Journals of Lewis and Clark: Dates May 1805 - Part Six
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Journals of Lewis and Clark
Dates: May 27, 1805 - May 31, 1805


This article provides interesting facts about their historic journey taken from the Journals of Lewis and Clark dates May 27, 1805 - May 31, 1805.

Lewis and cClark Expedition: Jounal Dates May 27, 1805 - May 31, 1805

The Journals of Lewis and Clark: Dates May 1805

The Journals of Lewis and Clark: Dates May 27, 1805 - May 31, 1805
The following excerpts are taken from entries of the Journals of Lewis and Clark. Dates: May 27, 1805 - May 31, 1805

May 27, 1805
Monday, 27. The wind was so high that we did not start till ten o'clock, and even then were obliged to use the line during the greater part of the day. The river has become very rapid with a very perceptible descent: its general width is about two hundred yards: the shoals too are more frequent, and the rocky points at the mouth of the gullies more troublesome to pass: great quantities of this stone lie in the river and on its banks, and seem to have fallen down as the rain washed away the clay and sand in which they were imbedded. The water is bordered by high rugged bluffs, composed of irregular but horizontal strata's of yellow and brown or black clay, brown and yellowish white sand, soft yellowish white sandstone: hard dark brown freestone; and also large round kidney formed irregular separate masses of a hard black ironstone, imbedded in the clay and sand; some coal or carbonated wood also makes its appearance in the cliffs, as do also its usual attendants the pumice stone and burnt earth. The salts and quartz are less abundant, and generally speaking the country is if possible more rugged and barren than that we passed yesterday; the only growth of the hills being a few pine, spruce, and dwarf cedar, interspersed with an occasional contrast once in the course of some miles, of several acres of level ground, which supply a scanty subsistence for a few little cottonwood trees.

Soon after setting out we passed a small untimbered island on the south: at about seven miles we reached a considerable bend which the river makes towards the southeast, and in the evening, after making twelve and a half miles, encamped on the south near two dead cottonwood trees, the only timber for fuel which we could discover in the neighborhood.

May 28, 1805
Tuesday, 28. The weather was dark and cloudy; the air smoky, and there fell a few drops of rain. At ten o'clock we had again a slight sprinkling of rain, attended with distant thunder, which is the first we have heard since leaving the Mandans. We employed the line generally, with the addition of the pole at the ripples and rocky points, which we find more numerous and troublesome than those we passed yesterday. The water is very rapid round these points, and we are sometimes obliged to steer the canoes through the points of sharp rocks rising a few inches above the surface of the water, and so near to each other that if our ropes give way the force of the current drives the sides of the canoe against them, and must inevitably upset them or dash them to pieces. These cords are very slender, being almost all made of elkskin, and much worn and rotted by exposure to the weather: several times they gave way, but fortunately always in places where there was room for the canoe to turn without striking the rock; yet with all our precautions it was with infinite risk and labor that we passed these points.

An Indian pole for building floated down the river, and was worn at one end as if dragged along the ground in traveling; several other articles were also brought down by the current, which indicate that the Indians are probably at no great distance above us, and judging from a football which resembles those used by the Minnetarees near the Mandans, we conjecture that they must be a band of the Minnetarees of fort de Prairie. The appearance of the river and the surrounding country continued as usual, till towards evening, at about fifteen miles, we reached a large creek on the north thirty-five yards wide, discharging some water, and named after one of our men Thompson's creek. Here the country assumed a totally different aspect; the hills retired on both sides from the river, which now spreads to more than three times its former size, and is filled with a number of small handsome islands covered with cottonwood. The low grounds on the river are again wide, fertile, and enriched with trees; those on the north are particularly wide, the hills being comparatively low and [233]opening into three large valleys, which extend themselves for a considerable distance towards the north: these appearances of vegetation are delightful after the dreary hills over which we have passed, and we have now to congratulate ourselves at having escaped from the last ridges of the Black mountains. On leaving Thompson's creek we passed two small islands, and at twenty-three miles distance encamped among some timber on the north, opposite to a small creek, which we named Bull creek. The bighorn is in great quantities, and must bring forth their young at a very early season, as they are now half grown. One of the party saw a large bear also, but being at a distance from the river, and having no timber to conceal him, he would not venture to fire.

