Lewis and Clark Title Timeline.1805


Loma, MT to Great Falls, MT

June 3, 1805 - July 9, 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.



June 3:

"Which River?"


During the morning hours the Corps crossed the Missouri and camped on the point between two large rivers (the Missouri and Marias). Lewis faced a serious dilemma: which river was the Missouri? The captain knew if they took the wrong fork at this point in the season, it carried serious repercussions, from “[disheartening] the party to “[defeating] the expedition altogether.” Ultimately the captains decided to be cautious and investigate both rivers. So they dispatched two sergeants—Pryor (north fork) and Gass (south fork)—in two canoes with two additional men to explore both rivers, as well as several land parties to reconnoiter the area, as far as possible and return by nightfall. The captains also explored the bluffs of both rivers on the fork. They witnessed countless herds of buffalo in every direction, as well as antelope, wolves, and elk.

The captains measured and analyzed the two rivers. The northern river was “whitish brown” in color, less swift and behaved similar to the Missouri. The southern river was more transparent rapid, with stones “like most rivers issuing from a mountainous country.” The men had already decided the north fork was the true Missouri, but the captains remained undecided and impartial. They were also “astonished” the Indians who claimed to know this territory well, did not mention this “fork” in their road to the Pacific. The men who remained at camp spent the day dressing skins for clothing and healing their “mangled and bruised” feet from walking (and working) the Missouri shoreline. Their moccasins literally fell off their feet and yet “they still remain perfectly cheerful.”

By nightfall all the land and river parties returned to camp to report their findings. Both river parties traveled about 15 miles up each fork. The north fork wasn't as rapid and easy to navigate. It was also shallower than the south fork. The intelligence gained didn't settle the original question. Whitehouse wrote: “A council was held by our officers, and the opinion of our men were all taken; but they differed in their opinions, and were at a loss which river to take.” The hunters killed two buffalo, six elk and four deer. The captains distributed a “dram” of rum to the men and informed them of their intention to ascend the rivers, leaving most of the company behind, to explore the forks and make a final decision.


June 4:

"Exploring Two Rivers"


The captains departed at dawn, Lewis headed up the north fork (with Drouillard, Pryor, Shields, Cruzatte, Lepage, Windsor) and Clark ascended the south fork (with Gass, Joseph and Reubin Fields, Shannon and York).

Lewis noted the north fork made a “considerable bend to the northwest.” The ground was covered with prickly pear cacti (its thorns shredded moccasins and easily pierced a foot). They saw in the distance a butte they named “Barn Mountain” (it’s the notable central Montana landmark “Square Butte”). Drouillard killed two mule bucks for breakfast. He later shot four more white-tailed deer, and just before nightfall, wounded a large grizzly (that got away). The squad of seven harvested as much meat as needed for their suppers and proceeded upriver. They camped several miles upriver “in a bend among the willow bushes” to protect them from the wind and rain. It was a cold night.

Clark’s day was less productive in finding meat, the terrain proved similar (particularly the prickly pear). The company spotted hundreds of prairie dogs and traveled over two dozen miles up the south fork before camping in an old Indian lodge made of sticks and bark. Near camp two grizzlies were spotted and one attacked Joseph Fields, who was separated from the rest of the party. He tried to fire his gun but the powder was too wet. Clark’s party fired at the grizzly and, fortunately, alarmed the beast enough to run for the river. The party also saw several herds of buffalo, mule deer, antelope and wolves. The river is rapid, with high bluffs on one or the other side.

Ordway commanded the rest of the men who stayed back at camp. Some of the hunters killed one elk and a deer. A couple others shot two young elk for their skins. It was a cloudy day, with a few sprinkles and a cold north wind.


June 5:

"Scouting the Rivers"


Lewis needed his “blanket coat” to stay comfortably warm and dry. It rained most of the night. His squad left at sunrise and continued eight more miles up the northern fork. In the distance he saw mountains, including a single “conic figure” he called “Tower Mountain.” The plains continued to be level and beautiful, with countless buffalo, wolves, foxes and antelope. There’s also the largest prairie dog town the Corps had seen to date. Every man killed their own prairie dog for supper. Lewis experimented with his dog and roasted it. He found it “well flavored and tender.”

