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The Two Rivers of Lewis & Clark
Entries For July 3:
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All arrangements being now completed for carrying into effect the several schemes we had planned for execution on our return, we saddled our horses and set out. I took leave of my worthy friend and companion, Captain Clark, and the party that accompanied him. I could not avoid feeling much concern on this occasion, although I hoped this separation was only momentary.
I proceeded down Clark's River seven miles with my party of nine men and five Indians. Here the Indians recommended our passing the river, which was rapid and 150 yards wide.
As we had no other means of passing the river, we busied ourselves collecting dry timber for the purpose of constructing rafts. Timber being scarce, we found considerable difficulty in procuring as much as made three small rafts. We arrived at 11 A.M., and had our rafts completed by 3 P.M., when we dined and began to take over our baggage, which we effected in the course of three hours, the rafts being obliged to return several times. The Indians swam over their horses, and drew over their baggage in little basins of deerskin, which they constructed in a very few minutes for that purpose. We drove our horses in after them, and they followed to the opposite shore.
I remained myself with two men who could scarcely swim until the last. By this time the raft, by passing so frequently, had fallen a considerable distance down the river to a rapid and difficult part of it, crowded with several small islands and willow bars which were now overflowed. With these men, I set out on the raft and was soon hurried down with the current a mile and a half before we made shore. On our approach to the shore the raft sank, and I was drawn off the raft by a bush and swam on shore. The two men remained on the raft and fortunately effected a landing at some little distance below. I wet the chronometer by this accident, which I had placed in my fob, as I conceived, for greater security.
I now joined the party and we proceeded with the Indians about 3 miles to a small creek and encamped at sunset. I sent out the hunters, who soon returned with three very fine deer, of which I gave the Indians half. These people now informed me that the road which they showed me at no great distance from our camp would lead us up the east branch of Clark's River and to a river they called Cokahlarishkit, or the River of the Road to Buffalo, and thence to Medicine River and the Falls of the Missouri, where we wished to go. They alleged that as the road was a well-beaten track, we could not now miss our way, and as they were afraid of meeting with their enemies, the Minnetarees, they could not think of continuing with us any longer; that they wished now to proceed down Clark's River in search of their friends the Shalees. They informed us that not far from the dividing ridge between the waters of this and the Missouri River, the roads forked. They recommended the left hand as the best route but said they would both lead us to the Falls of the Missouri.
I directed the hunters to turn out early in the morning and endeavor to kill some more meat for these people, whom I was unwilling to leave without giving them a good supply of provision after their having been so obliging as to conduct us through those tremendous mountains.
The mosquitoes were so excessively troublesome this evening that we were obliged to kindle large fires for our horses. These insects torture them in such manner, until they placed themselves in the smoke of the fires, that I really thought they would become frantic.
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.