July 20, 1805
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July 20, 1805


Set out early this morning as usual, currant strong, we therefore employ the toe rope when ever the banks permit the use of it; the water is reather deep for the seting pole in most places.    at 6 A. M. the hills retreated from the river and the valley became wider than we have seen it since we entered the mountains.    some scattering timber on the river and in the valley.    consisting of the narrowleafed Cottonwood aspin & pine.    vas numbers of the several species of currants goosberries and service berries; of each of these I preserved some seeds. I [NB: we] found a black currant which I thought preferable in flavor to the yellow.    this currant is really a charming fruit aned I am confident would be prefered at our markets to any currant now cultivated in the U' States. [1]    we killed an Elk this morning which was very acceptable to us.    through the valley which we entered early in the morning a large creek flows from the mountains and discharges itself into the river behind an island on Stard. side about 15 yds. wide    this we called 〈Smoke Creek in consequence of the Smoke we saw about〉 Pott's Creek after John Potts one of our party. [2] about 10 A. M. we saw the smoke arrose as if the country had been set on fire up the valley of this creek about 7 ms. distant    we were at a loss to determine whether it had been set on fire by the natives as a signall among themselves on discovering us, as is their custom or whether it had been set on fire by Capt. C. and party accedentally.    the first however proved to be the fact, they had unperceived by us discovered Capt. Clark's party or mine, and had set the plain on fire to allarm the more distant natives [NB: heard a gun from Capt C's party & fled quite over the mountain thinking it their enemies Blackfoots ] and fled themselves further into the interior of the mountains. [3]    this evening we found the skin of an Elk and part of the flesh of the anamal which Capt. C. had left near the river at the upper side of the valley where he assended the mountain with a note informing me of his transactions [NB: progressions] and that he should pass the mounts which lay just above us and wate our arrival at some convenient place on the river.    the other elk which Capt. C. had killed we could not find. about 2 in the evening we had passed through a range of low mountains and the country became more open again, [4] tho' still broken and untimbered and the bottoms not very extensive.    we encamped on the Lard. side near a spring on a high bank [5]    the prickly pears are so abundant that we could scarcely find room to lye.    just above our camp the river is again closed in by the Mouts. on both sides. I saw a black woodpecker [6] [NB: or Crow] today about the size of the lark woodpecker as black as a crow. I indevoured to get a shoot at it but could not.    it is a distinct species of woodpecker; it has a long tail and flys a good deel like the jay bird.—

This morning Capt. Clark set out early and proceeded on through a valley leaving the river about six miles to his left; he fell in with an old Indian road which he pursued untill it struck the river about 18 miles from his camp of the last evening just above the entrance of a large creek which we call white paint Creek. [7]    the party were so much fortiegued with their march and their feet cut with the flint and perced with the prickly pears untill they had become so painful that he proceeded but little further before he determined to encamp on the river and wait my arrival.—    Capt. C. saw a smoke today up the valley of Pryor's creek which was no doubt caused by the natives likewise.    he left signals or signs on his rout in order to inform the indians should they pursue his trale that we were not their enemies, but white men and their friends.—    [NB: clothes paper tapecloth & clinen,]

The Courses and distances July 20th 1805.
S. 40° W.      ½ to a high rock in a Lard. bend in the gates.    here the high
and perpendicular rocks cease and the Valley widens sud-
only to more than it's usual extent since we have entered
the Mountains.
S. 55° W.   1 to the center of a Stard. bend at which place a large creek
falls in behind some islands on the Stard. side.    the In-
dians set the plains on fire up this Creek.    call it Potts's
S. 64° E.   2 ½ to the center of a Lard. bend, passing two islands
S. 15° E.      ¼ to the center of a Stard. bend.    saw a number of the read
head ducks; also several sand hill Crains.
East   1 ½ to the center of a Lard. bend, passing 2 small islands on
Lard. side
S. 12° E.   1 ½ to the center of a Stard. bend passing a small Creek [8] on
Lard. side at ¾ of a mile
S. 50° E.   1 ¼ to the center of a Lard. bend
S. 20° E.   2 ½ to the center of a Stard. bend
S. 65° E.   2 to a point in a Stard. bend passing 3 small islands near
Lard. Side at 1 mile.
N. 75° E.   2 to the center of a Lard. bend passing an island near the
extremity of the course and encamped on Lard. side at a
Miles 15  

Point of Observati No. [34]

On the Stard. shore at the extremity of the third course of this day, observed time and distance of ☉'s and ☽'s nearest limbs with Sextant ☉ East.

