previous | next
This morning I dispatched Joseph Fields up the yellowstone river with orders to examine it as far as he could conveniently and return the same evening; two others were directed to bring in the meat we had killed last evening, while I proceeded down the river with one man  in order to take a view of the confluence of this great river with the Missouri, which we found to be two miles distant on a direct line N. W. from our encampment. the bottom land on the lower side of the yellowstone river near it's mouth for about one mile in width appears to be subject to inundation; while that on the opposite side of the Missouri and the point formed by the junction of these rivers is of the common elivation, say from twelve to 18 feet above the level of the water, and of course not liable to be overflown except in extreem high water, which dose not appear to be very frequent there is more timber in the neighbourhood of the junction of these rivers, and on the Missouri as far below as the White earth river, than there is on any part of the Missouri above the entrance of the Chyenne river to this place. the timber consists principally of Cottonwood, with some small elm, ash and boxalder.  the under growth on the sandbars and verge of the river is the small leafed willow; the low bottoms, rose bushes which rise to three or four fe[e]t high, the redburry, servicebury, and the redwood; the high bottoms are of two discriptions either timbered or open; the first lies next to the river and it's under brush is the same with that of the low timbered bottoms with the addition of the broaf leafed willow, Goosbury, choke cherry, purple currant; and honeysuckle bushis; the open bottoms border on the hills, and are covered in many parts by the wild hyssop which rises to the hight of two feet. I observe that the Antelope, Buffaloe Elk and deer feed on this herb; the willow of the sandbars also furnish a favorite winter food to these anamals as well as the growse, the porcupine, hare, and rabbit.  about 12 Olock I heard the discharge of several guns at the junction of the rivers, which announced to me the arrival of the paty with Capt Clark; I afterwards learnt that they had fired on some buffaloe which they met with at that place, and of which they killed a cow and several Calves; the latter are now fine veal. I dispatched one of the men to Capt Clark requesting him to send up a canoe to take down the meat we had killed and our baggage to his encampmt, which was accordingly complyed with. after I had completed my observations in the evening I walked down and joined the party at their encampment on the point of land fromed by the junction of the rivers;  found them all in good health, and much pleased at having arrived at this long wished for spot, and in order to add in some measure to the general pleasure which seemed to pervade our little community, we ordered a dram to be issued to each person; this soon produced the fiddle, and they spent the evening with much hilarity, singing & dancing, and seemed as perfectly to forget their past toils, as they appeared regardless of those to come. in the evening, the man I had sent up the river this morning returned, and reported that he had ascended it about eight miles on a streight line; that he found it crooked, meandering from side to side of the valley formed by it; which is from four to five miles wide. the corrent of the river gentle, and it's bed much interrupted and broken by sandbars; at the distance of five miles he passed a large Island well covered with timber, and three miles higher a large creek falls in on the S. E. side  above a high bluff in which there are several stratas of coal.  the country bordering on this river as far as he could percieve, like that of the Missouri, consisted of open plains. he saw several of the bighorned anamals in the couse of his walk;  but there were so shy that he could not get a shoot at them; he found a large horn of one of these anamals which he brought with him. the bed of the yellowstone river is entirely composed of sand and mud, not a stone of any kind to be seen in it near it's entrance. Capt Clark measured these rivers just above their confluence; found the bed of the Missouri 520 yards wide, the water occupying 330. it's channel deep. the yellowstone river including it's sandbar, 858 yds, of which, the water occupyed 297 yards; the depest part 12 feet; it was falling at this time & appeard to be nearly at it's summer tide.— the Indians inform that the yellowstone river is navigable for perogues and canoes nearly to it's source in the Rocky Mountains, and that in it's course near these mountains it passes within less than half a day's march of a navigable part of the Missouri. it's extreem sources are adjacent to those of the Missouri, river platte, and I think probably with some of the South branch of the Columbia river.  the first part of its course lies through a mountanous rocky country tho' well timbered and in many parts fertile; the middle, and much the most extensive portion of the river lies through a delightfull rich and fertile country, well covered with timber, intersperced with plains and meadows, and well watered; it is some what broken in many parts. the lower portion consists of fertile open plains and meadows almost entirely, tho' it possesses a considerable proportion of timber on it's borders. the current of the upper portion is extreemly rappid, that of the middle and lower portions much more gentle than the Missouri. the water of this river is turbid, tho' dose not possess as much sediment as that of the Missouri. this river in it's course recieves the waters of many large tributary strams principally from the S. E. of which the most considerable are the Tongue and bighorn rivers [NB: & Clarks Fork] the former is 〈much〉 [NB: rather] the [NB: smallest— next in size Clarks Fork, and the Big horn the largest by much.] 〈largest, and heads with the river Platte and Bighorn river, as dose the latter with the Tongue river and the river Platte〉.—  a suficient quantity of limestone may be readily procured for building near the junction of the Missouri and yellowstone rivers. I could observe no regular stratas of it, tho' it lies on the sides of the river hills in large irregular masses, in considerable quantities; it is of a light colour, and appears to be of an excellent quality.— 
