Lewis and Clark Title Timeline.1805


Fort Mandan, ND to Loma, MT

April 7, 1805 - June 2, 1805

 NOTE: The following is an abbreviated summary for each day of the Lewis and Clark journey, combining the journal entries of Lewis, Clark, Ordway, Floyd, Gass and Whitehouse into one seamless account. As much as possible, the original thoughts were retained. In cases of quotes or unique information, the individual who made the statement is added in parenthesis (). The original journal entries have also been corrected for spelling, grammar and readability. Click to view the journals in their original state.

The Corps of Discovery officially began their journey to the Pacific on May 14, 1804.



April 7:

"Leaving Fort Mandan"

A windy day. At 4 p.m., with “every arrangement necessary for...departure,” the captains dismissed the barge, with orders to the crew (six corpsmen, two Frenchmen and an Arikara Indian) to immediately return to St. Louis. Two additional French hunters accompanied the barge. Richard Warfington put in charge of the barge, which carried “dispatches to the government, letters to our private friends, and number of articles to the President of the United States.” One of Frenchmen aboard was Joseph Gravelines, their Arikara interpreter. He piloted the barge and took some Arikara chiefs to St. Louis and eventually Washington D.C.

At the same moment, Lewis and Clark headed upriver. Lewis decided to walk on the north side for exercise (six miles) intending to meet with the Mandan chief Black Cat, but he wasn’t home. The Corps of Discovery headed to the Pacific included the sergeants (John Ordway, Nathaniel Prior and Patrick Gass), privates (William Bratton, John Colter, Reubin and Joseph Fields, John Shields, George Gibson, George Shannon, John Potts, John Collins, Joseph Whitehouse, Richard Windsor, Alexander Willard, Hugh Hall, Silas Goodrich, Robert Frazier, Peter Cruzatte, Jean Baptist LaPage.Francis Labiche, Hugh McNeal, William Werner, Thomas P. Howard, Peter Weiser, John B. Thompson), interpreters (George Drouillard, Toussaint Charbonneu), plus Clark’s servant York and the “Indian woman wife to Charbonneau (Sacagawea), and a Mandan “who had promised...to accompany us as far as the [Shoshone] Indians” to open a conversation between the Mandans, Assiniboine and Hidatsa.

Around 9 a.m., George Drouillard brought four Arikara Indians, including two chiefs, to Lewis and Clark. They told the captains their party of ten had come to the Mandan Villages in the name of peace. They had a letter from Mr. Tabeau (who lives with them) that said three Sioux chiefs and some Arikaras desired to take the barge and head to St. Louis, then Washington, D.C.

The Corps had six small canoes and two large pirogues. They camped opposite the first Mandan Village, which lied on the south side of the Missouri and contained 300 lodges. The Indians successfully farm many kinds of vegetables (lettuce, mustard), gooseberries and currants. Ordway noted the Mandans “are in general peaceable [and] well-disposed people—and have less of the savage nature in them, than any other Indians [the Corps] met [to date].” The Mandans enjoy long life spans, some reaching 100 years of age. The captains, Drouillard, Charbonneau, Sacagawea and “Pomp” slept in a buffalo skin tipi. 4 miles.

Lewis wrote in his journal: “This little fleet although not quite so respectable as those of Columbus or Capt. Cook were still viewed by us with as much pleasure as those deservedly fame adventurers ever beheld theirs, and I dare say with quite as much anxiety for their safety and preservation. We were now about to penetrate a country at least two thousand miles in width, on which the foot of civilized man had never trodden; the good or evil it had in store for us was for experiment yet to determine, and these little vessels contained every article by which we were to expect to subsist or defend ourselves...I [have\ most confident hope of succeeding in a voyage which had formed a darling project of mine for the last ten years of my life. I could but esteem this moment of our departure as among the most happy of my life. The party are in excellent health and spirits, zealously attached to the enterprise, and anxious to proceed; not a whisper of murmur or discontent to be heard among them, but all act in unison, and with the most perfect harmony.”


April 8:

"A Swamped Canoe"


Departed early with a strong northwest wind against the party. The current is swift. Lewis walked ahead on shore and visited with the Mandan chief Black Cat. Around noon Lewis learned one of the new canoes was in “distress” and sinking The vessel filled with water, and everything was soaked. Among the losses were biscuit flour and 30 pounds of gunpowder (which they hoped would dry). The Corps passed two Hidatsa villages, the mouth of the Knife River and eventually camped on a high bluff. A Mandan man brought an Indian woman to their camp “who was extremely solicitous” to travel with one of the men in the party, but the captains sent her back home. Nevertheless, they allowed the Mandan man to continue with them. 14 miles.


April 9:

"Passing Garrison Bluffs"


The departed at dawn, traveled five miles and stopped for breakfast. The Mandan who planned to travel with the Corps as far as the Shoshone informed the captains he was finished (and returned to his village). The men observed a great number of brant, ducks and geese. Clark spotted the first mosquito (Ordway: “mosquitoes begin to suck our blood this afternoon”). He also walked ashore and spotted an animal like the prairie dog except smaller (it was the gopher) and the maple, elm and cottonwood in bloom. The Corps passed yellow clay and sand bluffs, with strata of “carbonated wood,” that were a hundred feet high (suggesting fires in the past). Sacagawea rustled up wild artichokes for the evening meal. They also passed another Hidatsa village (with about 30 earth and timber lodges). The men trapped a beaver. 23.5 miles.


April 10:

"Finding Beaver on the Great Bend"


The Corps left early. It’s cool and calm, with "rapid water and a great many sand-bars” (Gass). They passed several Hidatsa Indians who were  gathered to watch the Corps pass. Clark walked ashore for several hours and observed a herd of antelope (but was unable to shoot one). He also saw Canadian geese, eagles and swans. Clark shot a prairie hen and one of the men killed a bald eagle. The mosquitoes are “very troublesome.” Around 1 p.m. they passed three French hunters trapping beaver (they already caught twelve [“some of the best I have ever seen,” claimed Clark]). Ordway spotted a “very large” grizzly bear track. They like traveling near or with the Corps for the protection they receive from the Assiniboine. Their plan is to accompany the Corps as far as the mouth of the Yellowstone (and then head up that river). 18.5 miles


April 11:

"A Comfortable Dinner"


Departed at first light. The day was clear and pleasant. A gentle breeze helped sail the large pirogues upriver. In the afternoon it was very warm, so some men worked in their underwear. Clark and Drouillard walked ashore hunting. Lewis noted the area was hunted down by the Hidatsa tribes. Even still, Drouillard shot a deer for breakfast, plus a couple beaver. Clark came across fresh bear tracks. The men enjoyed the venison steaks (plus beaver tails with biscuits), mostly due to not eating fresh meat for several days. The biscuits were made from the water-soaked flour a few days earlier. Lewis noted the gunpowder was mostly restored from the accident too. They continue to spot places that have been burnt, containing lava rock and coal (smelling of sulfer). 19 miles.


April 12:

"Red Pirogue in Danger"


The Corps departed early. In the afternoon the wind kicked up and was “violent” (with thunder and rain). At one point the Corps had to avoid a falling bank. The red pirogue crossed to close to this bank for Lewis’ comfort (who feared it would be sunk in the strong current, losing all its precious cargo). However, it was too late for retreat, so the men pressed forward and got the pirogue through the dangerous stretch. Ten hunters were sent out to procure fresh meat (deer, bald eagle). The men saw a lot of beaver, and Drouilliard shot a large one swimming in the river. The meat tasted great with small onions they found on the plains near their camp. The Corps passed a river they named the “Little Missouri” (134 yards wide at the mouth, but only a couple feet deep). Navigating the river is difficult (and only by canoe) with its “rapidity, shoals and sand bars.” They camped after only a few hours, on a “beautiful elevated plain on the lower side” to scout the area and catalogue the various wood, plants and animals. The men examined the canoes and found mice had invaded their bags, eating their corn and parched meal. 4 miles.