  Time       Distance
  h      m      s    
A. M. 10    22    16   76°    38'    —"
    "    24    38     "      36    45
  Time   Distance
  h      m      s    
A. M. 10    35    38   76°    26'    30"
    "     37      3     "      25    45
  Time   Distance
  h      m      s    
A. M. 10    38    13   76°    25'    —"
    "     39    34     "      24    45

Having lost my post Meridian Observation for Eql. Altitudes in consequence of a cloud which obscured the sun for several minutes about that time, I had recourse to two altitudes of the sun with Sextant.

Point of observation No. 35.

On Stard. shore five miles short of the encampment of this evening observed 2 Altds. of ☉'s L. L.

  Time       Altitudes
  h    m      s    
P. M. 3    10    39   98°   48'   15"
  4    49    34   66    17    45

a fine morning    we proceded on thro' a valley leaveing the river about 6 miles to our left and fell into an Indian roade which took us to the river above the mo. of a Creek 18 miles    The Misquetors verry troublesom    my man York nearly tired out, the bottoms of my feet blistered. I observe a Smoke rise to our right up the valley of the last Creek about 12 miles distant, The Cause of this Smoke I can't account for certainly tho' think it probable that the Indians have heard the Shooting of the Partey below and Set the Praries or Valey on fire to allarm their Camps; Supposeing our party to be a war party comeing against them, I left Signs to Shew the Indians if they Should come on our trail that we were not their enemeys. Camped on the river, the feet of the men with me So Stuck with Prickley pear & cut with the Stones that they were Scerseley ablt to march at a Slow gate this after noon


July 20th Saturday 1805.    a clear morning    we Set out as usal and proceeded on.    about 8 oClock A M we Came to a lower part of the Mountain.    one of the hunters killed an Elk in a bottom on L. S.    we find pleanty of ripe currents of different kinds red yallow and black.    the black is the most palatable.    Some of the hunters find an excelent berry which is called Servis berrys. [9]    we found the Skin of an Elk & a note which Capt. [Clark] had left for us, letting us know that he would wait our arival after he got over the Mountain.    passed a Small creek on the L. S.    about 2 oC. P. M. we got through this range of Mon. Saw another range Some distance off on our course. Saw a Smoak in the valley between.    we cannot determine whether is was made by the natives or Capt. Clark.    passed a level Smooth plain in the valley. Some timber Scatering along the River. Came 15 miles this day and Camped at a Spring on the L. S.    the prickley pears are So thick we scarsely could find room to camp without being on them.—


Saturday 20th.    We had a fine morning, and embarked early. About 8 we got out of the high part of the mountains, and came to where they are lower and not so rocky; and where there are the finest currants I ever saw of different kinds, red, yellow and black: the black are the most pleasant and palatable. There is also a good portion of timber on the mountains all along this part. We killed an elk in our way, and found the skin of one which Captain Clark had left on the bank with a note, informing us he would pass the mountain he was then on, and wait for the canoes. We passed a small creek on the south side, [10] and about 2 o'clock came to a level plain on the north side, from which we saw a strong smoke rising, and supposed it was from a fire made by Capt. Clarke. The river is very crooked in general, and here is a great bend to the southeast; and in the afternoon it turned so far that our course was north of east. We proceeded on through a valley between two mountains, one of which we passed, and the other is in view ahead. [11] We went 15 miles and encamped at the mouth of a small run on the south side.


Saturday 20th July 1805.    a clear morning.    we Set out as usal and proceeded on.    at 8 oClock we came to a lower part of the mountains.    we found along the Shores a great quantity of currents of all kinds yallow red & black    they are now ripe, and we eat pleanty of them the black kind are the most pallatiable.    one of the men killed one Elk, and found the Skin of another which Capt. Clark had killed and left a note letting us know that he would only go over the range of these mountains and wait our arival.    the current verry rapid.    passed a Small creek on the South Side.    about 2 oClock P. m. we got through this range of mountains.    Saw an other range a head.    Saw a smoak in the valley between Some level plains in the valley.    Some timber Scatering along the River.    proceeded on    Saw a great nomber of otter along the Shores.    passed a plain on the N. S. in the valley be tween 2 mountains.    this valley is uneaven & hilley.    we Came 15 miles to day and Camped at a Spring on the South Side of the River.    the prickley pears verry thick &c.

