September 17, 1804
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September 17, 1804


Having for many days past confined myself to the boat, I determined to devote this day to amuse myself on shore with my gun and view the interior of the country lying between the river and the Corvus Creek—    accordingly before sunrise I set out with six of my best hunters, [1] two of whom I dispatched to the lower side of Corvus creek, two with orders to hunt the bottoms and woodland on the river, while I retained two others to acompany me in the intermediate country.    one quarter of a mile in rear of our camp which was situated in a fine open grove of cotton wood passed a grove of plumb trees loaded with fruit and now ripe.    observed but little difference between this fruit and that of a similar kind common to the Atlantic States. [2]    the trees are smaller and more thickly set.    this forrest of plumb trees garnish a plain about 20 feet more lelivated than that on which we were encamped; this plain extends back about a mile to the foot of the hills one mile distant and to which it is gradually ascending    this plane extends with the same bredth from the creek below to the distance of near three miles above parrallel with the river, and is intirely occupyed by the burrows of the barking squril hertefore discribed; this anamal appears here in infinite numbers, and the shortness and virdue [verdure] of grass gave the plain the appearance throughout it's whole extent of beatifull bowlinggreen in fine order.    it's aspect is S. E.    a great number of wolves of the small kind, halks and some pole-cats [3] were to be seen. I presume that those anamals feed on this squirril.—    found the country in every direction for about three miles intersected with deep revenes and steep irregular hills of 100 to 200 feet high; at the tops of these hills the country breakes of as usual into a fine leavel plain extending as far as the eye can reach.    from this plane I had an extensive view of the river below, and the irregular hills which border the opposite sides of the river and creek.    the surrounding country had been birnt about a month before and young grass had now sprung up to hight of 4 Inches presenting the live green of the spring.    to the West a high range of hills, [4] strech across the country from N. to S and appeared distant about 20 Miles; they are not very extensive as I could plainly observe their rise and termination    no rock appeared on them and the sides were covered with virdue similar to that of the plains    this senery already rich pleasing and beatiful, was still farther hightened by immence herds of Buffaloe deer Elk and Antelopes which we saw in every direction feeding on the hills and plains. I do not think I exagerate when I estimate the number of Buffaloe which could be compreed at one view to amount to 3000.    my object was if possible to kill a female Antelope having already procured a male; I pursued my rout on this plain to the west flanked by my two hunters untill eight in the morning when I made the signal for them to come to me which they did shortly after.    we rested our selves about half an hour, and regailed ourselves on half a bisquit each and some jirk of Elk which we had taken the precaution to put in our pouches in the morning before we set out, and drank of the water of a small pool which had collected on this plain from the rains which had fallen some days before. We had now after various windings in pursuit of several herds of antelopes which we had seen on our way made the distance of about eight miles from our camp.    we found the Antelope extreemly shye and watchfull insomuch that we had been unable to get a shot at them; when at rest they generally seelect the most elivated point in the neighbourhood, and as they are watchfull and extreemly quick of sight and their sense of smelling very accute it is almost impossible to approach them within gunshot; in short they will frequently discover and flee from you at the distance of three miles. I had this day an opportunity of witnessing the agility and superior fleetness of this anamal which was to me really astonishing. I had pursued and twice surprised a small herd of seven, in the first instance they did not discover me distinctly and therefore did not run at full speed, tho' they took care before they rested to gain an elivated point where it was impossible to approach them under cover except in one direction and that happened to be in the direction from which the wind blew towards them; bad as the chance to approach them was, I made the best of my way towards them, frequently peeping over the ridge with which I took care to conceal myself from their view    the male, of which there was but one, frequently incircled the summit of the hill on which the females stood in a group, as if to look out for the approach of danger. I got within about 200 paces of them when they smelt me and fled; I gained the top of the eminece on which they stood, as soon as possible from whence I had an extensive view of the country    the antilopes which had disappeared in a steep revesne now appeared at the distance of about three miles on the side of a ridge which passed obliquely across me and extended about four miles.    so soon had these antelopes gained the distance at which they had again appeared to my view I doubted at ferst that they were the same that I had just surprised, but my doubts soon vanished when I beheld the rapidity of their flight along the ridge before me    it appeared reather the rappid flight of birds than the motion of quadrupeds. I think I can safely venture the asscertion that the speed of this anamal is equal if not superior to that of the finest blooded courser.—    this morning I saw [5]


17th of Septr. Monday 1804    above White river    Dried all those articles which had got wet by the last rain, a fine day    Capt Lewis went hunting with a vew to see the Countrey & its productions, he was out all Day    Killed a Buffalow & a remarkable bird of the Spicies of Corvus, long tail of a Greenish Purple, Varigated    a Beck like a Crow    white round its neck comeing to a point on its back, its belley white    feet like a Hawk    abt. the size of a large Pigeon [7]    Capt Lewis returned at Dark. I took the Meridian & equal altitudes to day    made the Lattitude.