The courses and distances of the 26th as the party ascended the Missouri, are as follow— 
On the Lard. bank of the yellowstone river 2 miles S. E. of it's junction with the Missouri observed Equal altitudes of the with Sextant and artificial horizon.—
the clouds this morning prevented my observing the moon with Aquilae; and as the moon was not again observable untill the 1st of May, I determined not to wait, but reather to relinquish for the present the obtaining the necessary data to fix the longitude of this place.—
Observed Meridian altitude of 's L. L. with Octant by the back observation 73° 47'
Latitude deduced from this observation. [blank]
last night was verry Cold. the Thermometer Stood at 32 abov 0 this morning. I Set out at an early hour, as it was cold I walked on the bank, & in my walk Shot a beaver & 2 Deer, one of the Deer in tolerable order, the low bottom of the river is generaly Covered with wood willows & rose bushes, red berry, wild Cherry & red or arrow wood intersperced with glades The timber is Cottonwood principally, Elm Small ash also furnish a portion of the timber, The Clay of the bluffs appear much whiter than below, and Contain Several Stratums of Coal, on the hill Sides I observe pebbles of different Size & Colour—  The river has been riseing for Several days, & raised inches last night, at 12 oClock arrived at the forks of the Roche Johne & Missouri and formed a Camp on the point Soon after George Drewyer Came from Capt Lewis & informed me that he was a little way up the Roche johne and would join me this evining, I Sent a canoe up to Capt Lewis and proceeded measure the width of the [rivers], and find the debth. The Missouri is 520 yards wide above the point of yellow Stone and the water covers 330 yards; the YellowStone River is 858 yards wide includeing its Sand bar, the water covers 297 yards and the deepest part is 12 feet water, it is at this time falling, the Missouri rising The Indians inform that the yellow Stone River is navagable for Perogues to near its Source in the Rocky Mountains, it has many tributary Streams, principally on the S. E. Side, and heads at no great distance from the Missouri, the largest rivers which fall into it is Tongue river which heads with the waters of River Platt,  and Big horn river which also heads with Platt & Tongue R the current of this river is Said to be rapid near its mouth it is verry jentle, and its water is of a whitish colour 〈tolerably Cl〉 much Clearer of Sediment than the Missouri. the Countrey on this river is Said to be broken in its whole Course & Contains a great deel of wood, the countrey about its mouth is verry fine, the bottoms on either Side is wooded with Cotton wood, ash, Elm &c. near the banks of the river back is higher bottoms and Covered with red berry, Goose berry & rose bushes &. interspersed with Small open Glades, and near the high land is Generally open rich bottoms— at our arrival at the forks I observed a Drove of Buffalow Cows & Calves on a Sand bar in the point, I directed the men to kill the fattest Cow, and 3 or 4 Calves, which they did and let the others pass, the Cows are pore, Calves fine veele.
Capt Lewis joined me in the evening after taking equal altitudes a little way up the YellowStone river the Countrey in every direction is plains except the moist bottoms of the river, which are covered with Some indifferent timber Such as Cotton wood Elm & Small ash, with different kind of Srubs & bushes in the forks about 1 mile from the point at which place the 2 rivers are near each other a butifull low leavel plain Commences, and extends up the Missourie & back, this plain is narrow at its commencement and widens as the Missouri bends north, and is bordered by an extencive wood land for many miles up the yellow Stone river, this low plain is not Subject to over flow, appear to be a few inches above high water mark and affords a butifull commanding Situation for a fort  near the commencement of the Prarie, about [blank] miles from the Point & [blank] yards from the Missouri a Small lake is Situated,  from this lake the plain rises gradually to a high butifull Countrey, the low Plain continues for Some distance up both rivers on the Yellow Stone it is wide & butifull opsd. the point on the S. Side is Some high timbered land, about 1½ miles below on the Same Side a little distance from the water is an elivated plain— Several of the party was up the yellow Stone R Several miles, & informed that it meandered throught a butifull Countrey Joseph Fields discovered a large Creek falling into the Yellowstone River on the S E Side 8 miles up near which he Saw a big horn animal, he found in the Prarie the horn of one of those animals which was large and appeared to have laid Several years I Saw maney buffalow dead on the banks of the river in different places Some of them eaten by the white bears & wolves all except the Skin & bones, others entire, those animals either drounded in attempting to Cross on the ice during the winter or Swiming across to bluff banks where they Could not get out & too weak to return we Saw several in this Situation.