April 13:

"The White Pirogue's Near Miss"


The Corps set out at 6 a.m. A clear, pleasant and warm day.  The wind was in their favor and so they hoisted sails. Around 2 p.m. a burst of wind twisted the pirogue and pushed her suddenly to one side, alarming Charbonneau (who was steering). In his attempt to right the vessel, he overcorrected and nearly capsized it. Lewis ordered Droulliard to take the helm and lower the sails (which instantly calmed the pirogue). The white pirogue carried some of their most valuable materials, including instruments, journals, medicine and Indian gifts. Lewis noted that Sacagawea, the baby and three of the men (including Charbonneau) who couldn’t swim were onboard, and they were lucky to escape the situation.

The men continue to catch and shoot beaver. So much beaver that the French hunters decided to stay in the area. Grizzly bear tracks are also abundant...and enormous. “The men...are anxious to meet [the grizzly]. The Indians give a very formidable account of the strength and ferocity of this animal, which they never dare to attack but in parties of six, eight or ten persons; and are even then frequently defeated...” (Lewis). The men killed two antelope swimming in the Missouri but they proved lean and gaunt. 23.5 miles.


April 14:

"Assiniboine Lodges, Rum and Revelry"


The Corps left early to a clear and pleasant day. The men observed pumice floating downriver in great quantities. The Corp passed a hill that resembled a large haystack that was “white as chalk.” Clark walked on shore and found several uninhabited Indian lodges and recent encampments of the Assiniboine. They suspect Assiniboine because there was evidence of rum (keg hoops) and this tribe tended to be “passionately fond” of this “spiritous liquor.” The Assiniboine often trade meat, grease and wolf/fox skins with the British for “small kegs of rum.” Then they transport it back to their camps to “revel with their friends” and family...even women and children indulge and “are all seen drunk together.” Lewis noted that drunkenness was “a matter of exultation” for the men, meaning the more a person was drunk the better hunter he was. The Assiniboine, in their “customs, habits and dispositions” resemble the Sioux, a distant cousin tribe.

Clark killed a bull buffalo for dinner, but it was also gaunt (so they ate its marrow and a bit of its meat). Frazier also shot a buffalo and “took the best of the meat on board” (Ordway). In his exploration Clark spotted two grizzlies running away after Lewis fired to kill his elk. They ran into a prairie dog village, plus magpies and geese. The captains named a creek they camped near after Charbonneau, because he had previously spent time at this place. It was the furthest any “white man had ever ascended” the Missouri in history. 14 miles


April 15:

"Buffalo, Elk, Bears"


A good mileage day thanks to a stiff southeast wind and early departure. The men saw buffalo, elk, black and grizzly bears (Clark almost shot one). On his walk, Clark also found several former camps of the Assiniboine, including a pen they used to catch antelope (he named the nearby creek as “Goat Pen Creek.” An Indian dog continues to follow the Corps.  23 miles


April 16:

"A Remarkable Large Beaver"


Departed at dawn to a clear and pleasant morning (with heaps of ice along the shoreline). The beaver is abundant, as are the geese. There is more “timbered land” in this area (and the trees are blooming), plus a lot of petrified wood. Colter trapped "a remarkably large beaver." The Corps passed three small creeks on the south side of the river and stopped around 7 p.m. to camp. 18 miles


April 17:

"Smooth Sailing"


Left at first light to a “delightful” morning with a good wind for sailing. The Corps passed several burnt hills with “large quantities of lava and pumice stone.” The Corps are sighting more game (buffalo, elk, antelope, swan, geese and ducks). The grizzlies are  “extremely wary and shy” (running away quickly). So far, Lewis wrote, “the Indian account of them does not correspond with our experience so far.” Lewis killed a buffalo for lunch but, again, the meat was “unfit for use” and he took only the tongue. The men continue to trap beaver for fresh meat (and preferred it). “I eat very heartily of the beaver,” Lewis penned, “and think it t is excellent; particularly the tail and liver.” A “thunder gust” (no rain) blew through in the evening. One of the men caught several small catfish. 26 miles


April 18:

"Thirteen Miles of Headwinds"


The Corps left at sunrise. Two men caught a beaver, one leg in each of their traps, that sparked a fight. Another corpsmen climbed a tree to get two bald eagle’s eggs. After breakfast, Clark explored the hill above the shore (walking upstream about two miles) while the Corps (under Lewis' direction) used toe lines to move the boats upstream. Clark took Charbonneau, Sacagawea, and “Pomp” with him, eventually leaving them behind to hunt.

Between 1 and 5 p.m., the Corps was delayed due to high winds, which kept filling the canoes with water. Lewis tied the canoes to the shoreline and used the two large pirogues as an outer wall to break the water against them. In the early evening they proceeded on and found Clark (with Charbonneau, Sacagawea and Pomp) ahead with a butchered elk and deer waiting for them. They boarded with the meat, and continued until near dark until they found a place to shelter from the wind. 13 miles


April 19:

"Grounded by the Winds"


High winds continued to blow and prevented launching the canoes, so the Corps stayed put. Gass explored a nearby hill and found a petrified log (perfect for making whetstones). The men killed an elk, beaver and three geese. Some of the men caught several small catfish. They also “robbed several nests of their eggs” (Ordway). There’s more sign of bear.


April 20:

"An Assiniboine Grave"


The winds were still hard, but not as violent as the day before. So the Corps departed just before 7 a.m. Lewis walked the shoreline and saw rich and fertile land timbered with cottonwood, box elder, ash and elm. He also found old Indian camps, including a scaffold lifted seven feet above the ground with various personal articles (moccasins, beaver nails, dried roots, Mandan tobacco). On the ground laid an Indian corpse—likely blown off the scaffold--and a dead dog nearby. It was an Indian burial custom of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Assiniboine to transport the deceased (by dog sleigh), hang them high with articles and foods they needed for the afterlife. Then they would sacrifice the decease’s favorite horse or dog, believing it would service them in the next world. Clark also spotted several Indian burial scaffolds on the south shoreline.

The wind continued to blow very hard, so Lewis returned to the river to find Clark and the Corps stopped again. Not long after departure the men passed a riverbank that collapsed suddenly and nearly swamped one of the canoes. The high winds and waves were too much risk. The white pirogue and several canoes took on water several times but fortunately none of their baggage was ruined. The cold, frosty morning produced some snow in the early afternoon. The fog was also thick. Consequently, after a few miles of fighting the river, Clark called it a day and the men set their camp under a high, well-timbered bank on the south side. Clark also ordered four hunters to find fresh meat, which they did (three elk, four geese, two deer, six beaver). On his hike, Lewis also killed two white-tail deer. The meat remains gaunt (“poor”) and, without much fat, not very tasty. Nevertheless, the men’s “good health and appetites make up every necessary deficiency” and they eat to their heart’s content. The good news is they plenty of game to feast upon now. 6.5 miles


April 21:

"Immense Herds"


