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The Two Rivers of Lewis & Clark
Entries For June 6:
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I now became well convinced that this branch of the Missouri had its direction too much to the north for our route to the Pacific, and therefore determined to return the next day after taking an observation of the meridian altitude in order to fix the latitude of the place. The fore part of the last evening was fair, but in the latter part of the night clouded up and continued so with short intervals of sunshine until a little before noon, when the whole horizon was overcast, and I, of course, disappointed in making the observation which I much wished.
I had sent Sergeant Pryor and Windsor, early this morning, with orders to proceed up the river to some commanding eminence and take its bearing as far as possible. In the meantime, the four others and myself were busily engaged in making two rafts on which we purposed descending the river. We had just completed this work when Sergeant Pryor and Windsor returned, it being about noon. They reported that they had proceeded from hence S. 70 W. 6 miles to the summit of a commanding eminence from whence the river on their left was about 2 l/2 miles distant; that a point of its larboard bluff, which was visible, bore S. 80 W., distant about 15 miles; that the river on their left bent gradually around to this point, and from thence seemed to run northwardly.
We now took dinner and embarked with our plunder and five elk skins on the rafts, but were soon convinced that this mode of navigation was hazardous, particularly with those rafts, they being too small and slender. We wet a part of our baggage and were near losing one of our guns. I therefore determined to abandon the rafts and return as we had come - - by land. I regretted much being obliged to leave my elk skins, which I wanted to assist in forming my leather boat, those we had prepared at Fort Mandan being injured in such manner that they would not answer.
We again swung our packs and took our way through the open plains for about 12 miles, when we struck the river. The wind blew a storm from N.E., accompanied by frequent showers of rain. We were wet and very cold. Continued our route down the river only a few miles before the abruptness of the cliffs and their near approach to the river compelled us to take the plains and once more face the storm. Here we bore rather too much to the north and it was late in the evening before we reached the river. In our way, we killed two buffalo and took with us as much of the flesh as served us that night and a part of the next day. We encamped a little below the entrance of the large dry creek called Lark Creek, having traveled but 23 miles since noon. It continues to rain and we have no shelter; an uncomfortable night's rest is the natural consequence.
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.