emence numbers of antelopes in the forks of the river, Buffalow & Elk & Deer is also plenty beaver is in every bend. I observe that the Magpie Goose duck & Eagle all have their nests in the Same neighbourhood, and it is not uncommon for the Magpie to build in a few rods of the eagle, the nests of this bird is built verry Strong with Sticks Covered verry thickly with one or more places through which they enter or escape, the Goose I make no doubt falls a pray to those vicious eagles
Friday 26th April 1805. a Clear pleasant morning. Capt. Lewis Sent one man  about 6 miles up the River Roshjone to See what discoveries he could make. one man killed a Goose another killed a buffaloe cow & calf. Saw a flock of Goats Swimming the river this morning near to our Camp. Capt. Lewises dog Seamon took after them caught one in the River. Drowned & killed it and Swam to Shore with it. Capt. Lewis took an observation at 9 oC. and at 12 oClock, also at 4. he caught Several Small fish in the River Roshjone at 4 the man returned who went up the River this morning he Informed us that he went about 8 miles up it to a large creek which came in on the S. S. & that the bottoms was large and covered with timber. &.c. he brought in a live buffaloe calf, which had followed him about 4 miles. we then heard that Capt. Clark & the party had come at the Mouth of the River Roshjone about 12 oClock to day. Capt. Lewis Sent a man  down for a perogue to come up for our meat and baggage. Capt. Clark Immediately Sent up a canoe We moved down to their Camp  which was about two miles. our officers Gave out one Gill of ardent Spirits per man. So we made merry fidled and danced &.c. Camped for the night on the point between the 2 Rivers. a handsom place thinly covered with timber & a verry large bottom. Capt. Clark Measured these two Rivers to day and found the Missourie to be 337 yards wide only the water but at high water mark 529 yards wide at this place. the River Roshjone is 297 yds. water, high water mark 858 yards wide. the distance from the mouth of the Missourie to the mouth of the River Roshjone is 1888 miles, from Fort Mandane 279 miles from the little Missourie River 186 miles. the River Roshjone is not quite as rapid as the missourie the men killed to day Several buffaloe & buffaloe calfs the Calfs are the best meat we find at this time one man killed a White Swan  in a large pond 4 or 5 miles from this, between the two Rivers. this pond the men that Saw it Judged it to be 4 miles long, & 200 yds across, &.C. on the River Roshjone and the Missourie the Game is verry pleanty, viz. buffaloe Elk Deer Goats Some bair. pleanty of bever, fish &C and a beautiful country around in every direction. considerable of timber Such as cottonwood Elm arsh &.c. the Latidude at this place is [blank] North.
Friday 26th. A fine day. We set out early, and having proceeded 10 miles came at 12 o'clock to the mouth of the Jaune and halted: Captain Lewis and his party had not arrived. I went up the point about 9 miles, where there are the most beautiful rich plains, I ever beheld. I saw a large pond or lake.—  Captain Clarke while I was absent measured both rivers; and found the breadth of the Missouri to be 337 yards of water, and 190 of a sand-beach; total 527 yards. That of the Yellow Stone river 297 yards of water and 561 of sand; total 858 yards.  The mouth of this river is 1888 miles from the mouth of the Missouri, 278 from Fort Mandan, and 186 from the mouth of Little Missiouri.
The river Jaune is shallow, and the Missouri deep and rapid. In the evening Captain Lewis with his party joined us; and had brought with them a buffaloe calf, which followed them 7 or 8 miles. We killed a number of calves, and found they made very good veal. There are a great many signs of beaver in this part of the country. We encamped on the point all night.
Friday April 26th This morning we had fine Clear weather, and set off on our Voyage Early; and proceeded on till 12 oClock A. M, having went 10 Miles, and arrived at the River's mouth called Roshjone,  where we came too, in Order to wait for Captain Lewis and his party.— who had not arrived yet here, Captain Clark shortly after our arrival here, sent a party out a hunting, and directed them to proceed up to the Point of the River Roshjone; and then proceeded to assertain the Width of both Rivers at this place.— 〈he〉 they found on measuring these Rivers, that the River Mesouri was 337 Yards wide; and very deep; and the River Roshjone at its mouth, 97 Yards wide, and continued the same width for a considerable distance up it.— The River Roshjone is a Shallow River, the water in it is Clear and its current rapid.— The mouth of this River is 1,888 Miles, from the mouth of the Mesouri River, and 279 Miles from Fort Mandan. The Country here is Priaries, and some thickets of Trees, the land appears very rich & fertile.— In the Evening we were Joined by Captain Lewis and his party.— They had killed several buffaloes, Antelopes, and Deer; which they brought with them and a Buffalo Calf alive, which had followed them 7 or 8 Miles, it being common for the Buffalo Calves, when separated from their dams, to follow the hunters.—
The party that Captain Clark had sent out hunting returned; bringing with them, a number of Buffalo Calves which they had killed— The game at this season of the year being poor, the flesh of the Buffalo Calves, was a welcome supply to us, they being in general in good Order, and in Taste very & [illegible, crossed out] like Veal 〈much like it as well as〉 and had much the resemblance of Veal in its appearance, We found a great many signs of Beaver in the bottoms on both Rivers.— The place that we encamped in this Evening; 〈is〉 was a handsome point, lying on the South side of the River Roshjone
The River Roshjone at its mouth on the South side of, it lays in Latitude 48° North
