By July 18, 1811, Donald McKenzie, Ramsay Crooks, Joseph Miller, Robert McClellan, John Reed, and I [Wilson Price Hunt], in company with fifty-six men, a woman, and two children had traveled up the Missouri River from St. Louis to the village of the Aricaras. We left there with eighty-two horses packing commodities, munitions, food, and animal traps. Everyone walked except the company partners and the woman, a squaw. We took a southwesterly route and came to the banks of the Ramparre, a little river that flows into the Missouri below the Aricaras' village.
Without doubt the name Ramparre comes from the French hunters, for it means "provided with many forts." On the same day we camped near a small stream a short distance from its confluence with the Grand River. This we forded on July 21, and on the 24th we pitched camp on the banks of one of its tributaries. We had covered sixty-seven miles, keeping our course a little more to the west in the prairies, where the grass was knee-high and where the horses could graze contentedly. The countryside was bare except for a few cottonwood trees growing along the rivers.
Several members of the company were ill, and we rested here until August 5. During this interval I visited the camp of some Cheyenne Indians. I bought thirty-six horses there at a price better than that which I paid the Aricaras. Their camp was in the middle of a prairie near a small stream. These Indians burn buffalo chips to keep themselves warm. Their teepees are made of buffalo skins carefully sewn together and supported by poles joined at the top. They often hold as many as fifty people. The Cheyennes are honest and clean. They hunt buffalo, and they raise horses that each year they trade to the Aricaras for corn, kidney beans, pumpkins, and some merchandise. They had a dozen beaver skins, but they did not seem to know how to trap these animals.
We rearranged our packs so that no horse would be loaded too heavily and resumed our journey on August 6. We now had enough horses so that two men could ride alternately. I assigned six to hunters and sent them to look for buffalo. We crossed several hillocks, or isolated knolls, that were composed of red earth as hard as brick. Other signs indicated that this area had been burned over, for at the base of several knolls we saw cinders and pumice stones. This rugged terrain had very little grass.
It appeared that at one time some straggling trees had grown on these plains. We found the rotted remains of a few of them. Stumps still stood and we could see from the remnants that they were pine and oak. On the 6th we camped along a tributary of the Grand River and on the 7th near a pond in the prairie. Buffalo chips served for our fuel. We killed several buffalo; in fact, they were everywhere around us, for they were breeding. They made a frightful noise that sounded like distant thunder. The males tore up the earth with their hooves and horns.
We covered forty-two miles on the 6th and 7th. But after that we slowed our pace so that our hunters, who were behind us, could rejoin the main party. The countryside became mountainous and water scarce. The slopes were covered with crags of white sandstone, ranging from southeast to northwest. We saw some big horn [sheep] there, and we built fires on the summits to guide our hunters. At first we used buffalo chips, but after that we could use pine wood. (40 miles southwest)
On August 11 we crossed a range of mountains like those of preceding days. The trail was tiring because of its precipitousness and the great number of rocks. On the 12th we forded two tributaries of the Grand River that flowed from the southwest, one of them appearing to be the main branch. We saw many petrifactions that several of our companions collected to use as whetstones. (27 miles)
Since we supposed that our hunters were still to our right, on the 13th we traveled more to the west, crossing a tributary of the Little Missouri that was three hundred feet wide, its current swift, muddy, and swirling with eddies. To the west the mountains appeared to bar our passage. Three of our hunters returned at sunset. (12 miles)
On the 14th, we made camp beside a tributary of the Little Missouri. The evening was very cold. To the north we found pine-covered mountains that we crossed on the 15th. The terrain was extremely rugged. It became even worse on the 17th, and we could find no passage through these mountains. We killed a big horn whose meat is good, not unlike mutton. Usually we found these animals on mountains where no other animals could go. Several ran and leaped on the very edges of precipices. We also saw some black-tailed deer, larger than the red deer and with very big ears. Their flesh is not so tasty as that of the red deer. The tips of their tails are black, and they are to be found only in mountainous country. (45 miles southwest)
On the 18th we found it necessary to leave the mountains and turn back toward the broken countryside. There we met our hunters who had killed eight buffalo. When we had pitched camp to the left of the pine-covered mountains, Mr. McKenzie and I scaled the nearby slopes. Our view extended in all directions. In the west we saw far off some mountains that appeared white in several spots, and we assumed that this was the snow-covered Big Horn [Range]. Below the peaks herds of buffalo ran over the plains. (10 miles)
On the 19th, we camped in the midst of some hills near a pond of clear water. All around grew reeds, gooseberries, and prickly gooseberries with yellow and red fruit. Clusters of cherry trees showed signs of the habitual paths of the black bear, so that the slightest wind that stirred the bushes gave us some feelings of trepidation. However, we had to this point seen only three of the animals. (21 miles southwest)
We stopped on the 20th beside a branch of the Little Missouri, thought to be the largest tributary. The weather was cold and disagreeable. It froze during the night and the ice was as thick as a dollar. The countryside was high and irregular. This is the spot that separates the waters that flow east into the Missouri and west into the Yellowstone. (34 miles west)
On the 22nd we ran into what we thought to be the usual route of the Absaroka [usually called the Crow] Indians coming from the Mandan villages. The little river beside which we camped and which flowed north was doubtless a tributary of the Powder River. On the 23rd we found another branch; but before we got there we passed through some mountains and some dry gullies. The great heat, the treacherous trail, and the lack of water caused much suffering. Several people were at the point of losing their courage. Mr. McKenzie's dog died from exhaustion. While trudging through these barren, arid mountains we could no longer kill buffalo, for they usually keep near water. However, on the 25th we found a few in this area. The hunters stalked them and killed five. The day before, some of the company had eaten a wolf, which they found quite good. We made camp near a third tributary of the Powder River. (58 miles southwest)
We left the river on the 30th, and camped near Mt. Big Horn [probably Cloud Peak] that had been ahead of us for so long. The day before, our hunters had seen signs of Indians. For several days we had been on the lookout for them, but they discovered us first. On the evening of the 30th, two Crow Indians came to our camp and the next morning many more appeared. They were all on horseback. Not even the children were on foot. These Indians are such excellent horsemen that they ride up and down the mountains and craggy heights as if they were galloping in a riding school. We followed their to their settlement that was beside a clear brook on the slope of a mountain.
