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Lewis and Clark depart Fort Mandan

Lewis and Clark depart Fort Mandan



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After a long winter, the Lewis and Clark expedition departs its camp among the Mandan tribe and resumes its journey West.

The Corps of Discovery had begun its voyage the previous spring, and it arrived at the large Mandan and Minnetaree villages along the upper Missouri River (north of present-day Bismarck, North Dakota) in late October. Once at the villages, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark directed the men to build a sturdy log fort. The following winter was a harsh one, but the expedition had plenty of provisions. The two captains made the best of their enforced halt, making copious notes in their journals and preparing maps of their route. Most importantly, they met frequently with the local Native Americans, who provided them with valuable information about the mysterious country that lay ahead.

READ MORE: Lewis and Clark: A Timeline of the Extraordinary Expedition

As spring came to the upper Missouri, Lewis and Clark prepared to resume their journey. Lewis penned a long report for President Thomas Jefferson that would be sent back down to St. Louis with 16 men traveling on the expedition’s large keelboat. Although Lewis had yet to explore any truly unknown country, his report provided a good deal of valuable information on the upper Missouri River region and its inhabitants. He optimistically predicted the expedition would be able to reach the Pacific and make a good start on the return journey before the coming winter. “You may therefore expect me to meet you at Monachello [Monticello] in September 1806,” he told the president.

In fact, the journey was more difficult and slow than Lewis anticipated. The expedition actually spent the winter of 1805-06 along the Pacific Coast, and Lewis did not finally meet with Thomas Jefferson in Washington, D.C., until January 1, 1807. However, as Lewis and Clark prepared to leave Fort Mandan on this day in 1805, they did not know the trials ahead and were likely filled with optimism and excitement. As the keelboat shoved off and started down the Missouri with Lewis’ report to Jefferson, the Corps of Discovery (and their female guide, Sacagawea) resumed the far more difficult task of rowing their small boats upstream.

That night Lewis wrote in his journal that, “Our vessels consisted of six small canoes, and two large pirogues. This little fleet altho’ not quite so rispectable as those of Columbus or Capt. Cook, were still viewed by us with as much pleasure as those deservedly famed adventurers ever beheld theirs.” As Lewis began his journey into a land “on which the foot of civilized man had never trodden,” he proclaimed this day of departure as “among the most happy of my life.”

READ MORE: Lewis and Clark's Travels Included Dozens of Astonishing Animal Encounters


Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center (North Dakota)

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn, ND

North Dakota Parks and Recreation

The Corps of Discovery lived at Fort Mandan for about 22 weeks during the winter of 1804-05. So it seems fitting that today an impressive Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center shares the story of the Expedition in central North Dakota, in the vicinity of the Native villages.

In Washburn, North Dakota, the Interpretive Center explains how this area was once the crossroads of culture and commerce on the Northern Plains. Here lived the Mandan and Hidatsa peoples who were visited for generations by traders, trappers, and explorers such as Lewis and Clark.

The Center includes large permanent galleries which explain the many facets of life on the Plains. Here you’ll learn about the lives of the Native peoples, the explorers, and the traders. Two galleries feature rotating art and history exhibits.

A short drive away stands a full-size replica of Fort Mandan, where you can get a first-hand experience of what the Corps of Discovery’s life was like.

What you’re sure to enjoy the most is the Center’s nationally certified interpretive staff. The team works hard to make your visit a remarkable learning experience that captures your every sense.

While the Interpretive Center is primarily self-guided, there are both self-guided or interpreter-led tours of the Fort, during the season. And special events are scheduled throughout the year – check their website for details.


Contents

The fort was built of cottonwood lumber cut from the riverbanks. It was triangular in shape, with high walls on all sides, an interior open space between structures, and a gate facing the Missouri River, by which the party would normally travel. Storage rooms provided a safe place to keep supplies. Lewis and Clark shared a room. [2] The men of the Corps of Discovery started the fort on November 2, 1804. They wintered there until April 6, 1805. According to the journals, they built the fort slightly downriver from the five villages of the Mandan and Hidatsa nations.

The winter was very cold, with temperatures sometimes dipping to minus 45 degrees Fahrenheit (-43°C), [3] but the fort provided some protection from the elements. [4] Several of the men of the expedition suffered frostbite due to the severely cold conditions, which set in after only brief exposure. [5]

In addition to seeking protection during the winter, Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark spent much of this period on diplomatic efforts with the several Native American tribes who lived near the fort.

As the expedition was to establish the first official contact between the United States and numerous nations across the territory, President Thomas Jefferson had directed the captains to pursue diplomatic goals. They were to try to establish friendly relations with as many tribes as possible, and to prepare them for the arrival of United States traders to the region. [6] They were also to claim United States territorial sovereignty over the land, which had been occupied by Native Americans for thousands of years. [7] The historic tribes had differing conceptions of property use than did the European Americans.

The Teton people had already shown resistance to the expedition. Lewis and Clark gradually adjusted their goals, working to form alliances with the Arikara, Hidatsa, and Mandan against the Teton. [7]

The Mandan were cautiously favorable toward such an alliance. When the Expedition returned to the area in 1806 while traveling east, the Mandan sent one of their chiefs, Sheheke, on the trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with Thomas Jefferson. [8] But the Mandan did not commit to trading with the United States at the expense of their previous partnership with Great Britain through Canadian traders. [9] The Hidatsa strongly resisted the American diplomatic efforts, often avoiding meeting with Lewis and Clark. [10]

The Corps spent much time during the winter to prepare for their travel in the spring, repairing equipment, making clothing, processing dried meats, etc. In addition, on the way to their winter site, they had used maps made by previous explorers. From that point on in their westward journey, they would enter territory unfamiliar to Europeans according to known documentation. [11] Clark noted that he gathered information from chief Sheheke about the route to the west in order to make a preliminary map. [12]

Not knowing if they would survive the journey, Lewis and Clark used the winter to compile their descriptions of tributaries of the Missouri River, their observations about the Native nations encountered, and their descriptions of plant and mineral specimens which they had collected. All of this material was compiled into a manuscript which they called the Mandan Miscellany. In the spring the captains sent a copy of the manuscript to government officials in St. Louis via their large keelboat. [13] The boat was planned to return before their expected arrival at the Mandan area in 1806.

Lewis and Clark appear to have first met Sacagawea at Fort Mandan. [13] Her husband Toussaint Charbonneau served as a Hidatsa interpreter for the expedition, and the journals imply that she lived at the fort with him. [14] Their son Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, whom she kept with her throughout the expedition, was born on February 11, 1805, possibly at the fort. [15]

When the Corps passed back through the area in August 1806 on their return journey to the East, they found the fort had burnt to the ground. The cause is unknown. Since that time, the Missouri River has slowly eroded the bank and shifted course to the east, putting the former site of the fort underwater. [1]

The Lewis and Clark Fort Mandan Foundation built a replica of the fort along the river, 2.5 miles from the intersection of ND 200A and US 83. Made according to materials and design as described in the expedition's journals, it is located near the North Dakota Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. The fort replica holds reproduction items, such as "Meriwether Lewis' field desk, William Clark's map-making tools, bunks the men slept in, equipment they carried in the field, clothes they wore, and the blacksmith's forge." [1]

In addition, the site has staff to give tours and interpretive programs about the Lewis and Clark Expedition and its significance in United States, state and regional history. Walking trails go along the property and the river. [1]


History & Culture

The Corps of Discovery spent more consecutive days at Fort Mandan than any other place along the Lewis and Clark Trail. Members constructed Fort Mandan as their winter camp in 1804-1805 near the Missouri River and present-day Washburn (35 miles north of Bismarck). Also nearby were Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara villages numbering up to 5,000 inhabitants – more than the population of St. Louis in 1804. The Corps of Discovery was greatly aided by Sakakawea (or Sacagawea), the Native American guide and interpreter. While that is a big part of American history, it's just part of what makes North Dakota legendary.

Lewis and Clark

At Washburn, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center has a river view, replica dugout canoe and gallery devoted to Karl Bodmer prints and actual artifacts from the expedition. This section of the Missouri River appears much as it did two centuries ago. Fort Mandan, the party's winter headquarters, has been reconstructed nearby.

The winter headquarters for the Corps of Discovery was constructed by the expedition and named after its Native American hosts. The fort's location was carefully chosen so as to avoid the politics of associating with one village over another. A full-sized replica of Fort Mandan stands along the Missouri River near Washburn. Visitors will find the fort's rooms looking as if the expedition were still present. Fort Mandan is fully furnished year-round and features a visitor's center with a gift shop. Re-enactments, blacksmith shop and interpretive events tell the legendary history of this fort.

The Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center is a world-class facility that focuses on Lewis and Clark's voyage of discovery through the area from 1804-1806. Exhibits portray all Native American groups encountered by Lewis and Clark. You can touch the four-ton canoe, hand-carved from a cottonwood tree, replicating those used during the expedition. A gallery displays a complete set of reproduction prints by Karl Bodmer, the artist/explorer who followed the explorers' trail a quarter-century later along the Missouri River. Here you can wrap yourself in a buffalo robe or carry a baby cradle on your back like Sakakawea carried her son. You can listen to the peaceful sound of a Mandan Indian flute or a high-stepping fiddle tune like those played by Pierre Cruzatte on the expedition. Visitors can shop for Lewis and Clark books, traditional art, gifts and more. The center is located at Washburn.

Between 3,000 and 5,000 Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Indians inhabited this area between the Knife and Heart rivers near Stanton until the 19th century when disease began wiping out the people and culture. The site has a reconstructed and furnished earthlodge and more than 60 ground depressions. It was here that Lewis and Clark first met Sakakawea.

On-A-Slant Indian Village near the confluence of the Missouri and Heart rivers south of Mandan was one of the traditional Mandan villages. The Corps of Discovery camped across the Missouri River from the site in October 1804, and their journals report that the ruins of the then-abandoned village were still visible. This state historic site has reconstructed earthlodges, an interpretive center and campground facilities.

On-A-Slant Indian Village is part of the 75-acre Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, which features General George Custer and his wife, Libby's, home reconstructed to its 1876 appearance. It also has reconstructed barracks, a commissary store with gift shop, infantry blockhouses, stables and soldiers' cemetery.

The new Confluence Interpretive Center opened in 2003 to tell the story of the confluence of the mighty Missouri and Yellowstone rivers. The 39-foot-high plaza offers visitors the same magnificent view the Lewis and Clark Expedition members enjoyed. Nearby is the reconstructed 1870s Fort Buford infantry barracks.

Keelboat Park, Bismarck

Docking at the Port of Bismarck on the Missouri River, the 100-foot Lewis & Clark Riverboat is a fun place to spend a summer evening dining on buffalo and walleye and enjoying the memorable view. Stroll along the east bank of the Missouri River at Keelboat Park. Climb aboard steamboat and keelboat scale replicas and admire the metal sculptures of Lewis, Clark and Sakakawea, as well as an art sculpture of Thunderbirds created by United Tribes Technical College students.

A section of the great Missouri River has been dammed, creating a magnificent lake named for Sakakawea. With more miles of shoreline than California, the big lake is an angler's paradise with walleye, Chinook salmon and northern pike.