Colter Killed a Goat, & a Curious kind of Deer, a Darker grey than Common    the hair longer & finer, the ears verry large & long    a Small resepitical under its eye    its tail round and white to near the end which is black & like a Cow    in every other respect like a Deer, except it runs like a goat.    large. [8]

The hunters brought in 8 fallow Deer & 5 Common Deer to day, Great numbers of Buffalow in the Praries, also a light Coloured woolf Covered with hair & corse fur, also a Small wolf with a large bushey tail— [9]    Some Goats of a Different Kind Seen to day,—    Great many Plumbs, rabits, Porcupines & barking Squrels, Capt Lewis Killed a rattle Snake in a village of the Squirel's and Saw a Hair to day. Wind from the S. W.    we finished Drying our Provisions    Some of which was wet and Spoiled, [10]


Dried all our wet articles this fine Day, Capt Lewis went out with a View to see the Countrey and its productions, he was out all day    he killed a Buffalow and a remarkable Bird [WC: Magpy] of the Corvus Species long tail the upper part of the feathers & also the wing is of a purplish variated Green, the black, [X: back &] a part of the wing feather are white edjed with black, white belley, white from the root of the wings to Center of the back is white, the head nake [neck] breast & other parts are black the Becke like a Crow. abt. the Size of a large Pigion.    a butifull thing (See Suplement in No. 3) [11]

I took equal altitudes and a meridian altitude. Capt. Lewis returned at Dark, Colter Killed a Goat like the one I killed and a curious kind of deer [WC: Mule Deer] [12] of a Dark gray Colr. more so than common, hair long & fine, the ears large & long, a Small reseptical under the eyes; like an Elk, the Taile about the length of Common Deer, round (like a Cow) a tuft of black hair about the end, this Speces of Deer jumps like a goat or Sheep

8 fallow Deer 5 Common & 3 buffalow killed to day, Capt. Lewis Saw a hare & Killed a Rattle Snake in a village of B. squerels    The wind from S. W.    Dryed our provisions, Some of which was much Damaged.


one of the hunters killed a bird of the Corvus genus [EC: Pica pica hudsonica] and order of the pica & about the size of a jack-daw with a remarkable long tale.    beautifully variagated.    it 〈has an agreeable note something like goald winged Blackbird〉 note is not disagreeable though loud— it is twait twait twait, twait; twait, twait twait, twait.

    F   I
from tip to tip of wing   1 10
Do. beak to extremity of tale   1   8 ½
of which the tale occupys 11  
from extremity of middle toe to hip   5 ½  

it's head, beak, and neck are large for a bird of it's size; the beak is black, and of a convex and cultrated figure, the chops nearly equal, and it's base large and beset with hairs—    the eyes are black encircled with a 〈small〉 narrow ring of yellowish black    it's head, neck, brest & back within one inch of the tale are of a fine glossey black, as are also the short fathers of the under part of the wing, the thies and those about the root of the tale.    the 〈body〉 belly is of a beatifull white which passes above and arround the but of the wing, where the feathers being long reach to a small white spot on the rump one inch in width—    the wings have nineteen feathers, of which the ten first have the longer side of their plumage white in the midde of the feather and occupying unequal lengths of the same from one to three inches, and forming when the wing is spead a kind [of] triangle    the upper and lower part of these party coloured feathers on the under side of the wing being of dark colour but not jut or shining black.    the under side of the remaining feathers of the wing are darker.    the upper side of the wing, as well as the short side of the plumage of the party coloured feathers is of a dark blackis or bluish green sonetimes presenting as light orange yellow or bluish 〈tinge〉 tint as it 〈rise〉 happens to be presented to different exposures of ligt—    the plumage of the tale consits of 12 feathers of equal lengths by pai[r]s, those in the center are the longest, and the others on each side deminishing about an inch each pair—    the underside of the feathers is a pale black, the upper side is a dark blueish green which like the 〈upper and〉 outer part of the wings is changable as it reflects different portions of light.    towards the the extremety of these feathers they become of an orrange green, then shaded pass to a redish indigo blue, and again at the extremity assume the predominant colour of changeable green—    the tints of these feathers are very similar and equally as beatiful and rich as the tints of blue and green of the peacock—    it is a most beatifull bird.—    the legs and toes are black and imbricated.    it has four long toes, three in front and one in rear, each terminated with a black sharp tallon from ⅜ths to ½ an inch in length.—    these birds are seldom found in parties of more than three or four and most usually at this season single as the halks 〈ravens〉 and other birds of prey usually are—    〈from it's appearance I believe to〉    it's usual food is flesh— this bird dose not spread it's tail when it flys and the motion of it's wings when flying is much like that of a Jay-bird—    〈it's note—    tah, tah, tah, tah tah, tah, tah, tah〉

The White turkey of the black hills from information of a french lad who wintered with the Chien Indians [EC: rara avis in terris!]    About the size of the common wild turkey    the plumage perfectly white—    this bird is booted as low as the toes—

On the Lard. shore, one mile and a haf above the mouth of Corvus Creek observed equal Altitudes of ☉ with Sextant.—
  h     m     s        h     m     s
A. M. 7    46    49   P.M. 2    59   50
   "    47    25     3     1    30
   "    49    12      "     3      3

