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The Yellowstone River

Saturday, April 27, 1805

We left the mouth of the Yellowstone. From the point of junction a wood occupies the space between the two rivers, which at the distance of a mile comes within two hundred and fifty yards of each other. There a beautiful low plain commences, and widening as the river recede, extends along each of them for several miles, rising about half a mile from the Missouri into a plain twelve feet higher than itself. The low plain is a few inches above high water mark, and where it joins the higher plain there is a channel of sixty or seventy yards in width, through which a part of the Missouri when at its greatest height passes into the yellowstone. At two and a half miles above the junction and between the high and low plain is a small lake, two hundred yards wide, extending for a mile parallel with the Missouri along the edge of the upper plain. At the lower extremity of this lake, about four hundred yards from the Missouri, and twice the distance from the Yellowstone, is a situation highly eligible for a trading establisment; it is in the high plain which extends back three miles in width, and seven or eight miles in length, alon the Yellowstone, where it is bordered by an extensive body of woodland, and alon the Missouri with less breadth, till three miles above it is circumscribed by the hills within a space four yards in width. A sufficient quantity of limestone for building may easily be procured near the junction of the rivers; it does not lie in regular stratas, but is in large irregular masses, of a light colour and apparently of an excellant quality. Game too is very abundant, and as yet quite gentle; above all, its elevation recommends it as preferable to the land at the confluence of the rivers, which their variable channels may render very insecure. The N.W. wind rose so high at eleven o’clock, that we were obliged to stop till about four in the afternoon, when we proceeded till dusk. On the south a beautiful plain separates the two rivers, till at about six miles there is a timbered piece of low ground, and a little above it bluffs, where the country rises gradually from the river; the situations on the north more high and open. We encamped on that side, the wind, the sand which it raised, and the rapidity of the current having prevented our advancing more than eight miles; during the latter part of the day the river becomes wider and crouded with sandbars: although the game is in such plenty we kill only what is necessary for our subsistence. For several days past we have seen great numbers of buffaloe lying dead along the shore, and some of them partly devoured by the wolves; they have either sunk through the ice during the winter, or been drowned in attempting to cross, or else, after crossing to some high bluff, found themselves too much exhausted either to ascend or swim back again, and perished for want of food; in this situation we found several small parties of them. There are geese too in abundance, and more bald-eagles than we have hitherto observed; the nests of these last being always accompanied by those of two or three magpies, who are their inseparable attendants.