April 12, 1805
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April 12, 1805


Set out at an early hour.    our peroge and the Canoes passed over to the Lard side in order to avoid a bank which was rappidly falling in on the Stard.    the red perogue contrary to my expectation or wish passed under this bank 〈with〉 by means of her toe line where I expected to have seen her carried under every instant. I did not discover that she was about to make this attempt untill it was too late for the men to reembark, and retreating is more dangerous than proceeding in such cases; they therefore continued their passage up this bank, and much to my satisfaction arrived safe above it.    this cost me some moments of uneasiness, her cargo was of much importance to us in our present advanced situation—    We proceeded on six miles and came too on the lower side of the entrance of the little Missouri on the Lard shore in a fine plain where we determined to spend the day for the purpose of celestial observation. [1]    we sent out 10 hunters to procure some fresh meat.    at this place made the following observations.—

Point of Observation No. 1.

Observed ☉'s Magnetic Azimuth with Circumfert
S. 88° E.
h      m      s  
Time by Chronometer A. M.
8     20     25 
Altitude by Sextant
52°    20'    45"
☉'s Magnetic Azimuth by Circumferenter
S. 87° E.
Time by Chronometer
8°    25'    11"
Altitude by Sextant
53°    55'    30"

Observed equal altitudes of the with ☉ Sextant.

  h m s      
A. M. 8 30 11       P.M. the P. M. observation
  " 31 52.5     was lost in consequence
  " 33   3.1     of the Clouds.

Altd. by Sextant at the time of observation    55° 28' 45"

Observed Meridian altitude of the ☉'s U. L. with Octant by the back observation    81° 25' 15"

Latitude deduced from this observation [blank]


The artifil. Horizon recommended by Mr. A. Ellicott, in which water forms the reflecting surface, is used in all observations which requirs the uce of an Artificial horizon, except when expressly mentioned to the contrary.—

The altitude of any object in the fore observation as here entered is that deduced immediately from the graduated limb of the instrument, and is of course the double altitudes of the object observed.—

The altitudes of objects observed by the back observation, with Octant as here entered, is that shewn by the graduated limb of the Instrument at the time of observation, and is the compliment of 180° of the double altitude of the object observed.—

Error of Sextant Subtractive —°   8' 45"  
Error of Octant fore observation —' —" x
Error of do. in back observation addtve. 40' x

The night proved so cloudly that I could make no further observations. George Drewyer shot a Beaver this morning, which we found swiming in the river a small distance below the entrance of the little Missouri.    the beaver being seen in the day, is a proof that they have been but little hunted, as they always keep themselves closly concealed during the day where they are so.—    found a great quantity of small onions [2] in the plain where we encamped; had some of them collected and cooked, found them agreeable.    the bulb grows single, is of an oval form, white, and about the size of a small bullet; the leaf resem[bles] that of the shive, and the hunters returned this eving with one deer only.    the country about the mouth of this river had been recently hunted by the Minetares, and the little game which they had not killed and frightened away, was so extreemly shy that the hunters could not get in shoot of them.

The little Missouri disembogues on the S. side of the Missouri 1693 miles from the confluence of the latter with the Mississippi.    it is 134 yards wide at it's mouth, and sets in with a bould current but it's greatest debth is not more than 2½ feet.    it's navigation is extreemly difficult, owing to it's rapidity, shoals and sand bars.    it may however be navigated with small canoes a considerable distance.    this river passes through the Northern extremity of the black hills where it is very narrow and rapid and it's banks high an perpendicular.    it takes it's rise in a broken country West of the Black hills with the waters of the yellow stone river, and a considerable distance S. W. of the point at which it passes the black hills.    the country through which it passes is generally broken and the highlands possess but little timber.    there is some timber in it's bottom lands, which sonsists of Cottonwood red Elm, with a small proportion of small Ash and box alder. [3]    the under brush is willow, red wood, (sometimes called red or swamp willow—) the red burry, and Choke cherry— [4]    the country is extreamly broken about the mouth of this river, and as far up 〈and〉 on both sides, as we could observe it from the tops of some elivated hills, which stand between these two rivers, about 3 miles from their junction.    the soil appears fertile and deep, it consists generally of a dark rich loam intermixed with a small proportion of fine sand.    this river in it's course passed near the N. W. side of the turtle mountain, which is said to be no more than 4 or 5 leagues distant from it's entrance in a straight direction, a little to the S. of West.—    this mountain and the knife river have therefore been laid down too far S. W. [5]    the colour of the water, the bed of the river, and it's appearance 〈of this river〉 in every respect, resembles the Missouri; I am therefore induced to believe that the texture of the soil of the country in which it takes it's rise, and that through which it passes, is similar to the country through which the Missouri passes after leaving the woody country, or such as we are now in.—    on the side of a hill not distant from our camp I found some of the dwarf cedar of which I preserved a specimen (See No. 2). [6]    this plant spread it's limbs alonge the surface of the earth, where they are sometimes covered, and always put forth a number of roots on the under side, while on the upper there are a great number of small shoots which with their leaves seldom rise higher than 6 or eight inches.    they grow 〈very〉 so close as perfectly to conceal the eath.    it is an evergreen; the leaf is much more delicate than the common Cedar, and it's taste and smell the same. I have often thought that this plant would make very handsome edgings to the borders and walks of a garden; it is quite as handsom as box, [7] and would be much more easily propegated.—    the appearance of the glauber salts and Carbonated wood still continue.