May 29, 1805
Wednesday, 29. Last night we were alarmed by a new sort of enemy. A buffalo swam over from the opposite side and to the spot where lay one of our canoes, over which he clambered to the shore: then taking fright he ran full speed up the bank towards our fires, and passed within eighteen inches of the heads of some of the men, before the sentinel could make him change his course: still more alarmed he ran down between four fires and within a few inches of the heads of the second row of the men, and would have broken into our lodge if the barking of the dog had not stopped him. He suddenly turned to the right and was out of sight in a moment, leaving us all in confusion, every one seizing his rifle and inquiring the cause of the alarm. On learning what had happened, we had to rejoice at suffering no more injury than the damage to some guns which were in the canoe which the buffalo crossed.

In the morning early we left our camp, and proceeded as usual by the cord. We passed an island and two sandbars, and at the distance of two and a half miles we came to a handsome river which discharges itself on the south, and which we ascended to the distance of a mile and a half: we called it Judith's river: it rises in the Rock mountains in about the same place with the Muscleshell and near the Yellowstone river. Its entrance is one hundred yards wide from one bank to the other, the water occupying about seventy-five yards, and in greater quantity than that of the Muscleshell river, and though more rapid equally navigable, there being no stones or rocks in the bed, which is composed entirely of gravel and mud with some sand: the water too is clearer than any which we have yet seen; and the low grounds, as far as we could discern, wider and more woody than those of the Missouri: along its banks we observed some box-alder intermixed with the cottonwood and the willow; the undergrowth consisting of rosebushes, honeysuckle, and a little red willow. There was a great abundance of the argalea or bighorned animals in the high country through which it passes, and a great number of the beaver in its waters: just above the entrance of it we saw the fires of one hundred and twenty-six lodges, which appeared to have been deserted about twelve or fifteen days, and on the other side of the Missouri a large encampment, apparently made by the same nation. On examining some moccasins which we found there, our Indian woman said that they did not belong to her own nation the Snake Indians, but she thought that they indicated a tribe on this side of the Rocky mountain, and to the north of the Missouri; indeed it is probable that these are the Minnetarees of fort de Prairie.

At the distance of six and a half miles the hills again approach the brink of the river, and the stones and rocks washed down from them form a very bad rapid, with rocks and ripples more numerous and difficult than those we passed on the 27th and 28th; here the same scene was renewed, and we had again to struggle and labor to preserve our small craft from being lost. Near this spot are a few trees of the ash, the first we have seen for a great distance, and from which we named the place Ash Rapids. On these hills there is but little timber, but the salts, coal, and other mineral appearances continue. On the north we [235]passed a precipice about one hundred and twenty feet high, under which lay scattered the fragments of at least one hundred carcasses of buffaloes, although the water which had washed away the lower part of the hill must have carried off many of the dead. These buffalo had been chased down the precipice in a way very common on the Missouri, and by which vast herds are destroyed in a moment. The mode of hunting is to select one of the most active and fleet young men, who is disguised by a buffalo skin round his body; the skin of the head with the ears and horns fastened on his own head in such a way as to deceive the buffalo: thus dressed, he fixes himself at a convenient distant between a herd of buffalo and any of the river precipices, which sometimes extend for some miles.

