July 17, 1806
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July 17, 1806


I arrose early this morning and made a drawing of the falls. [1]    after which we took breakfast and departed.    it being my design to strike Maria's river about the place at which I left it on my return to it's mouth in the begining of June 1805. I steered my course through the wide and level plains which have somewhat the appearance of an ocean, [2] not a tree nor a shrub to be seen.    the land is not fertile, at least far less so, than the plains of the Columbia or those lower down this river, it is a light coloured soil intermixed with a considerable proportion of coarse gravel without sand, when dry it cracks and appears thursty and is very hard, in it's wet state, it is as soft and slipry as so much soft soap. [3]    the grass is naturally but short and at present has been rendered much more so by the graizing of the buffaloe, the whole face of the country as far as the eye can reach looks like a well shaved bowlinggreen, in which immence and numerous herds of buffaloe were seen feeding attended by their scarcely less numerous sheepherds the wolves.    we saw a number of goats as usual today, also the party coloured plover with the brick red head and neck; [4] this bird remains about the little ponds which are distributed over the face of these plains [5] and here raise their young.    we killed a buffaloe cow as we passed throug the plains and took the hump and tonge which furnish ample rations for four men one day.    at 5 P. M. we arrived at rose [NB?: Tansy] river [6] where I purposed remaining all night as I could not reach maria's river this evening and unless I did there would be but little probability of our finding any wood and very probably no water either. on our arrival at the river we saw where a wounded and bleading buffaloe had just passed and concluded it was probable that the indians had been runing them and were near at hand.    the Minnetares of Fort de prarie and the blackfoot indians rove through this quarter of the country and as they are a vicious lawless and reather an abandoned set of wretches I wish to avoid an interview with them if possible. [7] I have no doubt but they would steel our horses if they have it in their power and finding us weak should they happen to be numerous wil most probably attempt to rob us of our arms and baggage; at all events I am determined to take every posible precaution to avoid them if possible. I hurried over the river to a thick wood and turned out the horses to graize; sent Drewyer to pursue and kill the wounded buffaloe in order to determine whether it had been woundded by the indians or not, and proceeded myself to reconnoitre the adjacent country having sent R. Fields for the same purpose a different rout. I ascended the river hills and by the help of my glass examined the plains but could make no discovery, in about an hour I returned to camp, where I met with the others who had been as unsuccessfull as myself. Drewyer could not find the wounded buffaloe. J. Fields whom I had left at camp had already roasted some of the buffaloe meat and we took dinner after which I sent Drewyer and R. Fields to resume their resurches for the indians; and set myself down to record the transactions of the day.    [NB?: Tansy] rose [EC: Teton] river is at this place fifty yards wide, the water which is only about 3 feet deep occupys about 35 yds. and is very terbid of a white colour.    the general course of this river is from East to west so far as I can discover it's track through the plains, it's bottoms are wide and well timbered with cottonwood both the broad and narrow leafed speceis.    the bed of this stream is small gravel and mud; it's banks are low but never overflow, the hills are about 100 or 150 feet high; it possesses bluffs of earth like the lower part of the Missouri; except the debth and valocity of it's stream and it is the Missouri in miniture.    from the size of rose river at this place and it's direction I have no doubt but it takes it's source within the first range of the Rocky mountains.    the bush which bears the red berry [8] is here in great plenty in the river bottoms

Courses and distances July 17th 1806.
N. 10° W. 20 m. from the great falls of the Missouri to rose river where we
encamped on it's northern bank in a grove of cottonwood.—
ms. 20  

The spies returned having killed 2 beaver and a deer.    they reported that they saw no appearance of Indians.—