The chief came to meet us. He received us amicably, led us to his tent, and pointed to a spot convenient for our camp. I gave him presents of tobacco, knives, and some trifles to distribute among his people. To him personally I gave a piece of scarlet cloth, some powder, bullets, and other items.
We spent the first day of September buying some robes and pelts and trading our tired, maimed horses for fresh ones. A few of our company bought some, thereby augmenting the number of our horses to about 121, most of which were well-trained and able to cross the mountains.
On the 2nd we resumed our journey along the foot of the mountains and stopped near a small river that is said to be a tributary of the Powder River. We tried for half a day on the 3rd to get away from the precipices and the bare mountain heights; but we were forced to retrace our steps and return to the banks of a small stream. We killed several very large elk. (21 miles)
We had in our company a hunter by the name of Rose, a very unpleasant, insolent man. We had been warned that he planned to desert us when we came across the Crow Indians, to persuade as many of our men as he could to abandon us, and to steal our horses. For that reason we kept close watch at night. Moreover, we were afraid that if, despite our vigilance, he succeeded in carrying out his traitorous design, he would greatly damage our expedition. Thus, with the thought in mind that his plan might be more extensive than we suspected, we resolved to frustrate it. On September 2 we had received a visit from some Crow Indians of a tribe different from the one which we had just left and which was camped on the mountainside. At that point I suggested to Rose that he remain with [the] Crow Indians; and I offered him half a year's wages, a horse, three beaver traps, and some other commodities. He accepted my conditions; and he immediately abandoned his fellow conspirators who, without a leader, remained with our expedition.
So Rose joined the first Crow Indians whom we encountered. Their chief realized that we had followed a wrong course and on the 4th sent Rose to tell us and to put us on the right trail that crossed the mountains and that was both shorter and better. We soon met Crows who were taking the same route as we, a meeting that gave me an opportunity to admire the horsemanship of these Indians. It was truly unbelievable. There, among others, was a child tied to a two-year-old colt. He held the reins in one hand and frequently used his whip. I asked about his age and was told that he had seen two winters. He did not yet talk!