Clark’s squad also experienced rain and snow. The mountains to the southeast were completely covered with snow. They watched eight buffalo attempt to cross a swift part of the Missouri but eventually gave up. That’s when three grizzlies wandered into their camp. The squad managed to kill all three bears. They ate part of one, then ascended up the southern fork another eleven miles. On their return downriver they killed two bull elk (dining on their bone marrow). Clark inscribed his name on a tree on the north side of the river.

Back at the main camp on the point of the fork, Ordway’s squad suffered through a cold north wind. They trapped a beaver and Goodrich caught a “considerable quantity of fish.” Whitehouse and the men continued to make moccasins and leggings.


June 6:

"Clark Returns, Lewis Bivouacs"


Lewis was “well convinced that this branch of the Missouri” swung too great to the north and decided to return to the main camp. He dispatched Pryor and Windsor to take some navigational observations further up the north fork while he and the other four corpsmen constructed rafts to return downriver to camp. When Pryor and Windsor returned, they ate dinner, loaded the meat and elk skins on the rafts and headed downriver. Unfortunately the rafts proved useless—too “small and slender”—causing baggage to get wet. So they abandoned the rafts, left the elk skins and returned as they had come (by land). A cold rain accompanied them downstream and late in the evening they called it a day, having traveled 25 miles. With no shelter, they endured a cold and miserable night.

Clark’s squad was equally cold and wet. They left at dawn and headed back downriver. They shot seven deer (for their skins) and stopped at noon to enjoy a “fat buck.” The fatigued squad “walked constantly as hard as [they] could march over a dry hard plain, descending and ascending the steep river hills and gullies (about 40 miles upriver).” They arrived back at the main camp around 5 p.m., expecting to see Lewis’ men. They were heartened to see the camp hunters had killed two buffalo, two antelope, a mule deer, a white-tailed deer and a fat elk. He “revived the party” with a shot of whiskey. Clark agreed with Lewis that the south fork was the true “Missouri” river.


June 7:

"Lewis' Narrow Escape"


The Lewis squad experienced a cold rain that led to a “disagreeable and restless night.” Consequently, they departed early. However the ground was slick and traversing the bluffs was difficult. Lewis slipped and fell down a “narrow pass” for 30 yards but saved his skin by sticking his walking spear (espontoon) into the clay to stop his fall (and life) “down a craggy precipice of about 90 feet.” He had barely reached standing ground when he heard Windsor crying for help. He had also slipped and fell down the side of the bluff and was now lying on his belly with only his left arm and foot holding him fast. Lewis “disguised his feelings” of fear and calmly instructed Windsor to use his free (right) hand to remove his knife and carve a step to hold him, pulling himself to higher ground. Windsor then scooched on all fours, holding his knife in one hand and his rifle in the other, until he was safe. Lewis told the rest of the men to avoid the area, so they returned to the river and walked in it (breast deep), which was safer than walking the plains. They traveled 18 miles and until finally camping at an old Indian stick lodge. They dined heartily on the six deer they shot. Lewis: “I now laid myself down on some willow boughs to a comfortable night’s rest, and felt indeed as if I was fully repaid for the toil and pain of the day, so much will a good shelter, a dry bed, and comfortable supper revive the spirits of the wearied, wet and hungry traveler.”

Back at the main camp, the rain also fell, and temperatures hovered around 40 degrees. The hunters shot an elk and deer.


June 8:

"Return to Decision Point"


The rain continued through the night, into mid-morning. Lewis’ squad departed at sunrise and walked in the river (when necessary) and the muddy banks. Lewis noted the various birds on the plains, including robins, turtle doves, gold finches, blackbirds, and wrens. Now that he knows this river isn’t the Missouri, Lewis named it Maria’s River (in honor of a relative named Maria) and journaled it would become “one of the most interesting branches of the Missouri in a commercial point of view.” Back at the main camp, Clark dispatched hunters and dried out their storage.