The Corps left at dawn to another frosty morning and day of wind. Clark walked the shore and witnessed immense herds of buffalo, elk, deer and antelope (as well as geese, ducks and swans). Clark killed a buffalo and four deer on his hike, while Lewis’ party (from their boats) shot three deer, four buffalo calves and two beaver. They found the buffalo veal particularly tasty. The high plains were now treeless, as far as the eye could see. But there was game everywhere the men looked, particularly elk and buffalo. The bison weren’t as easy to stalk without cover. The wind blew so hard in the evening hours the party had to halt momentarily. 16.5 miles


April 22:

"A Frightened Buffalo Calf"


It’s another frigid, frosty morning. The Corps left at dawn and proceeded in good time until breakfast, when the wind kicked up again. It blew so violently they had to use toe lines from shore to ascend the river. They wind slowed and delayed them, until they eventually stopped altogether. Lewis and Clark scouted the Little Muddy River. It’s a clearer river than the Missouri that’s reportedly navigable (according to the Indians) to its source in Saskatchewan. Lewis climbed a bluff and got the view of his life. Although there was not a single tree or brush in sight, he spied herds of buffalo, elk, deer and antelope “feeding in one common and boundless pasture.” Ordway penned “at one view nearly one thousand animals” were seen, and they were not “very wild” (as they could be approached within a 100 yards). The men also saw abundant beaver—large and fat—and they killed several for supper. While Lewis walked the shore in the evening, a buffalo calf “attached itself” and followed him closely due to Seaman's near presence. 11 miles


April 23:

"A Sudden Storm"


The Corps departed at dawn, but once again, a mid-morning wind became so violent they had to stop. There were no trees for cover or shield. Some of the canoes took on water and several bags got wet. Lewis ordered the men to dry everything out. They remained in place until around 5 p.m. when they reloaded and continued upstream as long as daylight allowed. Clark explored the shore during the day, walking far ahead of the boats. He eventually returned downstream in the evening, figuring the winds had stopped the party once again. Fortunately Clark returned with three mule deer and a buffalo calf (which made a good meal for the day). Both captains were growing concerned about the constant high winds. It’s too risky to move boats with them. In fact, the winds were a “serious source of detention to [the Corps],” Lewis penned in his journal. 13.5 miles


April 24:

"Blowing Dust"


Another very windy day. So windy the Corps could not move again. Even with some high timber to shield them, the wind still caused waves so bad that loading the boats was impossible (without getting baggage wet). The captains sent out hunters who killed four deer and two elk. One of the hunters also caught six coyote pups and brought them back to camp. The major complaint in the party is sore eyes, from sand blowing in the wind. In some cases the wind whips up the sand so bad they can’t see the opposite shore. From a distance these sand “clouds” look like a column of thick smoke. And this fine sand gets everywhere, in every nook and cranny. No article escapes it. Lewis wrote the Corps were “compelled to eat, drink and breathe it.” Even his watch stopped working due to the sand.


April 25:

"Lewis on the Yellowstone"


The wind was better today and so the Corps departed at dawn. Lewis had a serious concern overnight: his dog Seaman was missing. He left camp the night before and never returned. Lewis feared Seaman was gone forever, but much to his “satisfaction,” his dog showed up around 8 a.m. However there’s a new problem: cold temperatures. It’s so cold the water on the oars froze as the men rowed. And they don’t get far before the winds return with a vengeance during the mid-morning hours. It’s blowing so violently the Corps must stop again around noon, after about a dozen miles of progress.

At this point Lewis took Ordway, Joseph Fields and two other men to explore ahead to find the Yellowstone River. Clark would lead the boat party and join him when weather permitted.

The Lewis party traveled four miles and spotted buffalo. Lewis killed a calf and his men enjoyed a veal meal. Everywhere the men looked they saw buffalo, elk, antelope, deer...so gentle the men could pass near them, as they fed, without spooking the beasts. Lewis decided to hike to the Yellowstone River (about two miles) to camp for the night. At 5 p.m. Clark and the boat party proceeded on, as the winds died down. They traveled as far as light allowed. 14 miles


April 26:

"Yellowstone River Celebration"


A cold night (32 degrees). Clark and the boat party left at dawn. The captain walked the shore beside the boats, shot two deer and a beaver. He noted the river has been rising for several days. Near the mouth of the Yellowstone, the Corps set camp to wait for Lewis.

Lewis dispatched Joseph Fields to explore the Yellowstone River as far as he could go upriver, with orders to return before nightfall. They saw a herd of antelope swimming the river and Lewis’ dog Seaman chased one, drowned and returned to shore with it. The captain directed two other men to retrieve the meat they killed the previous day, while he and Drouillard headed downstream to the mouth of the Yellowstone. At the confluence they found it well timbered with cottonwood, elm, ash and box elder.

Around noon Lewis heard several guns fire, he thought announcing the arrival of Clark and the boat party. However, they were shooting buffalo, killing a cow and several calves. The cow turned out to be “poor” but the calves proved good eating.  After Lewis completed his observations, he headed downstream on the Missouri to reunite with the Corps (about two miles). To celebrate reaching the Yellowstone, they enjoyed an extra toast of whiskey. This toast led to “much hilarity, singing and dancing” to fiddle music. It was a “perfect” moment, enough “to forget their past toils.” As ordered, Joseph Fields returned with his exploration of the Yellowstone (he ventured eight miles upriver). It was, he said, rather like the Missouri in size and terrain. Fields also reported seeing several “bighorned animals” but they were easily spooked. The Indians told the captains the Yellowstone’s source was in the Rocky Mountains. 8 miles


April 27:

"Entering Montana"


The party burned a bit of sunlight and breakfasted prior to a 9 a.m. departure. Lewis noted near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers would be a good place to build a permanent establishment (trading post or fort). Around 11 a.m. the wind became too hard to continue. Clark observed the winds kicked up so much dust it “almost covered [the Corps] on the opposite bank." Lewis had spent the morning walking the shore, but because the boats were working the opposite beach, Lewis was cut off. Consequently he had to fend for himself for dinner (he shot a nice goose) until he could rejoin the party later that night.

At 4 p.m. the wind died down enough for the Corps to continue but Lewis remained trapped on the other side. The game was “abundant” (especially beaver, elk, antelope, geese and ducks) but the men only killed what they required. Along the banks the Corps also saw dozens of dead, decaying buffalo (who likely met their death trying to cross the Missouri during the winter). The eagles, geese and magpies often nest near each other. Lewis noted the bald eagle is particularly numerous. 8 miles


April 28:

"Favorable Winds"


It’s Sunday, but the Corps are taking no sabbath. They left at dawn with favorable winds to fill their sails. Clark walked on shore while Lewis remained with the boat party. The country was “open” and “fertile” with coal and salts. The party spotted four brown bear (and fired upon one but only wounded her). The beaver have felled many of the trees, including a massive tree three feet in diameter. While Clark was ashore with Toussaint Charbonneau, he hunted for game and killed a deer and goose. He also saw three black bear. One of the men trapped a large beaver. Around 3 p.m. the boat party found where Clark had stopped, so they did the same for dinner. They set their camp on the north side in a “handsome bottom” (Gass). 24 miles


April 29:

"First Grizzly Kill"


The men departed at dawn to moderate wind. Lewis walked on shore today with another corpsman. Around 8 a.m. they crossed paths with two grizzlies. The two men fired their guns until they killed the young male bear (who weighed at 300 lbs.). Lewis noted “it is a much more furious and formidable animal and will frequently pursue the hunter when wounded.” He also muses their “formidable” presence is not as fierce as they were led to believe by the Indian. The Indians used bows and arrows, but the Corps have superior ammunition and guns. They are nowhere as “dangerous as they have been represented,” claimed Lewis.

