805 - June 15, 1805

June 14, 1805
Friday 14. This morning one of the men was sent to captain Clarke with an account of the discovery of the falls, and after employing the rest in preserving the meat which had been killed yesterday, Captain Lewis proceeded to examine the rapids above. From the falls he directed his course southwest up the river: after passing one continued rapid, and three small cascades, each three or four feet high, he reached at the distance of five miles a second fall. The river is about four hundred yards wide, and for the distance of three hundred throws itself over to the depth of nineteen feet, and so irregularly that he gave it the name of the Crooked falls. From the southern shore it extends obliquely upwards about one hundred and fifty yards, and then forms an acute angle downwards nearly to the commencement of four small islands close to the northern side. From the perpendicular pitch to these islands, a distance of more than one hundred yards, the water glides down a sloping rock with a velocity almost equal to that of its fall.

Above this fall the river bends suddenly to the northward: while viewing this place Captain Lewis heard a loud roar above him, and crossing the point of a hill for a few hundred yards, he saw one of the most beautiful objects in nature: the whole Missouri is suddenly stopped by one shelving rock, which without a single niche and with an edge as straight and regular as if formed by art, stretches itself from one side of the river to the other for at least a quarter of a mile. Over this it precipitates itself in an even uninterrupted sheet to the perpendicular depth of fifty feet, whence dashing against the rocky bottom it rushes rapidly down, leaving behind it a spray of the purest foam across the river. The scene which it presented was indeed singularly beautiful, since without any of the wild irregular sublimity of the lower falls, it combined all the regular elegances which the fancy of a painter would select to form a beautiful waterfall. The eye had scarcely been regaled with this charming prospect, when at the distance of half a mile Captain Lewis observed another of a similar kind: to this he immediately hastened, and found a cascade stretching across the whole river for a quarter of a mile with a descent of fourteen feet, though the perpendicular pitch was only six feet. This too in any other neighborhood would have been an object of great magnificence, but after what he had just seen it became of secondary interest; his curiosity being however awakened, he determined to go on even should night overtake him to the head of the falls. He therefore pursued the southwest course of the river, which was one constant succession of rapids and small cascades, at every one of which the bluffs grew lower, or the bed of the river became more on a level with the plains. At the distance of two and a half miles he arrived at another cataract of twenty-six feet.

The river is here six hundred yards wide, but the descent is not immediately perpendicular, though the river falls generally with a regular and smooth sheet; for about one third of the descent a rock protrudes to a small distance, receives the water in its passage and gives it a curve. On the south side is a beautiful plain a few feet above the level of the falls; on the north the country is more broken, and there is a hill not far from the river. Just below the falls is a little island in the middle of the river well covered with timber. Here on a cottonwood tree an eagle had fixed its nest, and seemed the undisputed mistress of a spot, to contest whose dominion neither man nor beast would venture across the gulfs that surround it, and which is further secured by the mist rising from the falls. This solitary bird could not escape the observation of the Indians who made the eagle's nest a part of their description of the falls, which now proves to be correct in almost every particular, except that they did not do justice to their height. Just above this is a cascade of about five feet, beyond which, as far as could be discerned, the velocity of the water seemed to abate. Captain Lewis now ascended the hill which was behind him, and saw from its top a delightful plain extending from the river to the base of the Snow mountains to the south and southwest. Along this wide level country the Missouri pursued its winding course, filled with water to its even and grassy banks, while about four miles above it was joined by a large river flowing from the northwest through a valley three miles in width, and distinguished by the timber which adorned its shores; the Missouri itself stretches to the south in one unruffled stream of water as if unconscious of the roughness it must soon encounter, and bearing on its bosom vast flocks of geese, while numerous herds of buffalo are feeding on the plains which surround it.

