Journals of Lewis and Clark: Dates May 1805 - Part Five
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Journals of Lewis and Clark
Dates: May 21, 1805 - May 26, 1805

 

This article provides interesting facts about their historic journey taken from the Journals of Lewis and Clark dates May 21, 1805 - May 26, 1805.

Lewis and cClark Expedition: Jounal Dates May 21, 1805 - May 26, 1805

The Journals of Lewis and Clark: Dates May 1805
 

The Journals of Lewis and Clark: Dates May 21, 1805 - May 26, 1805
The following excerpts are taken from entries of the Journals of Lewis and Clark. Dates: May 21, 1805 - May 26, 1805

May 21, 1805
Tuesday 21. The morning being very fine we were able to employ the rope and made twenty miles to our camp on the north. The shores of the river are abrupt, bold and composed of a black and yellow clay, the bars being formed of black mud, and a small proportion of fine sand; the current strong. In its course the Missouri makes a sudden and extensive bend towards the south, to receive the waters of the Muscleshell. The neck of land thus formed, though itself high is lower than the surrounding country, and makes a waving valley extending for a great distance to the northward, with a fertile soil which, though without wood, produces a fine turf of low grass, some herbs and vast quantities of prickly pear. The country on the south is high, broken, and crowned with some pine and dwarf cedar; the leaf of this pine is longer than that of the common pitch or red pine of Virginia, the cone is longer and narrower, the imbrications wider and thicker, and the whole frequently covered with rosin. During the whole day the bends of the river are short and sudden; and the points covered with some cottonwood, large or broad leaved willow, and a small quantity of redwood; the undergrowth consisting of wild roses, and the bushes of the small honeysuckle.

The mineral appearances on the river are as usual. We do not find the grouse or prairie hen so abundant as below, and think it probable that they retire from the river to the plains during this season.

The wind had been moderate during the fore part of the day, but continued to rise towards evening, and about dark veered to northeast, and blew a storm all night. We had encamped on a bar on the north, opposite the lower point of an island, which from this circumstance we called Windy island; but we were so annoyed by clouds of dust and sand that we could neither eat nor sleep, and were forced to remove our camp at eight o'clock to the foot of an adjoining hill, which shielded us in some degree from the wind: we procured elk, deer, and buffalo.

May 22, 1805
Wednesday 22. The wind blew so violently that it was deemed prudent to wait till it had abated, so that we did not leave the camp till ten o'clock, when we proceeded principally by the towline. We passed Windy island which is about three quarters of a mile in length: and five and a half miles above it a large island in a bend to the north: three miles beyond this we came to the entrance of a creek twenty yards wide, though with little water, which we called Grouse creek, from observing near its mouth a quantity of the prairie hen with pointed tails, the first we have seen in such numbers for several days: the low grounds are somewhat wider than usual and apparently fertile, though the short and scanty grass on the hills does not indicate much richness of soil. The country around is not so broken as that of yesterday, but is still waving, the southern hills possessing more pine than usual, and some appearing on the northern hills, which are accompanied by the usual salt and mineral appearances.

The river continues about two hundred and fifty yards wide, with fewer sandbars, and the current more gentle and regular. Game is no longer in such abundance, since leaving the Muscleshell. We have caught very few fish on this side of the Mandans, and these were the white catfish of two to five pounds. We killed a deer and a bear: we have not seen in this quarter the black bear, common in the United States and on the lower parts of the Missouri, nor have we discerned any of their tracks, which may easily be distinguished by the shortness of its talons from the brown, grizzly, or white bear, all of which seem to be of the same family, which assumes those colors at different seasons of the year. We halted earlier than usual, and encamped on the north, in a point of woods, at the distance of sixteen and a half miles.