We camped at the source of the small river that we had reached the day before, resting there on the 5th. We wished to await the return of our hunters who appeared that evening. They had killed two buffalo and a gray bear. We were in the middle of the Big Horn mountains, so called because of the river by that name. The river runs along the mountain base, flowing northeast to southwest. The Big Horns are an advanced part of the Rockies. They are covered with pines, with many shrubs, and with plants that were actually in bloom. (16 miles)
On the 6th we met eight Indians and three families, some of them Flatheads and some Snakes. As we continued on our way westward across the mountains and crags, we saw some beautiful country: an abundance of springs, verdant grasslands, forests of pine, and innumerable plants in bloom. Nevertheless, it froze continually. We camped near a brook that flowed north and emptied into the Big Horn River. The ground was covered with gooseberries of two species, the best that I have ever eaten. One of our men brought me some strawberries that he had just picked. We had killed an elk and several black-tailed deer. Buffalo were quite numerous, too, so that the mountainside looked like one continuous barnyard. Farther on, however, we found only an occasional animal. We could see clearly a third, snow-covered mountain; we had avoided the first and now turned southward. (20 miles)
By the 7th we went down onto the plains, where we traveled until the 9th. We thus reached the banks of the Big Horn, here called the Wind River because the wind blows so continually that the snow never remains on the ground. We camped twice along this stream. On the morning of the 8th we paid the Indians the price of a horse that they offered us and set out for the village of the Arapaho Indians, a tribe of the Panis who live along the Platte River. One of our men left a gun at the camp, but the Indians had run off with it before he could return. That evening we were on the banks of a small river into which flows a brook that has a great quantity of beaver. At the spot where we camped, the Big Horn flows swiftly, is quite clear, and is about three hundred feet wide. We could see below us the canyon through which it escaped the mountain meadows. It is a very narrow gorge flanked on both sides by precipices. (45 miles west)
On the 10th we went along the banks of the Wind River, going upstream through a beautiful plain. Some trees grow along its banks but there are no beaver. Its torrents have covered the banks with gravel. We saw two bears that we could not get near, but we caught some fish that were much like herring. On the 11th we forded a rather large tributary of the Wind River that flows out of the mountains rising from the south. On the plain we often used sagebrush for our fires. It grows here to a great height. I rode through a thicket of it that was as tall as I on horseback and extremely full. Two species of gooseberries are quite common. We saw many flights of robins and other small birds. By the 12th we found mountains to the north and to the south of us. They seemed to join in the west. We crossed the Wind River and found the trail hilly. (38 miles)
From the 13th to the 15th, we crossed and recrossed the Wind River as well as two of its tributaries, the larger of which flowed from the northwest. The land produces a great amount of wild flax which is much like ours in height, in the texture of its stem, and in its husk, though the husk is smaller and lighter in color. The mountains closed in and the countryside became very rugged, the footing tortuous among the high peaks. On the 15th we left the river and, trekking southwest, followed an Indian trail into the mountains. One of our hunters who had been on the banks the Columbia pointed out three immense and snow-covered peaks which, he said, bordered a tributary of the river [the Snake]. (50 miles southwest)
On the 16th we frequently encountered snow. There were large beds of it on the summit and slopes of the mountains visible to the north. We halted beside the Spanish River [Green River], a large stream on whose banks, according to some Indians, the Spanish live. It flows west and, it may be supposed, empties into the Gulf of California. We were surrounded by mountains in which we found beautiful green meadows where many herds of buffalo graze - a fact the more interesting to us because we had not seen a single one of these animals for several days. I found three different species of gooseberries: the common type with red berries, low bushes, and very spiny stems; a second with excellent yellow berries and non-spiny stems; and a third with dark red berries that taste much like our winter grapes. It is nearly as large and has very spiny stems. I also saw three kinds of currants; one has red berries, large and savory, with bushes eight or nine feet high; another with yellow berries about the size of ordinary currants, and with bushes about four or five feet high; and a third with bright red berries that are almost as sweet as strawberries but are rather insipid. Their bushes are small. (20 miles)
On the 17th we continued to follow the river to the opposite end of the mountains. Beaver and otter seemed to be everywhere. In fact, for some distance down the mountainside the area appears to be very favorable for trapping beaver. Ducks and geese are also plentiful. (15 miles southwest)
On the 18th we left the river and, as we trekked to the northwest, we went up a small stream that flows from the mountains. We stopped there to dry enough buffalo meat to last until we reached the banks of the Columbia and other rivers where we hoped to catch fish. While hunting, some of our men met Indians who seemed to be extremely frightened at the appearance of our men and who immediately took flight. I went after them with Mr. McKenzie, Mr. McClellan, and two others. We had gone about eight miles before we found them some distance away, pursuing a buffalo. When they saw us they again ran away and again we followed them. Finally we overtook two young men whose horses were not so fast as those of their comrades. At first they seemed to be greatly disturbed, but we soon put them at ease. They led us to their camp. They belonged, we found, to a tribe of Snake Indians that had come to this district to dry meat. They had a great amount of it, all very fat. They live in skin tents and own many horses. Several among them had never before seen white men and they were very happy about our visit. They fed us and in all made us thoroughly welcome. They had no pelts other than buffalo and a dozen beaver, which we bought; and we urged them to kill more of the beaver. We told them that we would return to their camp to trade with them and they seemed pleased. We bought from them nearly two thousand pounds of dried buffalo meat which, with the more than four thousand that our men had prepared, loaded all our horses but six. (8 miles)
Afterward, when we had climbed a small mountain, we came to a good trail leading to a tributary of the Columbia where it flows into the fourth range. Several tributaries of the Columbia flow from this same range. We had snow on both sides and ahead of us on all the peaks. (15 miles west)
The little brook that we followed is fed by several others and becomes a small river. On the 25th and 26th we had to ford it often, but its current is so swift that no one could cross it without help. Our trail was quite tortuous, winding through small mountains and along the edge of precipices that surrounded us. One of our pack horses fell into the river from a height of nearly two hundred feet but was not hurt. (20 miles)
We left these mountains on the 27th and camped at the confluence of a small river and another stream that we had seen recently. Americans call it the Mad River because of its swiftness. On its banks and somewhat above this confluence rise the three peaks that we had seen on the 15th. We ought, before, to have continued to follow the Wind River and crossed one of these mountains because we would have reached its source. But our lack of provisions had forced us to head for the banks of the Spanish River. (12 miles west)
Since it was at this point from which we hoped to continue our journey by water, we began on the 28th to look for trees suitable for building canoes. With another man I climbed about twelve miles on the other side of the river and saw many signs of beaver; I also saw gray bear tracks and a herd of elk. That evening when I returned to camp I learned that no one had been any more successful than I in finding suitable wood. The trees, a variety of poplar, were too frail; their leaves are like those of the willow. There were also some spruce, but they were so full of knots that we had no hope that our axes could get through them. The other trees that we had seen were cherries, small pines, sorbs [service trees], and some cedars.