In April 1805, Lewis and Clark's expedition arrived at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers. Twenty-four years later, Fort Union was built and became the largest trading post on the Missouri in the mid-1800s. Today, it features a reconstruction of the Bourgeois House containing a museum, book store and a reconstructed Indian Trade House where you can purchase replicas of actual trade items that were bartered with the Native Americans.

Tours, a living history program and special interpretive events are featured each summer. A spectacular fur trade rendezvous takes place annually the third week in June at Fort Union.

Experience the beauty and wonder of the new galleries and exhibit spaces. Thousands of artifacts and specimens, high-tech displays, and interactive exhibits help tell the story of our state. Start your chronological journey through time with the Adaptation Gallery: Geologic Time. Dinosaur tracks in the Corridor of History floor lead you to the story of early North Dakota life and geology, featuring life-sized skeleton casts of a Tyrannosaurus rex and a Triceratops ready to battle.

Heritage & Heroes

Center for western heritage and cultures. American Indian, ranching and rodeo. Trail drivers, homesteaders and the sport of rodeo and the impact of the horse on the development of life on the plains of North Dakota.

Broadway-style musical show in spectacular Burning Hills Amphitheatre. The surrounding hills resound with music and laughter at this fast-paced, song-and-dance professional extravaganza.

The promise of vast fortunes brought the Marquis de Mores to the fledgling settlement of Little Missouri. In six months, he built a 26-room hunting chateau, founded the town of Medora (named after his wife) and constructed his meatpacking plant.

Gardens

Travel 12 miles north on Highway 3 on United States/Canadian border to the 2,339-acre botanical garden commemorating peace between the United States and Canada. More than 150,000 varieties of flowers, floral clock, Peace Chapel, International Music Camp.

Pipestem Creek, Carrington

Exquisite birding and lodging opportunities. There are three renovated granaries and a train depot. Visit the charming gift shop, which is in a restored 10-sided granary.

Forts

Step into life on America's last frontier at these authentic historic fort sites.


North Dakota: Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site

Interior of Reconstructed Earthlodge at Knife River

Plazak on Wikimedia Commons

During Lewis and Clark’s stay at Fort Mandan from November 2, 1804, through April 7, 1805, they engaged in extensive trade and diplomacy with the Hidatsas and Mandans, who were settled in several nearby villages. Significantly, French-Canadian fur trader Toussaint Charbonneau and his wife, Shoshone-born Sacagawea, were living in the Awatixa Village at the time. Lewis and Clark hired Charbonneau as an inter­preter. He was accompanied by Sacagawea, who proved to be an invaluable member of the expedition.

The Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site preserves the remnants of several settlement sites near the confluence of the Knife River with the Missouri River, most notably Big Hidatsa Village, the Lower Hi­datsa Village, and the Awatixa Village. There are visible remains of earthlodge dwellings, cache pits and tra­vois trails. Established earthlodge settlements along the Knife River date to circa-1525 CE. They thrived until 1837, when smallpox greatly reduced the population. The Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site is publicly accessible as a unit of the National Park System. It is located just north of the town of Stanton, on County Road 37. Big Hidatsa Village is listed as a National Historic Landmark, and the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site Archeological District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Missouri River has long supported life as it stretches thousands of miles through America’s heartland. Close to the Canadian border in North Dakota, the stories of a number of Plains Indian peoples intersect along the banks of the Missouri and Knife Rivers. Here, an hour north of present-day Bismarck, several tribes formed great villages on the plains. Today, the remains of some of these villages are preserved in the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site.

The first people to live in the areas around the Knife River arrived possibly as early as 12,000 years ago. Visitors to the park can see what is left of much later villages of two tribes, the Mandan and the Hidatsa. Like earlier peoples, the Mandan and Hidatsa were hunters, but they also successfully cultivated crops like corn, beans, and squash. The villages grew and the tribes began to trade with the surrounding communities. The Knife River gets its name from the flint found near the river. This flint was used to make knives that were traded. The growing villages along the Knife and Missouri rivers were composed of earthlodges. In addition to touring the location of earthlodge villages, visitors to the park may also explore a reconstructed earthlodge.

Among the Hidatsa, women owned and largely built the earthlodges. The men of the tribe did help with the construction, though women supervised them. Earthlodges consist of a framework of posts and beams covered with branches, grass, and strips of sod. Inside were separate spaces for sleeping, eating, and storage a shrine and a sweatlodge were also common features. Sometimes, the Indians kept horses inside the earthlodge. An earthlodge lasted about 10 years and housed between 10 and 20 people. The largest villages had roughly 120 earthlodges. By the late 1800s, the Hidatsa built fewer and fewer earthlodges, because they began to live in houses as they were moved to reservations. The dimpled plains along the rivers record the time the Hidatsa lived in earthlodge villages. The main villages within the park are Awatixa Xi’e Village (Lower Hidatsa), Awatixa Village (Sakakawea Village), and Big Hidatsa Village. Built between 1525 and the late 1700s, the villages are connected by a trail system marked by signs describing the history.

The Lewis and Clark expedition recorded life among the American Indian groups at Knife River in the 1800s. Lewis and Clark’s 1804 expedition was successful in part because of the assistance provided to them by a couple they met while staying at nearby Fort Mandan. Toussaint Charbonneau and his wife Sakakawea (also known as Sacagawea) served the explorers as interpreters and translators for two years. The village that Sacagawea lived in, Awatixa Village, is also named after her. In addition to helping Lewis and Clark communicate with the peoples they met along their journey, Sacagawea also helped the expedition navigate across the Rocky Mountains. A native Shoshone, she was able to obtain horses from her brother who was chief of the Shoshone tribe. Lewis and Clark gathered valuable scientific information during the expedition and had a good relationship with their American Indian guides.

Life on the plains changed as interactions with Europeans and Americans increased in the following years, and the villages became major trading centers. In the roughly 500 years the villages at Knife River were inhabited, the Hidatsa and Mandan created very developed communities along the Knife and Missouri rivers. The traders and later explorers who came to these communities often remarked on their sheer size. The villages within the park boundaries housed hundreds, if not thousands of people. However, this would not last.

Beginning in the 1830s, steamboat traffic up the Missouri brought more people into contact with the tribes at Knife River. A major smallpox epidemic in 1837 wiped out most of the Mandan and weakened the Hidatsa. Both tribes abandoned the villages within the park about this time and relocated to Like-A-Fishhook Village. A third tribe, the Arikara, joined them. The three tribes formed an alliance known as the Three Affiliated Tribes, although each tribe maintains separate traditions and has a separate history. The Mandan came to the Dakotas beginning in the mid-1200s, while the Hidatsa ancestors appear to have arrived between 1450 and 1550. These Hidatsa ancestors were the first settlers of the villages at Knife River. All three tribes lived only briefly together at Like-A-Fishhook Village before their lands were gradually taken away from them, and they were moved onto the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Later, construction of the Garrison Dam flooded some of their lands.

Knife River Indian Villages, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 564 County Road 37, one-half mile north of Stanton, ND. Within the park, the Big Hidatsa village has been designated a National Historic Landmark. The village has also been listed in the National Register. The park maintains seasonal hours and is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. For more information, visit the National Park Service Knife River Indian Villages website or call 701-745-3300.

Interpretive signs at each village site explain the history of the region and peoples. Other hiking trails are available some may be skied in winter. Ranger-led tours of the reconstructed earthlodge are held hourly in the summertime. An online virtual tour is also available. Tours of the Lower Hidatsa and Sakakawea Village are available on weekends. The annual Northern Plains Indian Culture Fest is held at the park in July.

Knife River Indian Villages is also featured in the National Park Service Lewis and Clark Expedition Travel Itinerary and as a site along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. The park is the subject of an online lesson plan, Knife River: Early Village Life on the Plains. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Placesprogram, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places.


Fort Mandan Nature & History Trail, North Dakota

An interpretive and wildlife site along the Lewis and Clark Trail.

The reconstruction of Fort Mandan in winter photo by Gooseterrain2

Featured National Recreation Trail

&bull View more details for this trail
in the NRT Database

The Fort Mandan Nature and History Trail is located at the replica of Fort Mandan, which served as the wintering post for the Lewis and Clark expedition during 1804-05. The fort is located along the Missouri River west of Washburn, ND.

The loop trail is comstructed of fly ash and cement, which was mixed to form a surface that is natural appearing yet hard enough to accommodate wheelchair traffic.

The trail takes walkers through the riparian forest of cottonwood trees along the bank of the Missouri River. This habitat is filled with wildlife, including whitetail deer, pheasants, wild turkeys, and Canada geese. Bald eagles nest nearby. The Nature Trail provides an opportunity for people to enjoy a pristine environment while they are visiting the historic site.

The Fort Mandan replica includes the Headwaters Fort Mandan visitor Center and Fahlgren Park. Facilities include picnic shelters and a playground area.

The trail is a partnership between the Lewis and Clark Fort Mandan Foundation and many donors who have made it possible, including members of the energy industry, the National Guard, and North Dakota Parks and Recreation.

The length of the trail is 1.1 miles with an average width of six feet. The maximum grade on the trail is 4.8% and the average cross-slope is flat. Uses allowed are hiking, bicycling, and cross-country skiing. Other activities available are fishing and wildlife observation. The visitors' center provides exhibits on the historical aspects of the site.


Fort Mandan

What was once the winter home of the Lewis and Clark expedition from 1804-1805 has now been fully reconstructed for visitors to explore. Today the furnished quarters invite sightseers to imagine the lives of the Corps of Discovery struggling to survive the North Dakota winter more than 200 years ago. Also on site is a visitor center, picnic area, and cross country skiing trails for winter use. Along with a visit to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center just a few short minutes to the east, visitors have the opportunity to get a behind the scenes glimpse of what life was truly like on the Lewis and Clark expedition.

On November 2, 1804, the expedition came to the place where they built their winter quarters. Lewis wrote, “This place we have named Fort Mandan in honour of our Neighbours.” Clark “fixed on a place for to build a fort and Set to work.” As described by Gass, “the huts were in two rows, containing four rooms each, and joined at one end forming an angle. When rasied about 7 feet high a floor of puncheons or split plank were laid, and covered with grass and clay which made a warm loft. The upper part projected a foot over and the roofs were made shed-fashion, rising from the inner side, and making the outer wall about 18 feet high. The part not inclosed by the huts we intended to picket. In the angle formed by the two rows of huts we built two rooms, for holding our provisions and stores.”

The historic site of Fort Mandan is located on privately-owned land along the northeast banks of the Mis­souri, about 12 miles west of the city of Washburn. The exact location is unknown and may be partially sub­merged by the river. A modern reconstruction of Fort Mandan and the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, managed by the North Dakota Department of Parks and Recreation, is located about ten miles downriver.

Exhibits in the Fort Mandan Visitor Center reveal that winter in greater depth, while a children’s play area allows young visitors to discover history with costumes, camp supplies, and more. Our museum store offers a great selection of souvenirs, beverages, and snacks.


Lewis and Clark

Meriwether Lewis (left) and William Clark (right) painted by Charles Willson Peale in 1807.

Independence National Historical Park

Interested in finding a water route to the Pacific and affirming American sovereignty in the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase, President Thomas Jefferson selected Meriwether Lewis to lead an exploratory expedition up the Missouri River. Together with William Clark and a crew of enlisted military and hired boatmen, the Corps of Discovery left St. Louis in May 1804.