1. Probably Drouillard, whom Lewis sent down to meet Clark. (Return to text.)
2. Someone drew a vertical line through this passage, apparently in red. (Return to text.)
3. The porcupine is the yellow-haired porcupine, Erethizon dorsatum epixanthum; the hare is the white-tailed jackrabbit; and the rabbit may be the eastern cottontail, Sylvilagus floridanus, or less probably Nuttall's cottontail, S. nuttallii. Burroughs, 119–23; Jones et al., 103–9. Lewis's description of the willows in this area is not entirely clear. The "small leafed willow" (also called the "willow of the sandbars") is certainly the sandbar, or coyote, willow. The "broad leafed willow" could possibly be the diamond willow, Salix rigida Muhl. (variety uncertain), but based on Lewis's ecological description of "high [timbered] bottoms" is more likely to be the peach-leaved willow, S. amygdaloides Anderss. However, this latter willow is not an underbrush species as noted by Lewis, but a small tree commonly found in open floodplains along the Missouri. Barkley, 102–5. (Return to text.)
4. In McKenzie County, North Dakota; shifts of the Missouri and the mouth of the Yellowstone make determination of the exact spot difficult. Mattison (GR), 65; Atlas maps 35, 48, 56; MRC map 60. (Return to text.)
5. Undoubtedly the Joseph Fields Creek of Atlas maps 48 and 56, now Charbonneau Creek, in McKenzie County. (Return to text.)
6. This is the Bullion Creek Formation (Tongue River Member of the Fort Union Formation in Montana usage). (Return to text.)
7. Field may have been seeing Audubon's mountain sheep, Ovis canadensis auduboni, an extinct subspecies of O. canadensis of which the explorers had already heard, and which they were to encounter and describe later (see May 25, 1805). It is difficult to determine in this region, where both varieties occurred, which one the men saw. Some authorities have argued against the separate classification of O. c. auduboni. Cutright (LCPN), 134, 444; Jones et al., 340–43. (Return to text.)
8. Most of this would be from Indian information. The Yellowstone, the Gallatin and Madison forks of the Missouri, and the Snake, the greatest tributary of the Columbia, do all rise on the Yellowstone Plateau of northwest Wyoming, the closest actual approximation to the pyramidal height of land of pre-Lewis and Clark conjectural geography. The sources of the North and South Platte are in the Colorado Rockies. Allen (PG), 260. (Return to text.)
9. The interlined material and corrections (with much crossing out) are by Biddle and are based on Clark's journey down the Yellowstone in 1806. (Return to text.)
10. The masses of limestone are glacial erratics derived from lower Paleozoic formations near Lake Winnipeg, Canada, more than 150 miles to the northeast. (Return to text.)
11. Also given on Atlas map 35, in Clark's hand. (Return to text.)
12. The Bullion Creek Formation is usually less drab or dull-colored than the Sentinel Butte Formation. The pebbles were either brought here by glacial ice or are higher terrace deposits of the Yellowstone River. (Return to text.)
13. The sources of the Powder River, one of the main tributaries of the Yellowstone, rise in Central Wyoming near some tributaries of the North Platte. (Return to text.)
15. Not marked on Atlas maps 35, 48, or 56. Probably present Nohly Lake, Richland County, Montana. (Return to text.)
16. Joseph Field, according to Lewis. (Return to text.)
17. Drouillard, according to Clark. (Return to text.)
18. In McKenzie County, North Dakota; shifts of the Missouri and the mouth of the Yellowstone make determination of the exact spot difficult. (Return to text.)
19. Trumpeter swan, Cygnus buccinator. (Return to text.)
20. Probably Nohly Lake, Richland County, Montana. (Return to text.)
21. Compare with the figures in Clark's entry for this date. (Return to text.)
22. The Yellowstone River (Roche Jaune in French) meets the Missouri in McKenzie County, North Dakota, just east of the Montana state line. (Return to text.)
previous | next