Modern history

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

Over the Bitterroots

September 1–October 6, 1805

The party set out early on September 1, traveling cross-country over high, rugged hills, to today’s North Fork of the Salmon River (Fish Creek to Lewis and Clark), following the Shoshone guide, whom the captains called Old Toby. They were headed almost due north and climbing toward the Continental Divide (on their right, to the east) in rough, seldom-traveled mountainous country, with no Indian trail or any other sign of human presence.

They were entering mountains far more difficult to pass than any American had ever attempted. The country is so remote and rugged that nearly two full centuries later it remains basically uninhabited. The confusion of creeks and ravines cutting through the steep mountainsides has made the route the expedition used one of the most disputed of the entire journey. One expert, Harry Majors, calls the route “the single most obscure and enigmatic of the entire Lewis and Clark expedition.”1

Clark described the route: “thro’ thickets in which we were obliged to Cut a road, over rockey hill Sides where our horses were in [perpetual] danger of Slipping to Ther certain distruction & up & Down Steep hills . . . with the greatest dificuelty risque &c. we made 71/2 miles.”

As the party ascended toward the Divide, the going grew worse. On September 3, it snowed. The last thermometer broke. Clark summed up the misery of the day: “We passed over emence hils and Some of the worst roade that ever horses passed our horses frequently fell.” There was no game in the mountains, save grouse. The expedition consumed the last of its salt pork. At least they got to the Divide (whether at Lost Trail Pass or Chief Joseph Pass is disputed), which they followed for some miles, along the present Idaho-Montana border, before beginning their descent to the Bitterroot Valley, west of the Divide.

There was a hard freeze that night. On September 4, the party fell down a very steep descent to a north-flowing river that Lewis named “Clark’s River” (today’s Bitterroot River). There, at today’s Ross’s Hole, the captains encountered a band of the Salish Indians some four hundred people strong, with at least five hundred horses.

The Salish, whom the captains called Flatheads (a generic term with them, loosely used to signify all Northwest Indians, even though they did not deform their heads as Indians on the Columbia did), were friendly. The presence of Old Toby undoubtedly helped ease the way for the Americans, for the Salish were allies of the Shoshones; indeed, this band was on its way to join Cameahwait’s people at the Three Forks.

diagram

Charles M. Russell, Indians at Ross’ Hole (1912). (Montana Historical Society)

Communication was possible if cumbersome. A Shoshone boy lived with the Flatheads; he could speak with the captains through the usual translation channels.

As he habitually did with previously unknown Indians, Lewis made a vocabulary of the Salish language, taking special care in this instance because the Indians’ throaty, guttural speech led him to conjecture that they were descendants of Prince Madoc and the Welsh Indians. Like many others, Jefferson believed that this persistent myth might well be true, and had instructed Lewis to look for the tribe.

The Salish were not Welsh, but they were—in Private Joseph Whitehouse’s words—“the likelyest and honestst Savages we have ever yet Seen.”2 They were also generous. Although their stock of provisions was as low as that of the expedition, they shared their berries and roots. And they traded for horses at much better prices than the Shoshones demanded, perhaps not aware of how desperate Lewis and Clark were. The captains bought thirteen horses for “a fiew articles of merchendize,” and the Salish were kind enough to exchange seven of the run-down Shoshone ponies for what Clark called “ellegant horses.” The expedition now had approximately thirty-nine horses, three colts, and one mule—for packing, riding, or food in the last extreme.3

On the morning of September 6, the captains directed the men to lighten the loads on the Shoshone horses and pack the excess on the Salish horses. By midafternoon, that task was completed and the party set off down the Bitterroot River (north) while the Salish galloped out for Three Forks and the buffalo hunt. The expedition made ten miles and camped, with nothing to eat but two grouse and some berries. The captains were out of flour and had in the larder only a little corn and the portable soup Lewis had purchased in Philadelphia.

For the next three days, the descent of the wide and beautiful Bitterroot Valley was relatively easy. The expedition made twenty-two miles on the 7th, twenty-three on the 8th, and twenty-one on the 9th. But as they marched, the captains and their men kept looking to their left (west) at the snow-covered Bitterroot Mountains, described by Sergeant Patrick Gass as “the most terrible mountains I ever beheld.”4 The barrier would have to be crossed; how, they could hardly imagine.