Meeting the Tribes

In October 1804, the westbound Lewis and Clark expedition was making its way up the Missouri River when it reached the five earthlodge villages of the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes. Their hospitality allowed the Corps to construct Fort Mandan as a winter refuge, the beginning of a long relationship between the United States and the earthlodge peoples of the Knife and Missouri Rivers.

Fort Mandan

Over the course of their winter stay at Fort Mandan, the members of the expedition engaged in extensive trade and diplomacy with their Indian neighbors. Indian visitors came to Fort Mandan where they exchanged corn and wild game for trade goods. Lewis and Clark also traveled to the different villages, distributing gifts and peace medals to prominent chiefs in an attempt to win their favor.

Sacagawea

The Mandan and Hidatsa also provided valuable information about the territory ahead. When Lewis and Clark hired French trapper Toussaint Charbonneau as an interpreter, they allowed his young Shoshone wife, Sacagawea, to join the expedition due to her knowledge of her homeland to the west. In the end, she proved valuable as an interpreter and ambassador among her own people, all while caring for her infant son Jean Baptiste along the way.

Return to the Villages

On April 7, 1805 Lewis and Clark left the villages and continued west in six dugout canoes and two pirogues. After successfully reaching the Pacific, they returned to the five villages on August 14, 1806, bringing Charbonneau, Sacagawea, and young Jean Baptiste home. During this brief reunion with the people who had given them refuge in the winter of 1804-05, Lewis and Clark convinced Mandan Chief Shekeke and his family to accompany them east to meet President Jefferson. On August 17, 1806, the Corps of Discovery left the Knife River Villages for the last time.

Had Lewis and Clark not spent the winter of 1804-1805 among the Mandan and Hidatsa, the outcome of the expedition might have been quite different. The relationships forged between these different cultures proved invaluable for the success of the expedition, an expedition that marked a new era of contact and change at the Knife River Villages.

Today

Today, two of the five earthlodge villages visited by Lewis and Clark are located at Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site: the Hidatsa (Big Hidatsa) and Awatixa (Sakakawea) Villages. The Awatixa Village is also known as Sakakawea Village because Charbonneau and Sacagawea resided there when they joined the expedition.


Lewis and Clark depart Fort Mandan - Apr 07, 1805 - HISTORY.com

TSgt Joe C.

After a long winter, the Lewis and Clark expedition departs its camp among the Mandan Indians and resumes its journey West along the Missouri River.

The Corps of Discovery had begun its voyage the previous spring, and it arrived at the large Mandan and Minnetaree villages along the upper Missouri River (north of present-day Bismarck, North Dakota) in late October. Once at the villages, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark directed the men to build a sturdy log fort. The following winter was a harsh one, but the expedition had plenty of provisions. The two captains made the best of their enforced halt, making copious notes in their journals and preparing maps of their route. Most importantly, they met frequently with the local Indians, who provided them with valuable information about the mysterious country that lay ahead.

As spring came to the upper Missouri, Lewis and Clark prepared to resume their journey. Lewis penned a long report for President Thomas Jefferson that would be sent back down to St. Louis with 16 men traveling on the expedition’s large keelboat. Although Lewis had yet to explore any truly unknown country, his report provided a good deal of valuable information on the upper Missouri River region and its inhabitants. He optimistically predicted the expedition would be able to reach the Pacific and make a good start on the return journey before the coming winter. “You may therefore expect me to meet you at Monachello [Monticello] in September 1806,” he told the president.

In fact, the journey was more difficult and slow than Lewis anticipated. The expedition actually spent the winter of 1805-06 along the Pacific Coast, and Lewis did not finally meet with Thomas Jefferson in Washington, D.C., until January 1, 1807. However, as Lewis and Clark prepared to leave Fort Mandan on this day in 1805, they did not know the trials ahead and were likely filled with optimism and excitement. As the keelboat shoved off and started down the Missouri with Lewis’ report to Jefferson, the Corps of Discovery (and their female guide, Sacagawea) resumed the far more difficult task of rowing their small boats upstream.

That night Lewis wrote in his journal that, “Our vessels consisted of six small canoes, and two large pirogues. This little fleet altho’ not quite so rispectable as those of Columbus or Capt. Cook, were still viewed by us with as much pleasure as those deservedly famed adventurers ever beheld theirs.” As Lewis began his journey into a land “on which the foot of civilized man had never trodden,” he proclaimed this day of departure as “among the most happy of my life.”


History & Culture at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park

When Capt. William Clark wrote these words in his journal on November 7, 1805, he was not standing at the Pacific Ocean but the Columbia River estuary. It would be another couple of weeks before he and Capt. Meriwether Lewis would stand at what they had “been so long anxious to see.” By then they had traveled more than 4,000 miles across the North American continent with a contingent of 31 explorers, mostly U.S. Army enlisted men, known as the Corps of Discovery.

The expedition was President Thomas Jefferson’s idea. He had for years been fascinated by the vast and virtually unknown territory west of the Mississippi River, and in June 1803 he announced plans to send an exploratory party overland to the Pacific. He had chosen Lewis to head it, and Lewis selected Clark, his friend and former commanding officer to share the responsibilities. They were to explore the Missouri River to its source, then establish the most direct water route to the Pacific, making scientific and geographic observations along the way. They were also to learn what they could of Indian tribes they encountered and impress them with the technology and authority of the United States.

The explorers started up the Missouri River from near St. Louis on May 14, 1804. After a tedious journey of five months, they wintered at Fort Mandan, which they built near the Mandan Indian villages 1,600 miles up the Missouri. Here they acquired the interpreting services of Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian trader, and his young Shoshone wife, Sacagawea, accompanied by their infant son, Jean Baptiste.

In April 1805 the Corps of Discovery left Fort Mandan and followed the Missouri and its upper branches into an unknown world. Along the Lemhi River, in what is now Idaho, Sacagawea's people provided horses and a guide for the grueling trip over the Continental Divide. In November 1805, after some 600 miles of water travel down the Clearwater, Snake, and Columbia rivers, they finally sighted the Pacific.

Within 10 days of arriving on the coast, Lewis and Clark decided to leave their storm-bound camp on the north shore and cross the river, where elk were reported to be plentiful. Lewis, with a small party, scouted ahead and found a "most eligible" site for winter quarters. On December 10, 1805, the men began to build a fort about two miles up the Netul River (now Lewis and Clark River). By Christmas Day they were under shelter. They named the fort for the friendly local Indian tribe, the Clatsop. It would be their home for the next three months.


J ournals of the L ewis & C lark E xpedition

Lewis's extensive geographical treatise of the Missouri River, which is printed first in this section, is found in his Codex O (pp. 69–128) it is in a sense a complement to Clark's 1805 map of the West (Atlas maps 32a, 32b, 32c), and like it was prepared at Fort Mandan. It combines the captains' actual observations of these tributaries where they entered the Missouri with information received from traders and Indians about the upper reaches of these streams and their own tributaries. Lewis has filled in the gaps in his information—and his misunderstanding of some of it—with speculation. As might be expected, the picture becomes more sketchy and inaccurate the farther one goes from the Missouri and the homes of his Indian informants. The most interesting part is perhaps the conjectural picture of the Missouri above Fort Mandan and the Yellowstone, all of it based on Indian information. Lewis was ready to pronounce on the importance of the junction of the Missouri and the Yellowstone before he had seen it.

In a few instances it is clear that Lewis has drawn on earlier notes. His description of St. Charles, Missouri, at the beginning of the document reproduces almost verbatim his entry for May 20, 1804, in Codex Aa. The description of the Platte is a revised version of the material on document 35 of the Field Notes, dated July 21, 1804. Other geographical notes of the same sort, now apparently lost, undoubtedly went into the present document, and Lewis would also have consulted Clark's journals.

Some other items that he may have drawn on were done by Clark at an unknown time. Or, these items may have post-dated Lewis's summary and may even be postexpeditionary documents that were prepared for Nicholas Biddle as he worked with the journals in 1810. Two items are from the papers discovered in Biddle's estate by his grandsons in 1913 and deposited with the American Philosophical Society some time later. They were the first and third pieces of the material known as the "seven manuscript items" (see Appendix B,) and have never been published. They may, in fact, be one document that was separated at some point with their apparent order reversed in their present arrangement. Believing them to be preliminary drafts or copies of Lewis's material, made either during or after the expedition and differing from the main document only in style and wording, we do not print the Clark pieces here. Likewise, two small tables from a larger document at the Missouri Historical Society, mentioned below as Clark's "A Summary Statement . . . in the year 1804," closely follows Lewis's lists of affluents of the Kansas and Platte rivers. Notes to Lewis's summary will mention areas of substantial differences with these sources.

Clark's table covering nearly the same information as Lewis's summary appears in his Codex C (pp. 248–53, reading backward). It is a tabular version of Lewis's descriptive narrative, and it too includes the conjectural depiction of the Missouri above Fort Mandan and of the Yellowstone. This document also has its counterparts and they too are unclear as to timing or date of composition. Two items are similar to it in form and content: (1) Clark's "Names of remarkable places Rivers Creeks Empping into the Missouri," and (2) Clark's "A Summary Statement of the Rivers, Creeks & most remarkable places, their Distances &c. &c. from the mouth of the Missouri, as high up that River as was explored in the year 1804." Both items are loose, letter-size sheets at the Missouri Historical Society. Clark also made what appear to be postexpeditionary copies in two other notebooks, Codex N and Voorhis No. 4. Both cover not only the material gathered up to Fort Mandan, but also continue their tables through the rest of the journey. Since no significant differences have been discovered among these documents, only Clark's summary from Codex C is printed here.

A final historic document is included in this section. Clark made an undated table of distances in his Field Notes (documents 66 and 67) in which he added the latitudes of prominent points along the Missouri besides giving the mileage figures which correspond to his summary in Codex C. Similar material is also found in Codex C, p. 247, but much abbreviated, and in Voorhis No. 4, also less detailed.

The final item in this section is a combined table of Lewis and Clark's lists of the Missouri's affluents together with their modern equivalents. On the left is a combination of all the streams and points mentioned by the men in their various lists, while the material on the right identifies the places by their modern names. In some instances it has been difficult to determine the exact river, creek, or island to which the captains refer, therefore the date of the expedition's passing of the site is noted. The same is done for points that are disputed or for those which involve considerable discussion. At the relevant date and in the journal entry's notes readers will find a full discussion of the locale. The identifications are taken from the annotation to the daily entries, where readers will find sources for these determinations. Locations given for streams refer to their mouths.