Thus, on the 29th we moved our camp farther downriver because the trees there better suited our purpose, even though, as it seemed to me, we would have to make a canoe out of two pieces. On the 30th we set to work and we felled many trees that were not useful. However, since I feared that the river would not be navigable below the point where it flowed into the mountains, Mr. Reed and two other men went ahead to explore it for the distance of four days of travel downstream.
On October 1, it rained in the valley and snowed in the mountains. Several of our men left to catch beaver. At evening two Snake Indians who had followed us since we left the Crows came to our camp. They made us fear that we should not be able to travel on the river. On the 2nd Mr. Reed returned. At the end of two days he had been obliged to leave his horses which were of no help to him in climbing the mountains and crags. After an hour's effort to get through on foot along the river banks he had been forced to abandon his attempt. To try to get across the peaks would have been an endless labor. The river became very narrow, its twisting course obstructed by many rapids. It became necessary then to look farther downstream for wood for our canoes and the hope of navigating. So far as Mr. Reed could see, the river continued to flow through the heart of the mountains. Among other things he had found signs of beaver and had seen two bears, one black and one gray.
Rain and sleet fell all day on the 3rd. Everything was readied to cross the mountain that we believed was our last. The storm ended on the 4th, but all the slopes around us were covered with snow. We forded the Mad River with the water up to the bellies of our horses, and camped at the foot of the mountain. On the 5th we climbed it, following an easy and much-traveled trail. Snow whitened the summit and the northern slopes of the heights. The Snakes served as our guides, though two of our hunters had the year before come through this area. (18 miles)
On the 6th we camped near a little brook that washes the northwest borders of a beautiful plain. The next day we stopped by a river that flows to the northwest, crossing it on the 7th. It joins several other streams and becomes quite large. After merging with another stream of equal size, it runs west. We saw many herds of antelopes. Wild cherries are common, about the size of ordinary red cherries, but they were not yet ripe. About twelve miles northwest of our camp there is a hot spring. I went to it with Mr. McKenzie and, though it was not boiling, steam constantly spouted from it.
The 8th was cold all day. The wind from the west blew with a fury, and a little snow fell. We reached the fort of Mr. Andrew Henry. It has several small buildings that lie constructed in order to spend the past winter there. All stand along a tributary of the Columbia about 300 to 450 feet wide. We hoped to navigate it and we found some trees suitable for canoes. By the 9th we had already begun to build eight of them, all from cottonwood. The cottonwood, the aspen, and some small willows are the only trees that thrive in this area.
Mr. Miller left us on the 10th, with four hunters and four horses, to trap beaver. They took the two Snakes with them and traveled down along the mountainside, hoping to find a tribe of Indians from whom they could get information useful to their hunting. Every evening we caught some beaver and some small salmon trout. On the 14th a Snake Indian came to our camp half dead from hunger and clothed in rags.
On the 17th we were all ready to embark. We had cached our saddles in a spot that we showed the two young Snakes. They promised to take care not only of the saddles but also of our seventy-seven horses until one of us returned. The poor devil whom we had seen on the 14th came back with his son, who was even more ragged than he. We fed them. Then they gathered up the paws and entrails of the beavers we had killed and said goodbye to us. The people of this area must suffer terribly from a lack of game. Buffalo come here in some seasons; their tracks are numerous. There are also some elk and some extremely wild antelope. During our stay in this district the wind blew constantly from the west, often quite violently. I observed that it is the prevailing wind in these mountains where it causes considerable damage, uprooting large trees over a vast area and blowing their branches for great distances.
