Lewis and Clark Title Timeline.1805


Great Falls to Three Forks, MT

June 17, 1805 - July 27, 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 and returned to St. Louis, MO on September 23, 1806.

June 17:

Clark departed at 8 a.m. with five men (including Alexander Willard, John Colter and perhaps Joseph Field) to survey the south portage for the best path. At one point, Clark nearly slipped and fell into the rapids. He marked his name, date and height of the falls on a cottonwood tree. He also spotted buffalo and a bear.

Six men went to work making four sets of “small low wagons”—wheels, couplings, tongues, and bodies—to transport the canoes and baggage. They (luckily) found a large cottonwood tree with a circumference suitable for wheels. Lewis dispatched two men to hunt for elk. He still needed more skins for the portable “iron frame” boat he’s been carrying since Harper’s Ferry, WV. The plan is to bury the white pirogue, then use only the portable boat (their largest vessel) and canoes moving forward. Lewis ordered the rest of the men to unpack the white pirogue and then take the five small canoes up “Portage Creek” about a mile and a half. At that point they’ll be put on wheels and portaged. It wasn’t an easy task. One of the canoes flipped, nearly injuring two men.

The good news is Sacagawea is improving. Her fever is gone, pulse regular and she’s eating well (broiled buffalo meat and soup). The Corps saw many “mangled carcasses” of buffalo along the shores and below the falls. They are victims, Lewis stated, to falling into the river as they descend the narrow and steep ravines to the Missouri for a drink. He had seen several die this way already.


June 18:

The Corps started the day by burying the white pirogue in a “thick bunch of willow branches” then “covered here with bushes and driftwood.” Clark took his party and explored the area to set an “upper camp” towards the end of the portage. The captain took the opportunity to survey and measure all the “small” and “great falls” including “the largest fountain...[he’d] ever saw (Giant Springs in Great Falls, MT).” He saw “immense herds of [buffalo] in every direction” and later shot a grizzly. Willard was pursued by another grizzly (and nearly caught). Clark and three men went to kill the bear before he happened to find Colter but were too late. Colter was in the river evading the grizzly. It was too dark now to shoot him so they let the bear go.

Lewis dispatched three men to dig another cache for materials they don’t need any further. The rest of the men repacked their Indian merchandise, ammunition, provisions, and supplies. Lewis inspected the portable “iron frame” boat and found it complete (save one screw that’s easily fixed). Around noon the hunters returned with ten deer but no elk. Lewis is concerned. He prefers elk skin because its more durable and stronger, plus it won’t shrink in drying out. In the evening some hunters killed a couple buffalo (which provided much meat). The wagons for hauling the canoes are completed. Sacagawea continued to improve quickly, even took a walk. She is free of fever and pain. Lewis continued the treatment of sulfur water medication, along with a dose of sulfuric acid. According to Ordway, they 2580 miles from St. Louis.


June 19:

A violent wind blew most of the day. Lewis dispatched several men to retrieve meat from yesterday’s kill. He also sent Drouillard, Reuben Fields and Shannon across the river to hunt elk on the north side in the Medicine River area. Clark returned to hunt the grizzly but never found him. The cache was completed. Sacagawea took a hike and gathered a bunch of white apples. She ate so many (as well as dried fish) that she got sick again (fever, stomach issues). Lewis rebuked her husband for letting her indulge because he was instructed on what she should (and shouldn’t) eat. Lewis treated Sacagawea’s fever with saltpeter and her pain with laudanum, helping her to rest. The men continued to repackage the baggage for portage. The portable “iron frame” boat was greased and cleaned of rust. In the evening the men mended their moccasins. After dark, Lewis’ dog “Seaman” started barking. He was extremely uneasy. Thinking it could be a bear or Indians, a guard sergeant and two men reconnoitered the area but returned to report it was just a buffalo bull trying to swim the river that spooked “Seaman.” The Corps now had an “upper” and “lower” portage camp. Clark noted the portage was 20.5 miles.


June 20:

Lewis waited patiently for Clark to return from the upper camp (also known as “White Bear Island” camp). He feared the portage may prove longer than he hoped. Meanwhile Clark directed his men to stake out the area for men to know where to bring the baggage. They also left their own blankets and provisions at this spot, then departed for the lower camp. In the return Clark noted several ravines that will likely create problems for the portage. Lewis dispatched hunters to the north side of the Missouri to kill buffalo. He wants to create a large stock of dried meat for the portage meals.

Sacagawea is, once again, free from pain and fever. She is walking around, even fishing. The hunters returned in the evening and reported eleven buffalo killed. Lewis dispatched all his men to bring in the meat. All but three returned with “about half of the best meat.” The three in the field will keep the rest safe until tomorrow. Clark and his party returned late in the evening to supply his portage map and report on his explorations.

The captains decided not to dispatch a canoe with some men to return to St. Louis as previously planned. Without knowing the “friendship or hostility” of the Shoshone, they cannot spare a man. Plus, it might discourage those not picked to return. This plan had never been spoken to the Corps. The captains noted the men “all appear perfectly” firm in their minds “to succeed in the expedition or perish in the attempt.” They believed the hardest part of their journey started now. Clark noted how June snows on the faraway mountains made them “shine” in the sun. It’s the land of “shining mountains.” A phrase that will become one of Montana’s favored monikers. Clark also recorded a strange and unexplainable “boom” in the area. Other in his party heard it too. It reminded him of a “blowing caverns” back in Bath County, VA. However, after he surveyed the area there was nothing to explain the “unaccountable rumbling sound.”


June 21:

Most of the men transported a portion of the baggage about three miles up “Portage Creek” to the top of a high plain. Lewis directed one canoe to carry the “truck wheels” (along with his portable iron boat, tools, instrument’s, and the personal baggage of Lewis, Gass and the Fields brothers) to the same place. This was the starting spot for the portage and these three men assisted in the construction of the portable boat. Whitehouse described the 36-foot, “yawl-shaped,” portable iron boat as “made out of wrought iron” with “ribs,” support bars and beams (held together with screws). Animal hides cover the bottom and sides. Lewis noted unanticipated issues in the portable boat, including the lack of proper timber, bark, skins and pitch to seal her seams. The rest of the party worked in meat collection and butchering. The men who had remained to protect the buffalo meat also shot several mule deer. There’s abundant plant life, including rose bushes, gooseberry, currant, and honeysuckle. The French engages loved to smoke the inner bark of the redwood, mixed with tobacco.