[Lewis]

A Summary view of the Rivers and Creeks, which discharge thems[elves] into the Missouri containing a discription of their characters and peculiarities, their sources and connection with other rivers and Creeks, the quality of the lands, and ther apparent face of the country through which they pass, and the width, and distance of their entrances from each other to which is also added a short discription of some of the most remarkable points and places on the Missouri taken from the information of Traders, Indians & others together with our own observations, from the junction of that river with the Mississippi, to Fort Mandan.—

The confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers is situated in 89° 57' 45" Longitude West from Greenwich, and 38° 55' 19.6" North Latitude. Ascending the Missouri from hence, at the distance of 21 miles, you arrive at the Village of St. Charles, situated on the North bank of the river, in a narrow tho' elivated plain, which is bounded in the rear by a range of small hills hence the appellation of Petit cote, a name by which, this village is better known to the inhabitants of the Illinois, than that of St. Charles. The village is bisected or divided into two equal parts by one prinsipal streed about a mile in length, runing nearly parallel with the river. It contains a Chapple, one hundred dwelling houses and about 450 inhabitants. the houses are generally small and but illy constructed. a great majority of the inhabitants are miserably poor, illiterate, and when at home, excessively lazy tho' they are polite, hospitable and by no means deficient in point of natural genious. they live in great harmony among themselves, and place as implicit confidence in the doctrines of their speritual pastor, (the Roman Catholic priest) as they yeald passive obedience to the will of their temporal master, the Commandant. A small garden of vegetables is the usual extent of their cultivation. this labour is commonly imposed on the old men and boys— those in the vigor of life view the cultivation of the soil as a degrading employment, and in order to gain the necessary subsistence for themselves and families, either under take hunting voyages on their own account, or engage themselves as hirelings to such as posses sufficient capital to extend their traffic to the natives to the interior parts of the country. on those voyages in either case, they are frequently absent from their families or homes, the term of six, twelve, or eighteen months, during which time they are always subjected to severe and incessant labour, exposed to the ferosity of the lawless savages, the vicissitudes of weather and climate, and dependant on chance and accedent alone, for food, raiment, or relief in the event of malady yet they undertake those voyages with cheerfullness, and prefer the occupation of the hunter, or engage, to that of the domestic, and independent farmer.—

Ascending the Missoury at the distance of 12 miles, Bonhomme Creek discharges itself on the S. side. it is 23 yards wide at it's entrance, is of no great length, passes through a fertile well timbered country, inhabited by American emigrants principally.—

at the distance of 9 miles higher up we pass the mouth of the Osage woman's river, which discharges itself on the N. side it is 30 yards wide at it's entrance, heads with two small streams which discharge themselves into the Mississippi a small distance above the mouth of the Illinois River, is navigable for perogues some miles during the spring season, and waters a fertile well timbered country inhabited by about fifty American families. this part of the country is generally called Boon's settlement, having derived it's name from it's first inhabitant Colo. Daniel Boon, a gentleman well known in the early settlement of the state of Kentuckey.

About 9 [2] miles higher up, and 69, from the Mississippi, Chaurette Creek falls in on the N. side. it is 20 yards wide at it's mouth, waters a tolerable country well covered with timber, but is of no great extent. it heads with the waters of the River O cuivre [3] a branch of the Mississippi.—immediately below the mouth of this creek five French families reside, who subsist by hunting and a partial trade w[h]ich they mantain with a few detatched Kickapoos who hunt in their neighbourhood. this is the last settlement of white persons which we meet with in ascending the Missouri.

At the distance of 34 miles high up the Gasconade disembogues on the S. side behind a small Island covered with willow. at it's entrance it is 157 yards wide, but is much narrower a little distance up, and is not navigable, (hence the name gasconade ) [4] this river is of no great length, heads with the Marameg & St. Francis rivers. the country watered by this river, is generally broken, thickly covered with timber and tolerably fertile. the hills which border on the Missouri near the mo[u]th of this river are about 300 feet high, containing excellent limestone in great abundance. I have observed in ascending the Missouri to this place, that whenever the river washes the base of the hills on either side, it discloses large quarries of this stone, lying in horizontal stratas, from ten to 40 feet in thickness. this stone is of light brown colour, with a smal tint of blue fracture imperfect conchoidal when broken it presents the appearance of a variety of small shells and other marine substances, of which it seems to be entirely composed. in this solid and massive rock, are inclosed stones of yellowish bron flint, of bulbous and indeterminate shapes, from an ounce to ten or twelve pounds weight. these stratas of limestone are not unusually found overlaying a strata of freestone, or soft sandstone, from two to twenty feet in thickness. this stone produces lime of an excellent quality, and is the same—with that, which makes it's appearance on the Mississippi from Cape Gerrardeau, to the entrance of the Missouri. [5]

Ffteen [6] miles higher up pass Muddy River which falls in on the N side. this river waters a most delightfull country the land lies well for cultivation, and is fertile in the extreem, particularly on the Missouri, both above and below this river for many miles it is covered with lofty and excellent timber, and supplyed with an abundance of fine bould springs of limestone water. this river is 50 yards wide several miles above it's mouth.—

2 miles higher up Muddy creek discharges itself it is 20 yards wide at it's mouth, heads with cedar Creek, and the branches of Muddy river. the country through which it passes is similar to that last mentioned.—

At the distance of 19 miles higher up, you arrive at the mouth of the Osage River being 137 miles from the junction of the Missouri and Mississippi. it is 397 yards wide at it's mouth, opposite to which, the Missouri is 875 yards wide. it disembogues on the S. side just above a cluster of small Islands. it takes it's rise in an open country of Plains and Praries, with some of the Northern branches of the Arkansas some of it's tributary streams on it's North side, also have their souces in a similar country, with the Southern branches of the Kanzas river. The rivers Arkansas and Kanzas circumscribe the length of this river, and interlock their brances to the West of it. The country watered by this river, is generally level fertile, tho' it is more broken on the lower portion of the river the bottom lands are wide, well timbered, and but partially liable to inundation the soil consists of a black rich loam many feet in debth. the uplands also consist of a dark loam overlaying a yellow or red clay [7] a majority of the country consist of plains intersperced with groves of timber. the timber still diminishes in quantity as you proceed Westwardly with the river. on the South side of this river 30 leagues below the Osage Village, there is a large lick, at which some specimenes of the bones of the Mammoth have been found these bones ar said to be in considerable quantities, but those which have been obtained as yet, were in an imperfect state. [8] Mr. Peter Chouteau, a gentleman of St. Louis, mande an attempt some years since to explore this lick, but was compelled to desist from his labour, in consequence of the quantity of water discharged into the lick from a neighbouring spring, which he had not the means or the leasure to divert since which time, no further attempt has been made. The specimens obtained by Mr. Couteau were large but much mutilated. the Osage river is navigable 120 leages for boats and perogues of eight or ten tons burthen, during the fall and spring seasons in winter it's navigation is obstructed by ice, and during the Summer months it experiences an unusual depression of it's waters, a characteristic of most streams, which have their sources in an open plain country, or which, in their courses pass through a majority of that discription of lands. the bed of the river is generally composed of mud, gravel and sand, and is but little obstructed by rocks or driftwood.—

At the distance of five miles above the mouth of the Osage river, Murrow Creek falls in on the S side, 20 yards wide at it's mouth and navigable for perogues a few miles. it takes it's rise with the waters of the Osage river and those of Salt river (branch of the Missouri) it traverses in it's course to the Missouri, a tolerable country, well timbered and waterd. the mouth of this creek is the point at which the Saukes, Foxes, and Ayauways usually pass this river wars with the Osages.—

7 miles higher up, Cedar Creek falls in on the N. side, above an Island, on which there is Cedar, hence the name of the creek. it heads with muddy creek, and passes through a delightfull country in it's course to the Missouri. it is well timbered and abounds in springs of excellent water.—

at the distance of ten miles further you pass the mouth of Good-woman's Creek, about 20 yards wide. opposite to the entrance of this creek the Missouri washes the base of a high hill which is said to contain lead ore, ore surch for this ore however pruved unsuccessfull and if it does contain ore of any kind, it must be concealed. this Creek takes it rise in the highlands with Split rock Creek and passes through a fertile country well timbered and watered. in the last nine miles of it's course it passes through an extensive fertile bottom nearly parallel with the Missouri.—

Nine miles higher you pass the mouth of Manitou Creek on the S. Side. it is but a small creek head a few miles back in an open country the land abut it's entrance on the Missouri are of an excellent quality and covered with good timber.—

Nine miles further Split rock Creek discharges itself on the N. side, twenty yards wide and navigable for perogues some miles. it waters a well timbered country the land about the mouth, appears to be of the second quality, or a least inferior to that heretofore seen in ascending the Missouri.—

at the distance of 3 miles, still ascending, Salt river disembogues on the S. side being 180 miles from the entrance of the Missouri. it is 30 yards wide and navigable for perogues 40 or 50 miles passes through a delightfull country, intersperced with praries. so great is the quantity of salt licks and springs on this river that it's waters are said to be brackish at certain seasons of the year. one large lick and spring are situated on it's S. E. bank about nine miles from the Missouri. this river heads with the waters of the Osage river, Murrow Creek, and Mine river.—

Ascending the Missouri ten miles further we arrive at the entrance of Manitou river, which disembogues on the N. side, just below a high clift of limestone rock, in which we found a number of rattle snakes of large size. this stream is about 30 yards wide, and is navigable for perogues some miles. about three miles from the Missouri on the lower side of this river there are three small springs of salt water which do not appear to be of the best quality. the country about the mouth of this river, particularly on it's lower side, is a charming one the soil fertile in the extreme, and well covered with excellent timber. the country on the upper portion of this river is but little known.—

At the distance of nine miles further, Good-woman's river falls in on the N side it is 35 yards wide at it's entrance meanders through an extensive rich bottom nearly parallel with the Missouri for some miles before it discharges itself. it is navigable for perogues 15 or 20 miles, waters a fine farming country interspeced with open plains and praries, and heads with the little Shariton river.—

At the distance of nine miles Mine river discharges itself on the S. side. it derives it's name from some lead mines which are said to have been discoved on it, tho' the local situation, quality, or quantity of this ore, I could never learn. this river is 70 yards wide at it's entrance, navigable for perogues 80 or 90 miles, and through the greater part of it's course runs parellel with the Missouri at the distance of 70 miles up this river it is only 5 leagues distant from the Missouri. it takes it's rise in an open hilly country with Bluewater river and some of the Northern branches of the Osage river. the courant of this river is even and gentle. The country through which it passes is generally fertile, and consists of open plains and praries intersperced with groves of timber. near it's entrance, the country is well timbered and watered, and the lands are of a superior quality.

Twenty two miles higher up the two Shariton rivers discharge themselves on the N. side, the smaller failing into the larger on it's lower side at a small distance from the Missouri. the little Shariton river heads with Good-woman's river, and is 30 yards wide at it's entrance this country has not been much explored, the portion of it which is known is fertile, and consists of a mixture of praries and woodlands. The larger Shariton is 70 yards wide above the entrance of the smaller, and is navigable for perogues nearly to it's source. it takes it's rise near the Red Cedar river a Western brance of the river Demoin. the country through which it passes is level, and fertile, consisting of an irregular mixure of woodlands and praries, each alternately predominating in different parts.