Couse and distance of this day was [8]
N. 80° W. to the entrance of the little Missouri 4 ½ [9]

a fine morning    Set out verry early, the murcery Stood 56° above 0. proceeded on to the mouth of the Little Missouri river and formed a Camp in a butifull elivated plain on the lower Side for the purpose of takeing Some observations to fix the Latitude & Longitude of this river. this river falls in on the L. Side and is 134 yards wide and 2 feet 6 Inches deep at the mouth, it takes its rise in the N W extremity of the black mountains, and through a broken countrey in its whole course washing the N W base of the Turtle Mountain which is Situated about 6 Leagues S W of its mouth, one of our men Baptiest [10] who came down this river in a canoe informs me that it is not navagable, he was 45 days descending.

One of our men Shot a beaver Swimming below the mouth of this river.

I walked out on the lower Side of this river and found the countrey hilley the Soil composed of black mole & a Small perportion of Sand containing great quantity of Small peable Some limestone, black flint, & Sand Stone [11]

I killed a Hare [12] Changeing its Colour Some parts retaining its long white fur & other parts assumeing the Short grey, I Saw the Magpie in pars, flocks of Grouse, the old field lark & Crows, [13] & observed the leaf of the wild Chery half grown, [14] many flowers are to be seen in the plains, remains of Minetarra & Ossinneboin hunting Camps are to be Seen on each Side of the two Missouris

The wind blew verry hard from the S. all the after part of the day, at 3 oClock P M. it became violent & flowey accompanied with thunder and a little rain. We examined our canoes &c found Several mice which had already commenced cutting our bags of corn & parched meal, the water of the little Missouri is of the Same texture Colour & quallity of that of the Big Missouri the after part of the day so Cloudy that we lost the evening observation.

Course & Distance of the 12th
N. 80° W. 4 ½ miles to the mouth of the Little Missouri River on the S. S.

Friday 12th April 1805.    a clear pleasant and warm morning    we Set off eairly.    proceeded on    passed high range of hills [15] on the South Side of the River.    one of our hunters Shot a verry large beaver which was Swimming in the River.    proceeded on about 5 miles which took us till abt. 9 oClock    we arived at the Mouth of the little River Missourie [16] about 90 mls. from the Mandans.    we halted in the mouth of this R. for our officers to take observations.    this River is 120 yards wide at the mouth, but rapid and muddy like the big Missourie. Several of the hunters went out hunting. Capt. Clark went out a Short distance and killed a white rabit.    found wild Inions &.c.    one of the hunters killed a deer.    another killed a bald Eagle.    the men all returned but had not killed any thing more. The frenchmen came to us    had caught 2 beaver last night.    about 3 oClock their came up a Squawl of verry high wind and rain. Some thunder.    the wind lasted untill afer Sunsed.    then clear up    pleasant evening.    one of the hunters discovered a fine Spring of water which came from under a high hill on S. S.    high mountains back from the River on the S. S.    the country in general from the Mandans to this place on the river is hilley and broken except in the bottoms in the bends of the River which is low Smoth & Sandy, covered with cottonwood & Small arsh [17] timber which is all the timber in the country is on the Streams & in the bends of this Missourie    the Soil back from the River is tollarable Good but barron plains without timber or water &.c.


Friday 12th.    Another fine day. We set out early as usual. About 8 we came to the mouth of the Little Missouri, [18] a handsome small river that comes in on the South side where we halted and took breakfast. The river is very properly called the Little Missouri, for it exactly resembles the Missouri in colour, current and taste. [19] It was thought adviseable to remain here the remainder of the day, and air our loading. Some hunters went out and killed a deer, and Captain Clarke killed a hare, [20] which was now changing its colour from white to grey.