June 22:

The Corps departed early, leaving behind Ordway, Goodrich, York, Charbonneau, Sacagawea and the infant “Pomp” to care for baggage that cannot be moved yet. It’s time to move everything across the plains to the upper portage camp or “White Bear Islands.” Clark piloted the men through the plains. Lewis spotted a western meadowlark, known for their unique cheerful chirp (this bird became the Montana state bird). They stopped at Box Elder Creek for lunch and work on the wagons hauling their canoes and baggage. The only wood available for wheels, axles and tongues was cottonwood and an old mast (both of which were already failing on the prairie). They repaired them with “sweet willow” hoping it’ll solve the problems. Within a half mile of the upper portage camp, after dark, the tongues broke again. So the men left a canoe and then carried as much as they could the rest of the way on their backs. By the time they reached camp they were wore out. The prickly pear cacti were also “extremely troublesome”—puncturing their moccasins and feet. They built their fires, had supper, and went to sleep.


June 23:

After the canoe and the baggage left behind was brought to the upper portage camp, Clark returned with the rest of the men to the lower portage camp for more equipment and baggage. Lewis, Gass, Joseph Fields and Shields remained at the upper camp to clear out the brush and construct the boat. He later dispatched Gass and Shields to find wood, while Lewis and Fields canoed to the mouth of Medicine River in search of the hunters who never returned. They traveled up the Medicine about a half a mile, then landed the canoe and started yelling to (hopefully) get their attention. Eventually they found Shannon, who had killed seven deer and several buffalo. He had already dried 600 pounds of meat. However, he had no clue where Reuben Fields and Drouillard were located (Ordway wrote they returned to the lower camp with sixteen buffalo and five deer). Shannon camped with Lewis and Joseph Fields on the Medicine River.

On his morning return to the lower camp, Clark marked the route with flags and stakes to use as a guide. He also shortened the route considerably, shaving off a couple miles. He arrived with sufficient time to move two canoes from the lower camp to the top of the hill, before heading down to the lower portage camp (where he found everyone safe). That night the men mended their moccasins (stitching in double soles). The prickly pear continued to be a problem. Clark noted this work was particularly fatiguing for the Corps: “The men [have] to haul with all their strength...many times...catching the grass and knobs and stones with their hands to give them more [leverage]...those not employed in repairing the [truck wagons]; are asleep in a moment, many limping from the soreness of their feet, some become faint for a few minutes, but no man complains and all go cheerfully on...”


June 24:

Lewis sent Joseph Fields four miles up the Medicine River to see if he could spot Drouillard and Reuben Fields, with orders to return with (or without) them. Later Lewis dispatched Shannon to meet Fields and retrieve the dried meat, then bring it to the upper portage (White Bear Islands) camp. Lewis returned to the upper portage camp in the afternoon while Shannon and Fields arrived in the evening. Gass and Shields made slow progress in finding timber for the boat. Cottonwood is too soft and brittle. A “wet and fatigued” group of men also arrived with two canoes full of baggage, thanks to a severe thunderstorm with heavy rain and hail. The thirsty men “heartily” drank from the puddles it left behind. The “trucks” continued to break making it “sufficiently hard at times to move the canoe” (Ordway). At one point they raised a sail on the largest canoe to help them push it across the prairie. Clark accompanied the men four miles, then returned to the lower camp (his feet are extremely sore from all the hiking). Lewis treated everyone to a shot of whiskey that evening. Reuben Fields was among Clark’s party and reported on his hunt with Drouillard. Sacagawea is fully recovered.


June 25:

After breakfast, Lewis sent the party back to the lower camp. They arrived in time to move one canoe and baggage for a third portage. Frazier left to find the meat Drouillard had collected. Joseph Fields went elk hunting. Gass and Shields searched for wood to construct the portable iron frame boat. Fields returned to the upper portage camp at noon and said he spotted two grizzlies a few miles above. In his attempt to shoot one, a third grizzly charged him. He ran to the river and jumped down the steep bank (cutting his hand, bruising his knee, and damaging his gun). Fortunately the steep bank hid him from the bear, allowing him to escape. Around 2 p.m. Gass and Shields returned with a little bark and timber (and two elk). Drouillard and Frazier also returned with 800 lbs of dried meat and a 100 pounds of tallow (for candles and wax). The mosquitoes are “very troublesome.”

At the lower portage camp, Clark is ill and alone (save for Charbonneau, Sacagawea and the infant “Pomp”). The captain tasked Charbonneau to cook for the men returning from the upper portage camp. He made Clark some coffee for his breakfast. It’s a “romantic” country, Clark penned in his journal. Steep hills. Ravines with little timber. Rivers and creeks with abundant trout. Massive amounts of chokecherries, gooseberries, and currants. The Corps is burning driftwood from the river. Around 5 p.m. the portage party returned to the lower camp, much fatigued. Sgt. Pryor is sick. In the evening, men repaired their moccasins and prepared their loads for the next portage. Cruzatte also broke out his fiddle and the men cheerfully danced to his tunes in a “good humor” until 10 p.m.


June 26:

Lewis sent Joseph Fields and Drouillard in a canoe up the Missouri to hunt elk. Frazier sewed the boat covering. Gass and Shields went on a hunt for more timber and bark. Lewis stayed in camp and prepared to feed the men coming from the lower portage camp. On the menu is buffalo (with dumplings). Gass and Shields returned about 4 p.m. with some timber, as well as buffalo steaks (from the seven buffalo they killed).

At the lower camp, Clark medicated Pryor with salts and tasked Charbonneau with rendering buffalo tallow for candles, wax, etc. (he did enough to fill three kegs). Clark also selected the articles to bury in an underground cache: Lewis’ writing desk, books, plant and mineral specimens, pork, flour, ammunition and other dispensable items from Corps members. He also buried the swivel cannon and carriage near the river. Buffalo, deer, antelope and wolves abound. “The plain appear[s] to be black with them,” wrote Whitehouse.

The lower camp portage party left at dawn with two canoes and more baggage (parched meal, pork, powder, lead, axes, tools, biscuits, portable soup, Indian merchandise and clothing). Once again, they used their sails (and favorable winds) to help push the truck wagons across the prairie. Around noon they halted for a buffalo lunch. It’s a hot day. The portage party arrived late near nightfall at the upper portage camp. Whitehouse suffered heat exhaustion earlier in the day, drank too much water and was now sick. Lewis bled and relieved him, using his pen knife. Clark’s final and official mileage for the portage was 18 miles. The “great falls” were 17 miles long with four falls (98,19,47, and 26 feet in height). In total the river fell 362’ 9” in the various cascades.