Twenty two miles higher up, the Grand river disembogues on the N. side just above a beatifull and extensive prarie in which the ancient village of the Missouris was situated. Old Fort Orleans is said to have stood on the lower point of an Island a few miles below this place, no traces of that work are to be seen. [9] this river is 90 yards wide at it's entrance and is said to be navigable for boats and perogues a 〈very〉 considerable distance. it heads with the Rackoon river a branch of the Demoin. The country through which it passes is similar to that discribed on the large Shariton river. about the entrance of this river the lands are extreemly fertile consisting of a happy mixture of praries and groves, exhibiting one of the most beatifull and picteresk seens that I ever beheld.—

At the distance of eight miles Snake creek falls in on the N. side. 18 yards wide at it's entrance. it runs parallel with the Missouri nearly it's whole extent, passing through a delightfull country, well timbered and watered.—

Thirty seven miles higher up Tigers Creek falls in on the N. side, opposite to the upper point of a large island. some excellent bottom lands in the neighbourhood of it's mouth interior country not known.—

Fifteen miles higher up Eubert's river and Creek fall in on the S. side, opposite to an island, which concealed their entrances from our view. they are but small streams, head with the Mine river, and water an excellent country, consisting of a mixture of praries and woodlands.—

Twenty six miles further Hay Cabbin Creek falls in on the S. side. it heads near the Bluewater river and passes through a good country. the land is very fine and well timbered near it's mouth.—

Seventeen miles above, Bluewater river falls in on the S. side 36 yards wide at it's entrance and navigable but a short distance. it has one considerable fall, and several rappids well situated for water-works. it heads in an open country with Mine river, and passes through a roling country. the lands are tolerably good it's bottom lands are wide, fertile and sufficiently covered with good timber some beatifull natural meadows are also seen on it's borders.—

Still assending the Missouri, at the distance of 9 miles the Kanzas river disembogues itself on the South side being 364 miles from the junction of the Missouri and Mississippi. This river takes it's rise not very distant from the principal branch of the Arkanas in a high broken sandy country, forming the Southern extremity of the black hills . from hence it takes it's course nearly East about 300 leagus through fertile and leavel, plains & praries, intersperced with groves of timbered land it then enters a country equally fertile and well timbered, through which it meanders about 20 leagues further and discharges itself into the Missouri. it has been navigated 200 leagues and there is good reason to believe from the appearance of the river and country at that point that it is navigable for perogues much further perhaps nearly to it's source. The rivers Platte and Arkansas interlock their branches West of this stream. there are no obstructions to the navigation of the Kanzas, it's current is gentle, and the bed of the river composed of soft loam, gravel and sand in the summer and autumn it's waters are transparent. about ¾ of a mile from the entrance of this river on it's North side there is a handsome bluff about 100 feet high, which furnishes an excellent situation for a fortication there is an abundance of excellent timber for the purpose immediately at the place.— The Colateral branches of this river, and the most remarkable places on the same so far as we have been enabled to inform ourselves are as follow— [10]

On the West side of the Republican river, about sixty leagues above it's junction with the Kanzas, a small creek falls in on the S. W. side, called Salt creek , the water of this creek is excessively salt. salt in it's dry and granulated state, is to be found in large quantities on the borders of this stream throughout it's whole extent the earth on which it forms, is remarkably furm, and the salt can be readily collected, free from any extranious substance, by sweeping with a brush of feathers.—

Ten miles higher up the Little river Platte falls in on the N. side, 60 yards wide at it's entrance. it heads in open plains between the Nadawa and grand rivers, and through the principal part of it's course passes through high open plains interspersed with groves of timber. 6 or seven leagues before it discharges itself into the Missouri, it meanders through a high fertile well timbered bottom nearly parallel with that river, and receives in it's course severall handsom creeks, which discharge themselves into it from the hills. at the distance of 12 leagues it's navigation is obstructed by a considerable fall, above which, it is shallow and interrupted by such a number of rappids, that it is no further practicable. This fall, and many of the rapids afford excellent situations for gristmills, and other waterworks.—

Twenty five miles further Turkey Creek falls in on the S. side. this creek is but small, passes through open bottoms nearly parallel with the Missouri, and in rear of an Old Kanzas Village. This creek once furnished water to an old French garrison situated near it's mouth.— [11]

Thirty three miles further Independance creek falls in on the S. side, a little below the second old village of the Kansas is 22 yards wide at it's mouth it possesses some excellent bottom lands, and waters a beatifull and fertile country consisting of high open plains and praries principally on it's borders, and about it's entrance there is a sufficient quantity of timber. it takes it's rise with the Stranger's wife river, and the waters of Woolf river. we knew of no name by which this creek was called, and therefore gave it that of Independance , from the circumstance of our having arrived at it's mouth on the 4th of July 1804.—

At the distance of 48 miles higher up Nodaway river discharges itself on the N. side nearly opposite to the upper point of a large Island, which bears it's name. it is 70 yards wide some miles above it's mouth, and is navigable for perogues a very considerable distance. it takes it's rise with grand River, Nish-nah-ba-to-na, and the waters of the river Demoin and passes in it's course to the Missouri through a fine fertile country, consisting of a mixture of woodlands and plains the lands about it's mouth are well timbered and waterd.—

Fourteen miles further up the Missouri, Woolf river discharges itself on the S. side. it is 60 yards wide at it's entrance, and navigable for perogues a considerable distance takes it's rise with the waters of the Kanzas and Ne-ma-haw rivers, and in it's course to the Missouri passes through a level fertile country principally open plains and praries, tho' generally well watered and possesses a sufficient quantity of timber on it's borders and near it's mouth. great quantities of grapes, plumbs & raspberries are found in the neighbourhood of this stream.—

Sixteen miles higher up, Big Ne-ma-har falls in on the S. side, opposite to an Island covered with willows it is 80 yards wide, and navigable for large boats some distance, and for perogues nearly to it's source. it heads with Blue-water river, branch of the Kanzas, and throught it's whole course, passes through rich, and level plains, and praries. there is some timber on it's borders, and about it's entrance, it's tributary streams are also furnished with some timber. the country is well watered.

Three miles further the Tarkio Creek falls in on the N. side twenty three yards wide at it's entrance it is navigable for perogues a short distance. it heads with the Nadiway and passes through a tolerable country of plains and woodlands.—

Twenty five miles higher up The Nish-nah-ba-to-na River discharges itself opposite to the lower point of an Island on the N. Side, and is 50 yards in width at it's entrance. it heads with the Nadawa river and passes through a fertile country deversifyed with plains meadows and woodlands considerable bodys of the latter appear in some parts of this country. at the Bald-pated prarie , it enters the Missouri bottom and approaches that river within 300 paces, when it returns again to the highlands, and continues it's course along the foot of the same about 30 miles before it discharges itself. at the Bald pated prarie it is 40 yards wide, possesses considerable debth of water, and is navigable many miles the country lying between the Missouri and this river from the Balld pated prarie nearly to it's mouth, is one of the most beautiful, level and fertile praries that I ever beheld it is from one to three miles in width. there is a considerable quantity of timber on the banks of the Missouri, and but little on the Nishnabatona.—

At the distance of eight miles higher up, the Little Ne-ma-har River falls in on the S. side, 40 yards wide. it heads with salt River branch of the River Platte, and passes through an open fertile country inersperced with groves of timber. it is navigable some miles for large perogues.— there are several handsome streams of fine water, which fall into the Missouri both above and below the mouth of this river in it's neighbourhood.—

Fifty two miles higher up, Weeping water Creek falls in on the S. side. it is 25 yards wide at it's entrance, heads in high broken plains near Salt river, and passes through a roling country, mostly uncovered with timber and not very fertile there is a scant proportion of timber on it banks and some clumps of trees are scattered over the face of the country. there is some handsom bottom lands on this stream, and the country is generally well wartered.—

Thirty two miles higher up, and distant 630 [blank] from the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi, the great river Platte disembogues on the S. side. The steady, regular, and incessant velocity of this stream, is perhaps unequaled by any on eath notwithstanding it's great rapidity the surface of the water continues smooth, except when occasionally interrupted by a boiling motion, or ebullition of it's waters. this motion of the water, is also common to the Missouri, and Mississippi, below the mouth of that river and always takes place in the most rapid part of the current in this manner the water, is seen to rise suddenly many inches higher than the common surface, then breaking with a rappid and roling motion extends itself in a circular manner in every direction arround interrupting the smooth, tho' rappid surface of the water for many yards. this ebullition of the water of those rivers, is a singular phenomenon, nor do I know to what cause to attribute it, unless it be, the irregular motion of large masses of sand and mud at their bottoms, which are constantly changing their positions. The bed of the river Platte is composes almost entirely of white sand, the particles of which, are remarkably small and light these collecting, from large masses, which being partially buoyed up, are hurryed along at the bottom by this impetuous torrent, with irresistible force sometimes obstructed by each other, suddonly stop and form large sandbars in the course of a few hours, which are again as suddenly dissipated to form others, and to give place perhaps to the deepest channel of the river. From the experiments and observations we are enabled to make, with rispect to the comparitive velocity of the currents of the Mississippi, Missouri and Platte rivers, it results, that a vessel will float in the Mississippi below the mouth of the Missouri, at the rate of four mils an hour in the Missouri from it's junction with the Mississippi to the entrance of Osage river at the rate of 5½ to 6 miles an hour from thence to the Kanzas, from 6½ to 7 from thence to the Platte, from 5½ to 6 miles an hour, while that of the Platte is at least 8. The current of the Missouri above the entrance of the Platte is equal to about 3½ miles an hour as far as the mouth of the Chyenne river, when it abates to about 3 miles an hour, with which it continues as far as we have yet ascended it, and if we can rely on the information of the Indians, it's current continues about the same to the falls of the Missouri, situated five hundred miles above Fort Mandan.

The river Platte does not furnish the Missouri with it's colouring matter, as has been asserted by some but it throws into it immence quanties of sand, and gives a celerity to it's current, of which it does not abate untill it joins the Mississippi. The water of the Platte is turbid at all seasons of the year, but it is by no means as much so, as that of the Missouri the sediment it deposits consists of small particals of white sand, while that of the Missouri is composed principally of a dark rich loam in much greater quantity.— This river has in some few instances been navigated as high as the Pania Village with perogues, but is attended with infinate labour and risk. Hunters have also ascended this river in small canoes as high as the Woolf river, a distance of 35 leagues and the savages sometimes decend in small leather canoes made of a Buffaloe's skin. When the Plat enters the Missouri it's superior force changes and directs the current of the latter aginst it's Northern bank, compressing it [blank] within a channel of not more than one fifth of the width it had just before occupyed. this river is 600 yards wide at it's entrance and when we passed it, on the 21st of July, it's greatest debth of water was five feet. we were informed by one of our engages, who is well acquainted with this river for a considerable distance, that in many places it was from two to three miles wide, containing great numbers of small islands and sandbars, and that the navigation became wose, the higher he ascended. the banks of this river are very low, yet it is said, that it very seldom overflows them, or rises more than about 6 feet perpendicular above it's lowest tide.—

The position of the head of the Southern, or main branch of this river is not well asscertained on connecting the sources of the rivers better known, it appears most probable, that it takes it's rise in the Rockey, or shineing Mountains with the Bravo or North river [Rio Grande], and the Yellow stone river, branch of the Missouri from whence it takes it's course nearly East, passing the heads of the Arkansas at no great distance from Santa Fee, continues it's rout to the Missouri, through immence level and fertile plains and meadows, in which, no timber is to be seen except on it's own borders and those of it's tributary streams. commencing at the Missouri and ascending this river, it's principal subsidiary streams are first the Salt river , seven leagues distant, falls in on the S. side, and is 50 yards in width. this stream is however more remarkable for the excellency of it's salt licks and springs than for it's magnitude. the whole courant of this river is brackis in the Summer season quite to it's mouth. There are three principal salines on this stream the first at the distance of 50 miles from it's mouth, and the others at no great distance above two of these furnis considerable quantities of salt in it's dry and granulated state, the other furnishes Salt both granulated, and in compact masses. the granulated salt is found on the surface of a compact and hard earth composed of fine sand with a small proportion of clay producing no vegitable substance of any kind and is easily collected by sweeping it together with a soft broom or brush of feathers. the massive salt is formed by concretion, and is found either on the surface of the earth over which the water passes, or adhering to stones sticks or other furm substances washed by the salt water in it's passage. I have obtained no satisfactory account of any fossil salt being found in Louisiana, altho' repeated enquiries have been made off such as possess the best information of the interior parts of the country I am therefore disposed to believe, that those travellers who have reported it's exhistance, must have mistaken this massive salt, formed by concretion, for that substance. saltpetre has been found in it's crystallized state in some limestone caverns near the head of this river.—

