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The Two Rivers of Lewis & Clark
Entries For April 22:
Captain Lewis (current)
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Set out at an early hour this morning. Proceeded pretty well until breakfast, when the wind became so hard ahead that we proceeded with difficulty even with the assistance of our towlines. The party halted, and Captain Clark and myself walked to the White Earth River, which approaches the Missouri very near this place, being about 4 miles above its entrance. We found that it contained more water than streams of its size generally do at this season. The water is much clearer than that of the Missouri. The banks of the river are steep and not more than ten or twelve feet high. The bed seems to be composed of mud together.
The salts which have been before mentioned as common on the Missouri appear in great quantities along the banks of this river, which are in many places so thickly covered with it that they appear perfectly white. Perhaps it has been from this white appearance of its banks that the river has derived its name. This river is said to be navigable nearly to its source, which is at no great distance from the Saskatchewan and I think from its size, the direction which it seems to take, and the latitude of its mouth, that there is very good ground to believe that it extends as far north as latitude 50. This stream passes through an open country generally.
The broken hills of the Missouri, about this place, exhibit large irregular and broken masses of rock and stone; some of which, though 200 feet above the level of the water, seem at some former period to have felt its influence, for they appear smooth as if worn by the agitation of the water. This collection consists of white and gray granite, a brittle black rock, flint, limestone, freestone, some small specimens of an excellent pebble and occasionally broken strata of a stone which appears to be petrified wood. It is of a black color, and makes excellent whetstones. Coal or carbonated wood, pumice stone, lava, and other mineral appearances still continue. The coal appears to be of better quality. I exposed a specimen of it to the fire, and that it burned tolerably well; it afforded but little flame or smoke, but produced a hot and lasting fire.
I ascended to the top of the cut bluff this morning, from whence I had a most delightful view of the country, the whole of which, except the valley formed by the Missouri, is void of timber or underbrush, exposing to the first glance of the spectator immense herds of buffalo, elk, deer, and antelopes feeding in one common and boundless pasture. We saw a number of beaver feeding on the bark of the trees along the verge of the river, several of which we shot. Found them large and fat.
Walking on shore this evening, I met with a buffalo calf which attached itself to me, and continued to follow close at my heels, until I embarked and left it. It appeared alarmed at my dog, which was probably the cause of its so readily attaching itself to me. Captain Clark informed me that he saw a large drove of buffalo pursued by wolves today; that they at length caught a calf which was unable to keep up with the herd. The cows only defend their young so long as they are able to keep up with the herd, and seldom return any distance in search of them.
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.