The Bitterroot was wide enough to be floated in canoes, but the captains never thought of stopping to make the craft and becoming waterborne again. When they asked Old Toby about its course, he could only inform them that it continued to flow north as far as he knew it and he did not know whether it joined the Columbia River or not (it did, but far to the north). In any case, the absence of salmon on the river told the captains that there had to be a great falls downstream.

Making further geographical inquiries of Old Toby, Lewis learned that a few miles downstream (just west of today’s Missoula, Montana) the Bitterroot was joined by another river (today’s Clark Fork) that flowed from the Continental Divide through an extensive valley. If a party went up the Clark Fork to its source, it could cross the Divide over a low pass and would then descend down a gentle road to the Missouri River near the Gates of the Rocky Mountains. According to Old Toby, “a man might pass to the missouri from hence by that rout in four days.”

Four days! It had taken the expedition fifty-three days to travel from the Gates of the Rocky Mountains to its present location. Whatever emotions Lewis felt when he learned that the party might have saved seven weeks he kept to himself.I

The party camped the night of September 9 at the junction of a stream coming in from the west (today’s Lolo Creek, some ten miles south-southwest of Missoula). Old Toby informed Lewis that at this place the party would leave the Bitterroot River and head almost straight west, up Lolo Creek, and then over the mountains. The ordeal that every man had dreaded every time he looked left was about to begin. Lewis wrote of “those unknown formidable snow clad Mountains,” which the party was about to attempt “on the bare word of a Savage [Old Toby], while “99/100th of his Countrymen assured us that a passage was impracticable.”5

“The weather appearing settled and fair,” Lewis wrote, “I determined to halt the next day rest our horses and take some scelestial Observations.” He called the campground “Travellers rest.”

On the morning of September 10, Lewis sent out all the hunters. They returned with four deer, a beaver, and three grouse. Even more welcome, if possible, Private John Colter brought in three Indians from a tribe that lived across the mountains. The captains called them Flatheads, but they were almost surely Nez Percé. They were in pursuit of a band of Shoshones that had stolen twenty-one horses—proof that the mountains could be crossed. One of the three agreed to remain with the Americans “to introduce us to his relations whom he informed us were numerous and resided in the plain below the mountains on the columbia river, from whence he said the water was good and capable of being navigated to the sea.” He also told Lewis that “some of his relation were at the sea last fall and saw an old whiteman who resided there by himself.” The best news of all, Lewis recorded, was that the Indian said “it would require five sleeps wich is six days travel, to reach his relations.”

Six days’ travel wasn’t so bad. Perhaps those mountains were not so formidable as they appeared.

Further inquiry revealed that the river that flowed into the Bitterroot a few miles north (today’s Clark Fork) received a smaller stream (today’s Blackfoot) some little distance to the east (near the site of today’s Missoula), and that it was this stream the Nez Percé followed to get to a low pass over the Continental Divide, bringing them to the buffalo country in the vicinity of either the Dearborn or the Medicine (today’s Sun) River.

That news confirmed that there were two mountain crossings required to get to the Missouri drainage from the Nez Percé country west of the Bitterroot Mountains. And it told the captains that there were at least two better routes across the Continental Divide than the one they had taken—one via today’s Clark Fork to today’s MacDonald Pass (6,320 feet) down to today’s Helena, a second via the Blackfoot River to today’s Lewis and Clark Pass (elevation 6,000 feet exactly) down to the Great Falls, and a possible third, via Gibbons Pass (6,941 feet), down the Wisdom River to the Jefferson River.

Which of these answered Jefferson’s order to find “the most direct & practicable water communication across this continent,” only exploration would tell. It was much too late in the season to contemplate side journeys at this time—the entire party had to press on to the west, to the Pacific. Come next summer, on the return trip, they could examine the alternate routes; for now, the requirement was to get over the Bitterroots before the fall snows began.

During the night of September 10–11, two horses strayed. Not until 3:00 p.m. were they caught and brought in so the expedition could get started up Lolo Creek on the Nez Percé trail across the mountains (called today the Lolo Trail). It was an expensive delay. The Indian who had volunteered to guide the expedition to his people got impatient and took off. The party made seven miles and camped.

In the morning, Lewis found that his horse had strayed. He remained behind to search for it while Clark proceeded. On arrival at a hot springs that “Spouted from the rocks” and which was “nearly boiling hot” (today’s Lolo Hot Springs), Clark waited for Lewis to come up. When he arrived, the party followed what Clark called a “tolerabl rout” that crossed the Divide, separating the Bitterroot drainage from the waters flowing west. A couple of miles east of today’s Lolo Pass, they came to a beautiful open glade (today’s Packer Meadows). Continuing, the expedition fell down today’s Pack Creek (Glade Creek to Lewis and Clark) and camped.

