men were glad to see the days get longer as spring weather came.
They made dugout canoes, repaired the keelboat, packed their gear,
and dried buffalo meat in preparation for the coming journey.
On April 2, the men began packing items to be sent back down the
Missouri River with a small return party, to President Jefferson.
The shipment contained 4 boxes, 1 trunk, and 3 cages. The cages
contained a live prairie dog, a sharp-tailed grouse, and 4 magpies.
The boxes were filled with animal pelts, horns, and skeletons,
dried plants, soil and mineral samples, and insect specimens,
along with seeds from the Indians' corn, bean, and tobacco crops.
The trunk contained a buffalo robe painted by a Mandan man. The
date each item was found along with a description was included
April 7, the keelboat and its crew headed back downstream. The
Corps of Discovery's Permanent Party, now numbering 33, turned
upstream. They were traveling in unmapped territory now. Lewis
was excited, and he wrote in his journal:
"We were now about to penetrate a country at least two
thousand miles in width, on which the foot of civilized man had
never trod. The good or evil it had in store for us was for experiment
yet to determine,... Entertaining as I do the most confident hope
of succeeding in a voyage which had formed a darling project of
mine for the last ten years, I could but esteem this moment of
my departure as among the most happy of my life. The party are
in excellent health and spirits, zealously attached to the enterprise,
and anxious to proceed. Not a whisper or murmur of discontent
to be heard among them, but all act in unison and with the most
the men were excited to be on their way, travel was not easy for
them. They fought against the strong current of the Missouri made
worse by the heavy winds of spring weather. Some days they were
not able to make any progress at all, so they would just stop
and camp. On April 26, the expedition came to the confluence (where
the two rivers come together) of the Missouri and Yellowstone
- Yellowstone River confluence
North Dakota Tourism Department
few days later, the Corps encountered the "white bears"
(grizzly bears) the Indians had talked so much about. According
to the Indians, the bears were ferocious and strong, but the men
felt they were in no danger. Why, the Indians only had bows and
arrows, while they had powerful rifles. They quickly changed their
minds when they shot a grizzly eight times and the bear still
was able to chase the hunters into the river!
proved to be a valuable addition to the expedition. She gathered
roots and other edible plants to create a more balanced diet for
the men. She also saved many journals and papers from the Missouri's
current when the white pirogue was blown by a sudden gust of wind
and nearly tipped over.
the end of May the Corps was traveling across what is now northern
Montana. On the afternoon of May 26, Lewis climbed to the top
of a high bluff overlooking the Missouri. In the distance he spotted
snowy mountain tops, and wrote in his journal that he "...beheld
the Rocky Mountains for the first time." Unfortunately, this
was not the Rockies, but a smaller range known as the Highland
Mountains. The Corps would travel another two and one-half months
before they reached the Rockies.
arrived at the falls on June 13, and found five sets of falls
instead of one! They stretched over 18 miles, and instead of taking
one day to get around, as the Indians had said, it took a month.
was a very difficult portage over the falls. The men endured hail
storms, flash floods, grizzly bears, and prickly pear cactus to
get their dugout canoes and supplies past them. They camped at
the end of the falls and a few of the men worked to put Lewis'
collapsible, metal-framed boat together. This boat was to take
the place of the white pirogue that had been to big to carry across
the falls. The collapsible boat leaked, however, and the men had
make two more dugout canoes to replace it. They buried the collapsible
boat next to the portage trail.
July 19, the Corps passed through the "The Gates of the Rocky
Mountains." The river flowed between rocky cliffs that towered
1,200 feet above them. Lewis described the area as "dark
and gloomy." He didn't feel it was possible for anything
to live in such a place. He was surprised to see many bighorn
sheep jumping easily from rock to rock, not worried about falling
from the steep cliffs. Once past the cliffs, they entered a great
valley, which Sacagawea recognized from her childhood.
July 27, the Corps reached the headwaters of the Missouri. Here,
two other rivers joined the one they were traveling on. They had
made it to Three Forks, but still had not seen any Shoshone Indians.
The captains were beginning to worry. They were depending on the
Shoshones in order to continue on - they needed help, directions,
and Clark decided to follow the river that forked to the right.
It seemed to flow most directly from the mountains to the west.