The Lewis party returned to the main camp around 5 p.m. with much fatigue (they had traveled 77.5 miles up the Marias). The men branded a tree where the Marias and Missouri meet. The Corps ended the day with a toast of “grog” (rum and water).


June 9:

"Marias River Decision"


The captains decided to deposit some of the unnecessary items and lighten the load. The French often used caches for supplies, tools, weapons, merchandise they needed upon return. Lewis put Cruzatte in charge of digging and preparing a large and deep “kettle”-like hole. This hole, with a stick and hay floor, needed to be inconspicuous (so the Indians wouldn’t find it). If done right, a cache would keep their skins and merchandise “perfectly sound for several years.”

After examining their maps and the Indian intelligence, the captains firmly agreed the southern fork was the true Missouri. However, the men—particularly the experienced Missouri navigator Pierre Cruzatte—remained firm in their belief the Marias was the true Missouri. Nevertheless, Lewis wrote, the Corps “said very cheerfully that they were ready to follow us anywhere we thought proper to direct.” To alleviate their concerns, Lewis decided to take a small party of men to find the “great falls” reportedly nearby and upriver. Lewis was also feeling ill. He ingested some salts and decided to rest and recover for another day.

Two hunters killed the “fattest buffalo” so far. It took eight men to carry it back to camp. Other men made ropes. After supper and a shot of whiskey, Cruzatte broke out the fiddle and the men danced and sang late into the evening. They were “extremely cheerful.”  According to Clark, they "amused themselves dancing and singing songs in the most social manner." 


June 10:

"Hiding the Red Pirogue"


It’s a nice day (with thunder and rain in the afternoon) and everything is finally dry. Seven men secured and camouflaged the red pirogue (their largest vessel) to some trees. They branded the tree to remember it later. Then they buried their heavy supplies and all unnecessary baggage and storage (salt, flour, pork, blacksmith bellows, axes, auger, planes, files, tin cups, bear and beaver skins/traps, extra clothing, a couple muskets, ammunition and powder).

Shields repaired the air rifle. Lewis noted his ability and ingenuity to work in either wood or metal. He’s also a “good hunter and excellent waterman.” Lewis continues to fight dysentery. Sacagawea is also very sick. The men caulked, repaired, and reloaded the canoes.


June 11:

"Lewis Scouts Ahead"


Lewis awoke feeling better but “weakened.” At 8 a.m. he took his squad (Drouillard, Joseph Fields, Goodrich and Gibson) and left Clark to explore ahead and find the great falls of the Missouri. They immediately walked into a herd of elk (and killed four, hanging the meat and skins for Clark to pick up later). During lunch Lewis was struck with a terrible stomachache and a high fever. Unable to walk, his squad set up camp and stayed the night. Lewis had no medicine on hand, so he experimented with a hot chokecherry tea. By 10 p.m. his fever and stomach pains were gone. The captain enjoyed a comfortable night’s rest. Goodrich—a great fisherman—caught several dozen fish (sauger and goldeye).

Back at the main camp, Clark and the men spent the day digging a second cache and burying additional powder and lead. Sacagawea continued to be quite sick. Clark has bled her twice, which seems to help her. The men catch several flat-sided fish (goldeye).


June 12:

"Searching for the Falls"


Lewis woke up feeling much better, and after another dose of chokecherry tea, he departed at sunrise. By 9 a.m. his squad had walked twelve miles on the plain above the river, but the sun proved too hot and thirst forced Lewis back to the Missouri for breakfast and to “allay [his] thirst.” They killed a large grizzly for breakfast, then left the meat and skin (hung high in a tree) for Clark’s party to retrieve later. Back above the river and on the plain, Lewis spotted great numbers of prairie dogs, wolves, mule deer and buffalo. In the distance were the Rocky Mountains, still covered in snow (and their highest peaks in the clouds). By late afternoon (and 27 miles), the squad stopped to camp. They killed a buffalo, antelope and three mule deer, then “ate heartily.” Lewis spent the evening catching golden eye using a deer spleen as bait.