Clark described the road west of the Divide as “verry fine leavel open & firm.” Although the mountains stretched to the west as far as the eye could see, hopes were high. If the Indian informant was right, and if the road continued fine, in four days the expedition would be through the Bitterroots.

But on September 14, it rained, hailed, and snowed. Worse, Old Toby got lost. The Nez Percé trail followed the ridge line, north of the river the captains called the Kooskooskee (today’s Lochsa), but Old Toby led the party down the drainage to a fishing camp on the Kooskooskee. Indians had recently been there, and their ponies had eaten all the grass—bad luck for the expedition. The road was “much worst than yesterday . . . excessively bad & Thickly Strowed with falling timber . . . Steep & Stoney.”

By the time the men made camp (near today’s Powell Ranger Station), they and the horses were “much fatigued” and famished. Since the hunters had been unsuccessful, “we wer compelled to kill a Colt . . . to eat . . . and named the South fork Colt killed Creek.”

On the 15th, the party followed the Kooskooskee downstream four miles, where Old Toby recognized his mistake and led the men up today’s Wendover Ridge, on the north side of the river, toward the ridge line. The going was incredibly difficult. It was a steep ascent made worse by “the emence quantity of falling timber.” Several of the horses slipped and crashed down the hills. The horse carrying Clark’s field desk rolled down the mountain for forty yards until it lodged against a tree; the desk was smashed, but the horse was unhurt. When the party reached the ridge line (at some seven thousand feet of elevation), there was no water. Using snow, the men made a soup out of the remains of the colt killed the previous day.

The expedition had made only twelve miles, despite “the greatest exertion.” Even more discouraging, Clark wrote that “from this mountain I could observe high ruged mountains in every direction as far as I could See.” There was no way the party was going to cross them in two more days.

September 16 was the worst day the expedition had experienced to date. It began to snow three hours before dawn and continued all day, piling up to from six to eight inches deep. Clark walked in front to find the trail “and found great dificuelty in keeping it” because of the snow. The pine trees were covered with snow that fell on the men as they passed and brushed the limbs. Clark wrote in his journal, “I have been wet and as cold in every part as I ever was in my life.” The party made but thirteen miles, “passing emince Dificuelt Knobs Stones much falling timber and emencely Steep.” The captains ordered a second colt killed, “which we all Suped hartily on and thought it fine meat.”

The horses, in a near-starvation situation, strayed during the night, searching for grass. It took the whole morning to find and bring them in. Not until 1:00 p.m. did the expedition set out. The road was “excessively bad” and the party made only ten miles. It camped at a “Sinque hole full of water.” The hunters had managed to kill only a few grouse, insufficient for supper. This “compelled us to kill Something. a coalt being the most useless part of our Stock he fell a Prey to our appetites.” That was the last of the colts.

The captains talked. The men’s spirits were low. They were approaching the limits of physical endurance. The food supply was all but gone, and there was no hope of finding game.II Lewis and Clark realized that the men—and they themselves—had reached a breaking point.

But to retreat was unthinkable—they would rather die than quit—and in any case impractical, for the five-day journey back to the Bitterroot River was probably beyond their capabilities. They had to go on. But to do so required desperate measures.

The captains concluded that in the morning Clark would go ahead with six hunters—in Lewis’s words, to “hurry on to the leavel country a head and there hunt and provide some provision” to send back to the main party, which would follow under Lewis’s leadership. They hated to split up—in the past seventeen months, they had done so only during the Marias River exploration and in the search for the Shoshones—especially in these god-awful mountains, with no firm idea as to how far ahead the “leavel country” might be.

On the morning of September 18, Clark struck out at first light. That day, Lewis resumed writing in his journal (he had done so only twice in the past three weeks, for unknown reasons; evidently he did so now to maintain a full record of the journey). He ordered the horses brought in early, “to force my march as much as the abilities of our horses would permit.” Unfortunately, Private Alexander Willard allowed his horse to stray. Lewis sent him to search for it while the men ate what was left of the colt for breakfast. At 8:30 a.m., the party got started (Willard rejoined the men late that afternoon, without his horse). Lewis made eighteen miles that day and camped on the side of a steep mountain. He broke out “a skant proportion” of the portable soup, “a few canesters of which, a little bears oil and about 20 lbs. of candles form our stock of provision.”