His companions in the meantime get in the rear and side of the herd, and at a given signal show themselves, and advance towards the buffalo: they instantly take the alarm, and finding the hunters beside them, they run towards the disguised Indian or decoy, who leads them on at full speed toward the river, when suddenly securing himself in some crevice of the cliff which he had previously fixed on, the herd is left on the brink of the precipice: it is then in vain for the foremost to retreat or even to stop; they are pressed on by the hindmost rank, who seeing no danger but from the hunters, goad on those before them till the whole are precipitated and the shore is strewn with their dead bodies. Sometimes in this perilous seduction the Indian is himself either trodden under root by the rapid movements of the buffalo, or missing his footing in the cliff is urged down the precipice by the falling herd. The Indians then select as much meat as they wish, and the rest is abandoned to the wolves, and create a most dreadful stench. The wolves who had been feasting on these carcasses were very fat, and so gentle that one of them was killed with an esponton. Above this place we came to for dinner at the distance of seventeen miles, opposite to a bold running river of twenty yards wide, and falling in on the south. From the objects we had just passed we called this stream Slaughter river. Its low grounds are narrow, and contain scarcely any timber. Soon after landing it began to blow and rain, and as there was no prospect of getting wood for fuel farther on, we fixed our camp on the north, three quarters of a mile above Slaughter river. After the labors of the day we gave to each man a dram, and such was the effect of long abstinence from spirituous liquors, that from the small quantity of half a gill of rum, several of the men were considerably affected by it, and all very much exhilirated. Our game to-day consisted of an elk and two beaver.

May 30, 1805
Thursday, 30. The rain which commenced last evening continued with little intermission till eleven this morning, when the high wind which accompanied it having abated, we set out. More rain has now fallen than we have had since the 1st of September last, and many circumstances indicate our approach to a climate differing considerably from that of the country through which we have been passing: the air of the open country is astonishingly dry and pure. Observing that the case of our sextant, though perfectly seasoned, shrank and the joints opened, we tried several experiments, by which it appeared that a tablespoon full of water exposed in a saucer to the air would evaporate in thirty-six hours, when the mercury did not stand higher than the temperate point at the greatest heat of the day. The river, notwithstanding the rain, is much clearer than it was a few days past; but we advance with great labor and difficulty; the rapid current, the ripples and rocky points rendering the navigation more embarrassing than even that of yesterday, in addition to which the banks are now so slippery after the rain, that the men who draw the canoes can scarcely walk, and the earth and stone constantly falling down the high bluffs make it dangerous to pass under them; still however we are obliged to make use of the cord, as the wind is strong ahead, the current too rapid for oars, and too deep for the [pole.

In this way we passed at the distance of five and a half miles a small rivulet in a bend on the north, two miles further an island on the same side, half a mile beyond which came to a grove of trees at the entrance of a run in a bend to the south, and encamped for the night on the northern shore. The eight miles which we made to-day cost us much trouble. The air was cold and rendered more disagreeable by the rain, which fell in several slight showers in the course of the day; our cords too broke several times, but fortunately without injury to the boats. On ascending the hills near the river, one of the party found that there was snow mixed with the rain on the heights: a little back of these the country becomes perfectly level on both sides of the river. There is now no timber on the hills, and only a few scattering cottonwood, ash, box-alder, and willows, along the water. In the course of the day we passed several encampments of Indians, the most recent of which seemed to have been evacuated about five weeks since, and from the several apparent dates we supposed that they were made by a band of about one hundred lodges who were traveling slowly up the river. Although no part of the Missouri from the Minnetarees to this place exhibit signs of permanent settlements, yet none seem exempt from the transient visits of hunting parties. We know that the Minnetarees of the Missouri extend their excursions on the south side of the river, as high as the Yellowstone; and the Assiniboines visit the northern side, most probably as high as Porcupine river. All the lodges between that place and the Rocky mountains we supposed to belong to the Minnetarees of fort de Prairie, who live on the south fork of the Saskashawan.

