Journals of Lewis and Clark: Dates May 1805 - Part Four
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Journals of Lewis and Clark
Dates: May 12, 1805 - May 20, 1805


This article provides interesting facts about their historic journey taken from the Journals of Lewis and Clark dates May 12, 1805 - May 20, 1805.

Lewis and cClark Expedition: Jounal Dates May 12, 1805 - May 20, 1805

The Journals of Lewis and Clark: Dates May 1805

The Journals of Lewis and Clark: Dates May 12, 1805 - May 20, 1805
The following excerpts are taken from entries of the Journals of Lewis and Clark. Dates: May 12, 1805 - May 20, 1805

May 12, 1805
Sunday, 12th. The weather being clear and calm, we set out early. Within a mile we came to a small creek, about twenty yards wide, emptying itself on the south. At eleven and three quarter miles we reached a point of woodland on the south, opposite to which is a creek of the same width as the last, but with little water, which we called Pine creek. At eighteen and three quarter miles we came to on the south opposite to the lower point of a willow island, situated in a deep bend of the river to the southeast: here we remained during the day, the wind having risen at twelve so high that we could not proceed: it continued to blow violently all night, with occasional sprinklings of rain from sunset till midnight. On both sides of the river the country is rough and broken, the low grounds becoming narrower; the tops of the hills on the north exhibits some scattered pine and cedar, on the south the pine has not yet commenced, though there is some cedar on the sides of the hills and in the little ravines. The chokecherry, the wild hysop, sage, fleshy-leafed thorn, and particularly the aromatic herb on which the antelope and hare feed, are to be found on the plains and hills. The soil of the hills has now altered its texture considerably: their bases, like that of the river plains, is as usual a rich, black loam, while from the middle to the summits they are composed of a light brown-colored earth, poor and sterile, and intermixed with a coarse white sand.

May 13, 1805
Monday, 13th. The wind was so strong that we could not proceed till about one o'clock, when we had to encounter a current rather stronger than usual. In the course of a mile and a half we passed two small creeks on the south, one of eighteen the other of thirty yards width, but neither of them containing any water, and encamped on the south at a point of woodland, having made only seven miles. The country is much the same as yesterday, with little timber in the low grounds, and a small quantity of pine and cedar on the northern hills. The river however continues to grow clearer, and this as well as the increased rapidity induces us to hope for some change of country. The game is as usual so abundant that we can get without difficulty all that is necessary.

May 14, 1805
Tuesday, 14th. There was some fog on the river this morning, which is a very rare occurrence. At the distance of a mile and a half we reached an island in a bend on the north, which continued for about half a mile, when at the head of it a large creek comes in on the north, to which we gave the name of Gibson's creek. At seven and a half miles is a point of rocks on the south, above a creek on the same side, which we called Sticklodge creek: five miles further is a large creek on the south, which like the two others has no running water; and at sixteen and a half miles a timbered point on the north, where we encamped for the night.

The country is like that of yesterday, except that the low grounds are wider; there are also many high black bluffs along the banks: the game too is in great abundance. Towards evening the men in the hindmost canoes discovered a large brown bear lying in the open grounds, about three hundred paces from the river: six of them, all good hunters, immediately went to attack him, and concealing themselves by a small eminence came unperceived within forty paces of him: four of the hunters now fired, and each lodged a ball in his body, two of them directly through the lungs: the furious animal sprung up and ran openmouthed upon them; as he came near, the two hunters who had reserved their fire gave him two wounds, one of which breaking his shoulder retarded his motion for a moment; but before they could reload he was so near that they were obliged to run to the river, and before they reached it he had almost overtaken them: two jumped into the canoe; the other four separated, and concealing themselves in the willows fired as fast as each could reload: they struck him several times, but instead of weakening the monster each shot seemed only to direct him towards the hunter, till at last he pursued two of them so closely, that they threw aside their guns and pouches, and jumped down a perpendicular bank of twenty feet into the river; the bear sprang after them, and was within a few feet of the hindmost, when one of the hunters on shore shot him in the head and finally killed him: they dragged him to the shore, and found that eight balls had passed through him in different directions; the bear was old and the meat tough, so that they took the skin only, and rejoined us at camp, where we had been as much terrified by an accident of a different kind.