Thre leagues above the salt river a beatifull clear and gentle stream called Corne des Cerfe , or hart's horn river discharges itself on the N. side. it is about sixty yards wide. it takes it's rise in some sandy plains between the Wolf River and the Quecurre thence tuning Eastwardly approaches the Missouri within a few leagues opposite to the entrance of the Sioux river, thence veering about the S. E. passes through a fertile level country, parallel with the Missouri to the River Platte. it is navigable a considerable distance for canoes and light perogues. there is but little timber in the country though which it passes.—

Ascending the Platte five leagues further you pass the village of the Ottoes and Missouris situated on the S. side. 15 leagues higher up and on the same side, the Panias Proper, and Republican Panias reside in one large village. [12] five leagues further still ascending, the Wolf river falls in on the N. side. 400 hundred yards wide, and is navigable for Perogues between 4 and 500 miles, and for large boats a very considerable distance. This stream takes it's rise in a remarkable large fountain, situated in a level plain, equadistant between the rivers Quicurre and Plat, at some little distance below the Cote noir or Black Hills from whence it passes through level and fertile plains and meadows in which there is scarcely a tree to be seen except on it's own borders, and those of it's tributary streams. the current of this river is gentle and sufficiently deep it's bed is composed principally of a brown sand, unbroken by rocks or drift wood, and has no rappids worthy of notice from it's source to it's mouth.—

At the distance of seventy five leagues higher up, Ringing Water river falls in on the S. side about 300 yards wide. heads in the Black hills near the source of the Kanzas, and passes through an open tho' broken country about half it's course it then descends into a level and fertile country composed almost entirely of open plains and meadows through which it passes to the Platte.—

Just above the black hills, though which the Platte passes, a large river said to be nearly as large as the South fork, falls in on the N. side, after haveing continued it's rout along the Western side of the Black hills for a very considerable distance. the distance from the entrance of this river to the mouth of the Platte is not well asscertained. This is usually called the Paducas fork it heads with the Bighorn river, branch of the Yellow Stone, in some broken ranges of the Rockey mountains. it's upper portion passes through a hilly, broken and Mountanous country, possessing considerable quantities of timber it then descends to a plain open and level country lying between the Rockey Mounts and the black hills, through which it passes to join the Platte. there are some considerable bodies of woodland on and near this stream.—

The smaller branches of the rivers Platte & Wolf so far as they are known to us are as follows they uniformly water a level open country generally fertile.— [13]

[Ed: Here is placed Clark's fuller table of affluents of the Platte and Loup rivers from an undated document at the Missouri Historical Society. Lewis's narrative resumes immediately after the table.]

The names of Rivers, Creeks and the most Remarkable places on the Platt River, from information


Distances from
one place to the
other in Leagues

Distances from
the Missouri by
water, in Leagues

The Width of
the Rivers &
Creeks in yards—
The side on
which they mouth
or are Situated
either N or S
To the mouth of the Salene or Salt River 7 7 50 S E
" " " Corne des Cerfe or Harts
Horn River

3

10

60

N. W.
To the Ottoes Village 5 15 S.
To the Panies Creek 10 25 20 S
To the mouth Coque, or Shel River 2 27 30 N
To the Grand Ponia Village 3 30 S.
To the Fork of the River or mouth of Loup
or Wolf River

5

35

400

N
" " mouth of Short Leg River up the plate 5 40 30 S.
" " " of Deer Creek do 12 52 28 S.
" " " of falling Creek 18 70 20 S
To the forks River called Ringing Water
about Up the Wolf Fork
40 110 300 S
To the pt. Saule or little Willow Creek 7 42 25 N.
" " Mustle Shell Creek 3 45 20 N
" " Elk 〈River〉 Creek 4 49 26 S
" " Graveley Creek 5 54 20 S
" " White Bluff Creek 10 64 25 S.
To the Loups or Wolf Villages on this River 7 71 N
" " Deep Water Creek 8 79 25 S

Three miles above the entrance of the river Platte Butterfly Creek falls in on the S. side, 18 yards wide, heads in the plains between the Hart's Horn river and the Missouri the courntry fertile with but little timber.—

7 miles higher Musquetoe Creek falls in on the N. side it is 22 yards wide and heads with the Nishnahbatona river in an open country. the Missouri bottom through which it passes is about 6 miles wide, level, extreemly fertile and about one half well covered with timber.

20 miles further Indian Creek falls in opposite to the lower point of an Island on the N. side, three miles above an old Ayouway's village. [14] it heads in the highlands a few miles back passes through the Missouri bottom and approaches the river within 20 feet, 6 miles above it's entrance at this point it is 5 feet higher than the water of the Missouri. it is 15 yards wide.—

8 miles higher up Bowyer's river falls in on the N. side. it is 25 yards wide, and navigable for perogues some distance passes through a country tolerably fertile, with but little timber.—

Twelve miles above the mouth of Bowyer's river we arrive at the Council Bluff on the S. side. this is one of the points, which in our statistical view of the Indian Nations of Louisiana, we have recommended as an eligible position for a trading establishment. it is a delightfull situation for a fortification, & commands a view of the river both above and below for a considerable distance. the base of the Bluff is washed by the river about a mile it is about 60 feet high & nearly perpendicular as it's lower extremity it leaves the river nearly at right angles, descending with a handsome and regular declivity on it's lower side about forty feet to a high, level, fertile and extensive bottom, lying between itself and the river. the top of the bluff is a level plain from one to two miles in width, and about five miles in length. This place would be sufficiently convenient for the Ottoes, Missouris, Panias Proper, Panias, Loups, Panias Republican, Poncaras, Mahas, & the Yanktons Ahnah. [15] if peace is established between the various tribes of Indians inhabiting this immence country, it is more than probable, that this post would also be visited by manty of those wandering bands, who inhabit the country west of the black hills. The principal difficulty which will attend the erection of a fortification at this place is the want of proper timber with which to build. there is a sufficient quantity of a species of poplar common to all the bottom lands of the Missouri, called by the French inhabitants of the Illinois—Liard, [16] and by the Americans Cotton-wood. it is a soft white wood, by no means dureable, and of which it is extreemly difficult to make plank or scantling. There is some oak in the neighbourhood but it is of an inferior quality. I concieve that the cheepest and best method would be to build of brick, the eath appears to be of an excellent quality for brick, and both lime and sand are convenient. The drift wood of the Missouri will always supply a sufficient quantity of fuell independant of that in the neighbourhood. with rispect to quality and quantity of timber, this bluff is better situated than any other for upwards of a thousand miles above it, and equal to any below it for many miles.—

Leaving the council Bluff and ascending the Missouri 39 miles we arrive at the mouth of Soldier's river 30 yards wide. it heads with the river Demoin, and passes to the Misouri through an open, level and fertile country. is navigable for Perogues a considerable distance.

44 miles further up Ye-yeau War da-pon or stone river falls in on the N. side. this river is known to the traders of the Illinois by the name of little Sioux river , but as they have given the appellation of Sioux to four distinct streams we thought it best to adopt the name given it by the Siouxs, to whos country it's entrance forms the lower boundary on the Missouri. this stream is 80 yards wide at it's entrance takes it's rise in a small lake nine miles distant from the River demoin, with which, it communicates in high water through a small channel the river demoin is but shallow at this point tho' it is 70 or 80 yards wide, and said to be navigable. this stream is navigable from it's souce to the Missouri for perogues or canoes, passes through a broken country with but little timber. the land is tolerably fertile. an Easterly and most navigable fork of this river is formed by the discharge of Lake Dispree [d'Esprit], 22 leagues in circumference this lake is long not very wide and approaches the river demoin within 15 miles. the country between the Demoin and Lake Dispree is level, with but little timber, and interrupted with a number of small lakes or ponds.—

From the entrance of the ye-yeau War-da-pon , to the Old Maha Village, a distance of 100 miles, there is not a single stream which discharges itself into the Missouri, that is worthy of notice. [17] The Maha creek , on which the last village occupyed by that nation was situated at some little distance from the Missouri, discharges itself on the S. side through several channels. this creek is but small, takes it's rise in some level and fertile praries near the Hart's Horn river and passes through a delightfull country in it's course to the Missouri. the distance from the old Maha village to the Council Bluff is 90 miles by land.

16 miles higher up Floyds river falls in on the N. side 38 yards wide. This river is the smallest of those called by the trades of the Illinois the two rivers of the Sioux, but which with a view to discrimination, we have thought proper to call Floyd's river in honor of Sergt. Charles Floyd, a worthy and promising young man, one of our party who unfortunately died on the 20th of August 1804, and was buried on a high bluff just below the entrance of this stream. This river takes it's rise with the waters of the rivers Sioux and Demoin from whence it takes it's course nearly S. W. to the Missouri, meandering through level and fertile, plains and meadows, intersperced with groves of timber. it is navigable for perogues nearly to it's source.

3 miles above Floyds river, The river Sioux disembogues on the N. side above a bluff it is one hundred and ten yards wide at it's entrance, and navigable nearly to it's source with the exception of one fall of about twenty feet high, situated 70 leagues from it's mouth. it takes it's rise with the St. Peter's and Vulter rivers, in a high broken and woody country called the Hills of the prarie. it waters a deversifyed country, generally level fertile and uncovered with timber in some parts particularly near the falls, it is broken & stoney, and in others, intersected by a great number of small lakes which possess some timber generally on their borders. at no great distances below the falls and in a remarkable bend of the river, three handsom streams fall in on it's East Side at no great distance from each other the 1st ascending is the Prickley Pear river, which takes it's rise in some small lakes near the Demoin. the 2nd The River of the Rock , passes the head of the River Demoin, and takes it's rise in small lakes. the third is called red pipe Stone river , which heads with the waters of the River St. Peters. [18] the country watered by this last river is remarkable for furnishing a red stone, of which the savages make their most esteemed pipes. the Indians of many nations travel vast distances to obtain this stone, and it is ascerted, tho' with what justice I will not pretend to determine, that all nations are at peace with each other while in this district of country, or on the waters of this river.—

Sixty miles above the Sioux river the White Stone river discharges itself on the N. side. it is 30 yards wide at it's entrance, heads in a chain of Nobs West of the bend of the Sioux river, and passes in it's whole course through level beautifull and fertile plains and meadows entirely destitute of timber. it is not navigable.