Altd. by sextant at the time of Observatn.    53° 17' 45"

Observed meridian Altitude of ☉'s L. L. with Octant by the back Observation 87° 31' 00"


Monday 17th Sept. 1804. Capt Lewis & Several of the party went out hunting. Drewyer caught 1 Beaver to day    a pleasant day. The Boat loaded—    we remained here all day.—    towards evening Capt Lewis & party retarned    they had killed 13 common Deer. Some of them were handsome fauns—    2 Black tailed Deer which differ from the other Deer.    verry large ears    Scarce any hair on their tail    only the bunch of black hair on the end of a grayish colour    they are pleanty in this Country but not discribed in any other parts—    they killed another kind of Deer [15] with Small horns & long tail. Gibson killed 1    its tail is 18 Inches long & differ also from any yet seen by the party.    they killed 3 Buffalow.    one Goat which differs also (plenty[)] & one curious Bird of a blackish & greenish coullour Black Bill & a verry long tail—    resembling a bird that we call a magpy—    the hunters inform us that the Country back of the hills and on the hills are level & Smooth but the Timber verry Scarce &.C.—


Monday 17th.    As the weather was fair we remained here during the day. Captain Lewis and some men went out to hunt, and killed thirteen common, and two black-tailed deer three buffaloe and a goat. The wild goat in this country differ from the common tame goat, and is supposed to be the real antelope. The black-tailed, or mule deer have much larger ears than the common deer and tails almost without hair, except at the end, where there is a bunch of black hair. There is another species of deer in this country with small horns and long tails. The tail of one which we killed was 18 inches long. One of our men caught a beaver, and killed a prairie wolf.— [16] These are a small species of wolves, something larger than a fox, with long tails and short ears.


Monday 17th Sept. 1804.    Capt. Lewis and Several more of the party went out a hunting.    they came in had killed 13 common Deer 2 black taild Deer 1 Goat & 3 Buffaloe    the Goats in this is different from the Goats in the States    they have much longer ears and courser hair.    Drewyer caught 1 beaver.    killed a prarie wolf.    these wolves are larger than a fox—

Monday Septemr 17th    We remained at Pleasant Camp, and Early this morning, Captain Lewis, and several of the party went out hunting, They returned in the afternoon, having killed 13 common deer, 2 black 〈Color'd〉 Tail'd deer, 8 Goats, and 3 Buffalo.    The Goats are not like those in the United States, they having much larger Ears & Coarser hair,—    One of our hunters returned in the Evening, having catch'd 1 Beaver in his Trap & killed a Priari Wolf, The Priari Wolfes are not so large as those in the United States, being very little bigger than a Fox.—

1. They may have included Colter (see Clark's entry, below), and probably Drouillard, the premier hunter of the party. (back)
2. These plums are the same species, the common wild plum. (back)
3. Skunks, Mephitis mephitis. Cutright (LCPN), 93. (back)
4. These may include the later Red Butte. South Dakota Guide, 403. (back)
5. Codex Ba ends abruptly at this point. (back)
6. Biddle has the notation "and 20" at the top of this document 55 of the Field Notes, indicating that the entries on this sheet go through that date. (back)
7. Clark's, and Lewis's longer account in Codex Q for this date, are the first descriptions of the black-billed magpie, Pica pica. Magpies had not previously been known to exist in the New World; the American bird is a subspecies of the European magpie. They named Corvus Creek for this bird, one of the few uses of a Latin zoological term in the journals. Cutright (LCPN), 84–85. (back)
8. The mule deer, Odocoileus hemionus. (back)
9. The latter was apparently their first specimen of the coyote, described in more detail on September 18. Cutright (LCPN), 85. (back)
10. Clark evidently combined his September 17 and 18 entries in the Field Notes at this point. They are separated here and brought together in regular order. (back)
11. Clark's "No. 3" is the notebook now called Codex C, but the reference here is probably to Lewis's lengthy description of the magpie in Codex Q under this date. See Appendix C. (back)
12. Clark probably inserted the phrase "Mule Deer" later, when the captains had adopted that name for Odocoileus hemionus, based on its large ears. He used red ink for this and the previous emendation. Clark may also have lined out in red the passage about the magpie. Lewis's use of the term on April 23, 1805, is the first written use of today's common name of the animal, which Lewis and Clark were the first to describe. See also May 10, 1805. (back)
13. Lewis's natural history notes from Codex Q. The bird is the black-billed magpie and the turkey may be the wild turkey, Meleagris gallopavo [AOU, 310], which Coues (in his interlineation) calls a rare bird in the area described. One authority suggests other possibilities, including the white-tailed ptarmigan, Lagopus leucurus [AOU, 304]. Holmgren, 34. The gold-winged blackbird mentioned for comparison of the magpie may be the red-winged blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus [AOU, 498], or possibly some type of oriole (Icterus sp.). (back)
14. Lewis's observation from Codex O. (back)
15. Western white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus dacotensis; see Clark's entry for September 16. (back)
16. The coyote, Canis latrans. (back)