This was the narrow escape of one of our canoes containing all our papers, instruments, medicine, and almost every article indispensible for the success of our enterprise. The canoe being under sail, a sudden squall of wind struck her obliquely, and turned her considerably. The man at the helm, who was unluckily the worst steersman of the party, became alarmed, and instead of putting her before the wind luffed her up into it. The wind was so high that it forced the brace of the squaresail out of the hand of the man who was attending it, and instantly upset the canoe, which would have turned bottom upwards but for the resistance made by the awning. Such was the confusion on board, and the waves ran so high, that it was half a minute before she righted, and then nearly full of water, but by baling out she was kept from sinking until they rowed ashore; besides the loss of the lives of three men who not being able to swim would probably have perished, we should have been deprived of nearly every thing necessary for our purpose, at a distance of between two and three thousand miles from any place where we could supply the deficiency.

May 15, 1805
Wednesday 15. As soon as a slight shower of rain had passed, we spread out the articles to dry; but the weather was so damp and cloudy that they derived little benefit from exposure. Our hunters procured us deer, buffalo, and beaver.

May 16, 1805
Thursday 16. The morning was fair and we were enabled to dry and repack our stores: the loss we sustained is chiefly in the medicines, many articles of which are completely spoiled, and others considerably injured. At four o'clock we embarked, and after making seven miles encamped on the north near some wood: the country on both sides is broken, the low grounds narrower and with less timber, though there are some scattered pine and cedar on the steep declivities of the hills, which are now higher than usual. A white bear tore the coat of one of the men which he had left on shore; and two of the party wounded a large panther who was feasting on a deer. We caught some lean antelopes as they were swimming the river, and killed two buffalo.

May 17, 1805
Friday 17. We set out early and proceeded on very well; the banks being firm and the shore bold we were enabled to use the towline, which, whenever the banks will permit it, is the safest and most expeditious mode of ascending the river, except under a sail with a steady breeze. At the distance of ten and a half miles we came to the mouth of a small creek on the south, below which the hills approach the river, and continue near it during the day: three miles further is a large creek on the north, and again six and three quarter miles beyond it, another large creek to the south, which contain a small quantity of running water of a brackish taste. The last we called Rattlesnake creek from our seeing that animal near it. Although no timber can be observed on it from the Missouri, it throws out large quantities of driftwood, among which were some pieces of coal brought down by the stream. We continued on one mile and a quarter, and encamped on the south, after making twenty and a half miles.

The country in general is rugged, the hills high, with their summits and sides partially covered with pine and cedar, and their bases on both sides washed by the river: like those already mentioned the lower part of these hills is a dark rich loam, while the upper region for one hundred and fifty feet consists of a whitish brown sand, so hard as in many places to resemble stone, though in fact very little stone or rock of any kind is to be seen on the hills. The bed of the Missouri is much narrower than usual, being not more than between two and three hundred yards in width, with an uncommonly large proportion of gravel; but the sandbars, and low points covered with willows have almost entirely disappeared: the timber on the river consists of scarcely any thing more than a few scattered cottonwood trees. The saline incrustations along the banks and the foot of the hills are more abundant than usual. The game is in great quantities, but the buffalo are not so numerous as they were some days ago: two rattlesnakes were seen to-day, and one of them killed: it resembles those of the middle Atlantic states, being about two feet six inches long, of a yellowish brown on the back and sides, variegated with a row of oval dark brown spots lying transversely on the back from the neck to the tail, and two other rows of circular spots of the same color on the sides along the edge of the scuta: there are one hundred and seventy-six scuta on the belly, and seventeen on the tail. Captain Clarke saw in his excursions a fortified Indian camp which appeared to have been recently occupied, and was, we presumed, made by a party of Minnetarees who went to war last March.

Late at night we were roused by the sergeant of the guard in consequence of a fire which had communicated to a tree overhanging our camp. The wind was so high, that we had not removed the camp more than a few minutes when a large part of the tree fell precisely on the spot it had occupied, and would have crushed us if we had not been alarmed in time.

May 18, 1805
Saturday 18. The wind continued high from the west, but by means of the towline we were able to make nineteen miles, the sandbars being now few in number, the river narrow and the current gentle; the willow has in a great measure disappeared, and even the cottonwood, almost the only timber remaining, is growing scarce. At twelve and three quarter miles we came to a creek on the north, which was perfectly dry. We encamped on the south opposite the lower point of an island.