June 27:

The portage party left at dawn for the remaining canoe and baggage. They traveled by way of the “great falls” (to see the sights). They enjoyed a “cold and pure” drink at Giant Springs. For lunch they shot a bull buffalo and broiled it’s hump. Lewis detained Whitehouse due to still feeling under the weather and had him work with Frazier on sewing together the boat covering. Gass and Shields continued to construct the portable “iron frame” boat. Lewis stayed on cook duty to ensure everyone was fed. Two elk were killed near camp.

Around 1 p.m. a violent thunderstorm (with heavy rain and hail) moved through the area. Shortly after the sun came out, Drouillard and Joseph Fields returned from hunting. They had killed nine elk and three grizzlies. While hunting the brush bottoms of the river, they found grizzly tracks and suspected a bear was somewhere near. So they quietly climbed a tree and secured themselves. Then they hollered to spook the grizzly and, as planned, he instantly rushed toward their voices. When he stopped at their tree, Drouillard dropped him with a head shot. It’s a good thing that grizzlies don’t climb trees. Another bear ventured into camp and ate thirty pounds of buffalo hanging on a pole. Lewis’ dog “Seaman” now barked all night, warding off bears.

At the lower portage camp, Clark finished his map of the Missouri river (from St. Louis to Fort Mandan) and planned to deposit it here “to guard against accidents.” Sgt. Pryor is better. Around 4 p.m. the portage party arrived from the upper camp. Like Lewis at the upper camp, they survived the thunderstorm (high winds, heavy rain, hail) by hiding under canoes or protecting their heads with any hard article they could find. The hail nearly knocked Ordway off his feet. Gass noted some hail “measured seven inches in circumference.” The storm made the rest of the trip muddy and slippery. Clark treated the Corps to some “grog” (rum and water). They noted several drowned and “dashed to pieces” buffalo floated down the Missouri river.


June 28:

At the upper camp, Lewis put Drouillard on “shaving” elk skins. Joseph Fields made cross bars for the boat. Frazier and Whitehouse continued to sew together skins to cover the portable “iron boat.” Lewis doesn’t have enough elk skins so he turned to buffalo skins to finish covering the boat bottom. Gass and Shields finished the horizontal boat bars. The grizzly bears are now so “troublesome” that Lewis prohibits his men from traveling outside camp alone. He also ordered them to sleep with their guns loaded. They continue to approach the camp every night but thanks to Lewis’ dog “Seaman” they don’t attack.

At the lower camp, Clark dispatched Ordway and some men to take the last canoe and its baggage up the portage creek (to their launching spot). He sent other men to transport articles intended to cache, while a few others repaired the “truck wagons” yet again. This was their last portage trip. Everybody, including Sacagawea and her infant son “Pomp,” broke camp and headed to the launching spot three miles away. However, upon arrival they realized there was still too much baggage for their two “truck wagons.” So they left behind some boxes of ammunition, pork and flour, then traveled six miles and set up “Willow Run Camp.” They killed two buffalo to feed the party. That evening another rainstorm blew through the area, drenching everyone. Clark consoled them with a shot a whiskey.


June 29:

The rain continued into the early morning hours. Since Lewis wasn’t needed with the iron boat construction, he and Drouillard went in search of Giant Springs. On their way they got blasted by a thunder and lightning storm. Lewis and Drouillard took refuge in a gully under some rocks (fearing hail was in the tempest). After an hour of drenching rain, the sun returned and they continued to Giant Springs. It was an amazing sight to Lewis, who wrote that every day seemed to bring a “novel occurrence” or “uncommon object” to their attention. On their way back to camp they found a buffalo they had killed earlier, so they carved off some meat. Lewis particularly enjoyed the “hump and tongue...[as] great delicacies.” Upon returning to camp he was astonished the portage party still hadn’t arrived. But given the hard rains, Lewis speculated they were having trouble getting the wagons through the mud. Another hailstorm rolled through in the afternoon. Some of the hailstones were bigger than softballs. Lewis made the men an “ice punch” using one hailstone. There is concern for the portage party.

And there was reason for concern. Indeed the rain had created a problem for Clark’s portage party. It was way too muddy to go further from Willow Run Camp. Consequently, the captain decided to send the party back to retrieve the load they left behind yesterday. This gave Clark time to take another trip to the river and complete some notes he lost a few days earlier. The captain left a man at the Willow Run camp and invited York, Charbonneau, Sacagawea and her infant son “Pomp” to join him for the hike.

The Clark party no sooner arrived at the “great falls” when a storm rolled in. To avoid the wind and rain, they sheltered in a deep ravine under some rocks. Suddenly a “most violent torrent of rain” and large hail hit them, creating flash flood in the ravine. Clark moved his party quickly to higher ground up a steep bluff, literally pushing Sacagawea (holding “Pomp”) up the hill. The water rose rapidly, to the point Clark was waist deep in the flood at one point. Once again, Sacagawea’s husband Charbonneau proved worthless. He froze in fear. There wasn’t a moment to waste. Clark somehow saved the interpreter’s family before the floods washed them away to certain death. In the storm, Charbonneau lost his gun shot pouch, powder horn, tomahawk, and Lewis’ “wiping rod.” Clark’s umbrella, compass and his device for measuring circumference were washed away, as was Pomp’s cradle board, bedding and clothing. Consequently, the infant was soaked and cold. Once on top of the play they found a soaked and “much alarmed” York (who was hunting a buffalo when the storm hit).

Clark returned to Willow Camp immediately. He feared the chill could cause Sacagawea’s sickness to flare up. He gave her, Charbonneau, and York a drink of whiskey (from a canteen York carried). That seemed to warm them up. Upon arrival at the Willow Run Camp, he found the party who had gone to retrieve the baggage in a state of “great confusion” and fear. The men were nearly naked. The violent wind and rain shredded their animal skin clothes. Even worse, the large hail had “mauled” them, knocking the men to the ground and beating their heads and bodies until they bled profusely. Some men were nearly killed, crying in complaint. At this point the best any of them could do was stay put a second night to dry out and recover. Once again, the captain consoled them with some grog (rum and water).


June 30: At the upper portage camp, Frazier and Whitehouse continued to sew skins for the boat. Gass and Shields shaved bark while Joseph Fields made cross braces. Lewis and Drouillard rendered buffalo fat into candle and wax “tallow.” Lewis was growing impatient. Too much time was getting wasted. It’s been three months since they left Fort Mandan and they still haven’t reached the Rockies. It’s now clear they won’t make it to the Pacific Ocean and back to Fort Mandan before winter. By evening the leather boat covering was finished (28 elk and 4 buffalo skins). Clark’s portage party still hasn’t return. Lewis feared the worst.