May 23, 1805
Thursday 23. Last night the frost was severe, and this morning the ice appeared along the edges of the river, and the water froze on our oars. At the distance of a mile we passed the entrance of a creek on the north, which we named Teapot creek; it is fifteen yards wide, and although it has running water at a small distance from its mouth, yet it discharges none into the Missouri, resembling, we believe, most of the creeks in this hilly country, the waters of which are absorbed by the thirsty soil near the river. They indeed afford but little water in any part, and even that is so strongly tainted with salts that it is unfit for use, though all the wild animals are very fond of it. On experiment it was found to be moderately purgative, but painful to the intestines in its operation. This creek seems to come from a range of low hills, which run from east to west for seventy miles, and have their eastern extremity thirty miles to the north of Teapot creek. Just above its entrance is a large assemblage of the burrowing squirrels on the north side of the river. At nine miles we reached the upper point of an island in a bend on the south, and opposite the centre of the island, a small dry creek on the north. Half a mile further a small creek falls in on the same side; and six and a half miles beyond this another on the south. At four and a half [226]we passed a small island in a deep bend to the north, and on the same side in a deep northeastern bend of the river another small island. None of these creeks however possessed any water, and at the entrances of the islands, the two first are covered with tall cottonwood timber, and the last with willows only. The river has become more rapid, the country much the same as yesterday, except that there is rather more rocks on the face of the hills, and some small spruce pine appears among the pitch. The wild roses are very abundant and now in bloom; they differ from those of the United States only in having the leaves and the bush itself of a somewhat smaller size. We find the mosquitoes troublesome, notwithstanding the coolness of the morning. The buffalo is scarce to-day, but the elk, deer, and antelope, are very numerous. The geese begin to lose the feathers of the wings, and are unable to fly. We saw five bears, one of which we wounded, but in swimming from us across the river, he become entangled in some driftwood and sank. We formed our camp on the north opposite to a hill and a point of wood in a bend to the south, having made twenty-seven miles.

May 24, 1805
Friday 24. The water in the kettles froze one eighth of an inch during the night; the ice appears along the margin of the river, and the cottonwood trees which have lost nearly all their leaves by the frost, are putting forth other buds. We proceeded with the line principally till about nine o'clock, when a fine breeze sprung up from the S.E. and enabled us to sail very well, notwithstanding the rapidity of the current. At one mile and a half is a large creek thirty yards wide, and containing some water which it empties on the north side, over a gravelly bed, intermixed with some stone. A man who was sent up to explore the country returned in the evening, after having gone ten miles directly towards the ridge of mountains to the north, which is the source of this as well as of Teapot creek. The air of these highlands is so pure, that objects appear much nearer than [227]they really are, so that although our man went ten miles without thinking himself by any means half way to the mountains, they do not from the river appear more than fifteen miles distant; this stream we called Northmountain creek. Two and a half miles higher is a creek on the south which is fifteen yards wide, but without any water, and to which we gave the name of Littledog creek, from a village of burrowing squirrels opposite to its entrance, that being the name given by the French watermen to those animals. Three miles from this a small creek enters on the north, five beyond which is an island a quarter of a mile in length, and two miles further a small river: this falls in on the south, is forty yards wide, and discharges a handsome stream of water; its bed rocky with gravel and sand, and the banks high: we called it Southmountain creek, as from its direction it seemed to rise in a range of mountains about fifty or sixty miles to the S.W. of its entrance. The low grounds are narrow and without timber; the country high and broken; a large portion of black rock, and brown sandy rock appears in the face of the hills, the tops of which are covered with scattered pine, spruce and dwarf cedar: the soil is generally poor, sandy near the tops of the hills, and nowhere producing much grass, the low grounds being covered with little else than the hysop, or southern wood, and the pulpy-leafed thorn. Game is more scarce, particularly beaver, of which we have seen but few for several days, and the abundance or scarcity of which seems to depend on the greater or less quantity of timber. At twenty-four and a half miles we reached a point of woodland on the south, where we observed that the trees had no leaves, and encamped for the night. The high country through which we have passed for some days, and where we now are, we suppose to be a continuation of what the French traders called the Cote Noire or Black hills. The country thus denominated consists of high broken irregular hills and short chains of mountains; sometimes one hundred [228]and twenty miles in width, sometimes narrower, but always much higher than the country on either side. They commence about the head of the Kansas, where they diverge; the first ridge going westward, along the northern shore of the Arkansaw; the second approaches the Rock mountains obliquely in a course a little to the W. of N.W. and after passing the Platte above its forks, and intersecting the Yellowstone near the Bigbend, crosses the Missouri at this place, and probably swell the country as far as the Saskashawan, though as they are represented much smaller here than to the south, they may not reach that river.