Lewis also noted there were more wolves too, most likely to hunt the abundant deer, elk, buffalo and antelope. The antelope are very fast and durable on land but are “clumsy swimmers” (which is how the wolves pick them off). When Lewis rejoined Clark and the boat party, the captain informed him they had spotted a bighorn female and fawn. Sacagawea told the men these bighorn sheep were common in the Rockies. They were unable to get a good shot once they alarmed the mother and fawn. However they had plenty of bear meat. They passed a river—about 50 yards wide—with a gentle, clear current. Clark named it “Martha’s River” and the party camped near its mouth. 25 miles


April 30:

"Buffalo Currants"


The Corps left at dawn against a very hard wind, but it wasn’t enough to detain or delay them. Overall the day was “clear and pleasant” (Ordway). The country continued to be bare of timber except in the river bottoms, and then it’s a different kind of tree (mostly smaller cottonwood, which wasn’t suited for planking or building). Clark walked ashore with Charbonneau, Sacagawea and “Pomp.” They viewed old Indian lodges that appeared to be ancient). Sacagawea showed Clark a buffalo currant bush and said it produced a “delicious fruit” in great quantities in the Rockies.

Clark also spotted great numbers of antelope, buffalo, elk, deer, wolves, geese, ducks and crows. He shot two geese for dinner. The boat party also witnessed large herds of buffalo swimming the river, but since they had enough meat onboard, opted not to kill more. In the evening, one of the men shot a 70-80 lb pregnant beaver. Lewis explored the shore during the twilight hours and killed a bull elk, the largest he had yet seen. The Corps camped on a large sand beach. 24 miles


May 1:

"Whitehouse Has A Miserable Night"


The Corps left at sunrise with favorable winds for use of sails. They traveled at a good pace until noon when the wind gusts proved too much for the small canoes in the high waves. In fact, one of the canoes—manned by Whitehouse and another corpsman—was separated from the party and violently blown to the opposite shoreline. Due to the waves and wind they had to remain separated overnight. It proved a cold experience without blankets. “I suffered very much,” penned Whitehouse. The rest of the party hunkered down in a timbered bottom to wait out the wind. Hunters were dispatched and they killed a buffalo, elk, antelope and two beaver. John Shields is sick with rheumatism. Shannon killed a plover, a type of gull. 10 miles


May 2:

"A Snowy Day"


The “violent” winds howled all night long. During the morning hours an inch of snow fell. It was a cold day (28 degrees). The snow created a white wonderland that was “extraordinary.” Some of the snow drifts along the banks were a foot deep. Lewis dispatched hunters and they harvested two deer, three elk and several buffalo. Clark and Drouillard also killed four beavers, which prove rather tame and easy to hunt. Beaver meat is the favorite among the Corps, especially the tail (which can feed two men alone).

One of the hunters Joseph Field found several yards of scarlet cloth in a tree near an old Indian camp. The custom of the Assiniboine and other Indians of the Missouri is to offer materials (like a prized cloth) to their God to show gratitude or ask for protection or relief from a troubling circumstance or petition for a good crop. Lewis noted that “everything which is incomprehensible to the Indians [is called] ‘big medicine.’” The Corps had to kill the Indian dog that had followed them for days because he kept stealing their dinners.

At 5 p.m. the winds died down enough to continue upriver, but it was a cold venture. The “air was very piercing” (Lewis) and the [water] froze on the oars. They camped in a “handsome bottom” on the north shore. 4.5 miles


May 3:



It’s a cold and windy morning (26 degrees). A kettle of water near the fire was covered with a quarter inch of ice. Consequently, the Corps delayed departure. About two miles upriver they saw a 30 foot high statue of bushes, supposedly placed by the Indians for sacrificial purpose. Clark walked on shore and killed an elk, which he butchered and prepared for lunch. The wildlife continues to be abundant: buffalo, elk, white-tailed deer, antelope, beaver, geese, ducks and some swan. At one point they observed “an unusual number of porcupines” near a large river inlet...so they called the crystal clear stream “Porcupine River”. Clark explored the Porcupine/Poplar River for several miles and reported it was a navigable river that could possibly be used for communication with British fur company in Canada.

During the early evening hours Lewis encountered two porcupines feeding on a willow. The captain was able to approach one of them and touch it with his spear (espontoon). He also found some goose eggs. The Corps camped just after dark a few miles past what they called “2000 Mile Creek” because they’re approximately 2000 miles from St. Louis (it’s now the Red River). Upon landing the red pirogue, the iron frame that held the rudder broke. 18.5 miles


May 4:

"Repairing the Red Pirogue"


The weather was pleasant, and the snow melted. Corps was detained until 9 a.m. to repair the red pirogue, but when they finally departed, they faced a hard wind. Lewis walked on shore and observed “large quantities of buffalo in every direction” plus elk, deer and antelope. He walked within 50 feet of a bull bison who continued to feed unconcerned. The party killed some beaver and two deer. There’s also sign of the brown bear. They passed several old Indian camps with a Blackfeet war lodge (the first sign of the Blackfeet). Joseph Field has dysentery and a high fever. Lewis gave him “Glauber salts” and after his fever cooled, medicated him with 30 drops of laudnum (to help him sleep). During the evening Clark explored the shore and did not rejoin the Corps until after dark. The river is now rising (1-3” in past 24 hours) after several days of falling. 18 miles


May 5:

"Wolves and Grizzlies"


The Corps left at dawn. Not soon after departure the rudder irons on the white pirogue broke but were quickly fixed with “some tugs of rawhide and nails.” The game continues to be abundant. The men can kill whatever they wish to dine upon that day. The only two meats not highly preferred are the antelope (too gamey) and elk (too lean). They haven’t caught fish in days. Clark discovered a den of wolf pups during his explorations. He and Drouillard also shot a large (8’ 7”) grizzly bear around 500-600 pounds. It proved extremely hard to bring down, requiring multiple shots through the lungs. They rendered nearly six gallons of grease from the bear. The men also killed two elk and buffalo. Lewis’ dog “Seaman” killed a pregnant antelope who was in poor shape. Ordway’s canoe was nearly sunk by a falling riverbank. The captains gave the men an extra “half shot” of whiskey. Fields’ dysentery worsened. 17 miles


May 6:

"Curiosity Satisfied"


With a pleasant morning and favorable eastern breezes (with a sprinkling of rain around noon), the Corps left at sunrise for a rather productive day. They passed three inlets that they appropriately named, due to their lack of running water, “Little Dry Creek,” “Big Dry Creek” and “Little Dry River.” The party watched a grizzly bear swim the river ahead of them. Lewis wrote “that the curiosity of [his] party is pretty well satisfied with respect to [the grizzly]” due to the difficulty in bringing one down. The company continued to spot much game and the have their fill of meat (so much so that Lewis noted they sometimes they could kill just for “amusement”). Clark walked on shore and killed two elk, but most of the meat wasn’t worth eating. Two beaver were also trapped. Fields continued to be sick. 25 miles


May 7:

"A Swamped Canoe"


The Corps left a dawn to a clear, pleasant and warm day. With the river rising another inch and a half, there’s more driftwood in the current, but water is also getting clearer. They sailed “very fast” (Ordway) until around 11 a.m., when the winds picked up enough to stop their progress. One of the canoes—thanks to a steersman who couldn’t manage the wind and water—was also nearly sunk. The men had to unload the cargo and dry it out for three hours. Lewis continued to be impressed with the countryside (“one of the most beautiful plains we have yet seen,” he penned). They saw several bald eagles, who presumably fed on dead animal carcasses. They also saw two large herds of buffalo pass on both sides of the river. It wasn’t an impressive sight! The men killed three buffalo, eight beaver and one elk. The elk meat again was so lean that they harvested only its tongue, marrowbones and hide. 15 miles


May 8:

"The River That Scolds All Others"


The expedition left at dawn with a gentle eastern breeze to push them. However, the clouds quickly darkened, and they endured a “slight sprinkle of rain” around 8 a.m. The wind was stronger but not hard enough to detain. At noon they stopped at the entrance of a large river on the north side. Lewis decided to explore the river for about three miles and found it deep and gentle in current, easily navigable by pirogues or canoes. The river also had a “peculiar whiteness” similar to tea mixed with milk. Consequently, they named it the Milk River (the Indians called it “The River Which Scolds at All Others").