At the Willow Run Camp, Clark and the party started the day with some hunting. Two men went for buffalo. Another two men were dispatched to recover articles lost in yesterday’s storm by Clark, Charbonneau and Sacagawea. The captain sent all (but a cook) to retrieve the baggage left on the plains, where the men had ditched them during the storm. The hunters returned around 10 a.m. with meat, and soon after the portage party with the baggage. Clark then ordered four men to make new axles and repair the “truck wagons.” The men still complained of bruises and wounds from the hailstorm. There is good news: the men found Clark’s compass in the mud at the mouth of the ravine. Everything else was gone. Around 11 a.m. Clark dispatched the portage party to take the load of baggage as far as the six mile marker, then leave it and return with the “wagon trucks.” The portage party was back to Willow Run before dark. They saw a huge buffalo herd possibly as many as 10,000 head (Clark).


July 1:

At the upper portage camp, Lewis deployed the men to various tasks. Frazier and Whitehouse sewed the skin covering to the boat frame. Shields and Joseph Fields collected wood and prepared a tar pit. Gass worked to make “way strips” from willow branches. Lewis and Drouillard continued to render buffalo fat into candle and wax “tallow” (they’ve now made 100 pounds). By nightfall the boat skins were all attached, but Lewis was getting frustrated with the portable “iron frame” boat. He doesn’t have the natural resources to complete the work. And he’s too busy cooking for the crew to do anything else.

Around 3 p.m., the Clark portage party finally arrived. They were very tired. It was back-breaking work to push the “truck wagons” across the soft prairie. However, they’ve now transported all the baggage except the load left at the six mile stake. The captains gave the exhausted party a shot of whiskey and ordered them to hit their beds early. The mosquitoes were “troublesome,” but so were the grizzlies, who continued to prowl around their camp at night.


July 2:

The day started with rain, but it didn’t last. The captains dispatched most of the men to retrieve the baggage left at the six mile marker two days earlier. Shields and Bratton started a tar pit. Pryor and Gass work on “way strips” while Lewis and some men began to put the boat together. Once constructed, he had four men sew the skin covering over cross bars on the inner side of the boat. Around 2 p.m. the party returned with the last of the baggage. The portage was finally over. In the evening the captains took twelve men to White Bear Island to hunt grizzly. They found only one bear—a 400 pound young male—which Drouillard shot in the heart at 20 feet (knocking the bear to the ground). However he recovered and ran for 100 yards before dropping dead. The found a pack rat (as well as mice) in their baggage. The mosquitoes continue to eat the men alive.

Gass gives a “theatric” military recounting of the grizzly hunt: In the evening, the most of the Corps crossed over to an island, to attack and rout its monarch, a large brown bear, that held possession and seemed to defy all that would attempt to besiege him there. Our troops, however, stormed the place, gave no quarter, and its commander fell. Our army returned the same evening to camp without having suffered any loss on their side.

July 3:

Everybody had a job on this “pleasant, warm” day. Some men attempted to make tar. Some men attached skins to the boat. Some cut and fitted bark for the lining. Others make moccasins to replace the ones worn out during the portage. Ordway noted a good pair of moccasins lasted two days on the prickly pear prairie. They’d wear a new pair one day and “patch them the next,” he wrote. Gass, McNeal and two other men went to view the “great falls” and Giant Springs. Drouillard, Ordway and Whitehouse ventured to hunt buffalo for pemican and skins to cover baggage. Seven buffalo were killed, but only for the choicest of meat, tongues, brains, and skins. The Indians informed the captains that once they leave the “great falls” of the Missouri there will be fewer and fewer buffalo. They may have to fast on some days. The worst part is the “white pudding” desserts will be history, leaving Charbonneau with one less job. But Lewis has a bigger problem than pudding: the menm can’t make tar to pitch their boat. This will make the iron frame boat useless and a waste of time. Some of the dried skins are also leaking due to the use of a needle that tore larger holes than desired. Nevertheless, this “very light” boat looked great. The question is will it float with baggage and men? Maybe that’s why the men are anxious to get back on the river.


July 4:

The portable “iron frame” boat is fully constructed and covered with animal skins. Unfortunately, there’s no way to make tar to waterproof the vessel. They kindled several small fires under the boat to dry out the skins. Lewis wrote: “We all believe that we are now about to enter on the most perilous and difficult part of our voyage, yet I see no one [complaining]; all appear ready to meet those difficulties which [await] us with resolution and...fortitude.” Clark finished a map of the falls that will be buried in the area. The men continue to hear that mysterious and unexplainable “boom” in the distance. That evening the Corps dined on a “very comfortable” meal of buffalo steaks, bacon, beans, and dumplings in buffalo juice. It was the 29th anniversary of America’s day of independence. Across the United States their countrymen celebrated, so shouldn’t the Corps? The captains drained the last of the whiskey and distributed it to the men (saving a small reserve for sickness). Cruzatte pulled out his fiddle and the men danced “merrily” until a heavy rain shower dampened the festivities. Nevertheless the men still “continued their mirth with songs and festive jokes” long after dark.


July 5:

Lewis continued to dry out the portable “iron frame” boat, using a scaffold to get it off the ground to build fires beneath. A couple men mixed a charcoal, beeswax and buffalo tallow goop to waterproof and seal the seams. Lewis was not confident it will work. However, this lightweight boat is strong and can hold at least 8,000 lbs. of baggage. The stitches in the skin covering have gaps too, likely due to the size of needle. A large herd of buffalo approached the camp and Clark took a party of twelve hunters to drop one, but the wind proved unfavorable (the buffalo smelled them coming). Nevertheless they killed three. The men are busy drying out the meat and stretching the skins. Three men who had yet to see the “great falls” were given liberty to see the sight. They returned in the evening to report buffalo were in that area.


July 6:

Thunderstorms with heavy rain, high winds and hail the size of musket balls moved through the area. The men collected the hail in a tin kettle for ice cubes to cool their water. Unfortunately the rain kept the boat too wet for waterproofing with the charcoal/bees wax/buffalo tallow goop. When the storm passed, the captains dispatched four hunters and two canoes to the highest level rapids to hunt buffalo (for their skins and meat). The hunters did not return by nightfall. Lewis has discovered a new kind of fox (the Swift fox) near the “great falls.” The men dressed skins to make clothes.


July 7:

The cloudy weather wasn’t favorable for drying out skins nor the iron-framed boat, so Lewis kept the fires burning beneath the scaffold. The captains dispatched two more hunters to kill elk or buffalo. They need skins to cover their baggage. The Corps no longer had tents, so the men sought shelter from the weather beneath the sails they used for the pirogues. The men continued to make clothing and moccasins. Due to working in water and being wet, their animal skin clothing rots off their bodies. Clark’s servant York is sick. He was given a medication to induce vomiting. Lewis had never used it for any purpose but fevers, but the purging did improve York’s health. The hunters returned the river with more meat and hides. They killed three buffalo, two antelope, four deer and three wolves. The buffalo were gone, they said.  The other two hunters returned with only an elk. Lewis had some men create a wolf skin carrying bag to transport his instruments. After a late afternoon rain, the “troublesome” mosquitoes arrived to persecute the Corps.


