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The Two Rivers of Lewis & Clark
Entries For August 12:
Captain Lewis (current)
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This morning I sent Drouilliard out as soon as it was light, to try and discover what route the Indians had taken. He followed the track of the horse we had pursued yesterday to the mountain where it had ascended, and returned to me in about an hour and a half.
I now determined to pursue the base of the mountains which form this cove to the S.W. in the expectation of finding some Indian road which leads over the mountains. Accordingly, I sent Drouilliard to my right and Shields to my left with orders to look out for a road, or the fresh tracks of horses, either of which we should first meet with, I had determined to pursue. At the distance of about 4 miles, we passed 4 small rivulets near each other on which we saw some recent bowers or small conic lodges formed with willow brush. Near them the Indians had gathered a number of roots, from the manner in which they had torn up the ground.
Near this place, we fell in with a large and plain Indian road, which came into the cove from the northeast and led along the foot of the mountains to the southwest, obliquely approaching the main stream, which we had left yesterday. This road we now pursued to the southwest. At 5 miles it passed a stout stream which is a principal fork of the main stream and falls into it just above the narrow pass between the two cliffs before mentioned, which we now saw below us. Here we halted and breakfasted on the last of our venison, having yet a small piece of pork in reserve. After eating, we continued our route through the low bottom of the main stream along the foot of the mountains on our right. The valley for 5 miles farther in a southwest direction was from 2 to 3 miles wide.
At the distance of 4 miles further, the road took us to the most distant fountain of the waters of the mighty Missouri in search of which we have spent so many toilsome days and restless nights. Thus far I had accomplished one of those great objects on which my mind has been unalterably fixed for many years. Judge, then, of the pleasure I felt in allaying my thirst with this pure and ice-cold water which issues from the base of a low mountain or hill of a gentle ascent for l/2 a mile. The mountains are high on either hand, leave this gap at the head of this rivulet through which the road passes. Here I halted a few minutes and rested myself. Two miles below, McNeal had exultingly stood with a foot on each side of this little rivulet and thanked his God that he had lived to bestride the mighty, and heretofore deemed endless, Missouri.
After refreshing ourselves, we proceeded on to the top of the dividing ridge, from which I discovered immense ranges of high mountains still to the west of us, with their tops partially covered with snow. I now descended the mountain about 3/4 of a mile, which I found much steeper than on the opposite side, to a handsome bold running creek of cold, clear water. Here I first tasted the water of the great Columbia River.
After a short halt of a few minutes, we continued our march along the Indian road which led us over steep hills and deep hollows to a spring on the side of a mountain where we found a sufficient quantity of dry willow brush for fuel. Here we encamped for the night. As we had killed nothing during the day, we now boiled and ate the remainder of our pork, having yet a little flour and parched meal. At the creek on this side of the mountain I observed a species of deep purple currant, lower in its growth the stem more branched, and leaf doubly as large as that of the Missouri. The leaf is covered on its under disk with a hairy pubescence. The fruit is of the ordinary size and shape of the currant and is supported in the usual manner, but is acid and very inferior in point of flavor.
This morning Captain Clark set out early. Found the river shoaly, rapid, shallow, and extremely difficult. The men in the water almost all day. They are getting weak, sore, and much fatigued. They complained of the fatigue to which the navigation subjected them and wished to go by land. Captain Clark encouraged them and pacified them. One of the canoes was very near oversetting in a rapid today. They proceeded but slowly.
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.