During the morning hours, Clark explored the shoreline (with Charbonneau, Sacagawea and “Pomp”) and witnessed smoke from Indian lodges further up the Milk. He also reported a bluff with a view for 50 or 60 miles. He said the country was “level and beautiful on both sides” with buffalo herds everywhere, as well as elk, antelope, mule deer and wolves. Beaver continues to be in large quantities. And while timber remained sparse on both sides of the river, there was other abundant ground vegetation, including wild licorice and white apple. The Missouri River Indians used the white apple for multiple culinary purposes. Clark killed a beaver and wolf. The hunters shot three beaver and Pryor shot a deer. “We can send out at any time and obtain whatever species of meat the country affords in as large quantity as we wish,” Lewis wrote. 28 miles


May 9:

"Charbonneau's White Pudding Sausage"


The Corps left at dawn with favorable eastern winds, so they used their sails and made good mileage. Toussaint Charbonneu—the husband of Sacagawea—served as a cook and prepared a special supper. He made a tasty “white pudding” (boudin blanc) using the intestines of the buffalo. First, with the art of a lover, he squeezed out the stuff from inside the intestines (“[it’s] not good to eat”). Then Charbonneau chopped buffalo meat fillets into small pieces to create a “suet” that he mixed with salt, pepper and a little flour. Finally he stuffed the buffalo “suet” inside the intestine until it can’t hold anything more and tied it off at the ends. Lewis noted the sausages were "then baptized in the Missouri with two dips and a flirt, and bobbed into the kettle" and fried with "bear's oil" until brown. "This white pudding," Lewis wrote, "we all esteem one of the greatest delicacies of the forest."

During the day they continued to see great quantities of elk and buffalo. The buffalo are “now so gentle that the men frequently throw sticks and stones at them in order to drive them out of the way” wrote Lewis. They also observed a forest of cut timber (three acres) by the beavers. In the evening hours, Lewis killed four plover gulls. The river continued to get clearer and began to get shallow in places, with many sandbars. Lewis is anxious to view the Rocky Mountains that the Indians say remains to the West. 24.5 miles


May 10:

"More Violent Winds"


The Corps departed at sunrise but only traveled a short distance before “violent” winds forced them to shore. The clouds were also “thick and black” but other than several rain “squalls” of rain were not a threat. The captains dispatched hunters to scout for Indians. Another dog wandered into camp, and they think it belonged to the Assiniboine—who are known to be a “viciously disposed nation.” Everyone was on guard. The men also inspected their arms, cannons and other weapons. The hunters returned with no sign of Indian (old or fresh). They killed two mule deer, one white-tail deer, two buffalo and five beavers. Another man caught several fish. They also spotted three bighorn sheep. It’s a sign they’re getting closer to mountains. Boils and abscesses, possibly due to mild scurvy, are now common among the men, as well as sore eyes. Bratton can only work with one hand. For the sore eyes, Lewis created a mixture of “white vitriol and the sugar of lead” mixed with water. 4 miles


May 11:

"Intimidating Grizzly"


The Corps departed at sunrise with frost on the ground. The current was strong and the river very crooked. Some of the banks are falling, creating hazardous moments for the canoes and pirogues. There were several “hair breadth escapes” but “providence seems to have ordered” their safe passage. The wind kicked up again in the afternoon and “retarded progress.” Lewis spied some pine and Clark went ashore to retrieve samples. He found both “ponderosa” pine and dwarf cedar. It’s the first pine they’ve seen, another sign of mountains.

Around 5 p.m., Bratton (who still had a lame hand) frantically approached the boat party, out of breath and in distress. He had wounded a grizzly (shot in the lungs) about a mile downriver and it turned on him, chasing him back to the boats. Lewis dispatched seven men to track the grizzly. They found him in some thick brush, still much alive, and finished killing him. The men then skinned and harvested the meat. The fact this “monster” grizzly bear could be shot through the lungs and still survive, even chase for a mile a human, “intimidates us all,” Lewis wrote. “I must confess that do not like the gentlemen [grizzlies] and had rather fight two Indians than one bear.” The only way to kill them is with a head shot and that’s difficult given the thickness of the frontal skull bone. Lewis directed the cooks to render the bear’s oil and it produced eight gallons of grease. 17 miles


May 12:

"Blossoming Cherries"


The Corps left at dawn with weather clear and calm. Lewis walked the shore in the morning “for the benefit of exercise.” In his explorations he generally ventured alone with only his rifle and short spear (espontoon). He doesn’t want to meet grizzlies in the open plains, but felt the wooded bottoms gave him some advantage. So he stuck close to the shoreline and resolved to act defensively with the grizzly. On his walk he saw a lot of vegetation, including the chokecherry (in bloom). The Indians, birds and bears enjoy this small berry. Around noon the wind forced the Corps to stop for the day to camp. One of the hunters killed a deer and elk. Clark shot a beaver. After sunset it began to rain and continued throughout the night. 19 miles


May 13:

"Hunting for Hides"


The wind continued to howl so violent that the Corps decided to shelter in place for the morning hours. Lewis dispatched some hunters, but before they could return, the wind abated and the Corps departed (1 p.m.). The Missouri River current is very swift. Clark walked the shore most of the day. He killed a mule and white-tailed deer. The men also shot several deer and elk principally for their skins. They need to make new clothing. Lewis wanted elk skins for use with the collapsible boat that they'll eventually use in place of the pirogues. The hunters rejoined the Corps in the evening. Gibson wounded a large grizzly but it was too late in the day to pursue him.  7 miles


May 14:

"Two Close Calls"


The men wake up to an unusual occurrence of fog (and frost) on the river. Ordway noted their moccasins froze near the fire. Still, the Corps departed at sunrise. As they traveled upstream, they saw immense herds of buffalo, elk, deer, wolves, and antelope. In the evening, the men in the rear canoes spied a grizzly resting about 300 feet from the river. Six skilled hunters went to kill him. They had the advantage of cover (to get within 40 feet of the grizzly). Two hunters held their fire, while the other four fired in unison at the bear. Two balls clearly hit the beast’s lungs. The bear awoke and roared to his feet, running towards the men with open mouth. The other two hunters fired and hit the bear, one ball breaking his shoulder (slowing him down). Unable to reload fast enough, the men ran for their lives with the grizzly in hot pursuit. Two hunters made it to the river and into a canoe. The others separated and hid among the willows, reloaded their guns, and shot at the bear when opportunity afforded. Despite hitting him again and again, it only pointed the bear in their direction. The deeply wounded grizzly chased two hunters, who ditched their guns and powder, and jumped off a 25 foot bank into the Missouri River. The raging bear jumped into the river behind them and was only a few feet from getting a corpsman when the bear was shot in the head—from a hunter on shore—and killed. When the bear was butchered they found eight lead balls had passed through him “in different directions.” It was a “upsetting and narrow escape” with “trepidation and horror” (Lewis). Gass journaled: “These bears are very bold and ferocious; and very large and powerful. The natives say they have killed a number of their brave men.” The men named the creek where the bear was killed “Brown Bear Defeated” Creek.”