Saturday July 20th    A clear morning, & we set out at the usual hour, and proceeded on our Voyage, Captain Clark having gone on before us, in order to make discoveries.    About 8 o'Clock A. M. we came to a part of the Mountains, which was considerable lower than any we had seen since we entered them.—    We found growing along the shore at that place, a great Quantity of Currants of different kinds, Yellow, Red, & black, We halted and gathered a quantity of them, they being Ripe.    We found the most palatable among them the Black,—    One of our party went out, and killed an Elk, and found the Skin of another, which Captain Clarke had killed and left, & a Note with the skin from Captain Clarke, that informed us, that he would go over the range of [blank] Mountains and waite our arrival.—    The current of the River run very rapid this day.—    We passed a Creek lying on the South side of the River.—    About 2 o'Clock P. M. we got through this range of Mountains, and saw another range, lying ahead of us, and a Creek lying in the Valley, where there was Some level plains.—    We found some scattering Timber growing along the River.    We proceeded on and saw a great number of Trees along the Shores on both sides the River.

We passed a plain lying on the North side of the River, which lay in a Valley between 2 Mountains, this Valley was uneven & hilly.—    We arrived at a fine Spring lying on the South side of the River where we encamped; having come 15 Miles this day.—    We found the Prickly pears growing in great abundance at this place.—

1. Lewis notices the golden currant, Ribes aureum Pursh. His palate is confirmed by a botanist who finds the black-fruited individuals superior in taste to yellow or orange fruits of the same species. Personal communication of A. T. Harrison, January 22, 1986. Ordway, Gass, and Whitehouse agree with Lewis in finding the black individuals the best-tasting. It was probably Biddle who drew a red vertical line to this point, beginning with "narrowleafed Cottonwood." (back)
2. Lewis has made an error in both his journal text and his course and distance table regarding the location of Potts Creek. Clark, endeavoring to reconcile the error with his own limited observations (see notes for July 19, 1805), the compounded Lewis's on the Atlas maps, making modern identifications of this and other streams in the area especially difficult. Potts Creek of Lewis's journal and table is probably Towhead Gulch (Spring Creek of MRC map 80), beyond which he took his observation no. 34. Lewis probably errs in thinking that he saw smoke up this creek. Gass, Ordway, and Whitehouse seem to agree that they did not see smoke until the party had passed today's Beaver Creek (see n. 8, below) in the afternoon, so the fire would have been up present Prickley Pear Creek (not shown on Atlas map 62). Notice that below Lewis says that Clark saw the smoke up the valley of "Pryor's creek." Clark in attempting to set map and journals in agreement placed the word "fire" at the head of the stream he called "Pryors Vally R or C" (actually the party's White Earth Creek, today's Beaver Creek, in Broadwater County). Evidently Clark mapped present Towhead Gulch as Prickley Pear Creek but left it unnamed, did not include Prickley Pear Creek, and then placed the name Potts Valley Creek on the next major stream to the south which came in from the west, today's Spokane Creek. Atlas map 62; MRC map 80; USGS map Canyon Ferry Dam; information of Bergantino, July 18, 1986. (back)
3. This could be information given by the Shoshones after the meeting in August, suggesting this entry was written later, from notes now lost. Or it could mean only that Lewis learned that Clark's party had not set the fire when the two reunited on July 22. The interlined information must have come from the Indians, probably told by Clark to Biddle. See the Introduction. (back)
4. An interlineation here, apparently by Lewis, has been erased and is illegible. (back)
5. In Lewis and Clark County, on the point of a bend between present Soup and Trout Creeks (unnamed on Atlas map 62). MRC map 80; USGS map Canyon Ferry Dam. (back)
6. The first description of Lewis's woodpecker, Melanerpes lewis [AOU, 408], more fully described on May 27, 1806. Perhaps the only remaining zoological specimen of the expedition is the skin of a Lewis's woodpecker, now in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University. Burroughs, 239–40; Cutright (LCPN), 173, 453. (back)
7. Clark's route, marked by a dotted line on Atlas maps 62 and 63, left the Missouri in the vicinity of present Spokane Creek (Potts Valley Creek on Atlas map 62) and he probably camped above today's Beaver Creek, Broadwater County ("Pryors Valley R or C" on Atlas map 63). (back)
8. Beaver Creek (unnamed on Atlas map 62), Lewis and Clark County, not to be confused with Beaver Creek in Broadwater County. Atlas map 62; MRC map 80. (back)
9. Serviceberry, Amelanchier alnifolia Nutt. (back)
10. Gass's use of "north" and "south" is especially confusing here. Among the various streams passed this day, this is probably Beaver Creek, Lewis and Clark County, Montana, which is on the east side of that particular stretch of the Missouri. (back)
11. The Big Belt Mountains lie east of the Missouri in this area; the Spokane Hills and Elkhorn Mountains lie to the west of the river, and ahead of the point they reached on July 20. (back)