May 19, 1805
Sunday 19. The last night was disagreeably cold; and in the morning there was a very heavy fog which obscured the river so much as to prevent our seeing the way. This is the first fog of any degree of thickness which we have experienced: there was also last evening a fall of dew, the second which we have seen since entering this extensive open country. About eight o'clock the fog dispersed, and we proceeded with the aid of the towline: the island near which we were encamped, was three quarters of a mile in length. The country resembles that of yesterday, high hills closely bordering the river. In the afternoon the river became crooked, and contained more sawyers or floating timber than we have seen in the same space since leaving the Platte. Our game consisted of deer, beaver, and elk: we also killed a brown bear, who, although shot through the heart, ran at his usual pace nearly a quarter of a mile before he fell. At twenty-one miles is a willow island half a mile in length, on the north side, a quarter of a mile beyond which is a shoal of rapid water under a bluff: the water continued very strong for some distance beyond it: at half a mile we came to a sandbar on the north, from which to our place of encampment was another half mile, making in all twenty-two and a quarter miles. The saline substances which we have mentioned continue to appear; and the men are much afflicted with sore eyes and imposthumes.

May 20, 1805
Monday 20. As usual we set out early, and the banks being convenient for that purpose, we used the towline: the river is narrow and crooked, the water rapid, and the country much like that of yesterday: at the distance of two and a quarter miles we passed a large creek with but little water, to which we gave the name of Blowingfly creek, from the quantity of those insects found in its neighborhood. They are extremely troublesome, infesting our meat whilst cooking and at our meals. After making seven miles we reached by eleven o'clock the mouth of a large river on the south, and encamped for the day at the upper point of its junction with the Missouri. This stream which we suppose to be that called by the Minnetarees the Muscleshell river, empties into the Missouri two thousand two hundred and seventy miles above the mouth of the latter river, and in latitude 47 0' 24" 6 north. It is one hundred and ten yards wide, and contains more water than streams of that size usually do in this country; its current is by no means rapid, and there is every appearance of its being susceptible of navigation by canoes for a considerable distance: its bed is chiefly formed of coarse sand and gravel, with an occasional mixture of black mud; the banks abrupt and nearly twelve feet high, so that they are secure from being overflowed: the water is of a greenish yellow cast and much more transparent than that of the Missouri, which itself, though clearer than below, still retains its whitish hue and a portion of its sediment.

Opposite to the point of junction the current of the Missouri is gentle, and two hundred and twenty-two yards in width, the bed principally of mud (the little sand remaining being wholly confined to the points) and still too deep to use the setting pole. If this be, as we suppose, the Muscleshell, our Indian information is, that it rises in the first chain of the Rocky mountains not far from the sources of the Yellowstone, whence in its course to this place it waters a high broken country, well timbered particularly on its borders, and interspersed with handsome fertile plains and meadows. We have reason, however, to believe, from their giving a similar account of the timber [222]where we now are, that the timber of which they speak is similar to that which we have seen for a few days past, which consists of nothing more than a few straggling small pine and dwarf cedar, on the summits of the hills, nine-tenths of the ground being totally destitute of wood, and covered with a short grass, aromatic herbs, and an immense quantity of prickly pears: though the party who explored it for eight miles represented low grounds on the river as well supplied with cottonwood of a tolerable size, and of an excellent soil. They also reported that the country is broken and irregular like that near our camp; that about five miles up a handsome river about fifty yards wide, which we named after Charbonneau's wife, Sahcajahweah, or Birdwoman's river, discharges itself into the Muscleshell on the north or upper side. Another party found at the foot of the southern hills, about four miles from the Missouri, a fine bold spring, which in this country is so rare that since we left the Mandans we have found only one of a similar kind, and that was under the bluffs on the south side of the Missouri, at some distance from it, and about five miles below the Yellowstone: with this exception all the small fountains of which we have met a number are impregnated with the salts which are so abundant here, and with which the Missouri is itself most probably tainted, though to us who have been so much accustomed to it, the taste is not perceptible. Among the game to-day we observed two large owls, with remarkably long feathers resembling ears on the sides of the head, which we presume are the hooting owls, though they are larger and their colors are brighter than those common in the United States.

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