N. 30° E 1 ½ miles to a bend under a hill to the N. E Side.    river making a
bend to the right in which there is 3 Island    by watr.    3 m
N. 65° E 5 miles to the enterance of 2 large Creeks on each Side of the
river on those Creeks is much Cotton timer.    all the moun-
tains to the S W is covered with Snow. Some Snow also on the
mountains N. W.    the high Snow Mtn. is W. N. W.    river
make 2 bends to right    9
N. 76° E 2 ½ miles to mouth of a brook    River make a bend to the
right.    1 ½
N. 85 E 3 miles to a brook in a N E bend    passd. a Small Island river
makeing a Small bend to the right.    3 ½
S. 15° E. 3 miles to the enterance of a Creek on the right    the road pass-
ing over a hill.    under which the river passes from 1 to 2
ms.—    5
S. 60° E 3 miles to the enteranc a large Creek on the N W Side Crooked
30 yds wide    one on the oposit Side nearly opposit.    all these
Creeks have a great quantity of Cotton Trees in this bottoms
their water of a milkey colour. Dined. Saw a Pelican    5 ms.
after Dinner 17th July 1806 from the enterance of the R [9]
S 40° E 3 miles to high point on the N E Side opposit a high Clift in the
opsd bend    the river haveig made a bend to the right in which
there is 2 islands. Saw a pilicin alone—    by water    4 ms.
N. 80° E 3 miles by land to a bluff under a high pine hill on the N W
Side    passed 10 Islands a large Creek fallen in on the opposit
side.    8
S. 60° E 3 miles to the enteranc of a Small 〈Creek〉 Brook on the right
Side    passing one large island, river passing under the high
land on N. E. Side.    passed an Indian fort of logs & bark
Lard.—    4 ms. ½
N. 80° E 3 miles to the enterance of a Small Creek on the Stard Side
passed 2 large and 5 Small Islands    the river Passing under
high pine land on Lard Side for 2 miles.—    5 〈4〉    ms. ½
N. 60° E 3 miles to point of wood in the Lard. bend    passed 3 Islands
narrow low botton on each Side ½ mile wide    Saw Several
Buffalow opposit on the Stard side.    encamped in the bottom
opsd. a Small island.    5 ms

The rain of last night wet us all.    [NB: having no tent, & no covering but a buffaloe skin]    I had the horses all Collected early and Set out, proceeded ove the point of a ridge and through an open low bottom    crossed a large Creek which heads in a high Snow toped Mountain to the N W. imediately opposit to the enterance of the Creek one Something larger falls in from the high Snow mountains to the S W. & South    those Creeks I call Rivers across [10]    they contain Some timber in their Vallys    at the distance of [blank] Miles by water we arive at the enterance of two Small rivers [NB: otter creeks] [11] or large Creeks which fall in nearly opposit to each other    the one on the N E side is 30 yards wide. I call it Otter River the other Beaver R [12] below the enterance of this Creek I halted as usial to let the Horses graze &C. I saw a Single Pelicon which is the first which I have Seen on this river.    after Dinner I proceeded on Down the Rochejhone passing over a low ridge through a Small bottom and on the Side of a Stoney hill for 2 miles and through a Small [NB: bottom] and again on the Side of a high hill for 1½ M. to a bottom in which we Incamped opposit a Small Island. [13] The high lands approach the river on either side much nearer than it does above and their Sides are partially covered with low pine & Cedar, [14] none of which are Sufficently large for Canoes, nor have I Seen a Cotton tree in the low bottoms Sufficently large for that purpose. Buffalow is getting much more plenty than they were above. not so many Elk & more deer Shannon killed one deer. I Saw in one of those Small bottoms which I passed this evening an Indian fort [15] which appears to have been built last Summer.    this fort was built of logs and bark.    the logs was put up very Closely    [NB: ends supporting each other] capping on each other about 5 feet [NB: high] and Closely chinked. around which bark was Set up on end so as to Cover the Logs.    the enterance was also guarded by a work on each Side of it and faceing the river.    this work is about 50 feet Diameter & nearly round.    the Squaw informs me that when the war parties [NB: of Minnits Crows &, who fight Shoshonees ] find themselves pursued they make those forts to defend themselves in from the pursuers whose Superior numbers might other wise over power them and cut them off without receiveing much injurey on hors back &c.