20 miles higher up little bow creek falls in on the S side, below an old Maha village. it is 20 yards wide and waters a beautifull, fertile, plain, and open country. the remains of two small ancient fortifications, are found on this creek at a short distance from it's entrance. [19]

12 Miles higher up, and distant 974 from the junction of the Missouri and Mississippi, the river James discharges itself it is 90 yards wide, and navigable for perogues a very considerable distance it's current is gentle and it's bed composed of mud and sand. it takes it's rise with Chyinme river, branch of Red river which discharges itself into Lake Winnipic. This steam passes through an open country of plains and meadows through it's whole course. the land is generally fertile, and a scant proportion of timber is found on the banks of the river. The Siouxs annually hold a fair [20] on some part of this river, in the latter end of May. thither the Yanktons of the North, and the Sissitons, who trade with a Mr. Cammaron [21] on the head of the St. Peter's river, bring guns, pouder & balls, Kettles, axes, knives, and a variety of European manufactures, which they barter to the 4 bands of Tetons and the Yanktons Ahnah , who inhabit the borders of the Missouri & upper part of the River Demoin, and receive in exchange horses, leather lodges, and buffaloe robes, which they have either manufactured, or plundered from other Indian nations on the Misouri and west of it. This traffic is sufficient to keep the Siouxs of the Missouri tolerably well supplyed with arms and amunition, thus rendering them independant of the trade of the Missouri, and enableing them to continue their piratical aggressions on all who attempt to ascend that river, as well as to disturb perpetually the tranquility of their Indian neighbours. I am perfectly convinced that untill such measures are taken by our government as will effectually prohibit all intercourse or traffic with the Siouxs by means of the rivers Demoin and St. Peters, that the Citizens of the United States can never enjoy, but partially, those important advantages which the navigation of the Missouri now presents. it appears to me that with the assistance of the garrisons of St. Louis, and Chicargoo, with the establishment of two others, the one at or near the entrance of the Oisconsin and the other on the Mississippi at Sand lake, that the passages of the trades to the rivers Demoin and St. Peters 〈might〉 would be sufficiently guarded. by prohibiting the trade with the Siouxs through the St. Peters and Demoin for a few years, they will be made to feel their dependance on the will of our government for their supplies of merchandize, and in the course of two or three years, they may most probably be reduced to order without the necessity of bloodshed. in the mean time the trade of the Missouri will be acquiring a strength, and regularity within itself, and an influence among other indian nations, which dould not be easily interrupted by the Siouxs, when the government should hereafter tink proper to reestablish an intercourse with them, through the channels of the St. Peter's and Demoin rivers.—

At the distance of 38 miles higher up Plumb Creek falls in on the N. side. this creek is but small, heads in the highlands a few miles back, and passes through beatifull level and fertile praries in it's course to the Missouri.—

8 miles higher up white Paint Creek falls in on the S. side, 28 yards in width. it takes it's rise in a broken Hilly and open country between the Quicurre and Hart's horn rivers. passes through a broken country with some handsome plains an[d] praries, it is not navigable. but possesses many excellent situations for grist mills and other waterworks.

6 miles above this creek and at the distance of 1026 from the entrance of the Missouri, the River Quiccurre [X: Qui-court ] or rappid river , discharges itself on the S. side where it is one hundred and fifty two yards wide. this river takes it's rise in the Black hills, about one hundred leagues West of it's mouth, and passes through a variagated country. at it's source and for seventy five leagues below the country is mountanous rockey and thickly covered with timber, principally pine the bed of the river is interrupted by immence quanties of loose and broken rocks, many ledges of rocks also lie acoss this stream over which it tumbles perpendicularly from 6 to 15 feet. in this country the Indians as well as some of the French hunters report the existence many mines. some of lead, others of a metal resembleing lead, but of a lighter colour more dense & equally malleable it is not stated to be silver. this metal is said to be readily extracted from it's ore which is a loose earth, with the heat of a common fire of wood. there are said to be some sand plains of considerable extent lying between the upper portion of this river and the Hart's Horn river. the country on it's lower portion for 25 leagues consists of open plains and meadows, with but a very small proportion of timber the bed of the river here consists entirely of a coarse brown sand. the velocity of it's current is nearly or quite equal to that of Platte. it is not navigable a single mile.—

8 mile above the rappid rive, the Poncar river disembogues on the S side, 30 yards wide. Three miles from the moth of this river on it S. side the Poncars resided a few years since in a fortifyed village, but have now joined the Mahas and become a wandering people. Poncar river heads in the open plains not far from the mouth of White river, and runs nearly parallel with the Missouri passing through some tolerably fertile plains and meadows.—

At the distance of 114 miles higher up, White river discharges itself on the S. side. it is 300 yards wide at it's entrance, and is navigable for boats and perogues for many leagues. this river is perfectly the Missouri in miniture, resembleing it in every particular. it takes it's rise short of the black hills, with the waters of the Cyenne and rappid rivers, in an open country from whence it passes through level and fertile plains & meadows, in which there is scarsely any timber to be seen. some pine most probably grows on it's borders, I discovered several sticks of that timber among the driftwood at it's entrance.

22 Miles higher up, the Three rivers of the Siouxs pass discharge themselves, on the N. side, opposite to a large Island well covered with timber. the 1st of these streams which we meet with as we ascend is 35 yards wide, and is navigable for perogues some distance, with a few obstructions of rappids or shoals. it heads with James's river, and possesses but little timber on it's borders. the country on the upper side of this river is a high level and fertile plain of many leagues in exten the lower side generally broken Praries, neither possessing any timber worthy of mention. the other two streams are small, extending only about 8 miles back, and water a country of high handsome and fertile plains, with but little timber.—

From hence to the commencement of the big bend is twenty miles in this distance you pass four small Creeks, which discharge themselves on the S. side, and one on the N. side these creek take their rise at the distance of 6 or 7 miles in the open plains, and possess but little timber. the bottoms of the Missouri are generally wide and but badly timbered. the big bend of the Missouri lies in a circular form, and is 30 miles around, while it is only one mile and a quarter across the gorge.—

5 miles above the uper extremity of this bend Tylor's river falls in, on the S. side. this river is about 35 yards wide, and is navigable some miles for perogues. it takes it's rise in an open country between the White river and river Teton, and passes through a level fertile and open country. below the mouth of this river on the Missouri there is an extensive bottom well covered with timber, consisting principally of red cedar.

55 miles higher up, the Teton River discharges itself on the S. side. this river is seventy yards wide, and is navigable for perogues many leagues. it heads with the waters of the Chyenne and White rivers, and passes through open and fertile plains and meadows. possesses some timber on it's borders, as do also it's tributary streams. in these plains there is rarely an instance of a tree to be seen.—

47 miles above the entrance of the Teton river and 1327 from the Mouth of the Missouri, the rive Chyenne disembogues on the S. side, and is about 400 yards wide at it's entrance, and is navigable for perogues to it's forks near the black hills, a distance of 200 Miles by land, nearly due west from it's entrance. The Northern branch of this river penetrates the Black hills, and passes through a high broken well timbered country to it's source, the Southern fork takes it's rise in the Black hills, on their E side, and passes through a broken country covered with timber, to it's junction with the N fork from whence united, they take their course through a woody and broken country fror some few leagus, then entering an open fertile and level country it continues it's rout to the Missouri the timber of the Black hills, and on this river near them, consists of pine and Cedar principally on it's lower portion Cottonwood and Cedar, of which however there is but a scant proportion and that confined immediately to the river hills and bottoms. about the entrance of this river we have recommended an establishment for the purpose of trading with the Indians. it's position is central and sufficiently convenient for a number of Nations and tribes but the difficulty of procuring timber for the purpose of building is very considerable, tho' in this particular it is equal to any other for an emence distance both above and below it. a difficulty also arises with rispect to lime of which there is none in it's neighbourhood. large quantities of tar may be procured on the river near the Black hills, and may be readily brought down the river. tar and sand in the proportion of one gallon to the Bushel, make a furm and strong cement. if an establishment is made at this place, the work must of necessity be principally formed of brick there being no stone and but little timber. the drift-wood of the Missouri will supply an ample quantity of fuell.—

78 miles higher up, Otter Creek falls in on the N. side, 22 yards wide, navigable a few miles in high water. it takes it's rise in open plains nearly E. of it's entrance, and passes through a similar country very little timber in it's vicinity.—

3 [22] miles higher up, and on the S. side, the Sar-war-car-na river discharges itself, 90 yards wide. it is navigable for perogues 40 or 50 leagues takes it's rise short of the Black Hills with the waters of the Chyenne from whence it meanders through fertile and level plains and meadows, almost entirely destitue of timber.—

22 [23] miles above, We-ter-hoo river discharges itself on the S. side. this stream is 120 yards wide and may be navigated nearly to it's source in the Black Hills. It passes through a country simalar to that discribed on the Sar-war-kar-na .

2 miles higher up, and the same distance below an island on which the lower village of the Ricaras, the river Ma-ro-pa falls in, on the the S. side it is 25 yards wide at it's entrance takes it's rise about 5 leagues west of the entrance of the war-re-con-ne river, in open plains. it passes through an uneven roling country, without timber, and but badly watered, for the distance of about 50 miles, nearly parallel to the Missouri, before it discharges itself.— The Ricaras obtain a red and black earth on the borders of this stream, which they use for the purpose of painting their skins, or ornamenting their Buffaloes robes, which at all seasons of the year constitutes a principal article of their dress.—

Leaving the mouth of this river and ascend the Missouri, at the distance of 2½ miles you pass the 1st Ricara village, from 3½ to 4 miles further, you pass two others situated on the South side near the river. [24] still ascending at the distance of 24 miles above the entrance of Ma-ro-pa river, the Stone Idol Creek falls in on the N. side 18 yards wide. it heads in a small lake a few leagues distant and passes through a rich level plain the land is fertile but without timber. a canoe can pass from the river to this lake.

37 miles higher up, Sar-kar-nah or Beaver Creek falls in on the N. side, at the lower point of an Island. about 20 yards wide, heads in some small lakes a few miles from the river, and passes through a level fertile and open country.

3 Miles further still ascending, and at the distance of 1498 miles from the entrance of the Missouri, War-re-con-ne river falls in on the N. side just above an island. it is 35 yards wide at it's entrance, and is navigable in high water to it's source. takes it's rise in an assemblage of small lakes, in level and open plains, not very distant from the head of James's river. in it's course to the Missouri it passes through extensive, level and fertile, plains and meadows, in which scarsely a tree is to be seen.—

13 miles higher up, the Cannon Ball river falls in on the S side, and is 140 yards wide. it is navigable for boats a considerable distance, with a few interruptions of rappids, and for perogues and Canoes nearly to it's source. it takes it's rise in a level country with the Chesschetar and the waters of the Wetarhoo rivers, from whence in it's course to the Misouri it passes through a variety of country, some broken & partially timbered, near it's source other parts broken, hilly and bare of timber, and in others beautifull and extensive plains and meadows, with but little timber, all sufficiently fertile, and some extreemly so. there is some Cottonwood, Ash and Elm on it's borders.

5 miles higher up the Fish Creek discharges itself on the N Side 28 yards wide. it takes it's rise in small lakes, in the open plains, and passes through handsome plains and meadows, in it's course to the Missouri but little timber on it's borders.—

35 miles higher up, Ches-che-tar , or heart river falls in on the S. W. side 38 yards wide not navigable except in high water, and then but a short distance. it heads with the waters of the Knife river in open plains S. W. of the turtle mountain. in it's course to the Missouri it passes through open plains and meadows, generally fertile, and always untimbered. there is some Ash, Cottonwood, and Elm on it's borders.