Meanwhile Clark’s party left at 8 a.m. from the Marias-Missouri fork. Sacagawea remained very sick (worse than she’s ever been), and the captain moved her into the white pirogue so its covering could keep her cool. Whitehouse noted her importance to the voyage as their interpreter for the Shoshone Indians. It was a general clear day with some light showers. The company saw elk, antelope, geese and numerous swallows in the cliffs. They ran into rattlesnakes too (one of the men, walking the tow line on shore, caught a large sleeping rattler by its head). A corpsman had a serious blister. Another suffered from a toothache. Three of the canoes had trouble on the river. One took on water and another nearly capsized. Clark killed a bull elk and deer. 18 miles


June 13:

"Lewis at the Grand Fall"


The Lewis squad departed at dawn following a hearty breakfast of venison and fish. Once again, they left the river bottoms and walked the level plains. Their course is now to the southwest, following the Missouri. At one point Lewis looked over a plain of 50-60 miles and saw “infinitely more buffalo” than he had seen before. Around noon they arrived at the “great falls” of the Missouri, which had a tremendous roar and spray. The waterfalls were “the grandest sight I ever beheld,” claimed Lewis. He tried to pen his thoughts and first impressions but struggled (“disgusted with the imperfect idea,” he wished for the ability to paint like Salvator Rosa or write like the romantic poet James Thomson).

The best he could do was trace the pleasing and astonishing features of the falls in pencil. His men stopped and set camp. The hunters returned with prime buffalo meat. Goodrich caught a dozen cutthroat trout. Lewis inspected the river for the best way to move the canoes past the falls (and he discovered "the river was one continued sene of rapids and cascades which I readily perceived could not be encountered with our canoes").

Clark also departed at dawn. The river is rapid with many sholes. Sacagawea remained quite ill (Clark now medicated her with salts). Whitehouse is also sick (“violent headache”). They witnessed a lot of geese and goslings. The chokecherries, buffalo currants, and gooseberries abound. The party killed an antelope and two buffalo. 13 miles


June 14:

"A Great Many Falls"


Lewis dispatched Joseph Fields to return to Clark with the news they found the “great falls.” The other men recovered the balance of the buffalo meat (unfortunately the wolves ate most of it) and began to dry it. Lewis explored the river and discovered there were several more waterfalls and rapids ahead, including a second “great” falls that was “pleasingly beautiful” and “sublimely grand.” He traveled as far as the mouth of the Medicine River on the western side of Great Falls, MT. That’s when he saw a herd of at least a thousand buffalo.

Lewis shot one of the buffalo (in the lungs) and while the captain waited for it to die, a large grizzly stalked him from behind. The bear was within 20 feet when Lewis saw him. His gun wasn’t reloaded, and he was on the open plain with no trees. There was nowhere to hide. First, Lewis tried slowly walking away but when he did the grizzly growled and ran full speed toward him. The captain scurried 80 yards, with the bear gaining fast, and jumped into the river. Waist-deep in the water he faced the grizzly with his walking spear (espontoon), only 20 feet away. That’s when the bear suddenly turned and retreated as fast as he had chased Lewis. Lewis quickly reloaded his gun (which he had carried into the river) and watched the grizzly on a dead run for about three miles, disappearing into the woods. Lewis vowed that day to never leave his gun empty.

After he spent the afternoon exploring the Medicine River, Lewis headed back to camp. That’s when he ran into a “tiger cat” that burrowed (likely a wolverine) and later was chased by three bull buffalo. Lewis concluded that it “seemed to [him] that all the beasts of the neighborhood had made a league to destroy [him],” or that some fortune was disposed to amuse herself at [his] expense].” It was a long 12 mile hike back to camp and the prickly pear cacti didn’t help, however he finally returned to a very nervous party. They were worried about him, even speculating he had died. Lewis ate a “hearty supper” and went to bed on a warm early summer night.