With the cargoes loaded into our canoes, we left this place on the 19th. The force of the current hurried us along at a rapid pace, and we were not long in passing the little river that I mentioned on the 7th. Beyond its confluence with the Mad River it becomes large enough to make navigation possible for canoes of all sizes. Its water is a light green. Since it had no name, I gave it one: the Canoe River [Teton River]. Its banks are lined with small cottonwoods. Several markings made me think that within the last few days some gray bears had been here in the thickets. Beaver, ducks, and geese are very common. It was cold and it snowed all day. (30 miles south)
As we went on downstream the river became more beautiful and much larger; a space of from 1,200 to 1,800 feet separated its two banks. We made 40 miles on the 20th, but throughout the last twenty the river bed was broken by rapids, and we found two other rapids farther downstream. In going through these, two of our canoes were swamped and we had to stop at once. I sent my canoe and one other to the rescue. We saved the men, but we lost a good deal of merchandise and many supplies, as well as one of the canoes. We continued to find the mountains on our left, ranging parallel to the river. It was cold. We could still see Pilot Knob [Grand Teton] that we had seen on September 15. (40 miles southeast)
When on the 21st we had passed two rapids, we came to a portage of a mile and a quarter. We carried the supplies by land and towed the canoes. For nearly a half mile the river narrows between two sheer mountain walls to not more than sixty feet, in a few places to even less. (6 miles)
We passed over the rapids with the canoes tied to a rope, but we did not delay re-embarking on the 21st. Thereafter we came to a series of rapids, two of which forced us to portage. One of the small canoes swamped and capsized and we lost more supplies. (6 miles)
On the 23rd we lightened the loads in our canoes in order to pass through some very rough waters. After that we found several rapids which were not dangerous but in which the current was very swift. Beaver, geese, and ducks are common here. We found no other trees but the cottonwoods and willows, and on the plains some wild pears. The prairies were marked by buffalo tracks, but these were quite old. From time to time we saw flights of magpies and robins. The mountains fan out in different directions here. (75 miles south)
Toward the end of the day the river current slowed. From either side, the [larger] Canoe River is joined by a small stream. A tribe of Snakes and one Shoshone fled when we appeared. In their camp we found some tiny fish that were not more than an inch long; we found, in addition, some roots and seeds that they were drying for winter, some pots of woven grass and twigs for water, and a well-made fish net of flax or nettle. We left some small commodities and two knives in the camp. Somewhat farther downstream we met three of these Indians on a slight raft of reeds and we stopped them. Except for a fragment of a rabbitskin robe thrown over their shoulders, they were completely naked. Their bows and arrows are artistically wrought. The bow is of pine or cedar, or of bone reinforced by animal sinews. The arrow is of reed or well-worked wood, tipped with a green stone. We made camp near a waterfall about thirty feet high. (70 miles)
On the 25th we crossed to the south bank and traveled on land so that we could avoid the waterfall and some small rapids below it. Six miles downstream a rock obstructs the river channel from one bank to the other; but because the south bank is less high, we could lower the canoes by rope. Several of them swamped while we were passing through a series of rapids and again we lost some of our merchandise. The river is winding, the countryside rugged and rocky. The mountains reach down to the very edge of the water on the south bank. (12 miles)
On the 26th the rapids were again numerous but not precarious. In some places the water was calm. We left the mountains and took a northwesterly route. When we landed to visit a camp of Indians, the poor creatures fled at our approach. By making signs of friendship, I persuaded one of them to return. He was on horseback and seemed better equipped than those whom I had seen earlier. He had some trout and some dried meat that he traded for a few knives, but his fear of us was so great that I could not get him to show me, by sign language, the route that I should take. His only concern was that I not take away his fish and meat and that I commend him to the care of the Great Spirit. (70 miles)
The skies were cloudy and it rained on the afternoon of the 27th. We had come to only two rapids in the morning. The river is nearly a half mile wide here, and beaver are plentiful. (40 miles southwest)
Our journey was less fortunate on the 28th; for after passing through several rapids, we came to the entrance of a narrow gorge. Mr. Crook's canoe capsized, one of his companions drowned, and we lost a great deal of merchandise. (18 miles)
On the 29th I went with three men to see if we could take our canoes through the north side of the gorge. For thirty-five miles I went along the banks of the river, which continues to carve a passage northwest through the mountains. Its bed is no more than sixty to ninety feet wide, it is full of rapids, and its course is broken by falls ten to forty feet high. Except at two spots where I went down to get water, the banks are precipitous everywhere. We had only some fruit from a rose tree for supper; then we slept beside our fire. On the 29th we returned to camp, tired out and famished. Those whom I had sent south had found a place where they believed that we could get through with our canoes by making a portage of about six miles.
Our situation became critical. We had enough food for about five days. On the 31st Mr. Reed and three others went downstream to try to get some horses and provisions from the Indians and to learn if, below the spot that I had reached, it was possible to navigate the river. Sixteen men, with four of our best canoes, went to attempt the passage. Then, because our lack of food prevented any delay of our journeys we put to one side those things that were most needful to us and began to dig holes in which to cache the remainder. Rain fell so heavily that we could not finish our digging.
