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The Two Rivers of Lewis & Clark
Entries For October 24:
Captain Clark (current)
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Our two old chiefs expressed a desire to return to their band from this place, saying that they could be of no further service to us, as their nation extended no further down the river than those falls; they could no longer understand the language of those below the falls, till then not much difference in the vocabularies; and as the nation below had expressed hostile intentions against us, would certainly kill them, particularly as they had been at war with each other. We requested them to stay with us two nights longer, and we would see the nation below and make a peace between them. They replied that they were anxious to return and see "our horses." We insisted on their staying with us two nights longer, to which they agreed. Our views were to detain those chiefs with us until we should pass the next falls, which we were told were very bad, and at no great distance below; that they might inform us of any designs of the natives; and, if possible, to bring about a peace between them and the tribes below.
At 9 o'clock A.M. I set out with the party and proceeded on down a rapid stream about 400 yards wide. At 2 1/2 miles, the river widened into a large basin to the starboard side, on which there are five lodges of Indians. Here a tremendous black rock presented itself, high and steep, appearing to choke up the river. Nor could I see where the water passed further than the current was drawn with great velocity to the larboard side of this rock, at which place I heard a great roaring.
I landed at the lodges, and the natives went with me to the top of the rock, which makes from the starboard side; from the top of which I could see the difficulties we had to pass for several miles below. At this place, the water of this great river is compressed into a channel between two rocks, not exceeding forty-five yards wide, and continues for 1/4 of a mile, when it again widens to 200 yards, and continues this width for about 2 miles, when it is again intercepted by rocks. This obstruction in the river accounts for the water in high floods rising to such a height at the last falls. The whole of the current of this great river must at all stages pass through this narrow channel of 45 yards wide. As the portage of our canoes over this high rock would be impossible with our strength, and the only danger in passing through those narrows was the whorls and swells arising from the compression of the water; and which I thought - as also our principal waterman, Peter Cruzat - by good steering we could pass down safe. Accordingly, I determined to pass through this place notwithstanding the horrid appearance of this agitated gut, swelling, boiling, and whorling in every direction, which, from the top of the rock, did not appear as bad as when I was in it. However, we passed safe - to the astonishment of all the Indians of the last lodges, who viewed us from the top of the rock.
Passed one lodge below this rock, and halted on the starboard side to view a very bad place: the current divided by 2 islands of rocks, the lower of them large and in the middle of the river. This place being very bad, I sent by land all the men who could not swim and such articles as were most valuable to us - such as papers, guns, and ammunition - and proceeded down with the canoes, two at a time, to a village of 20 wood houses in a deep bend to the starboard side, below which was a rugged black rock about 20 feet higher than the common high floods of the river, with several dry channels which appeared to choke the river up, quite across. This I took to be the second falls, or the place the natives above call timm.
The natives of this village received me very kindly; one of whom invited me into his house, which I found to be large and commodious, and the first wooden houses in which Indians have lived, since we left those in the vicinity of the Illinois. I dispatched a sufficient number of the good swimmers back for the 2 canoes above the last rapid, and with 2 men walked down three miles to examine the river. I returned through a rocky open country infested with polecats, to the village, where I met with Captain Lewis, the two old chiefs who accompanied us, and the party and canoes, who had all arrived safe.
Reprinted by permission of the American Studies Programs at the University of Virginia.
The complete text can also be downloaded for printing from their website.