As for Clark and the boat party, it’s an equally difficult day. Sacagawea complained all night and continued to get worse. There were two men with toothaches who also suffered with “tumors” (blisters) on their hands. Whitehouse remained sick. Another had a fever. They had buffalo for breakfast and got back on the river (which ran with a strong current). It’s very difficult to move the pirogue and canoes upriver safely (without taking on water). Around 4 p.m., Joseph Fields met the party with the news of the “great falls” and a letter from Lewis. It’s now certain they are on the Missouri. 10 miles


June 15:

"Sacagawea's Turn for the Worse"


The Lewis squad continued to dry meat from the animals they’ve killed. Lewis went fishing and caught several trout, as did Goodrich (who also hooked some channel catfish). Lewis also took a few naps. He awoke from one nap with a large rattler coiled about 10 feet away. Lewis killed the rattlesnake (which had 17 buttons in its tail). That night Joseph Fields returned to camp and said the boat party was about five miles below. Unfortunately the rapidity of river meant they’d need to portage at that spot. Lewis knew a portage from the north side would be very difficult (several deep ravines). A south side portage might prove shorter with how the river was turning south.

The Clark boat party set out at dawn to a warm and fair morning. They could hear the falls. Sacagawea remained sick and depressed. Clark gave her some bark to rub on a sore region of her body, and that seemed to relieve her. The current remained rapid and difficult, creating much fatigue among the men. They must work in the water and along the shore pulling the boats forward with ropes. Between slippery stones and sharp rocks, the men continually hurt their feet walking in the water. Throw in the rattlesnakes on land (which are numerable) and it’s challenging work. Nevertheless the men “go with great cheerfulness.” During the evening, Sacagawea’s health worsened. She can’t ingest medicine and Charbonneau wanted to return to Mandan. The Corps saw a lot of geese, ducks and other birds. What they don’t see is firewood. They finally stopped below a “bad rapid.” They simply can’t go any further. 13 miles


June 16:

"Lewis Treats Sacagawea"


Lewis dispatched Joseph Fields to return to the Clark camp, while he and the rest of the squad followed shortly. They dried 600 pounds of meat and several dozen trout. Clark’s boat party departed on a cloudy morning, but they don’t get far. The rapids are too much for their boats. Clark dispatched a couple men to explore the south side of the river for the best path to portage. They later report that a portage on the south side is “impossible” (Clark), but there is no other option.

Around 2 p.m. Lewis reunited with Clark and found Sacagawea “extremely ill.” She refused to take medicine. Charbonneau is little help. Clark wrote: “If she dies it will be the fault of her husband.” No one knows what ailed her. Speculations range from a urinary tract infection to effects from gonorrhea. Lewis is concerned about her, not just for his sake, but for the infant “Pomp.” He needs her interpretative help to negotiate for horses among the Shoshone tribe. Lewis informed Clark the south side of the Missouri river was the best side to portage. Clark moved the camp across the river to prepare for that work. Lewis kept one small canoe available for crossing the river. There’s a sulfur spring on the north side that the men all enjoyed freely. Lewis experimented by giving Sacagawea this sulfur water as medication. Lewis also continued to medicate her with barks and opium. She had a weak and irregular heartbeat and twitching in her fingers and arms. By nightfall, her pulse was better and she’s feeling some improvement.


June 17:

"Preparing the Portage"


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 transporting since Harper’s Ferry The plan is to bury the white pirogue, then move to the portable boat (their largest vessel) and canoes moving forward. Lewis ordered the rest of the men to unpack the white pirogue and take the five small canoes up “Portage Creek” about a mile and a half. At that point they’ll be put on wheels and portage. It wasn’t an easy task. One of the canoes flipped, nearly injuring two men.

The good news: Sacagawea was improving. Her fever was 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:

"Great Fall Views"


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 had] ever saw (Giant Springs).” 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 won’t need moving forward. 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 was 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 are now 2580 miles from St. Louis.


June 19:

"Sacagawea Relapses"


A violent wind blew most of the day. Lewis dispatched several men to retrieve meat from yesterday’s kill. He also sent Drouillard, Reuben Field and Shannon across the river to hunt elk 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 Sacagawea indulge because he was instructed on what she should (and shouldn’t) eat. Lewis treated her fever with saltpeter and pain with laudanum. The medication helped 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:

"Planning the Portage"


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 favorite nicknames. Clark also recorded strange and unexplainable “booms” 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:

"The Portage Begins"


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 Field 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 expected problems in constructing his 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. Three hunters (Drouilliard, Shannon and Reuben Field) remained on the north side of the river, presumably safe and hunting.