Friday April 12th    This morning we had pleasant Weather, we started early and proceeded on our way till 11 oClock A. M., when we arrived at the Little Mesouri River, [21] which lies on the South side of the great River Mesouri.    its width at its mouth is 150 Yards, the Water 〈that runs from〉 in it is Muddy, & its current runs strong, Our hunters went out hunting, but met with but little success.—    The Country here is chiefly Priaries and lies level, we encamped here, having come 7 Miles this day—    The Mouth of the little Mesouri lies in Latitude 47° 31' 26 North—

1. The mouth of the Little Missouri may have shifted over the years; in any case, the site, perhaps in Dunn County, North Dakota, is under Garrison Reservoir. It is misplaced on Atlas map 55. The point of observation, No. 1, is shown nearby on the maps. Atlas maps 33, 46; MRC map 54. (back)
2. Allium textile A. Nels. & Macbr., white wild onion. Barkley, 537. Someone drew a vertical line through this passage, apparently in red. (back)
3. The small ash is Fraxinus pennsylvanica Marsh var. subintegerrima (Vahl) Fern., green ash. Little, 130-W. (back)
4. The willow is sandbar, or coyote, willow, Salix exigua Nutt. ssp. interior (Rowlee) Cronq.; red wood (also called bois roche, arrow wood, and other similar names) is red osier dogwood; "red burry" is Sheperdia argentea (Pursh) Nutt. buffaloberry; and "Choke cherry" is Prunus virginiana L. Barkley, 103, 205, 203, 148; Cutright (LCPN), 127 n. 5. (back)
5. Turtle Mountain is the present Killdeer Mountains, in Dunn County. (See above, January 13, 1805.) Lewis has deduced from information received from Jean Baptiste Lepage that the Knife and Little Missouri rivers had been placed too far to the southwest on Clark's Fort Mandan map (Atlas maps 32a, 32b, 32c). Lepage informed them that the latter river touched the base of the mountain on the northwest. David Thompson had located Turtle Mountain quite accurately on his 1798 map of the Missouri bend area, a copy of which they had with them, so now, knowing the relationship of the rivers to the mountain range, it became apparent that they must revise their assumed courses for the two rivers. North Dakota Guide, 304; Allen (PG), 87–93, 255–57. The passage is an interlineation and may be a later interpolation. (back)
6. Perhaps the creeping juniper that Clark noticed on April 9, here more certain. Here Lewis provides an indication of the plant specimens that he was preserving, labeling this one number 2. These items were cached at White Bear Islands and later found to be completely destroyed. See Cutright (LCPN), 127, 165, 312, 369. Someone drew a vertical line through this passage, apparently in red. (back)
7. Buxus sempervirens L., common box. Bailey, 623. (back)
8. Also given on Atlas map 33, in Clark's hand. (back)
9. Atlas map 33 says 4 ¼ miles, disagreeing with both captains' journals. (back)
10. Jean Baptiste Lepage (see above, November 3, 1804), probably the source of much of their information on the Little Missouri. (back)
11. The soil is weathered glacial till. The rocks have been brought here by glacial ice. The "black flint" is probably Knife River flint carried by the Missouri River to this area from secondary deposits in North Dakota. (back)
12. A white-tailed jackrabbit, Lepus townsendii, described by Clark on September 14, 1804, and by Lewis in more detail on February 28, 1806. The species was then unknown to science. Burroughs, 121–22. (back)
13. Clark's magpie is the black-billed magpie, Pica pica [AOU, 475], the "old field lark" is probably the western meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta [AOU, 501.1], and the crow is Corvus brachyrhynchos [AOU, 488]. Lewis describes the meadowlark on June 22, 1805. Holmgren, 31. (back)
14. The familiar choke cherry. (back)
17. Green ash, Fraxinus pennsylvanica Marsh. (back)
18. The mouth of Little Missouri River is now in Dunn County, North Dakota; it may have shifted over the years. They camped below the mouth. (back)
19. McKeehan's note: "The maps of Louisiana place the Mandan villages west of the little Missouri, whereas it is ascertained by this expedition to be 92 miles higher up the Missouri than the Mandans." (back)
20. White-tailed jackrabbit. (back)
21. The mouth of the Little Missouri River may have shifted over the years; it is now in McLean County, North Dakota. (back)