But it wasn’t the only narrow escape that day. While the men in the canoes dressed out the grizzly, the red and white pirogues continued upstream. Around 6 p.m. as Charbonneau steered the white pirogue (normally a job for Drouillard), a near tragedy occurred. It didn’t help that the husband of Sacagawea couldn’t swim and was “the most timid waterman in the world (Lewis).” In a rare moment when both Lewis and Clark were ashore—and the opposite shore from the pirogues and canoes—a gust of wind struck the white pirogue and twisted her violently. Charbonneau was so alarmed he turned the boat the wrong way, allowing the wind to catch the sail and rip it from his hands. The white pirogue nearly flipped over and started to fill with water. It carried their papers, instruments, books, medicines and merchandise to trade. Lewis and Clark fired their guns and yelled to cut the line and haul in the sail, but the men couldn’t hear them. For a half a minute the pirogue lied on her side until the sail was removed. The whole time Charbonneau was “crying to his God for mercy.” This caused Cruzatte to pull his gun and threaten the French interpreter to grab the rudder and “do his duty” or he'd shoot him. The men immediately began bailing the water-logged pirogue with kettles, while two others rowed her to shore. The boxes with the Corps’ papers, instruments, medicines, and merchandise floated downriver and nearly all were retrieved by Sacagawea. The men removed every article from the boxes to dry on the shore. Gass noted that “a great part of the medicine and other articles spoiled.” Some of the paper and all the books were wet (Whitehouse). It was a costly error in judgment.

It turned out Charbonneau wasn’t the only man aboard who couldn’t swim (there were two others). If the white pirogue had sunk in the Missouri there would’ve likely been loss of life. Both captains recognized they owed “the preservation of the pirogue to the resolution and fortitude of Cruzatte.” Lewis also noted he was so upset watching the scene from a distance that he almost jumped in the river himself and swam to the white pirogue to help (300 yards away). However, he realized later that had he done such a foolish act the odds were “a hundred to one...[that he’d have] paid the forfeit of [his] life.” That evening, with the grizzly bear and white pirogue catastrophe behind them, the captains consoled and cheered the men with two shots of whiskey and rum. 16.5 miles


May 15:

"Tanning Leather"


The men sheltered in place with hopes of drying out their baggage, but the day proved too cloudy and damp. The hunters killed a buffalo, seven deer (which skins are tanned for their leather buckskin clothing), and four beaver. They also saw three bears (one that they wounded). The party also saw dead buffalo on the banks, some floating in the river (most likely winter kill).


May 16:

"Panther Camp"


The Corps spent most of the day drying out their baggage. They called the place “Panther Camp” because two men had wounded a large panther during the morning hours, just below their camp. They also killed two antelope (one they caught mired in the mud). A grizzly ripped up Labiche’s coat (he had accidentally left it on the plains). Around 4 p.m. everything was “perfectly dried, repacked and put on board the pirogue” (Lewis). Fortunately the loss wasn’t as great as they first thought, the medicine taking the hardest hit. They did sustain losses to their garden seeds, some gunpowder and a few kitchen utensils that fell overboard and sunk. Thankfully Sacagawea was able to catch and preserve most of the light articles washed overboard. Lewis noted she had “equal fortitude and resolution, with any person onboard at the time of the accident.” The Corps used the evening hours to travel and put on a few miles. They camped on the south shore near several old Indian huts. 7 miles


May 17:

"A Late Night Fire"


The Corps left at dawn, using a toe line most of the day to pull the boats upstream. It’s the safest and “most expeditious mode of traveling” when there aren’t favorable winds to use sails. The country is turning rugged, the hills high and summits partially covered with pine and cedar. The buffalo are now gone. Clark walked the shoreline and killed an elk, but narrowly escaped a rattlesnake strike. They also killed a rattler at their camp that evening. Consequently they named a nearby stream “Rattlesnake Creek.” Lewis’ party shot a small female grizzly. There’s a lot of driftwood in the river.

Clark spotted a fortified Indian camp that was recently occupied, likely by the Hidatsa Sioux (who were at war with the Blackfeet). During the night the guard sergeant sounded the alarm that a large tree directly over the captain’s tent was on fire. They quickly moved their tent just before the tree crashed (but its blowing embers still burned holes in their lodge). It’s another lucky escape. “We should have been crushed to atoms,” wrote Lewis. The wind blew the fire into the fallen timber creating an inextinguishable fire. It proved to be along night. In honor of the experience, they named a nearby creek “Burnt Lodge Creek.” 20.5 miles


May 18:

"Rough Hills and Headwinds"


A hard westerly wind blew hard during the morning hours, so the Corps used a tow line most of the day to proceed “on tolerably well.” Around noon it began to rain but did not last. It was hardly a rain “sufficient to wet a man through his clothes,” wrote Clark, “[but] this is the first rain since we set out this spring.” The Missouri River is narrow, with a gentle current, with a gravely bottom and few sandbars. They named a large creek “[Pete] Weiser’s Creek.”

They moved into land that was more expansive and timbered, with "high rough hills." On his evening walk, Clark killed four “fat” deer (including two mule deer). One of the does had three fawns. Their skins are good for making leggings and moccasins. There’s also buffalo, elk, and antelope...and beaver (a daily dietary staple). One of the hunters shot two elk, another killed a beaver. Another rattler was killed. 21 miles


May 19:

"Seaman Bitten"


The Corps departed late after a “disagreeably cold” night produced a heavy dew and a fog (that made it hard to navigate). Once again, they used tow ropes to move the boats. Clark explored the shore with two hunters and shot a grizzly bear (in the heart) that still ran at a full pace for a quarter mile before dying. They also killed three deer and a beaver. From a particularly high bluff, Clark also spotted the Musselshell River and a range of mountains 40 or 50 miles to the West (Little Rocky Mountains).

One of the Corpsmen wounded a beaver that Lewis’ dog “Seaman” chased to catch but the beaver bit the dog in his hind leg and cut an artery. Lewis desperately tried to stop the bleeding and feared “it will yet prove fatal to him.” In the evening he walked the shore for a few miles and killed an elk, buck and beaver. The rest of the party shot three deer and four beaver. The men complained of sore eyes and abscesses. 20.5 miles


May 20:

"Bird Woman's River"


The Corps left at dawn. The Missouri River was “narrow and crooked,” with a strong current, that demanded a tow rope to move the vessels upstream. They spotted large quantities of prickly pear cacti on the plains and hills. They named a stream “Blowing Fly Creek” due to the flies that infested the area, as well as the meat as they roasted or boiled. The Corps halted at the mouth of the Musselshell (2270 miles from St. Louis, MO) to make observations and explore the country. The hunters found a beautiful stream up the Musselshell that the captains named “Bird Woman’s [Sacagawea] River” after their interpreter’s Shoshone wife. Clark killed two deer and an elk on his exploration, while the hunters killed four deer, an elk and buffalo. They have plenty of meat. The kills are mostly for the skins to make leggings. 7 miles


May 21:

"An Evening Storm"


