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Lewis and Clark
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From the Expedition Journals

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image: May 3, 1806 sketch

image: May 29, 1806 sketch

image: Flathead River Camp, May 29-31, 1806

Journal excerpts and maps from Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites


"The country along the rocky mountains for several hundred miles in length and about 50 [80 kilometers] in width is level extreemely fertile and in many parts covered with a tall and open growth of the longleafed pine, near the watercourses the hills are steep and lofty tho’ [they] are covered with a good soil not remarkably stony and possess more timber than the level country.... this country would form an extensive settlement; the climate appears quite as mild as that of similar latitude on the Atlantic coast if not more so and it cannot be otherwise than healthy; it possesses a fine dry pure air. the grass and many plants are now upwards of knee high. I have no doubt but this tract of country if cultivated would produce in great abundance every article essentially necessary to the comfort and subsistence of civilized man."


"the air on the top of the river hills or high plain forms a distinct climate, the air is much colder, and vegitation is not as forward by at least 15 or perhaps 20 days. the rains which fall in the river bottoms are snows on the plain. at the distance of fifteen miles [24 kilometers] from the river and on the Eastern border of this plain the Rocky Mountains commence and present us with winter at it’s utmost extreem. the snow is yet many feet deep even near the base of these mountains; here we have summer spring and winter within the short space of 15 or 20 miles [24 to 32 kilometers]."


"I am pleased at finding the river rise so rapidly, it now doubt is attributeable to the me[l]ting snows of the mountains; that icy barier which seperates me from my friends and Country, from all which makes life esteemable. — patience, patience."


"today we divided the remnant of our store of merchandize among our party with a view that each should purchase therewith a parsel of roots and bread from the natives as his stores for the rocky mountains for there seems but little probability that we shall be enabled to make any dryed meat.... each man’s stock in trade amounts to no more than one awl, one Knitting pin, a half an ounce of vermillion, two nedles, a few scanes of th[r]ead and about a yard of ribbon; a slender stock indeed with which to lay in a store of provision for that dreary wilderness. we would make the men collect these roots themselves but there are several speceis of hemlock which are so much like the cows that it is difficult to discriminate them from the cows and we are affraid that they might poison themselves. the indians have given us another horse to kill for provision which we keep as a reserved store. our dependence for subsistence is on our guns, the fish we may perhaps take, the roots we can purchase from the natives and as the last alternative our horses."


"Hohâstillpilp told us that most of the horses we saw runing at large in this neighbourhood belonged to himself and his people, and whenever we were in want of meat he requested that we would kill any of them that we wished; this is a piece of liberallity which would do honour to such as bo[a]st of civilization; indeed I doubt whether there are not a great number of our countrymen who would see us fast many days before their compassion would excite them to a similar act of liberality."


"several foot races were run this evening between the indians and our men. the indians are very active; one of them proved as fleet as Drewyer and R. Fields, our swiftest runners. when the racing was over the men divided themselves into two parties and played prison base, by way of exercise which we wish the men to take previously to entering the mountain; in short those who are not hunters have had so little to do that they are getting reather lazy and slouthfull. after dark we had the violin played and danced for the amusement of ourselves and the indians. one of the indians informed us that we could not pass the mountains untill the full of the next moon or about the first of July, that if we attempted it sooner our horses would be at least three days travel without food on the top of the mountain.... however as we have no time to loose we will wrisk the chances."

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