The situation was critical, Lewis wrote, “the only recourses being our guns & packhorses.” Killing the packhorses would mean abandoning most of the baggage they were carrying, unthinkable with the Pacific still so far away, not to mention the return trip, and the rifles were “but a poor dependance [in a country] where there is nothing upon earth exept ourselves and a few small pheasants [grouse], small grey Squirrels, and a blue bird of the vulter kind [either the pinyon jay or Steller’s jay].”

There was nothing for it but to proceed. In the morning, Lewis got the party going shortly after sunrise. At six miles, “the ridge terminated [at today’s Sherman Peak] and we to our inexpressable joy discovered a large tract of Prairie country lying to the S.W. and widening as it appeared to extend to the W.”

There was an end to the mountains, after all. The plain appeared to be sixty miles distant, but Old Toby assured Lewis “that we should reach it’s borders tomorrow. the appearnace of this country, our only hope for subsistance greately revived the sperits of the party already reduced and much weakened for the want of food.”

Lewis pressed on. “The road was excessively dangerous . . . being a narrow rockey path generally on the side of steep precipice, from which in many places if ether man or horse were precipitated they would inevitably be dashed in pieces.” Late that afternoon, one horse did fall, “and roled with his load near a hundred yards into the Creek. we all expected that the horse was killed but to our astonishment when the load was taken off him he arose to his feet & appeared to be but little injured.” Lewis commented that “this was the most wonderfull escape I ever witnessed.” The expedition’s luck was changing.

Only just in time. In addition to all the other problems, several of the men were sick with dysentery, and nearly all of them suffered from “brakings out, or irruptions of the Skin,” probably caused by venereal disease contracted from the Shoshone women.

The following day, after proceeding two miles, Lewis saw a most welcome sight—“the greater part of a horse which Capt Clark had met with and killed for us.” Clark had also left a note saying he intended to proceed as fast as possible to the plains, where he intended to hunt until Lewis came up. The party “made a hearty meal on our horse beef much to the comfort of our hungry stomachs.”

But as Lewis ate, he got more bad news. One of the packhorses, with his load, was missing. That load was particularly valuable to Lewis, for it contained his stock of winter clothing. He sent Private Lepage—who was responsible for the horse—back to search for it, but Lepage returned at 3:00 p.m. without it. Lewis then sent “two of my best woodsmen in surch of him” and proceeded. The road was bad, as usual, with much deadfall.

That night, the party finished the horse Clark had provided. It wasn’t much. But, sitting around the campfire, cold, hungry, exhausted, and miserable, Lewis summoned the energy to make significant additions to scientific knowledge (if he could get his journals back to civilization). He described the varied thrush, Steller’s jay, the gray jay, the black woodpecker (known today as Lewis’s woodpecker), the blue grouse, the spruce grouse, and the Oregon ruffed grouse, as well as the mountain huckleberry, the Sitka alder, and the western red cedar (called “arborvitae” by Lewis). All but the thrush were unknown to science.

map

On September 21, Lewis didn’t get started until 11:00 a.m., because he had to wait for the horses to be collected, and his own packhorse to be brought in. He traveled down the heavily timbered bottom of a creek where the deadfall was so bad that “it was almost impracticable to proceed.” At five miles, he came to Clark’s campsite on what Clark had named “Hungery Creek as at that place we had nothing to eate.” After six more miles, Lewis came to a small, open bottom “where there was tolerable food for our horses” and camped.

“I directed the horses to be hubbled to prevent delay in the morning,” he wrote. He was “determined to make a forced march tomorrow in order to reach if possible the open country.” The hunters killed a few grouse. Lewis “killd a prarie woolf [coyote],” which, with the leftover horsemeat and some crayfish, provided “one more hearty meal, not knowing where the next was to be found. . . . I find myself growing weak for the want of food and most of the men complain of a similar deficiency and have fallen off very much.”

In the morning, to Lewis’s chagrin, one of the men had “neglected to comply” with the order to hobble his horse. “He plead ignorance of the order.” Not until 11:30 a.m. did the party get started. It had proceeded some two and a half miles when it met Private Reubin Field, a member of Clark’s party, whom Clark had sent to meet Lewis with some dried fish and roots obtained from the Nez Percé. Field said that there was an Indian village some seven miles farther west, that Clark had made a friendly contact with the Nez Percé and had been able to procure food from them. This was great news, as welcome as the fish and roots, which were sufficient “to satisfy compleatly all our appetits.”