On November 1 we changed our plans. In trying to descend the rapids with a rope, our sixteen men lost one of the canoes and its load of merchandise; the other canoes were caught among the rocks. We saw no way to continue our journey by water and prepared to go in different directions in search of Indians. The rain still hindered our work and we could not finish it until the 2nd, when we put our baggage and merchandise into six caches. Mr. McKenzie, along with four men, set out northward toward the plains, hoping to find the Columbia. Mr. McClellan and three other men went downstream on the Canoe River. Mr. Crooks and three men went upstream toward the river source. I remained with thirty-one men, a woman, and two children. We set a net in the river but caught only one fish. I ordered our four canoes loaded and we paddled upstream. While going around a point, in the midst of some rapids we lost a canoe but we saved the cargo. Our hunters who had caught up with us on the 4th had killed eight beaver. That was scanty relief. Mr. Crooks returned. He had found the distance by land greater than he expected and concluded that he could not reach Fort Henry and get back this winter. Thus he abandoned the scheme. I stopped at my camp of October 27.
I spent the 5th making all necessary arrangements for procuring food for several days, until we had news from Mr. Reed. Me caught four beaver, drying the tails and the innards. I had the dried meat inspected and aired. On the 6th, despite our efforts, we found only one fish in the net. Two of Mr. Reed's men returned. After they had explored for two days they realized that the river did not improve farther downstream. Consequently we agreed with Mr. Crooks that the best course was to divide our company into two parties, each to proceed on its own. For that reason I cached still other things, and all the essentials I put into packs of about twenty pounds each.
On the 7th I returned to our camp of October 28. We had wasted nine days in futile explorations. We had caught eight beaver; but we had eaten the dried meat, for its quality is superior to beaver meat.
I cached still more goods on the 8th, distributing to each member of our party all that remained of our food. Every person had five and a quarter pounds of meat. We had, besides, forty pounds of corn, twenty of fat, and nearly five pounds of bouillon tablets. That had to keep more than twenty people alive.
On the 9th I set out on the north bank of the river with nineteen men, a woman, and two children. Mr. Crooks, with nineteen others, traveled on the south bank. It rained in the afternoon. We camped under some rocks on the river's edge and had great difficulty getting water.
All day on the 10th we went on, unable to [reach any water to] drink, except the little we found in the hollows of rocks. Finally we came to a spot where we could reach the river. Everywhere else its banks are sheer walls two to three hundred feet high. Its bed is broken by rapids; but in the space between these rapids the water is quiet. Today we could have navigated it for thirty miles. Some willows grow along its banks. (32 miles northwest)
On the 11th we found at the water's edge a trail worn by horses. I chose to follow it rather than again to clamber over rocks. Before long we met two Shoshone Indians who showed me a knife that they had got from some of our companions. One of them led us along a path that took us away from the river; we crossed a prairie and came to the village of his people. The women fled in such haste that they did not have time to take their children who could not walk, but simply covered them with straw.
The poor little creatures were terrified when I lifted the straw to look at them. Even the men trembled, as though I were some ferocious animal. Nevertheless, they gave us a small amount of dried fish that we found most edible, and they sold us a dog. One of these Indians accompanied us and we soon found the river again. It was lined by their tents. We camped nearby and before long about fifty men came to see us. They were very honest and very obliging. As on the day before, the river course was broken by rapids. (26 miles northwest)
On the 12th I visited some tepees where I found a great quantity of salmon. These structures are of straw and are, in form, like stacks of wheat. They are warm and snug. In front of the doorways we saw large piles of sagebrush used for fires. I bought two dogs and we ate one for breakfast.
These Indians have good buffalo-skin robes which they told me they had got in trade for their salmon. After we left them, we went on for some time along the river and forded a little brook. We saw mountains to the north. (16 miles northwest)
On the 13th we camped at a spot where a small stream flows out of the mountains. (25 miles north, northwest)
On the 14th we came across an Indian camp with three tepees. All around these structures we saw an immense number of salmon heads and skins with pieces of meat still attached, but the best part of the meat had been cached. None of these Indians ran away when we appeared. The women were poorly clothed, the children even more shabbily, though each one had a robe of buffalo skin, or of rabbit, badger, fox, wolf, or possibly some skins of ducks sewn together. All these animals, with the exception of rabbits, are rarely found on these plains. We had not seen a buffalo for a long time. (22 miles northwest)
We bought two dogs and some salmon on the 15th. Before us was a snow-covered mountain that the river seemed to penetrate. The river banks were littered with dead salmon that sent up a frightful stench. The river course, so far as I could see, had no rapids. We met some horses whose owners took great care to keep them out of our way. The Indians told us that some of our people had passed through this area. (28 miles northwest)