July 8:

It’s a “very hot” day. Clark still needed to replace some notes in respect to the river and “great falls,” so he took most of the men out on the plains to hunt buffalo. A few miles out, he divided the party and sent them in various directions. Clark, Ordway and another man then hiked to the entrance of the Medicine River to do observations trying their best to avoid the rattlesnakes. The captain and his two men returned to the Upper Portage Camp at sunset. The hunters also returned. They killed three buffalo, two antelope and a deer. Most of the buffalo, they reported, were gone, most likely further downriver. Lewis spent the day waterproofing the portable “iron frame” boat with his special goop of charcoal, bees wax and buffalo tallow. He applied two thick coats. Gass and the men gave the boat a name (“The Experiment”) and hoped she’d “answer [their] purpose.” Lewis noted the mountains to the south and northwest are still topped with snow. There was more rain in the afternoon and the “mosquitoes troublesome as usual” (Lewis).


July 9:

It’s a fair and pleasant morning. The men corked the canoes and tested them on the river. They also launched the “iron framed” boat and she bobbed “like a perfect cork on the river.” She’s so lightweight and easy to carry. Lewis had some men make seats and oars for the boat. It’s time to break camp and depart. Unfortunately high winds scrambled their plans. They hastily unpacked the canoes as some of the baggage was getting wet. The winds continued through the night. When they inspected “The Experiment” (iron-framed boat) they found the skins separated at the seams. In this condition she’d sink in the water (a mortifying thought to Lewis). Without a good “pitch” to waterproof and seal the seams, the captain’s “favorite boat” was sunk before it could be used. It was “madness” to think it was a fixable situation. So they ordered the boat sunk in the river to loosen the skins and prepared it to be dismantled. “The Experiment” was over. NOTE: Even on their return trip, the Corps left iron frame behind. It was of no use. However, the failure of the boat produced a new problem. The Corps had too much baggage for their six canoes. They needed more space. Eight miles upriver, the hunters claimed, were large trees. They could build two new large canoes for their excess baggage.


July 10:

Clark departed early with Pryor, four axemen, two “invalids” (Bratton had finger infection) and a hunter to make a new “Canoe Camp” upriver. Clark and his men traveled overland (8 miles), shaving many miles off the 23-mile river trip. Lewis dispatched Ordway with four canoes and eight men to transport a load of baggage to the Canoe Camp, then return for the rest. Lewis and six men went to work dismantling the iron-frame boat. They dug a new cache and buried the frame, along with some papers and disposable items the men didn’t need. Then Lewis buried the “truck wheels” in the tar pit, and went fishing (catching a few white chub). Near the newly established Canoe Camp, Clark found two large cottonwood trees. They looked perfect for making a long canoe (thankfully one was hollow), so the men felled them. The axe men broke thirteen hickory axe handles bringing down those trees. They make replacement handles out of chokecherry wood. Ordway and his canoe crew managed five miles before the winds stopped them. They waited for them to die down and then set out again. They traveled late into the night, finally halting about three miles from Canoe Camp. They camped in a grove of cottonwood trees, awakening a large rattler they dutifully killed. The gnats swarmed the men and the mosquitoes proved “immensely numerous and troublesome.”


July 11:

Lewis and his party wasted the day waiting for Ordway to return (but they never did). Some of the men hunted and killed a fat buffalo. Lewis observed several golden eagles in the area. Around sunset he heard those unexplainable “booms” that sounded like thunder. There’s a lot of false ideas and superstition surrounding these loud sounds, but Lewis entertained none of it. At Canoe Camp, Clark sent Bratton (still suffering from an infection under his fingernail) downriver to find Ordway to retrieve a couple axes. He was back in two hours. Ordway’s crew was stuck three miles downriver, unable to move due to the high winds. He finally allowed the canoe with the tools to leave, but the other three canoes remained docked until late afternoon. The “tool” canoe arrived at Canoe Camp around 10 a.m., however the rest of Ordway’s canoes didn’t make it until sunset. The men quickly unloaded the canoes and Clark sent them back down river in the dark. But, once again, high winds forced Ordway’s men to halt for the night (they only traveled eight miles). Earlier that day, Whitehouse took a hike on the plains and stepped on a four foot prairie rattler (that, consequently struck at his leggings). He shot it dead. Pryor severely dislocated his shoulder carrying meat. They were able to pop it back into place but he remained very pained by it.


July 12:

It’s a very windy day. When Ordway’s canoes failed to return to Upper Portage Camp, Lewis dispatched Gass and three men to join Clark and help hollow out the two new canoes (they arrived at Canoe Camp around 10 a.m.). Lewis believed the rest of the baggage could make the return trip in their six canoes. The captain was growing anxious. They needed to get moving. Clark sent Bratton downriver to retrieve a couple more axes from Lewis. Ordway and his canoe crew struggled to move downriver (due to high winds). One canoe nearly sunk. Two others took on much water. By the time they reached Upper Portage Camp, it was too late to make another trip back to Clark’s camp. So Lewis called it a day. It was a day for some discovery. Clark saw several passenger pigeons (extinct since 1914). Lewis spotted a Kingfisher bird. It’s rare to see this bird on the Missouri River. The mosquitoes, however, aren’t rare. In fact they are “very troublesome.” But the new pest were swarms of gnats. “Our eyes are filled with them,” Lewis wrote.


July 13:

Lewis and the men packed the remaining baggage in the six canoes (assigning two men to each vessel). They said goodbye to Upper Portage Camp and departed. Lewis took the French interpreter Lepage (who was sick), Sacagawea and her infant son “Pomp” across the river and overland towards the Canoe Camp. Along the way they passed a large, extraordinary Indian lodge—constructed from sixteen 50’ cottonwood poles—used for large gatherings. It was likely a Blackfeet medicine lodge where the tribe held their sun dance. Lewis arrived at Canoe Camp around 9 a.m. Clark had the men finishing the two new canoes, corking and preparing oars.