14 miles higher up, Hunting creek discharges itself on the S. side. it's bottom lands are wide and fertile with but little timber, takes it's rise in, and passes through an open country of high plains.—

50 miles higher up at the distance of 1,615 miles from the junction of the Missouri and Mississippi, the Knife river falls in near the Village of the Ahwahharways on the S. side—a little above the Mandans. this river is about 80 yards wide, but is not navigable, except for a few days in the spring of the year. It takes it's rise in the turtle Mountains about 90 Miles N. W. of it's mouth, and passes through an open fertile country. there is a considerable quantity of timber on the upper part of this river, and much more on it's borders generally, than is met with on streams of the same size in this open country. The Minetares, Ahwahharways, and Mandans hunt principally on this river, and many of Minetares pass the winter on it, in small parties, of 5 ore six families.—

As we have only ascended the Missouri, a few miles above the Mouth of Knife river, the subsequent discription of this river, and it's subsidiary streams are taken altogether from Indian Information. the existence of these rivers, their connection with each other, and their relative positions with rispect to the Missouri, I conceive are entitled to some confidence. information has been obtained on this subject, in the course of the winter, from a number of individuals, questioned seperately and at different times. the information thus obtained has been carefully compared, and those points only, in which they generally agreed, have been retained, their distances they give, by days travel, which we have estimated at 25 miles pr. day.— [25]

About fifteen miles above the mouth of Knife river, the E-pe,-Âh-zhah , or Miry river discharges itself on the N. Side. it is but an inconsiderable stream as to width, but extends itself through level and open plains about 30 miles N. E. of it's entrance, taking it's rise in some small lakes, strongly impregnated with Glauber Salts. not navigable. [26]

Ascending the Missouri about one hundred miles further, the E-mâh-tark', Ah'-zhah or Little Missouri discharges itself on the S. side. about the width of Knife river. takes it's rise in the Nothern extremity of the Black-hills. and passes through a broken country with but little timber. it passes near the turtle mountain in it's course to the Missouri. it is said not to be navigable in consequence of it's rappidity and shoals.—

About 117 miles higher up, the Ok-hah-Âh-zhâh , or White earth river , discharges itself on the N. side. it is said to be about the size of the Cannonball river takes it's rise N. Westwardly from it's mouth in level open plains with the waters of the S. fork of the Saskashawin river, and passes through an open and level country generally without timber some timber on the borders of this stream. it is navigable nearly to it's source, which is said not to be very distant, from the establishment of the N. West Company on the S. branch of the Saskashawin. if this information be correct it is highly probable that a line drawn due West from the lake of the Woods, in conformity to our treaty with Great Britain would intersect the waters of this river, if so the boundary of the United States would pass Red river between the entrance of the Assinniboin and Lake Winnipic, including those rivers almost entirely, and with them the whole of the British trading establishments on the red Lake, Red river and the Assinniboin. should the portage between the Saskashawin and White earth river , prove not to be very distant or difficult, it is easy to conceive the superior advantages, which the Missouri offers as a rout to the Athabasca country, compared with that commonly traveled by the traders of Canada.—

About 3 miles above the mouth of White Earth river the Meé,-ah'-zah, or Yellowstone river discharges itself on the S. side. this river is said to be nearly as large as the Missouri, but is more rappid. it takes it's rise in the Rocky mountains, with the waters of a river on which the Spaniards reside but whether this stream be the N. river , or the waters of the Gulph of California, our information dose not enable us to determine. from it's source it takes it's course for many miles through broken ranges of the Rocky mountains, principally broken, and stoney, and thickly timbered. the vallies said to be wide in many places and the lands fertile. after leaving the Rocky mountains it descends into a country more level, tho' still broken, fertile and well timbered. this discription of country continues as far down as the Oke-tar-pas-ah-ha , where the river enters an open level and fertile country through which it continues it's rout to the Missouri even in this open country it possesses considerable bodies of well timbered land. there are no stream[s] worthy of notice which discharge themselves into this river on the N. side, the country between this river, and the Missouri being watered by the Mussle shellriver. the yellow Stone river is navigable at all seasons of the year, for boats or perogues to the foot of the Rocky Mountains, near which place, it is said to be not more than 20 miles distant from the most southernly of the three forks of the Missouri, which last is also navigable to this point. if Indian information can be relied on, this river waters one of the fairest portions of Louisiana, a country not yet hunted, and abounding in animals of the fur kind. The bed of this river is formed of sand gravel and yellow rock. from the great rapidity of this stream after it enters the rocky mountains, it is said not be navigable. we are informed that there is a sufficiency of timber near the mouth of this river for the purpose of erecting a fortification, and the necessary buildings. in point of position, we have no hesitation in declaring our belief, of it's being one of the most eligible and necessary, that can be chosen on the Missouri, as well in a governmental point of view, as that of affording to our citizens the benefit of a most lucrative fur trade. this establishment might be made to hold in check the views of the British N. West Company on the fur-trade of the upper part of the Missouri, which we believe it is their intention to panopolize if in their power. They have for several years maintained a partial trade with the Indian nations on the Missouri near this place, over land from their establishment at the entrance of Mouse river on the Assinniboin, unlicenced by the Spanish government, then the sovereigns of the country. But since the U' States have acquired Louisiana, we are informed, that relying on the privilege extended to them by our treaty with Great Britain, they intend fixing a permanent establishment on the Missouri near the mouth of Knife river, in the course of the present summer. if this powerfull and ambitious company, are suffered uninterruptedly to prosecute their trade with the nations inhabiting the upper portion of the Missouri, and thus acquire an influence with those people it is not difficult to conceive the obstructions, which they might hereafter through the medium of that influence, oppose to the will of our government, or the navigation of the Missouri. whether the privileges extended to British subjects, under existing treaties with that power, will equally effect a territory not in our possession at the time those treaties were entered into, is not for me to determine but it appears to me, that in this rispect Liouisiana is differently situated, from the other territory of the United States.—

The tributary streams of the Yellow stone river so far as we have been enabled to inform ourselves are as follow.—

About one hundred fifty miles on a direct line, a little to the N. of West, a river falls in on the N. side called by the Minetares Ah-mâh-tâh, ru-shush-sher or the river which scolds at all others. this river they state to be of considerable size, and from it's position and the direction which they give it, we believe it to be the channel through which, those small streams, on the E side of the Rocky Mountain, laid down by Mr. Fidler, [28] pas to the Missouri. it takes it's source in the Rocky mountains S. of the waters of the Askow or bad river. and passes through a broken country in which, there is a mixture of woodlands and praries. it is worthy of remark, that the Missouri in it's course from the mouth of the yellow stone river to the entrance of this rivr. passes considerably further to the North than the mouths of either of these rivers this information we have received since our map has been completed. it will be observed by reference to the map, that there are no streams falling into the Askow on it's S. side, from which, it is probable, that the country nearly to it's borders, is watered by the streams of some other river, and as the Missouri runs considerably N. above the Mouth of the Yellow stone river, and that on it's nothern border no stream of any magnitude discharges itself except the scolding river, the probability is that the country very near to the Askow is watered by the little rivulets of the Missouri, and the branches of the s[c]olding river. I have scarsely a doubt, but that a line drawn due West from the Lake of the Woods, in conformity to our treaty with Great Britain, will intersect the waters of the Missouri, if not the main body of that river itself.

About 120 miles on a direct line, nearly S. W. the Mah-tush,-ah-zhah, or Muscle shell river falls in on the S. side. this river is about the size of the Cannonball river, heads in a range of mountains which commence about the falls of the Missouri, and extending themselves nearly South terminate near the yellow stone river. this stream passes through a broken and woody country. The woody country commences on the Missouri just above the mouth of this river.—

About 120 miles further a little to the S. of West, on a direct line, the great falls of the Missouri are situated. this is discribed by the Indians as a most tremendious Cataract. they state that the nois it makes can be heard at a great distance. that the whole body of the river tumbles over a precipice of solid and even rock, many feet high that such is the velocity of the water before it arrives at the precipice, that it projects itself many feet beyond the base of the rock, between which, and itself, it leaves a vacancy sufficiently wide for several persons to pass abrest underneath the torrent, from bank to bank, without weting their feet. they also state that there is a fine open plain on the N. side of the falls, through which, canoes and baggage may be readily transported. this portage they assert is not greater than half a mile, and that the river then assumes it's usual appearance, being perfectly navigable.—

About 15 miles further on a direct line a little to the S. of W. a large stream called Mah-pah-pah,-ah-zhah , or Medecine river falls in on the N. side. this river heads in the rocky Mountains opposite to a river which also takes it's rise in the same mountains and which running West discharges itself into a large river, which passes at no great distance from the Rocky mountains, runing from N to South. it passes through a mountanous, broken and woody country. not navigable in consequence of it's rapidity and shoals.

About 60 miles further on a direct line nearly S. W. the Missouri passes through the first connected chain of the Rocky mountains. and is said to be rapid and shoaly from hence to the second chain of the rocky Mountains a distance of 75 miles further, about the same course last mentioned. above this second range of mountains the current of the Missouri is said to be smoth even and gentle here two small rivers fall in on the S. side, receiving their waters from the west side these mountains between the Missouri and the Yellow stone river.

Still proceeding S. W. about 75 miles further the Missouri divides itself into three nearly equal branches just above a third chain of very high mountains, all these streams are navigable for some distance. the most Nothern is the largest, and is navigable to foot of chain of high mountains, being the ridge which divides the waters of the Atlantic from those of the Pacific ocean. the Indians assert that they can pass in half a day from the foot of this mountain on it's East side to a large river which washes it's Western base, runing from S to N. at no great distance below the Flat head Indians live in one considerable village on the western border of this river. this is the utmost extent of the war exurtions of the Minetares and we have therefore been unable to acquire any information further West than the view from the top of thes mountains extend. The Indians inform us that the country on the Western side of this river consists of open & level plains like those they themselves inhabit, with a number of barren sandy nobs irregularly scattered over the face of the country the E. side of the river, betwen it and the mountains is broken, and thickly covered with pine. they state that there are no buffaloe west of the second range of the Rockey mountains, and that the Flat heads live principally on a large fish, which they take in the river on which they reside. The Snake Indians also frequently visit this Western river at certain seasons of the year, for the purpose of taking fish which they dry in the sun and transport on horses to their vilages on the three forks of the Missouri. This river we suppose to be the S. fork of the Columbia, and the fish the Salmon, with which we are informed the Columbia river abounds.— this river is said to be rapid but as far as the Indian informants are acquainted with it is not intercepted with shoals. it's bed consists principally of sand and gravel.

The waters of the Missouri are transparent at all seasons of the year above the falls.

With rispect to other rivers, their Subsidiary streams, and their connection with other rivers and streams, the map which is herewith forwarded, will give you a more perfict idea, than a detaled discription of them would do. the mountains, salines, trading establishments, and all the other remarkable places, so far as known to us, are also laid down on this map.—
Meriwether Lewis Capn.
1st U' S Regt. Infty.

[Clark]

A Summary Statement of the Rivers, Creeks and most remarkable places their Distances &c. from the mouth of the Missouri as high up that River as was explored in the year 1804 by Captain's Lewis and Clark.


Watch the video: Lewis u0026 Clark at Fort Mandan (August 2022).