The Corps departed at dawn to a “delightful morning,” using tow lines throughout the day because the muddy river bottom made oarsand pole use difficult. The river current remained strong. The treeless country is “fertile” and “produces a fine turf of low grass and some herbs,” with “immense quantities of prickly pear” cacti. The wind increased in velocity throughout the day, blowing in a storm that lasted all night. The Corps was “enveloped with clouds of dust and sand,” so much so they couldn’t “cook, eat, nor sleep.” Initially, the party camped on a sand beach but were forced to move their tents behind a nearby hill to break the wind. Anything not tied down or secured was blown away and lost. Consequently, they named the place “Windy Island.”  20 miles


May 22:

"Passing Grouse Creek"


The wind continued to blow “violently,” forcing the Corps to delay their departure until 10 a.m. Once again, they employed tow lines to move the pirogues and canoes upriver. Lewis explored the shore during the morning and spotted several sharp-tailed grouse. The countryside remains “high and rolling...[with] more pine than usual.” The game isn’t as abundant, and they’ve hooked only a few fish (channel catfish) since leaving Fort Mandan. The Corps stopped earlier than usual to camp, due to the need to “render the oil of a [grizzly]” they killed in late afternoon. Lewis hasn’t seen a black bear in these parts and believes they’re more “common to the lower part of [the Missouri]...and the Atlantic states.” 16.5 miles


HISTORICAL NOTE: On May 22, 1805, Pierre Choteau penned Sir Henry William Harrison that the Corps of Discovery barge had arrived back in St. Louis on May 20: "The barge of Capn. Lewis arrived the day before yesterday. He has sent by this opportunity 45 chiefs or considerés of nations Ricaras [Arikaras], Poncas, Sioux of the tribes on the Missouri [Yankton, Omahas, Otoes and Missourias] in order that they may be conducted from here to the federal city."


May 23:

"Prairie Dogs"


The Corps departed at dawn. A cold night produced a heavy frost and ice (“as thick as window glass,” wrote Gass). The water on the oars also froze. They passed a dry creek bed (“Teapot Creek”) that had running water above it’s mouth, but it's salty and unusable. Lewis experimented by ingesting some of it—as the wild game seem “fond of this water”—but got painfully sick. They also passed a large prairie dog town. Lewis was “astonished” with their ability to exist without water, especially in this arid country.

In the early afternoon, the party halted for lunch. They started a campfire that accidentally “broke out into the woods.” The fire destroyed one of the hunters’ shot pouch, powder horn and rifle stalk. The boat party wounded another large, fat grizzly but he ran into the water, then died and got trapped under a “drift of wood (Whitehouse).” The men couldn’t retrieve the bear. That night the men dealt with “troublesome” mosquitoes. 27 miles


May 24:

"A Fine Breeze"


It’s another frigid night. The standing water inside the pirogues and canoes froze. There’s ice along the shoreline. The cottonwood trees seemed “destroyed by the frost” but are “again putting forth other buds.” The Corps departed at dawn and used tow lines until mid-morning when a “fine breeze sprung up from the southeast” allowed the deployment of their sails. Despite a strong current, they still traveled “at a pretty good pace.”

“The air,” Lewis noted, “[was] so pure in this open country that mountains...appear much nearer than they really are.” The Little Rocky Mountain seemed only a dozen miles away but after a corpsman reconnoitered the area, they learned these mountains were still several dozen miles in the distance. The captains named a stream near a prairie dog town as “Little Dog Creek.” During the evening hours, Clark explored the shore and killed a cow buffalo. The boat party left two canoes and six men to dress the buffalo and rejoin them when they could (but the men never returned). Larger wild game is becoming scarce, especially the beaver (likely due to the lack of timber). The Corps halted around 4 p.m. and camped among the cottonwoods on the north side of the Missouri river. 25 miles


May 25:

"Into the Breaks"


The Corps remained in place until the six men and two canoes, carrying the buffalo meat, rejoined them around 8 a.m. Then they departed with strong current and a hard wind against them. Lewis spotted several herds of big horned sheep on the steep bluffs and cliffs. Drouillard killed a bighorned sheep with horns that weighed 27 pounds. The Indians use these horns to construct bows, cups, plates and spoons. For more civilized uses, the horns have several uses, including “elegant...hair combs.”

The country is now “high, broken and rocky” with narrow, tree-less river bottoms. They are entering the desolate Missouri River “breaks” of north central Montana. Gibson attempted to climb one bluff and dislocated his shoulder. To the north of the river are the Little Rocky and Bear Paw mountain ranges, and to the south are Judiths and Moccasins (near present-day Lewistown). The Corps encountered their first skunk in several days. Buffalo are now scarce and Lewis fears his “harvest of white puddings (made from buffalo intestines) are at an end.” The party camped on the south side. 18 miles


May 26:

"Deserts of America"


The Corps departed at dawn on a Sunday morning. The hills are “high and jutting in on both sides.” Clark took a private to explore the shoreline in the morning and summit one of the bluffs. He could see mountains on both sides of the Missouri river, as well as some elk, several herds of big-horned sheep and large hares. During the afternoon Lewis walked the bluffs and “river hills” and found it “fatiguing.” On one summit, the captain spotted the Rocky Mountains for the first times (still “covered with snow”). Lewis wrote: “While I viewed these mountains I felt a secret pleasure in finding myself so near the head of the...Missouri [river]; but when I reflected on the difficulties which this snowy barrier would most probably throw in my way to the Pacific, and the suffering and hardships of myself and party in them, it in some measure counterbalanced the joy I had felt in the first moment in which I gazed on them; but as I have always held it a crime to anticipate evils I will believe it a good comfortable road until I am compelled to believe differently.”

On Lewis’ return to camp he discovered several soft-shelled turtles in a creek (so he named it “Soft Shell Turtle Creek.” He also killed a fat buffalo. Some of the men helped him butcher the beast and brought it to camp after dark. On his return Lewis nearly stepped on a rattler, who seemed surprised and not “in a striking attitude.” The captain used his spear (espontoon) to kill the snake. The hunters killed two more big-horned sheep. The Corps camped after dark in a small cottonwood bottom near a “considerable rapids” that they passed through with some difficulty. They later named it “Elk and Fawn Riffle” for the cow and fawn elk they saw swimming through the rapids. Clark wrote: “This country may with propriety I think be termed the deserts of America, as I do not conceive any part can ever be settled, as it is deficient in water, timber and too steep to be tilled.” 23 miles


May 27:

"Scenes of Desolation"


A hard wind delayed departure until 10 a.m., and even then the boat party employed the tow lines most of the day. This river current is fast now, while the bluffs on both sides are steep and rugged, more “broken and barren than yesterday (Lewis).” It is “country which presents little to our view,” penned Gass, “but scenes of barrenness and desolation...[with] no encouraging prospects that it will terminate...[it is] the most dismal country I ever beheld; nothing but barren mountains on both sides of the river, as far as our view could extend.” The river is also full of rocks, fallen from nearby cliffs. The temperatures climb inside this stone “oven” canyon lands. More herds of big-horned sheep are spotted, as well as a few elk. The Corps camped near two dead cottonwood trees for no other reason than the wood it provided for fire. 14 miles


May 28:

"Judith River Oasis"


The Corps left at dawn to dark clouds on the horizon and a “smoky wind.” They used the tow line, as well as poles to navigate the boats upstream. There are more rapids and rocky points than yesterday, causing concern. If a pirogue or canoe overturned or spun just right against the rocks, it could smash the vessel to pieces. Their elk-skin ropes are “slender...weak and rotten” from being continually wet and stretched. Several times in recent days ropes have snapped. The party found along the shoreline an Indian lodge pole, a ball used for Indian games and other native articles. It’s evidence Indians are in the area. During the morning hours, Clark explored the shore and killed a big-horned sheep. A very large grizzly was also spotted, but without timber to climb and a river to run into, the men opted not to make the bear mad by shooting him. 21.5 miles


May 29:

"A Buffalo Runs Amok"


Around midnight a buffalo bull swam across the river and passed “with great violence” through their camp around midnight. The frightened bull exited the river, climbed full speed up the bank and through the camp, nearly destroying the white pirogue and coming within inches of the “heads of some of the men who lay sleeping” in the dark. Then the frightened bull turned and headed toward the captain’s tent, passing between four fires and barely missed trampling more men. All this happened before the night guard could alarm the men. Thankfully, Lewis’ dog “Seaman” barked at the buffalo and chased him away. By this time, the men were awake and “in an uproar” (with guns ready to fire). When all was said and done, only a rifle belonging to York was trashed. York had “negligently” left his rifle in the pirogue and the buffalo violently stepped on it. Lewis concluded in his reflection of this event that the white pirogue, known for having mishaps, was “attended by some evil genie.”