Early on the 16th the river reappeared, but now it was narrow, filled with rapids, and bordered by sheer rocks. As we approached the mountains, we had only some parched corn and the remnants of our meat to keep ourselves alive. Fortunately, on the 17th I traded an old kettle for a horse, though the Indians showed no interest in anything else that we were carrying. I also got two dogs. The countryside was bare of woods and even the sagebrush had disappeared. We camped beside the river. (35 miles northwest)
We put our baggage on the horse. We had only a quart of grain and a small piece of fat for each person. On the 18th we continued our trail to the northwest, along the river banks. (30 miles)
On the 19th, following the advice of some Indians whom we met, we changed our course and crossed a prairie where we found no water at all. Everything seemed to suggest that we would be luckier on the next day. But what discouragement for people whose only food was dried fish! By good fortune we bought a horse. (25 miles northeast)
On the 20th the rain that had begun to fall the night before gave us a little water. This relief came in good time, for several Canadians had begun to drink their urine. (33 miles north)
The rain continued all night. On the 21st at daybreak we saw ahead of us a river that flowed to the west, its banks lined with cottonwood and willow trees. Some Indians who had pitched camp there had many horses and were far better clothed than those whom we had seen recently. They told us that farther upstream beaver were plentiful, though in the vicinity of our camp there were very few. When we arrived at the Indian village I lost my horse; an Indian told me that we had stolen it from him. However, as it was necessary to get food for our company, I bought some fish and two dogs [saying nothing further about the horse]. (12 miles)
It rained constantly and we could not make much headway on the trail. On the 22nd we met some Indians. As I gathered from the few words that I could understand, the distance from this spot to the Columbia was very considerable; but the Indians told me nothing about the route that I should take. We got some fish, seven dogs, and two horses. We continued our way westward along the river (35 miles) and on the 24th forded it a little above our Canoe River which flowed northward. The mountains ahead were all covered with snow. (18 miles northwest) On the 25th, despite the rigors of the season, our exhaustion, and our weakness we forded another river, waist high, that flowed from the east. (27 miles)
The foothills began to appear on the 26th, spreading along the snowy mountains. We crossed another little stream that flows from the east, like the others. It brought us, on the 27th, to a pass so narrow that it scarcely left enough space for us to get through. We were often forced to take the baggage from the backs of our horses and wade through the water. On the previous evening we had caught a beaver that furnished us with a meager breakfast and we made a supper of some bouillon tablets. I ordered a horse killed and my people thought the meat very good. I could eat it only with regret because I had become attached to the poor animal. (33 miles northwest)
On the 28th we arrived early at a Shoshone village. The Indians had just killed two colts for food. Except for the seeds of a plant that looks like flax and that they pulverize, the horsemeat was their only food. I bought a sack of the former, as well as some pieces of horsemeat which was fat and tender. I dreaded to remain several days in these narrows and I camped near the Indians in the hope of trading some goods for a horse. But no matter what I offered, I could make no bargain. When the women saw that I was insistent, they raised cries of fright, as though I wanted to rob them. The men told me about some whites who had followed the same trail as the one we were taking and about some others who had passed on the opposite side of the river. This news relieved me greatly regarding Mr. Crooks and his companions, especially when I learned that he still had his dogs; for I could believe that he had not suffered too much from hunger. The Indians added that I would sleep three more nights in the mountains and that after six nights on the trail I would arrive at the Great Falls of the Columbia. Nevertheless, I had little confidence in this talk because it seemed to me that they were only impatient to see us leave. (10 miles north)
On the 29th the bad footing forced us to unload our horses and occasionally to leave the river banks. We climbed mountains so high that I could hardly believe our horses would get over them. On the 30th the mountains further narrowed the river channel. The heights were covered with pines and snow. We could advance only with the greatest diffIculty because of the sharp rocks, and the precipices plunge to the very banks of the river that here flows northeast and then north northwest. We killed a black-tailed deer which gave us an excellent meal. (28 miles)
On December 1 it rained in the valley and snowed in the mountains. As I climbed them to look for a passageway, I found the snow knee deep. I saw many black cherries that were delicious probably because the frost had cut their tartness. Snow fell so heavily on the mountain slopes we had to cross that visibility was no more than a half mile. We were compelled to rest in camp on the 2nd. The evening before we had caught a beaver, but as we had nothing more to eat I killed another horse.
Rain and snow fell all day on the 3rd, and we traveled only nine miles. We unloaded our horses so that we could keep to our trail along the river, and we carried the baggage in our arms, trudging to the northeast. On the 4th, we had to leave the river course and again climb the mountains whose ranges extended all around us and were covered with snow. Pines and other evergreens grew on the slopes of a few of them. The snow came above our knees and it was extremely cold. We were nearly exhausted by the harshness of the weather when we had the good luck of reaching a patch of pine trees at sunset. We comforted ourselves by a good fire. Although we had struggled ahead all day we were, because of the twisting course of the river, only four miles from our camp of the day before.