June 22:

"Portaging the First Dugout"


The Corps departed early, leaving behind Ordway, Goodrich, York, Charbonneau, Sacagawea and the infant “Pomp” to oversee baggage that cannot be moved yet. It’s time to move everything across the plains to the upper portage camp. Clark piloted the men through the plains. Lewis spotted a western meadowlark, known for their unique cheerful warble (the Montana state bird). The men stopped at Box Elder Creek for lunch and worked on the wagons hauling their canoes and baggage. The only wood available for wheels, axles and tongues was cottonwood and an old mast (both type of wood was already failing). They repaired wagons 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 “extremely troublesome”—puncturing their moccasins and feet.  They built their fires, took supper, and went to sleep.

Back at the Lower Portage Camp, Ordway recorded that a herd of bison swam the river near their tents. York killed one of them. Charbonneau wounded a pronghorn antelope in the evening.


June 23:

"Portage Route Adjustments"


After the canoe and the baggage left behind was recovered and brought to the upper portage camp, Clark returned with the rest of the men to the Lower Portage Camp for another round of equipment and baggage. Lewis, Gass, Joseph Field and Shields remained at the upper camp to clear out the brush and construct the iron boat. Gass and Shields collected wood. Lewis and Fields canoed to the mouth of Sun [Medicine] River in search of the hunters who never returned. They traveled up the Sun 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 Field and Drouillard were located (Ordway wrote they returned to the lower camp with sixteen buffalo and five deer). Shannon camped with Lewis and Joseph Field on the Sun 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:

"Sailing on Dry Land"


Lewis sent Joseph Field four miles up the Sun River to see if he could spot Drouillard and Reuben Field, with orders to return with (or without) them. Later Lewis dispatched Shannon to meet Field 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 Field 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 Field was among Clark’s party and reported on his hunt with Drouillard. Sacagawea is fully recovered.


June 25:

"Two More Dugouts Up The Hill"


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 departed to find the meat Drouillard had collected. Joseph Field went elk hunting. Gass and Shields searched for wood to construct the portable iron frame boat. Joseph Field 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 sick 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 now 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:

"Suet Dumplings"


Lewis sent Joseph Field 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 suet 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 buried the swivel cannon and carriage near the river. Buffalo, deer, antelope and wolves abound in the area. “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 bison meal. 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. He drank so much water that it made him 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 cascades


June 27:

"Sightseeing at the Falls"


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 the fact he's still feeling slightly sick and had him work with Frazier on sewing together the boat covering. Gass and Shields continued to construct the portable “iron frame” boat. Lewis remained 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 the hunters 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 grizzly ventured into camp and ate thirty pounds of buffalo hanging on a pole. Lewis’ dog “Seaman” 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:

"The Last Leg Begins"


At the upper camp, Lewis put Drouillard to the work of “shaving” elk skins. Joseph Field made cross bars for the iron boat. Frazier and Whitehouse continued to sew together skins to cover the portable vessel Lewis still didn't have enough elk skins so he turned to buffalo hides to finish covering the boat bottom. Gass and Shields completed the horizontal boat bars. The grizzly bears were now so “troublesome” that Lewis prohibited his men from traveling outside camp alone. He also ordered them to sleep with their guns loaded. The bears continued 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 launch spot three miles away. However, upon arrival they realized there was still too much baggage for their two “truck wagons” to handle. So they left behind some boxes of ammunition, pork and flour, and traveled six miles and set up “Willow Run Camp” at Box Elder Creek. They killed two buffalo to feed the party. That evening another rainstorm blew through the area, drenching everyone. Clark consoled his wet, weary men with a shot a whiskey.