Their travel grew more difficult and, lo and behold, the river
forked again! The men were ready to leave the boats and travel
on land when Sacagawea point to a hill in the distance. She recognized
it from her childhood. Her people called it Beaver's Head and
lived near it during the summer.
of the men, including Clark, were sick, so it was decided that
Lewis should walk ahead and try to find Sacagawea's people. On
August 8, Lewis headed out with three of the men towards Beaver's
continued on across the Continental Divide (he holds the distinction
of being the first U.S. Citizen to cross the Divide). The next
day he and his men came upon three Shoshone women who were out
gathering food. The women fearful of the white men until Lewis
put down his gun and gave them gifts. They then led the men back
to their village and introduced Lewis to their leader, Cameahwait
welcomed Lewis and his men to his village. Lewis asked the chief
what it would be like crossing the Rockies. The chief's answer
was disappointing. Travel by boat was impossible and food was
scarce. An old man of the tribe called Toby, knew of a route over
the mountains, but it was difficult and treacherous.
September 1, the Corps set out along the Continental Divide. Clark
wrote in his journal the next day: "A cloudy morning.
Rained some last night. We set out early... Proceeded on through
thickets in which we were obliged to cut a road, over rocky hillsides
where our horses were in perpetual danger of slipping to their
certain destruction, and up and down steep hills where several
horses fell. Some turned over and others slipped down steep hillsides.
One horse crippled, and two gave out. One load left about two
miles back, the horse on which it was carried, crippled."
They came upon a band of Salish Indians and traded with them
for more horses. Finally, on September 9, they took a break from
their grueling travel, and camped near the banks of a mountain
stream. They named the camp Traveler's Rest.
days later, on September 11, the Corps started out again to tackle
what Sergeant Gass called "the most terrible mountains"
he had ever beheld. In a few days they came to a stream which
flowed to the west. They had crossed the Continental Divide!
was wintertime in the mountains, and the snow grew deeper and
deeper every day they traveled. Toby had a hard time following
the trail, and led the explorers in the wrong direction. They
found their way back over steep, overgrown ground. The rest of
the trail was more of the same. Steep slopes caused horses to
slip and stumble, and sometimes to roll down the rocky slopes.
Luckily, none of them got hurt.
explorers struggled every mile. Finally, on September 17, with
provisions low, and the men hungry and tired, the captains decided
that the best way to survive was to send a party ahead to hunt.
So, Clark took six men and moved on in advance of the rest of
the Corps. They were to hunt for game and for any signs of the
Nez Perce Indians.
September 20, Clark and his men walked out of the wooded mountains
onto a level plain. They did not find any food there, but they
did find the Nez Perce. The tribe's chief, Twisted Hair, welcomed
them and gave them dried salmon and camas root to eat. Clark sent
a man back to tell Lewis the good news.
Hair drew a map of the lands to the west and identified the rivers
that flowed into the Columbia. The Corps stayed with the Nez Perce
two weeks and prepared for the next part of their journey. On
October 7, they were back on the water again, going downstream
on the Clearwater River. The men thought that going downstream
would be much easier than upstream, but it wasn't. The river was
rough and and filled with rapids. They lost one boat to a sharp
rock, but luckily not any of the men that were in it - well, let
me rephrase that: none of the men died. However, Toby, their Indian
guide must of decided racing the rapids was too much for him.
He was seen running away from the camp shortly afterwards!
October 16, the Corps reached the Columbia River. They camped
there for two days and visited with the Yakimas (YAK-eh-mas) and
Walla Wallas (WA-la WA-las) Indians. Once they were back on the
river again, they faced more rapids and difficult travel. Finally,
the river started to rise and fall like an ocean tide, and the
water tasted salty. On November 7, Clark wrote in his journal:
"Ocian in view!" O! The joy!"
joy didn't last very long. The Corps had actually reached the
large estuary (where the river's current meets the sea's tide)
of the Columbia River. They camped on the north shore of the estuary
that night. The next day they were pounded by heavy rains which
dampened them and their spirits even more. The rains continued
for six days, and the men got very hungry, wet, and cold. Finally,
the captains sent Privates Colter, Willard, and Shannon out to
find a better camp. They found a spot on a sandy beach farther
up the north shore.
Corps spent the winter preparing for their return journey. Each
day, they saved any meat they didn't eat and dried it for later.
They made new clothes from elkskin, made new moccasins (Sergeant
Gass reported 388 pairs in his journal!), and repaired their canoes.
And, they stayed wet most of the time. It rained all but twelve
days at Fort Clatsop. Lewis worked on his journals, and Clark
worked on his map of the journey from Fort Mandan to the Pacific.
The two captains also discussed the route of their return journey.
on to 1806 with the Corps