After eating, the party proceeded to a village of eighteen lodges, which it reached at 5:00 p.m. The expedition had made 160 miles since it left Traveler’s Rest eleven days ago. It was one of the great forced marches in American history.

Lewis tried to describe his emotions: “the pleasure I now felt in having tryumphed over the rocky Mountains and decending once more to a level and fertile country where there was every rational hope of finding a comfortable subsistence for myself and party can be more readily conceived than expressed, nor was the flattering prospect of the final success of the expedition less pleasing.”

Outstanding leadership made possible the triumph over the Rocky Mountains. Lewis and Clark had welded the Corps of Discovery into a tough, superbly disciplined family. They had built an unquestioning trust in themselves, and knew the strengths and skills of each of their men intimately. They had taken a calculated risk in trusting Old Toby, but their judgment that he knew what he was talking about (even though the talking was in sign language) proved to be justified. In extremely trying conditions—“We suffered everything Cold, Hunger & Fatigue could impart,” Lewis later wrote, as well as “the Keenest Anxiety excited for the fate of [our] Expedition in which our whole Souls were embarked”—the captains managed to keep morale from collapsing.6 The men never sulked, lashed out, demanded to retreat, or insisted on some alternative route. When the captains decided to take the great risk of separating, with Clark going on ahead, no man protested.

Private Field told Lewis that Clark was at a second village, gathering information from the Nez Percé. At dark, Clark returned and joined Lewis. “I found Capt Lewis & the party Encamped,” he wrote, “much fatigued, & hungery, much rejoiced to find something to eate of which They appeared to partake plentifully.” Clark’s experience was that too many roots had made his hunters violently ill, so “I cautioned them of the Consequences of eateing too much &c.”

Clark was accompanied by Twisted Hair, a Nez Percé chief in his mid-sixties whom Clark described as a “Chearfull man with apparant Siencerity.” Clark was the first white man most of the Nez Percé had ever seen. He informed Lewis that there were two villages in the area, called by the captains the “quawmash flats” or the “camas flats” (today’s Weippe Prairie, near Weippe, Idaho), where the Indian women gathered great quantities of camas roots which they made into a kind of bread or cake. He said that at his request Twisted Hair had drawn him a map on a white elk skin of the country to the west.

Twisted Hair showed the creek they were on emptying into the Clearwater River, which was soon joined by a river coming in from the northeast (the North Fork of the Clearwater) and then flowing west to join with the Columbia. It was a five-sleep journey to the Columbia, then another five sleeps to the falls of the Columbia. “At the falls,” Clark said, Twisted Hair “places Establishments of white people &c. and informs that great numbers of Indians reside on all those forks as well as the main river.”

If Twisted Hair was right, the expedition was within ten days of the falls, and a couple of weeks from the ocean. But the captains had learned that either Indian estimates of distances were too optimistic, or the Indians traveled a lot faster than the white men. And that business about white people living at the falls sounded suspicious. Anyway, the expedition wasn’t going anywhere until it found trees big enough to make canoes.

Over the next couple of days, the captains handed out medals to Twisted Hair and three lesser chiefs, along with shirts, knifes, handkerchiefs, and tobacco. These trifles (except for the knives) did not satisfy. At the end of the second day, the Nez Percé indicated they were no longer going to feed the expedition for free. The captains traded from their diminishing supply of goods for more roots, berries, and dried fish.

Clark’s warning about overeating was easier given than followed. Lewis and his men gorged themselves and got sick, Lewis especially so. Most of the party were violently ill for a week, their dysentery producing acute diarrhea and vomiting.

“All Complain of a Lax & heaviness at the Stomack,” Clark wrote, so “I gave rushes Pills.” That was probably the worst thing he could have done; in any case, the following day, September 24, Lewis was so sick he was “Scercely able to ride on a jentle horse. . . . Several men So unwell that they were Compelled to lie on the Side of the road for Some time.” Clark was nothing if not persistent; he handed out more of Rush’s pills.