Courses Distances Computed & Remarks 17th July
        Ms. by
N. 30° E. 1 ½ Miles on the Course to a Larboard bend under a }   3
    hill, river makeing a bend to the Stard. Side in
    which there is 3 islands Covered with timber
N. 65° E. 5 Miles on the Course to the Enterance of two large }   9
    Creeks one on each Side imediately opposite each
    other which I call Rivers a Cross [16]    a great prepor-
    tion of timber on both of those Creeks.    river
    making two bends to the Stard side in the Course.
    High Snow Mts. W. N W, and those to the S. W is
    also covered with S.
N. 76° E. 1 ½ Miles to the enterance of a brook in the Lard. }   1 ½
N. 85° E 3 Miles on the Course to a Brook in a Lard Bend }   3 ½
    passed a small Island river bending a little to the
    Stard Side. Current rapid
S. 15° E. 3 Miles on the Course to the enterance the Thy snag'd }   5
    Creek [17] on the Stard. Side.    river passing under a
    high rocky hill from 1 to 2 Miles
S. 60° E. 3 Miles on the Course to the enterance of a large }   5 ½
    creek on the Lard. Side, crooked and 30 yds wide
    which I call Otter River    a large creek or Small
    river falls in nearly opposit Beaver R. [18]    much
    timber on both of those streams.    the water of a
    milky colour.    passed islands. Saw a Single pel-
    ican & a pen to catch birds.
S. 40° E. 3 Miles to a high point on the Lard. Side opposite a }   5
    high Clift in the opposit bend, the river haveing
    made a bend to Std. in which there is 2 large
N. 80° E. 4 Miles on the Course to a Clift under a high pine }   8
    hill on the Lard. Side passing the enteranc of a
    large Creek on the Stard. Side which I call Brat-
    tens Ck. [19]    and 10 islands in this Course
S. 60° E. 3 Miles to the enterance of a Small Brook [20] on the }   4 ½
    Stard. Side passing one large Island.    an old in
    dian fort of logs & bark    river passed at the foot
    of a high hill on the Larboard Side
N. 80° E. 3 Miles to the enterance of a Small Creek [21] on the }   5
    Stard. Side, passing 2 large & 5 Small Islands, the
    river passing under a high pine hill for 2 miles.
N. 60° E. 3 Miles to a point of wood in the Lard. Bend, passed }   5
    3 islands.    the bottoms are narrow and low on
    each Side of the river, not exceeding ½ a mile in
    width. Encpd.
Ms. 33 by Land Ms. by water 55

Thursday 17th July 1806.    a clear morning.    we took an eairly breakfast and proceeded on    Collins and Colter Skinned the 2 mountn. Sheep    Saved the Skin and bones for our officers to take to the States.    the wind rose So high that Some of the canoes were near being filled.    about noon we arived at the head of the pine Islands & rapids & halted at the Creek [22] above as the wind too high to pass these rapids with Safety. Cruzatte killed 2 [3?] big horn animels and Colter killed a deer.    towards evening the wind abated a little So we passed down the rapids with Safety.    at the foot of the rockey mountains large gangs of the Ibex or big horn anim. Seen along the edges of Sd. Mountns. Camped about 5 miles below Sd. rapids at a bottom in groves of cotten timber.—


Thursday 17th.    We had a pleasant day, and high wind; which drives away the musquitoes and relieves us from those tormenting insects.