Meanwhile, Ordway and the six canoes traveled upriver until high winds, once again, forced them to shore to dry baggage and drain the canoes. Like clockwork, around 5 p.m., they were able to get back on the river. The canoe crew traveled another eight miles and camped. The river is now populated with more timber along the bottoms. The hunters back at the Canoe Camp killed three buffalo. They still need more skins to cover the baggage. Lewis noted the Corps devoured “an immensity of meat.” So much meat that their hunters needed to bring in at least four deer a day. Or an elk and a deer. Or a buffalo. Meat is now their principal food. They saved their flour and corn for crossing over the Rocky Mountains. The captains had heard game was scarce in the high country. Lewis collected several plant specimens. He also noted the mosquitoes and gnats were worse at Canoe Camp, so he dispatched a man to find the canoes and bring back his mosquito netting. Lewis can’t sleep a wink without it. Mosquitoes, he journaled, were “the most tormenting of all insects.”


July 14:

It’s a calm and warm Sunday. The men finally completed the new canoes and tested them in the evening. One canoe was 25 feet long and the other was 33 feet in length (both were about three feet wide). Lewis took a walk to some nearby bluffs and had a “commanding view of the country.” By the time he returned to Canoe Camp, Ordway and the canoe crew had arrived (at noon). The men unloaded the canoes and prepared for departure the next morning. On the plains the grasshoppers were thick...as were the mosquitoes (“troublesome”) and gnats.


July 15:

The Corps woke at sunrise and loaded the baggage in their assigned canoe. All eight vessels were heavy, even with all the stuff they left behind in caches. They are carrying a lot of meat and grease. It’s been hard to keep the men’s personal baggage to “reasonable bounds,” Lewis noted. They continue to squirrel away articles they find along the trail. Around 10 a.m. the Corps shoved off to much joy. Every man is equally happy to be moving forward again. To lighten the canoes, Lewis and Clark and some of the men walked ashore. Lewis shot a couple elk for lunch. The prickly pear and sunflower are in full bloom.

In the evening the sick men Lepage and Potts walked with their captain. They halted for supper near a beautiful river they named “Smith’s River” (after Robert Smith, Jefferson’s Secretary of the Treasury). The Missouri was very crooked and meandered through lovely valleys before disappeared into the Rocky Mountains. Lewis and his men find a nice bunch of timber and stop to wait for the canoes. It’s a good place to camp for the night, in the shadows of “Fort Mountain” (now known as Square Butte, north of Cascade, MT). Drouillard shot a deer that Lewis’ dog “Seaman” chased into the river. After catching and drowning the deer, he dutifully returned with the carcass to give to his master. 20 miles


July 16:

The men awoke to a heavy dew and departed at sunrise. The captains sent Ordway back downriver four miles to recover the axe he “carelessly left” behind. The party passed forty small willow huts that Indians used for shade. It’s likely Shoshone. They see a lot of evidence for horses (and that gave Lewis hope). They will need horses to cross the Rockies. Drouillard shot a buffalo for the men’s breakfast. Lewis tried “cooked buffalo guts”—cooked Indian-style over a blazing fire—for the first time. They were “very good.” After breakfast, Lewis took Drouillard and his two sick men (Potts and Lepage) to scout the land ahead. He spent the day making observations. The three men spent the night alone. The Missouri River continued to wind through beautiful country. It’s current flowed faster as they neared the Rocky Mountain entrance (where the rest of the Corps camped for the night on a nice sand beach). 23 miles


July 17:

Lewis observed the many uses the Indians had for sunflower seeds, including bread and soup thickener. The captain also enjoyed the currants and service berries (which were ripe and perfect to the taste). Around 8 a.m. Clark’s canoe party caught up to Lewis. They breakfasted together. Lewis removed the box with his instruments to walk them around the rapids ahead. The canoes traversed the white water (using towing lines) with some difficulty. Thankfully, there was no loss or injury). The men spotted bighorn sheep in the evening, otherwise they saw little big game. The rugged landscape is populated with high cliffs of aspen, spruce and fir trees. The Corps camped on an island. The mosquitoes remained “troublesome” but the gnats were less a problem. 11 miles


July 18:

The men awoke to a herd of bighorn sheep running and jumping on the cliff opposite their camp. It was quite a show. One bad move and it was a 500 foot fall to certain death. Lewis anticipated meeting the Shoshone Indians as soon as possible. They needed intelligence on the country plus horses to cross the Rocky Mountain range. However, Lewis was concerned if the Shoshone heard their guns (shooting wild game) that they might retreat into the mountains or hide (thinking the Corps were enemies). Consequently, Clark decided to explore ahead of the canoes working upstream. The captains hoped that one of them working ahead in this fashion might successfully intercept the Shoshone in a more peaceful manner. Initially the Corps traveled together. Two and a half miles upriver they passed the mouth of a large and rapid river with clear water. The captain’s named it “Dearborn’s River” in honor of Henry Dearborn, the current Secretary of War.

Clark shot an elk for breakfast, and then took Joseph Fields, Potts and his black servant York to accompany him. His exploratory party soon ran into “hilly” country that slowed their ability to put distance between them and the Corps down on the river. In the evening Clark discovered an Indian road that shaved off several miles and greatly extended their lead. They camped that night beside a small creek with clear and cold water. The mosquitoes were thick and “troublesome.” His party spotted many bighorn sheep in this “mountainous and rocky” land, streaked with many “fine” streams dammed up by beavers.

The Missouri River current was running faster, forcing the men to use ropes and a “setting pole.” The men killed an elk and later found a deer carcass that Clark shot. The company camped in a small grove of cottonwood trees on the south shore near present-day Holter dam. The mosquitoes were “troublesome.” 21 miles


July 19:

The Corps departed at dawn. The Missouri River continued to increase in velocity, with some whitewater rapids. Lewis walked the shore and shot an antelope. The summer heat was now “suffocating.” In the evening the Corps “entered...the most remarkable cliffs” that they had yet encountered. These cliffs are rugged and rocky (200 feet high). For nearly six miles they traveled through this impressive water canyon. The men spotted several springs that drained into the river. The good news was the current proved easier to manage inside the canyon. However, due to the geography there was no place large enough to camp. Consequently, it wasn’t until after dark they found a sufficient, shady area (among the Ponderosa pines) to stop for the night. Lewis named this grand entrance into the Rocky Mountain range the “Gates of the [Rocky] Mountains.” During the day the Corps spotted bighorn sheep, antelope, beavers, and otters. The mosquitoes were less trouble too, possibly thanks to an afternoon thunderstorm with hail. Lewis’ party traveled 22 miles on the river.