The Corps departed at dawn and proceeded as usual by tow line. Nearly three miles upstream they passed “a handsome river” that discharged into the Missouri from the south side. It was the Judith River. Lewis explored the shoreline and traveled up the Judith about a mile and a half. The water was clear and the flow was good, with no large rocks or obstructions. Lewis counted the remains of 126 Indian tipis that were recent use. Sacagawea examined the moccasins found at the camp and informed the captains the shoes were not Shoshone (more likely Blackfeet).

The Corps also saw the remains at least a hundred “mangled carcasses” of buffalo, driven over the cliff by the Indians to perish. The stench was “horrid.” This strategy for killing buffalo is common among the Missouri Indian tribes. They used a young warrior “decoy” (dressed in buffalo robe and wearing a horned buffalo headdress) to catch the buffalo’s attention while the rest of the tribe flanked the herd and pushed it toward the cliff. When the buffalo saw the decoy, it charged and the Indian decoy ran towards the cliff, then jumped over the side and hid in a “cranny or crevice” while the buffalo ran headlong over the cliff to their death below. It’s a dangerous job where “decoys” could be trampled or killed in a fall over the cliff. The Indians scavenged what they can and left the rest to the wolves.

Clark explored the Judith River even further upstream and found it equally beautiful. He named the river after his love interest—Julia “Judith” Hancock of Fincastle, VA. In the afternoon the skies darkened, and the wind picked up, so the Corps landed their vessels and set camp. Unfortunately there was little wood for fires and no timber in sight. The captains softened that disappointment with a small “dram” of whiskey. Since the men haven’t consumed alcohol much since leaving Mandan, “they were all very merry." The hunters killed an elk for supper and Clark shot two beavers. They spotted several grizzlies on the south side mountains. 18 miles


May 30:

"White Cliffs"


The rain fell all night (with high winds) continued “with little intermission” throughout the morning. So the Corps departed mid-day, when they could—even though more rain has fallen on them than they had experienced since last September 15. The climate is remarkably different. The air is “astonishingly dry as well as pure.” The Missouri River continued to become clearer. However, proceeding upstream in the rapids and strong currents was difficult and required more muscle. The rain made the riverbanks and steep cliffs so slippery it’s difficult for the men to walk ashore. The tow line remained their only dependable way to work the boats upstream.

The Corps entered the “white cliff” part of the Missouri River “breaks.” Earth and rocks fell from the high cliffs, while the wind blew hard against the men. Several ropes snapped but fortunately without damage to the pirogues and canoes. Light showers continued all day, and the air was “disagreeably” cold. One of the corpsmen climbed a nearby hill and reported snow mixed with rain. He also shared there was no timber on either side, only scattered cottonwood in the bottoms. The party continued to pass old Indian camps with fresh Indian tracks and sign, which they suspected to be Blackfeet. One of the hunters shot an elk. A buffalo was also killed. The Corps stopped to camp in a place where Indians had left lodge poles and considerable firewood. 8 miles


May 31:

"Scenes of Visionary Enchantment"


The Corps left at dawn with only the two pirogues. The canoes (and their crews) remained behind to bring up the meat from last night’s buffalo kill. Not long after departure it started to rain again, and didn’t stop until the afternoon. The river continued to have many rapids and rocky points. The labor required the men to walk “a fourth of their time” in cold river water up to their armpits. When on shore the banks and bluffs were so slick and the mud so thick and sticky, they had to work barefoot upon “sharp fragments of rocks” to drag a canoe several hundred yards. “In short,” Lewis penned, “their labor is incredibly painful and great, yet those faithful fellows bear it without a murmur.” The tow rope for the white pirogue snapped, swinging the boat to “slightly” strike a rock, nearly overturning. Lewis continued to blame its bad luck on an “evil genie” who “will play so many pranks with her that she will go to the bottom [someday].” Clark also walked the shoreline but found the going so rough that by noon he was done. The captains awarded the men a shot of whiskey, which they “received with much cheerfulness.”

Lewis noted how the white sandstone cliffs and bluffs of the Missouri River breaks “exhibit a most romantic appearance.” He said these stone features “[represented] elegant ranges of lofty freestone buildings...parapets well stocked with statuary...long galleries...pedestals and capitals...vast pyramids...so perfect indeed are those walls that I should have thought that nature had attempted here to rival the human art of masonry.” Some of these cliffs rose 100 to 300 feet high above the river and were from one to twelve feet thick. In his evening walk, Lewis spied a type of pine unknown to him, as well as “the most beautiful fox in the world” (which he tried to kill). The men also continued to see bighorn sheep, mule deer, elk and a few buffalo. They spotted a grizzly on the north shore and some of the hunters pursued but returned only with a mule deer. Drouillard traveled with Lewis and killed two bighorn sheep. In addition, the men brought down two buffalo and an elk. The Corps camped at a beautiful bottom surrounded by cottonwood trees. 18 miles


June 1:

"Leaving the Breaks"


The Corps departed at dawn with the wind against them all day (forcing the men to, once again, use tow ropes). The morning was cloudy with sprinkles of rain. The country is becoming more level. They are 8-10 miles southwest of the Bear Paw mountains in north central Montana. To the southwest, they view the Highwood mountains. Clark explored the shore and noted the “rich” and “extensive plains on both sides of the river.” He also observed roses, chokecherries and prickly pear cacti blooming in vast quantities. The river current is “gentler” and growing clearer. However, the game was less abundant. Although they spotted buffalo in the distance, all the men could kill was a bighorn and mule deer. The Corps passed six small islands and halted to camp on the seventh (as it had timber). They also saw recently evacuated Indian lodges made of sticks. 23 miles


June 2:

"Marias River Arrival"


A violent wind blew all night, with more rain, but a fair morning allowed the Corps to depart by 9 a.m. It’s become the norm: a strong current and oppositional winds that demand use of tow ropes to move the boats upstream. The plains were leveling out and timber alongside the river was increasing. More game was in the area, so Lewis and several hunters went ashore and killed six elk, two buffalo, a mule deer and a grizzly. The hunters harvested as much meat as possible, but Lewis really needed elk skins to cover his experimental portable boat that he planned to use beyond the “great falls” of the Missouri. The grizzly proved a difficult kill. The wounded bear nearly chased down Drouillard and Charbonneau (who fired his gun in the air as he ran for some nearby bushes). Drouillard finally brought him down with a head shot. The Corps spent the night “in a handsome bottom of small cottonwood timber,” opposite the mouth of a large river (the Marias River near present-day Loma, MT). 18 miles