1. Lewis again shows his strong desire to have an accurate representation of the Great Falls; no drawing of the falls by Lewis has been found. See June 13, 1805. (back)
2. An early instance of this comparison, which would become common in describing the Great Plains. (back)
3. The Blackleaf Formation and Marias River Shale underlie the area traversed by Lewis. Except along steep-sided coulees, however, these formations are covered by glacial till consisting mainly of silt and clay; the more clay-rich portions are known as gumbo-till. The gravel is both glacial outwash and pebbles or cobbles left behind after the more easily eroded part of the till is removed. Because of the abundant clay- and silt-sized material in the soil, it cracks open when it dries. The clay or gumbo-till which forms the soil becomes extremely plastic when wet. (back)
4. The avocet, Recurvirostra americana [AOU, 225], already described before the expedition. Lewis's detailed description is at May 1, 1805. (back)
5. These ponds are in Chouteau County, Montana, northwest of present Floweree, in the vicinity of the area called Antelope Flat; one of them is present Antelope Lake. The ponds are glacial kettles, outwash-channel depressions, and wind blowouts that fill during heavy rains; they usually dry up by mid or late summer. Lewis is traveling nearly north from the Great Falls of the Missouri. The route does not appear on any Atlas maps. (back)
6. Teton River in Chouteau County; for the naming of it, see June 4 and 6, 1805. Lewis camped here, some ten miles northwest of present Carter. (back)
7. Lewis's information on these people came primarily from their enemies, like the Shoshones and the Nez Perces, but his experience of July 27, 1806, no doubt confirmed his unfavorable opinion. (back)
8. Buffaloberry, Sherpherdia argentea (Pursh) Nutt. (back)
9. Opposite this page of his first draft Clark has an inverted sketch map (fig. 5) of his route on the Yellowstone River for July 17–18, 1806, and can be reconciled to Atlas map 107. Clark's camp of July 17 is marked on the Atlas map as "Encamped 7th July 1806," while on figure 5 that night's camp is indicated by one of Clark's campsite symbols near the left-middle of the sheet. Above that on the Atlas map are three islands across from White Beaver Creek ("Muddy Creek"), Stillwater County, Montana. The same three islands are shown on figure 5 near the lower left hand corner, where "Muddy Creek" is not named. (back)
10. On the north is Big Timber Creek and on the south is Boulder River, in the vicinity of present Big Timber, Sweet Grass County, Montana. Big Timber Creek is likely to be that referred to by Thomas James, who passed by in 1810 when working for Manuel Lisa, as the "Twenty Five Yard" River; that width is the only notation given for that stream ("River 25 yds wide    bold") on Atlas map 114, other than "rivers across." Similar designations, with varying widths, appear for Boulder River and for both streams on Atlas maps 107, 125, and 126. It is not unlikely that Lisa and his partners had a copy of Clark's map of the region, since Clark was a partner in the enterprise. "Twenty Five Yard" River has sometimes been identified with Shields River, but some confusion may have occurred over the years. James, 48; Oglesby, 69; Bradley (MMC), 29. The words "Rivers across" may have been added to a blank space and they may not be in Clark's hand, nor do they look to be a Biddle emendation. (back)
11. Biddle crossed out Clark's words "Small rivers" and interlined "otter creeks," then crossed out those words, all in red ink. (back)
12. Sweet Grass and Lower Deer creeks, respectively, in Sweet Grass County. Atlas maps 107, 114. The words from "Otter" to "R" were apparently substituted for some erased material. (back)
13. The camp was on the north side of the Yellowstone a mile or two below the mouth of Hump Creek, in Sweet Grass County, just west of the Stillwater County line. It appears to be marked "Encamped 7th July 1806" on Atlas map 107, but Clark's numbers may have run together. See also Atlas map 115. (back)
14. Limber pine, Pinus flexilis James, and Rocky Mountain juniper, red cedar, Juniperus scopulorum Sarg. Little (CIH), 56-W, 30-W; Mueggler & Stewart. (back)
15. In Sweet Grass County, just above the mouth of Work Creek (which does not appear on Atlas maps 107 or 114) on the opposite side. As Sacagawea noted, a number of tribes made use of such fortifications for emergency defense against superior numbers; sometimes they also used stones in construction. Thomas James describes one used by Crows on the Yellowstone in 1810, and Henry Brackenridge mentions an Arikara one in 1811. Ewers (ILUM), 117–30; James, 49; Brackenridge, 124. Just above this fort on Atlas map 114 is marked the site where a party of trappers led by Michael Immell and Robert Jones of the Missouri Fur Company were defeated by Blackfeet on May 31, 1823, with Immell and Jones being killed. The discovery of this map helped fur trade scholars locate this incident for the first time. Apparently the map was copied from some version of Clark's original on which Clark, as Indian superintendent for the region, had recorded the site. Morgan, 48–50; Wood & Moulton, 384. (back)
16. Another addition to an apparent blank space in an unidentifiable hand. (back)
17. Present Upper Deer Creek in Sweet Grass County, some two miles above Lower Deer Creek. The name obviously derives from the accident which happened to Gibson, recorded in Codex M as happening the following day, July 18. The name can be found on Atlas map 107 but not on map 114. It is not apparent why the incident should be commemorated by naming a creek passed the day before it happened. Clark may have misdated the episode in his codex journal, writing some time after it occurred, or mislocated the stream he intended to name after it in making final versions of his maps. Either would indicate uncharacteristic carelessness on his part. (back)
18. Both "Otter River" and "Beaver R." appear to be later additions, the first to a blank space, the other as an interlineation. (back)
19. Present Bridger Creek, in Sweet Grass County. Atlas maps 107, 114. "Brattens," after William Bratton of the party, replaces some erased material. (back)
20. Present Work Creek in Sweet Grass County, not shown on Atlas maps 107, 114, or 115. (back)
21. Clark's "Weasel Creek," today's Hump Creek. Atlas maps 107, 115. (back)
22. The rapids are Half-breed Rapids, where the party delayed in the vicinity of Hardy Creek, but probably not the creek mentioned here, in Cascade County, Montana. (back)