Clark’s party also left early and discovered several old Indian camps. Around 11 a.m., they stumbled into a herd of elk and since the men were out of meat they killed a couple for dinner. With little available firewood, Clark’s men substituted buffalo pies (dung) for wood. Throughout the day they worked overland and eventually returned to the Missouri river. The prickly pear cacti diced up Clark’s feet something fierce. The captain pulled seventeen cacti thorns from his soles by the light of his evening fire. His party camped on the west side of the Missouri river (as its now turned and ran towards the south). The mosquitoes were “very troublesome.”


July 20:

The Corps left at dawn. The current was strong, requiring ropes to move the canoes upstream. Around 6 a.m. the company left the “Gates of the Mountains” and moved into a spacious valley filled with currants, gooseberries, and service berries. Lewis loved the currants and preferred their taste to anything he could buy in the markets back home. The men killed an elk. Mid-morning they witnessed smoke up a particular valley. Was it Indians signaling amongst themselves, warning other Indians of the Corps presence? Or could it be Clark’s fire? Lewis believed it was an Indian warning smoke, perhaps spooked by one of Clark’s guns. Later the Corps discovered an elk skin with a note from Clark (containing information on reuniting). In the afternoon the Corps passed through a range of low mountains that opened into wider prairie land. There’s little timber to be found. Lewis identified a new kind of woodpecker (Lewis’ woodpecker). The Corps camped on a high bank dense with prickly pear cacti. It was hard to find a place to lie down, reported Lewis. His canoe party traveled 15 miles.

Clark’s exploratory party left the river and followed an Indian road for about 18 miles. They were tortured by mosquitoes. Clark’s black servant York was exhausted. The captain’s feet now had blisters. Clark also spotted the same smoke in a distant valley. He suspected the gunfire of Lewis has tipped them the Indians off. Clark doesn’t want the natives to think they’re a war party so he left signs along their trail to show their friendliness. The men’s march became a crawl due to the prickly pear cacti thorns and deep cuts (walking over rocks) that tore up their feet. Clark’s party camped back at the Missouri river.


July 21:

The Corps departed at sunrise and worked through a bad patch of whitewater. The current remained strong, forcing the need for tow ropes. Their progress was “slow and laborious.” They saw some swans and killed a couple for their meal. Lewis’ dog “Seaman” snagged several geese (a frequent occurrence) but few were edible. The men also spotted sandhill cranes. The Corps traveled through rough mountain country most of the day on a southerly route. Around noon, their course turned toward the southwest. The wind blew hard all day, with some intermittent showers of rain.

In the evening Lewis’ party emerged into a beautiful and great meadow (10-12 miles wide) that was framed by two mountain ranges featuring summits still covered with snow. This massive meadow has “fine” grass two feet tall. It's a great place to camp for the night (about five miles east of present-day Helena, MT). His men were worn out and complaining. The “troublesome” mosquitoes added to their misery, especially during the day. During the night it gets so cold the mosquitoes left the area. The men all had a “movable frame” (bier), that they covered with a mosquito netting, to escape the tortures of this blood-sucking insect. Without their “mosquito biers” none of the men could sleep. Lewis’ party traveled 15.5 miles on the river.

Clark’s exploratory party awoke to a “fine morning,” but their feet were so shredded that the captain decided to wait there for the canoes. He went hunting for some game and to look for sign of Indians. Finding nothing, he returned to camp. Like Lewis, he enjoyed the tasty and plentiful service berries, currants, chokecherries, and gooseberries. Clark shot a buck. Fields killed a buck and doe.


July 22:

The Corp departed at sunrise. The river now had several channels, creating islands. Lewis found it difficult to navigate in the right channel. So the captain took to higher ground where he could best see the lay of the land and river. The men discovered wild onions on one island. Lewis gathered half a bushel himself, and the men, when they stopped for breakfast, harvested their own bountiful crop. The onion was quite flavorful. Lewis named the island “Onion Island.” After breakfast Lewis once again hit the higher ground to walk ahead of the canoes. At one spot he stopped and killed an otter, but it sunk to the bottom. However, the water was so clear he could still see the otter, so he dove into the water and retrieved it.

Upriver at Clark’s camp, the air was quite chilly during the night. Clark possessed only a small blanket, so he slept in the grass and covered himself the best he could. The captain lanced the blisters on his feet, which proved painful. Clark also dispatched his men to hunt the area while he nursed his blistered and bruised feet. He felt weak. He’s had nothing to eat save some currants and venison. He hoped his men could bring in some game, but all they harvested was a single deer.

The late afternoon temperature was 80 degrees (in the shade), the warmest day yet in these high mountains. Sacagawea now recognized the landmarks. She assured Lewis her Shoshone relatives lived in the area and that the “three forks” of the Missouri River were close. This fact encouraged the men (and Lewis) greatly. The birds continued to be plentiful, including pheasants and sandpipers. In the evening Lewis’ party finally reached Clark’s camp. The entire company then headed a bit further upriver to camp on an island. Clark’s men killed an elk, while Lewis’ men shot a deer and antelope. Clark insisted on continuing to work ahead of the canoe party to find the Shoshone. He did not want Lewis relieving him yet. Lewis consented to his request because he found Clark “anxious.” Frazier, Joseph and Reuben Fields assigned to accompany Clark this time. Charbonneau also requested to join and was granted permission. The gnats and mosquitoes were terribly “troublesome” in the evening hours. 19.5 miles


July 23:

The Corps departed at dawn. Clark took his party of four men (Frazier, Charbonneau and the Fields brothers) to work ahead of the canoes and look for the Shoshone. They hope to find Sacagawea’s tribe around the Three Forks area. Drouillard, who hadn’t returned to camp yesterday, finally showed with five deer in tow. Islands continued to populate the Missouri, which is running fast with some rapids. They passed a cluster of ten islands and a creek they named after Whitehouse. Thistles and onions abound (the latter collected for future need). He also discovered a new type of snake: the western hog-nosed snake.

Clark’s excursion took him overland. Around the six mile mark he crossed paths with Drouillard. The captain and his men killed four deer and an antelope and left them on the riverbank for the canoe party. Then they traveled another 25 miles on an Indian path through a wide valley with high mountains on either side and camped. Clark spotted no new sign of Indians.

Lewis halted the Corps early. Some baggage was wet and needed to dry. He ordered the canoes to hoist their small flags to show peaceful intents toward any Indians they might encounter. The mosquitoes are “very troublesome,” wrote Whitehouse. He could not “keep them out of [his] face.” They Corps camped on the south side of the river and was “much fatigued.”  22 miles


July 24:

The Corps left at first light. The Missouri current remained swift. Lewis feared, despite assurances from Sacagawea to the contrary, that they might encounter another set of “considerable falls or obstruction” to slow them down. He couldn’t conceive how a river could run through “rough mountainous country” without points of “difficult and dangerous rapids.” Some of the rapids they now passed were 150 yards long and dropped one to three feet. The high mountains all around him, still covered with snow in mid-summer, also gave Lewis little peace.