The sickness was presumably the result of the change of diet, from all meat to all roots and dried fish. Bacteria on the salmon may have contributed.7

On the 25th, Lewis was still suffering from severe gastrointestinal distress. Clark tried giving him some salts and “Tarter emetic,” another laxative, which hurt more than helped. The next day, Clark tried “Salts Pils Galip [jalap, another purgative] Tarter emetic &c.” again with unhappy results. By the 27th, most of the men were still sick, including Lewis; on the 28th, Clark opened his journal entry, “Our men nearly all Complaining of ther bowels, a heaviness at the Stomach & Lax.” Not until the 30th could Clark report “the men recruiting a little.” But they were still on a fish-and-roots diet, which “the men complain of as working them as much as a dost of Salts.”

In short, for over a week the expedition resembled a hospital ward for the critically ill more than it did a platoon of fighting men. Herein lies one of the great stories of American history, even though it is a tale of what didn’t happen rather than what did.

It would have been the work of a few moments only for the Nez Percé to kill the white men and take for themselves all the expedition’s goods. Had the Indians done so, they would have come into possession of by far the biggest arsenal not just west of the Rocky Mountains but west of the Mississippi River, along with priceless kettles, axes, hatchets, beads, and other trade items in quantities greater than any of them would ever see in their lifetimes.

Like the Shoshones, the Nez Percé had had no contact with whites, other than some cheap trade goods that had reached them from Columbia River tribes. They had only one or two inferior rifles. They were constantly harassed by their neighbors who did have guns, especially by the Blackfeet when the Nez Percé made their annual trip over the mountains to the buffalo country.

The Nez Percé were hardly oblivious to their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. According to their oral-history tradition, when they first met Clark and his six hunters—who had also gorged themselves on roots and fish and gotten dysentery—they considered killing them for their weapons. They were dissuaded by a woman named Watkuweis (meaning “Returned from a Far Country”). She had been captured by Blackfeet some six or seven years earlier, taken into Canada, and sold to a white trader. She lived with him, among other traders, for several years before somehow finding her way home. The traders had treated her much better than the Blackfeet had done, so when Clark arrived she told the warriors, “These are the people who helped me. Do them no hurt.”8

First Sacagawea, now Watkuweis. The expedition owed more to Indian women than either captain ever acknowledged. And the United States owed more to the Nez Percé for their restraint than it ever acknowledged. When, in 1877, the army, carrying out government policy, drove Chief Joseph and the Nez Percé from their Idaho home, there were in the band old men and women who had as children been in Twisted Hair’s village.

During the week Lewis was on his back, Clark moved camp to the junction of the North Fork of the Clearwater with the main stream, where there were Ponderosa pines of sufficient size to make canoes. With only a few healthy men and inadequate axes, Clark resorted to the Indian method of canoe-making. Instead of hewing out the trunks, he put them over a slow-burning fire trench and burned them out. Apparently Twisted Hair showed him how to do it. It took ten days to complete four large and one small canoe.

Twisted Hair also promised to look after the expedition’s herd of thirty-eight horses until the Americans came back in the spring on their return journey—Clark had the horses branded with Lewis’s branding iron—and to accompany the party to serve as an intermediary with Indians downstream.

The captains had assumed that when they got out of the mountains they would be in a country with an ample supply of deer and elk. They were wrong. The hunters—those still on their feet—were unsuccessful. Fish and roots purchased from the Nez Percé remained the diet. On October 4, Lewis was still sick. The next day, Clark reported, “Capt Lewis & my Self eate a Supper of roots boiled, which filled us So full of wind, that we were Scercely able to Breathe all night felt the effects of it.”

On October 6, the canoes were finished. Clark made a cache for the saddles and a canister of powder. “I am verry Sick all night,” he recorded, “pane in Stomach & the bowels.” The next day, he opened his journal entry, “I continu verry unwell but obliged to attend every thing.” Evidently Lewis was still so sick he couldn’t even supervise the men’s work. Lewis later wrote, “for my own part I suffered a severe Indisposition for 10 or 12 days, sick feeble & emiciated.”9

Clark had the canoes put into the water and loaded. At 3:00 p.m., the party set out. The river was swift, with many bad rapids. Nevertheless, they made twenty miles. The expedition was once again waterborne, going downstream for the first time since Lewis had turned the keelboat from the Ohio into the Mississippi River, two years earlier. Ahead lay the Pacific.


I. Of course, Old Toby meant it could be done in four days with horses, and Lewis and Clark had no horses when they ascended the Missouri above Great Falls.

II. They were in what is today prime big-game country: out-of-state hunters pay hundreds of dollars for a license and an outfitter to hunt elk and bear in these mountains. But in 1805, such animals were down on the plains and meadows; they were driven into the mountains by the coming of ranchers and farmers.

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