June 29:

"A Flash Flood"


The rain continued into the early morning hours. Since Lewis wasn’t needed with the iron boat construction, he and Drouillard went to see 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 that concern was warranted. Indeed the rain had also 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 his own private trip to the river and complete some notes he lost a few days earlier. The captain left a man at 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 a 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 plains they found a soaked and “much alarmed” York (who was hunting for 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 sip of whiskey (from a canteen York carried). That seemed to help warm them up. Upon arrival at 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 remain second night to dry out and recover. Once again, the captain consoled them with some grog (rum and water).


June 30:

"Repairs and Recovery"


At the Upper Portage Camp, Frazier and Whitehouse continued to sew skins for the boat. Gass and Shields shaved bark while Joseph Field 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 hadn't reached the Rockies. It’s now clear they weren't going 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 had not returned. 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 repaired 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 witnessed a huge buffalo herd possibly as many as 10,000 head (Clark).


July 1:

"The Last Canoe Portaged"


At the upper portage camp, Lewis deployed the men for various tasks. Frazier and Whitehouse sewed the skin covering to the boat frame. Shields and Joseph Field 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 had now rendered 100 pounds). By nightfall the boat skins were all attached, but Lewis was getting frustrated with the portable “iron frame” boat. As predicted, he doesn’t have the natural resources to complete the work. And he’s too busy cooking for the crew to focus his time elsewhere..

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:

"Last of the Portage"


The day started with rain, but thankfully didn’t last. The captains dispatched most of the men to retrieve the last of the baggage left at the six mile marker two days earlier. Shields and Bratton built a tar pit. Pryor and Gass worked on “way strips” while Lewis and some men began to construct the iron boat. Once constructed, Lewis directed four men to 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 the grizzly recovered and ran for 100 yards before dropping dead. The men found a pack rat (as well as mice) in their baggage. The mosquitoes continued to eat the men alive.

Gass recorded in his journal 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:

"Sewing and Hunting"


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 made 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 hiked 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 men can’t make tar to pitch their boat. This will make the iron frame vessel useless and a waste of time. Some of the dried skins also leaked due to the use of a needle that tore larger holes than desired. Nevertheless, this “very light” boat looked great. But will it float with baggage and men?


July 4:

"Ardent Spirits"


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. The men 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 continued 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 why not the Corps? The captains drained the last of the "ardent spirits" (whiskey and rum), then 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:

"Drying the Iron-Framed Boat"


Lewis continued to dry the portable “iron frame” boat, using a scaffold to get it off the ground in order to build fires beneath it. A couple men mixed a charcoal, beeswax and buffalo tallow goop, then waterproofed and sealed the seams with it. Lewis was not confident it would work. However, this lightweight boat was strong and could hold at least 8,000 lbs. of baggage. The stitches in the skin covering had 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, however the wind proved unfavorable (the buffalo smelled them coming). Nevertheless they still shot three. The men are busy drying out the meat and stretching the skins. Three men who still had not seen the “great falls” were given liberty to visit the sight. They returned in the evening and reported bison in that area.


July 6:

"Hail Delays Progress"


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:

"Sewing New Clothes"


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 more elk or buffalo. They needed additional skins to cover their baggage. The Corps no longer had tents, so the men now sought shelter from the weather beneath the sails they used for the pirogues.

The men also continued to make clothing and moccasins. Due to working in water and being constantly wet, their animal skin clothing rotted off their bodies. Clark’s servant York was sick. He was given a medication that induced vomiting. Lewis had never used it for any purpose but fevers, however the purging improved York’s health. The hunters returned from 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 one elk. Lewis ordered some men to 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:

"Paying the Iron-Framed Boat"


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 Sun (Medicine) River for 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 nicknamed the boat as “The Experiment” and hoped she’d “answer [their] purpose.” Lewis noted the mountains to the south and northwest were still topped with snow. There was more rain in the afternoon and the “mosquitoes troublesome as usual” (Lewis).


July 9:

"Sinking the Iron-Framed Boat"


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 their new vessel. It’s time to break camp and depart. Unfortunately high winds scrambled their plans. They hastily unpacked the canoes as some of the baggage got 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 the captains 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 the 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 additional space. Eight miles upriver, the hunters claimed, were large trees. Consequently a new plan was hatched to build two new large canoes from these trees. It was just one more delay.