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Entries For May 26:
Captain Clark (current)
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We set out early and proceeded as yesterday. Wind from the S.W. The river enclosed with very high hills on either side. I took one man and walked out this morning, and ascended the high country to view the mountains which I thought I saw yesterday. From the first summit of the hill I could plainly see the mountains on either side, which I saw yesterday, and at no great distance from me. Those on the starboard side are an irregular range, the two extremities of which bore west and N. west from me. Those mountains on the larboard side appeared to be several detached knobs or mountains rising from a level open country, at different distances from me, from southwest to southeast.
On one, the most southwesterly of those mountains, there appeared to be snow. I crossed a deep hollow and ascended a part of the plain elevated much higher than where I first viewed the above mountains. From this point, I beheld the Rocky Mountains for the first time, with certainty. I could only discover a few of the most elevated points above the horizon, the most remarkable of which, by my pocket compass, I found bore S. 60 W. Those points of the Rocky Mountains were covered with snow, and the sun shone on it in such a manner as to give me a most plain and satisfactory view.
Whilst I viewed those mountains, I felt a secret pleasure in finding myself so near the head of the - heretofore conceived - boundless Missouri. But when I reflected on the difficulties which this snowy barrier would most probably throw in my way to the Pacific Ocean, and the sufferings and hardships of myself and party in them, it in some measure counterbalanced the joy I had felt in the first moments in which I gazed on them. But, as I have always held it little short of criminality to anticipate evils, I will allow it to be a good, comfortable road until I am compelled to believe otherwise.
The high country in which we are at present, and have been passing for some days, I take to be a continuation of what the Indians, as well as the French engages, call the Black Hills. This tract of country, so called, consists of a collection of high, broken, and irregular hills, and short chains of mountains, sometimes 100 miles in width, and again becoming much narrower, but always much higher than the country on either side. They commence about the head of the Kansas River, and to the west of that river, near the Arkansas River, from whence they take their course, a little to the west of N.W., approaching the Rocky Mountains obliquely, passing the River Platte near the forks, and intercepting the Yellowstone River near the bend of that river, and passing the Missouri at this place, and probably continuing to swell the country as far north as the Saskatchewan River, though they are lower here than they are described to the south, and may therefore terminate before they reach the Saskatchewan. The Black Hills, in their course northerly, appear to approach more nearly the Rocky Mountains.
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.