The Corps spotted many beaver and otter, as well as antelope, cranes, geese, ducks and a grizzly. They also witnessed many non-poisonous bull and garter snakes. The beaver and its dams, Lewis ruminated, might be the reason there’s so many islands in the river. There’s no sign of buffalo anymore. The fondness of buffalo “white pudding” will likely wait until their return. Lewis journaled the three pests that cursed the Corps to similar biblical proportions as the ancient Egyptian’s endurance of Moses’ ten plagues (Exodus 7-12) were mosquitoes, gnats and prickly pear cacti.

Clark and his four men also left early and traveled up a creek in the direction of the Indian path. They spotted a fat and wild horse but couldn’t approach him. They see sign of Indians but its old. The party journeyed back towards the Missouri river, where they killed a deer. Then they “proceeded on” upriver a few miles and camped.

The men back at the main camp are much fatigued. They haven’t had a day off in weeks and their labor is wearing them out. Lewis helped occasionally to assist in moving the canoes through the swift waters. He’s learned, to quote the men, to “push a tolerable good pole.” They camped on the north bank. 19.5 miles


July 25:

The Corps departed early. The current remained swift with some rapids. In the late morning they spotted a grizzly on an island, but he scampered out of sight. The grizzlies in the arear appeared less aggressive and shy than the ones encountered further down the Missouri. The antelope are gathered in small herds, females with babies and a couple males to protect them. They are equally elusive and will bolt with “superior fleetness.” The men shot a few young geese, but Lewis forbade wasting too much ammunition on small game.

Clark and his four men arrived at the Three Forks of the Missouri. Clark surveyed the rivers and felt the “north fork” appeared to be both deepest and “best calculated for [the Corps] to ascend.” The Indians on the north side had started prairie fires for no reason. His party dined on a buck’s ribs for breakfast, then started up the North Fork (later determined to be the Southwest Fork) to reconnoiter the river. Clark left a note of his intentions for Lewis.  The party explored about 6-8 miles, until they came to a small rapid and waterfalls. They traveled another 12 miles further up the Southwest Fork and camped. Charbonneau is worn out, his ankles failing him. There’s much tall grass and prickly pear, with high and steep hills. There’s also game in the area (elk, bear, deer), plus plenty of berries. The mosquitoes tortured the party until a nice mountain breeze, just after sundown, blew them all away.

In the afternoon, Lewis’ canoe party passed where Clark previously camped and eventually into another rocky canyon, past a creek they named “Gass Creek.” They also navigated through two difficult rapids (“the worst we’ve seen since...entering the Rocky Mountains,” journaled Lewis. Whitehouse cut his foot on a sharp rock, running the tow rope from shore. The mosquitoes and gnats remain thick and “troublesome.” 16 miles


July 26:

Lewis’ canoe party departed at dawn to more swift water and rapids (demanding tow ropes and setting poles). They only use oars now to cross the river for easier current. They named a creek after one of the Corpsmen (Thomas P. Howard). Some light rain. The men continued to contend with a variety of sharp grasses, cacti and thistles that painfully penetrated their moccasins and leggings. Lewis’ dog “Seaman” suffered as well, “constantly biting and scratching” to ease the pain. The men spotted beaver and otter. They killed a beaver, plus four deer. They continued to find notes left by Clark, giving information on his whereabouts and important intelligence. The men found an Indian bow near on the plain. Gass reported a two-foot rattlesnake swam among the canoes. The Corps can now see the rugged snow-capped Tobacco Root and Madison Mountain range to the southwest. 16.5 miles.

At Clark’s camp, he took Frazier and Reubin Field on an excursion, leaving Charbonneau and Joseph Field at camp to rest their sore feet. Clark’s party summited a mountain (around 11 a.m.) for a good view of the river and valleys ahead. There’s still no sign of Indians, at least not fresh sign. On their return to camp, they found a cold spring. Being a hot day, Clark and his men dipped their tired feet in the spring and washed their heads and hands. They also drank its cold waters until they had their fill (“as we were almost famished,” Clark penned). Not too long afterward, Clark felt nauseous. Once back at camp, the party, dined on a fawn but Clark had no stomach to eat and his feet were tore up with blisters and prickly pear thorns. After some rest, the party headed toward the Middle Fork. As they crossed the river, Charbonneau was swept into the swift current and nearly drowned. Thankfully Clark saved his French interpreter (who cannot swim). His party traveled a few miles further up the Middle Fork, but Clark’s nausea forced them to camp early. His party killed two grizzlies on an island.


July 27:

Lewis’ canoe party left at first light but proceeded slowly due to a swift current. The men now tired faster and earlier from the “violent exertion.” They passed through some high cliffs with bighorn sheep. Around 9 a.m., Lewis ascended a hill to see the Three Forks of the Missouri. The canoe party eventually arrived at a junction of the Southwest and Middle Fork and found Clark’s note with instructions for reconnecting. It was time to give the men some rest and wait for Clark’s party. Lewis immediately assessed the geography and gathered data (longitude and latitude). The men unloaded the canoes and stored the baggage, then Lewis dispatched several men to hunt. He then explored the Middle Fork and compared it to the Southwest Fork. He couldn’t tell which was the true Missouri. The hunters returned with six deer, three otter and a muskrat. They also witnessed great herds of antelope, plus sign of beaver, deer and elk.

Clark is very sick with a high fever, chills and body aches. Nevertheless, he was determined to explore the Middle Fork and, in great pain, managed to hike eight miles. He still found no fresh sign of the Shoshone. After a rest he returned downriver and reunited with Lewis around 3 p.m. Clark also suffered from constipation (no bowel movement in several days). Lewis gave him a dose of Rush’s “Thunderbolt Pills” (a potent diuretic) and prescribed a warm foot bath and rest. Clark’s illness forced the Corps to halt for a couple days to rest everyone.

Lewis was getting anxious about meeting the Shoshone. “If we do not find them or some nation who have horses,” he wrote, “I fear the successful issue of our voyage will be very doubtful or...more difficult in its accomplishment.” Three Forks was where Sacagawea claimed she was captured by the Hidatsa four years earlier. Lewis knew the Corps were now in the “bosom of this wild and mountainous country” where there was little game to feed the men. Furthermore, the objective to find a passage to the Columbia River was still a huge question. Plus there are no trees big enough to make more canoes. All these problems are bugging Lewis. “However I still hope for the best,” Lewis concluded. The good news is that if the Indians can survive this land  (and find food), he wrote, then surely his company could too. 7 miles