May 31, 1805
Friday, 31. We proceeded in two pirogues, leaving the canoes to bring on the meat of two buffaloes killed last evening. Soon after we set off it began to rain, and though it ceased at noon, the weather continued cloudy during the rest of the day. The obstructions of yesterday still remain and fatigue the men excessively: the banks are so slippery in some places and the mud so adhesive that they are unable to wear their moccasins; one fourth of the time they are obliged to be up to their armpits in the cold water, and sometimes walk for several yards over the sharp fragments of rocks which have fallen from the hills: all this added to the burden of dragging the heavy canoes is very painful, yet the men bear it with great patience and good humor. Once the rope of one of the pirogues, the only one we had made of hemp, broke short, and the pirogue swung and just touched a point of rock which almost overset her. At nine miles we came to a high wall of black rock rising from the water's edge on the south, above the cliffs of the river: this continued about a quarter of a mile, and was succeeded by a high open plain, till three miles further a second wall two hundred feet high rose on the same side.

Three miles further a wall of the same kind about two hundred feet high and twelve in thickness, appeared to the north: these hills and river cliffs exhibit a most extraordinary and romantic appearance: they rise in most places nearly perpendicular from the water, to the height of between two and three hundred feet, and are formed of very white sandstone, so soft as to yield readily to the impression of water, in the upper part of which lie imbedded two or three thin horizontal strata's of white freestone insensible to the rain, and on the top is a dark rich loam, which forms a gradually ascending plain, from a mile to a mile and a half in extent, when the hills again rise abruptly to the height of about three hundred feet more. In trickling down the cliffs, the water has worn the soft sandstone into a thousand grotesque figures, among which with a little fancy may be discerned elegant ranges of freestone buildings, with columns variously sculptured, and supporting long and elegant galleries, while the parapets are adorned with statuary: on a nearer approach they represent every form of elegant ruins; columns, some with pedestals and capitals entire, others mutilated and prostrate, and some rising pyramidally over each [239]other till they terminate in a sharp point. These are varied by niches, alcoves, and the customary appearances of desolated magnificence: the allusion is increased by the number of martins, who have built their globular nests in the niches and hover over these columns; as in our country they are accustomed to frequent large stone structures. As we advance there seems no end to the visionary enchantment which surrounds us. In the midst of this fantastic scenery are vast ranges of walls, which seem the productions of art, so regular is the workmanship: they rise perpendicularly from the river, sometimes to the height of one hundred feet, varying in thickness from one to twelve feet, being equally broad at the top as below.

The stones of which they are formed are black, thick, and durable, and composed of a large portion of earth, intermixed and cemented with a small quantity of sand, and a considerable proportion of talk or quartz. These stones are almost invariably regular parallelipeds of unequal sizes in the wall, but equally deep, and laid regularly in ranges over each other like bricks, each breaking and covering the interstice of the two on which it rests: but though the perpendicular interstice be destroyed, the horizontal one extends entirely through the whole work: the stones too are proportioned to the thickness of the wall in which they are employed, being largest in the thickest walls. The thinner walls are composed of a single depth of the paralleliped, while the thicker ones consist of two or more depths: these walls pass the river at several places, rising from the water's edge much above the sandstone bluffs which they seem to penetrate; thence they cross in a straight line on either side of the river, the plains over which they tower to the height of from ten to seventy feet, until they lose themselves in the second range of hills: sometimes they run parallel in several ranges near to each other, sometimes intersect each other at right angles, and have the appearance of walls of ancient houses or gardens.

The face of some of these river hills, is composed of very excellent freestone of a light yellowish brown color, and among the cliffs we found a species of pine which we had not yet seen, and differing from the Virginia pitchpine in having a shorter leaf, and a longer and more pointed cone. The coal appears only in small quantities, as do the burnt earth and pumice stone: the mineral salts have abated. Among the animals are a great number of the bighorn, a few buffalo and elk, and some mule-deer, but none of the common deer nor any antelopes. We saw but could not procure a beautiful fox, of a color varied with orange, yellow, white, and black, rather smaller than the common fox of this country, and about the same size as the red fox of the United States.

The river to-day has been from about one hundred and fifty to two hundred and fifty yards wide, with but little timber. At the distance of two miles and a half from the last stone wall, is a stream on the north side, twenty-eight yards in width, and with some running water. We encamped just above its mouth having made eighteen miles.

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Journals of Lewis and Clark - Dates: May 27, 1805 - May 31, 1805

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