May 25, 1805
Saturday, 25th. Two canoes which were left behind yesterday to bring on the game, did not join us till eight o'clock this morning, when we set out with the towline, the use of which the banks permitted. The wind was, however, ahead, the current strong, particularly round the points against which it happened to set, and the gullies from the hills having brought down quantities of stone, those projected into the river, forming barriers for forty or fifty feet round, which it was very difficult to pass. At the distance of two and three quarter miles we passed a small island in a deep bend on the south, and on the same side a creek twenty yards wide, but with no running water. About a mile further is an island between two and three miles in length, separated from the northern shore by a narrow channel, in which is a sand island at the distance of half a mile from its lower extremity. To this large island we gave the name of Teapot island; two miles above which is an island a mile long, and situated on the south. At three and a half miles is another small island, and one mile beyond it a second three quarters of a mile in length, on the north side. In the middle of the river two miles above this is an island with no timber, and of the same extent as this last. The country on each side is high, broken, and rocky; the rock being either a soft brown sandstone, covered with a thin stratum of limestone, or else a hard black rugged granite, both usually in horizontal strata's, and the sandrock overlaying the other. Salts and quartz as well as some coal and pumice stone still appear: the bars of the river are composed principally of gravel; the river low grounds are narrow, and afford scarcely any timber; nor is there much pine on the hills. The buffalo have now become scarce: we saw a polecat this evening, which was the first for several days: in the course of the day we also saw several herds of the big-horned animals among the steep cliffs on the north, and killed several of them. At the distance of eighteen miles we encamped on the south, and the next morning,

May 26, 1805
Sunday, 26th, proceeded on at an early hour by means of the towline, using our oars merely in passing the river, to take advantage of the best banks. There are now scarcely any low grounds on the river, the hills being high and in many places pressing on both sides to the verge of the water. The black rock has given place to a very soft sandstone, which seems to be washed away fast by the river, and being thrown into the river renders its navigation more difficult than it was yesterday: above this sandstone, and towards the summits of the hills, a hard freestone of a yellowish brown color shows itself in several strata's of unequal thickness, frequently overlaid or incrusted by a thin stratum of limestone, which seems to be formed of concreted shells. At eight and a quarter miles we came to the mouth of a creek on the north, thirty yards wide, with some running water and a rocky bed: we called it Windsor creek, after one of the party. Four and three quarter miles beyond this we came to another creek in a bend to the north, which is twenty yards wide, with a handsome little stream of water: there is however no timber on either side of the river, except a few pines on the hills. Here we saw for the first time since we left the Mandans several soft shelled turtles, though this may be owing rather to the season of the year than to any scarcity of the animal. It was here that after ascending the highest summits of the hills on the north side of the river, that Captain Lewis first caught a distant view of the Rock mountains, the object of all our hopes, and the reward of all our ambition. On both sides of the river and at no great distance from it, the mountains followed its course: above these, at the distance of fifty miles from us, an irregular range of mountains spread themselves from west to northwest from his position. To the north of these a few elevated points, the most remarkable of which bore north 65 west, appeared above the horizon, and as the sun shone on the snows of their summits he obtained a clear and satisfactory view of those mountains which close on the Missouri the passage to the Pacific. Four and a half miles beyond this creek we came to the upper point of a small sand island. At the distance of five miles between high bluffs, we passed a very difficult rapid, reaching quite across the river, where the water is deep, the channel narrow, and gravel obstructing it on each side: we had great difficulty in ascending it, although we used both the rope and the pole, and doubled the crews: this is the most considerable rapid on the Missouri, and in fact the only place where there is a sudden descent: as we were laboring over them, a female elk with its fawn swam down through the waves, which ran very high, and obtained for the place the name of the Elk Rapids. Just above them is a small low ground of cottonwood trees, where, at twenty-two and a quarter miles we fixed our encampment, and were joined by Captain Lewis, who had been on the hills during the afternoon.

The country has now become desert and barren: the appearances of coal, burnt earth, pumice stone, salts, and quartz, continue as yesterday: but there is no timber except the thinly scattered pine and spruce on the summits of the hills, or along the sides. The only animals we have observed are the elk, the bighorn, and the hare, common in this country. In the plain where we lie are two Indian cabins made of sticks, and during the last few days we have passed several others in the points of timber on the river.

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