Two months on the Missouri River. Click on the button at the right to start the Adventure!

Tap To Call

At Headwaters   arrow

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark

Sunday, July 28, 1805

Captain Clark continued very unwell during the night, but was somewhat relieved this morning. On examining the two streams, it became difficult to decide which was the larger or the real Missouri. They are each 90 yards wide, and so perfectly similar in character and appearance that they seem to have been formed of the same mold. We were therfore induced to discontinue the name of Missouri, and gave the southwest branch the name of Jefferson, in honor of the President of the United States and the projector of the enterprise. We called the middle branch Madison, after james Madison, Secretary of Stae. These two, as well as Gallatin river, run with great velocity and throw out large bodies of water. Gallatin river is, however, the most rapid of the three; and though not quite as deep, is navigable for a considerable distance. Madison river, though much less rapid than the gallatin, is somewhat more so than the Jefferson. The beds of all of them are formed of smooth pebble and gravel, and the waters are perfectly transparent. The timber in the neighborhood would be sufficient for the ordinary uses of an establishment; which, however, it would be advisable to build of brick, as the earth appears calculated for that purpose, and along the shores are some bars of fine pure sand.

The greater part of the men, having yesterday put their deer-skins in water, were this day engaged in dressing them for the purpose of making clthing. The weather was very warm; the thermometer in the afternoon was at 90°, and the mosquitoes were more than usually inconvenient. We were, however, relieved from them by a high wind from the southwest, which came on at four o’clock, bringing a storm of thunder and lightning, attended by refreshing showers, which continued till after dark. In the evening the hunters returned with eight deer and two elk; and the party who had been sent up the Gallatin reported that, after passing the point where it escaped from Captain Lewis’ view yesterday, it turned more toward the east, as far as they could discern the opening of the mountains formed by the vally which bordered it. The low grounds were still wide, but not so extensive as near its mouth, and though the stream is rapid and much divided by islands, it is still sufficiently deep for navigation with canoes. The low grounds, though not more than eight or nine above the water, seem never to be overflowed, except a part on the west side of the middle fork, which is stoney and seems occasionaly inundated; they are furnished with great quantities of small fruit, such as currants and goose berries.

Sacajawea, our Indian women, informs us that we are camped on the precise spot where her countrymen, the Snake Indians, had their huts five years ago, when the Minnetarees of Knife river first came in sight of them, and from which they hastily retreated three miles up the jefferson, and concealed themselves in the woods. The Minnetarees, however, pursued and attacked them, killed four men, as many women and a number of boys, and made prisoners of four other boys and all the females, of whom Sacajawea was one. She does not, however, show any distress at these recollections, or any joy at the prospect of being restored to her country; for she seems to possess the folly or the philosophy of not suffering her feelings to extend beyond the anxiety of having plenty to eat and a few trinkets to wear.