Captain Lewis then descended the hill, and directed his course towards the river falling in from the west. He soon met a herd of at least a thousand buffalo, and being desirous of providing for supper shot one of them; the animal began to bleed, and Captain Lewis who had forgotten to reload his rifle, was intently watching to see him fall, when he beheld a large brown bear who was stealing on him unperceived, and was already within twenty steps. In the first moment of surprise he lifted his rifle, but remembering instantly that it was not charged, and that he had not time to reload, he felt that there was no safety but in flight. It was in the open level plain, not a bush nor a tree within three hundred yards, the bank of the river sloping and not more than three feet high, so that there was no possible mode of concealment: Captain Lewis therefore thought of retreating in a quick walk as fast as the bear advanced towards the nearest tree; but as soon as he turned the bear ran open mouth and at full speed upon him. Captain Lewis ran about eighty yards, but finding that the animal gained on him fast, it flashed on his mind that by getting into the water to such a depth that the bear would be obliged to attack him swimming, there was still some chance of his life, he therefore turned short, plunged into the river about waist deep, and facing about presented the point of his spontoon. The bear arrived at the water's edge within twenty feet of him, but as soon as he put himself in this position of defence, he seemed frightened, and wheeling about, retreated with as much precipitation as he had pursued. Very glad to be released from this danger, Captain Lewis returned to the shore, and observed him run with great speed, sometimes looking back as if he expected to be pursued, till he reached the woods. He could not conceive the cause of the sudden alarm of the bear, but congratulated himself on his escape when he saw his own track torn to pieces by the furious animal, and learnt from the whole adventure never to suffer his rifle to be a moment unloaded.

He now resumed his progress in the direction which the bear had taken towards the western river, and found it a handsome stream about two hundred yards wide, apparently deep, with a gentle current; its waters clear, and its banks, which were formed principally of dark brown and blue clay, are about the same height as those of the Missouri, that is from three to five feet. What was singular was that the river does not seem to overflow its banks at any season, while it might be presumed from its vicinity to the mountains, that the torrents arising from the melting of the snows, would sometimes cause it to swell beyond its limits. The contrary fact would induce a belief that the Rocky mountains yield their snows very reluctantly and equably to the sun, and are not often drenched by very heavy rains. This river is no doubt that which the Indians call Medicine river, which they mentioned as emptying into the Missouri, just above the falls. After examining Medicine river, Captain Lewis set out at half after six o'clock in the evening on his return towards the camp, which he estimated at the distance of twelve miles. In going through the low grounds on Medicine river he met an animal which at a distance he thought was a wolf, but on coming within sixty paces, it proved to be some brownish yellow animal standing near its burrow, which, when he came nigh, crouched and seemed as if about to spring on him. Captain Lewis fired and the beast disappeared in its burrow. From the track and the general appearance of the animal he supposed it to be of the tiger kind. He then went on, but as if the beasts of the forests had conspired against him, three buffalo bulls which were feeding with a large herd at the distance of half a mile, left their companions and ran at full speed towards him. He turned round, and unwilling to give up the field advanced towards them: when they came within a hundred yards, they stopped, looked at him for some time, and then retreated as they came. He now pursued his route in the dark, reflecting on the strange adventures and sights of the day which crowded on his mind so rapidly that he should have been inclined to believe it all enchantment if the thorns of the prickly pear piercing his feet did not dispel at every moment the illusion. He at last reached the party, who had been very anxious for his safety, and who had already decided on the route which each should take in the morning to look for him. Being much fatigued he supped and slept well during the night.

June 15, 1805
Saturday, 15. The men were again sent out to bring in the game killed yesterday and to procure more: they also obtained a number of fine trout and several small catfish weighing about four pounds, and differing from the white catfish lower down the Missouri. On awaking this morning Captain Lewis found a large rattlesnake coiled on the trunk of a tree under which he had been sleeping. He killed it, and found it like those we had seen before, differing from those of the Atlantic states, not in its colors but in the form and arrangement of them; it had one hundred and seventy-six scuta on the abdomen, and seventeen half-formed scuta on the tail. There is a heavy dew on the grass about the camp every morning, which no doubt proceeds from the mist of the falls, as it takes place no where in the plains nor on the river except here. The messenger sent to captain Clarke returned with information of his having arrived five miles below at a rapid, which he did not think it prudent to ascend and would wait till Captain Lewis and his party rejoined him.

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Journals of Lewis and Clark - Dates: June 14, 1805 - June 15, 1805

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