The snowstorm that commenced on the 5th reduced visibility to about three hundred feet, but we succeeded in reaching the river by sliding down the mountainside. The roar of the water guided us. One horse fell several hundred feet with his load but was not hurt. The weather was much less severe in the valley than on the mountain slopes, for it rained there and the snow was only ankle deep. I slaughtered another horse. (6 miles)
We were just setting out on the 6th when to my astonishment and distress I saw Mr. Crooks and his people on the other side of the river. I returned to camp at once and built a canoe with the hide of the horse I had killed the night before. Then I launched some food in it, sending it across the river to our starving companions. Mr. Crooks and one of his men came across to us. Poor man! He was almost completely exhausted by fatigue and hunger. He told me that he had already traveled for three days downstream, that the mountains there were even higher and narrowed to not more than sixty to a hundred feet between sheer walls. It was impossible for men in their condition to get through. For six days they had had only the meat of their dogs for food. Mr. McKenzie and Mr. Reed had passed and Mr. Crooks had talked with them only a few days earlier. They told him that Mr. McClellan had left the river and crossed the mountains, hoping to find the Flathead Indians. In the place where we met, the river flowed almost exactly east. Mr. Crooks said that it continued to run in that direction.
I spent the night reflecting on our situation. I had to answer for the needs of more than twenty famished people and, moreover, to do all that I could for Mr. Crooks and his men. Despite all the discouraging reports that he had given me about the countryside below, I should have gone my way through the mountains if, as I had already learned, the depth of the snow had not made such a journey impracticable. To my great regret it was thus necessary to backtrack with the hope of finding some Indians on one of the three small rivers beyond these mountains. I counted on buying from them a large enough number of horses to feed us until we reached the Columbia, a move I flattered myself in thinking we could effect this winter. I nevertheless believed that Mr. Crooks and several of his men would not be able to follow us. What a prospect ! We had to plan on having nothing to eat for several days; for on this side of the Indian village that we had left on November 29, we had found nothing but cherries, and perhaps there would be no more of them in the same places. The horsehide canoe had been lost. We made a raft so that Mr. Crooks and his companions could cross to the other side of the river with some meat, but the attempt was unsuccessful. On the 7th we were reduced to a very slow pace because Mr. Crooks was so weak that he could follow along only with great difficulty. Most of my men went on ahead. On the 8th we made another raft; but, after repeated attempts, Mr. Crooks and his men could not make the crossing because of the swift current. I had of course to wait for them, and my men complained. They said that we would all die from starvation and urged me by all means to go on. To add to my distress, Mr. Crooks was very ill during the night. I realized that this unfortunate situation could delay for two days my reaching the Indian village. I therefore left three men with Mr. Crooks and set out on the 9th with two others to rejoin my group. I had three beaver skins and I left two; my men and I made a supper of the third. The weather was extremely cold.
Early on the 10th I overtook my people. We had only one horse left and that belonged to Dorion, one of our Canadians. We suggested slaughtering it, but Dorion would not consent to the idea. We finally agreed that it would be better to let the animal live until we knew whether or not the Indian village was still in the same place. I approved this plan quite willingly because the poor horse was only skin and bones. We had not gone far on the trail before we found some tepees of the Shoshones who had come down from the mountains after our departure. I approached them cautiously so as to keep them from hiding their horses. They had twenty and sold us five, one of which I had slaughtered at once, and I sent a man to Mr. Crooks with some of the meat. Several of my men had not eaten since the 7th, the day on which they had left me.
Then on the 11th a new misfortune struck us. One of Mr. Crook's men drowned while crossing the river in a canoe that capsized with a load of goods. I ordered another horse killed; and I left two animals with Mr. Crooks along with some of the meat of a third, hoping that with this help he could reach the Indians upstream. On the 13th we came to the village that we had seen during our descent from the mountain heights. The Indians traded a horse for an old pewter kettle and some glass beads, but they refused a gun.
On the 16th we at last left the mountains and camped on the banks of a river that we had forded on the 26th of the previous month. Thus for twenty days we had worn ourselves out futilely trying to find a passage along the lower part of this river. On the previous day rain and snow had fallen. Ice floated on the river and the weather was extremely cold. Luckily for us, in this district we found a dozen tepees of the Shoshones who had come since we had camped there. They told me that it would [not?] have been possible for us to find a passage by following the river. This news heightened my anxiety about Mr. McKenzie and his company. On the 17th I went up the little stream and camped near a Shoshone village. From these Indians I bought a horse and a dog, and on the 18th I got another horse, some dried fish, a few roots, and some pounded dried cherries. I spent most of the day getting information about our route and about the time it would take the reach the village of Sciatogas. These Indians gave us different advice; but they did agree in saying that the trail was good, that it would take us seventeen to twenty-one nights to reach our destination, and that in the mountains we would be in snow up to our waists. I offered a gun, some pistols, a horse, etc., to whoever would serve me as a guide. They all replied that we would freeze to death and pleaded with me to remain with them during the winter.
I tried again on the 19th to find a guide. I went to every tepee along the river banks, but without success. I could not get along without one, for that meant running the risk that we would all die. But to remain in this place would be still worse, after having come so far and at such great cost. I ended by telling the Indians that they spoke with forked tongues, that they were lying to me. I accused them of being women; in short, I challenged them with whatever expressions would goad them most. At last, one of them found courage enough to volunteer to be our guide as far as the village of the Sciatogas. According to the report of our Shoshones, these Indians live on the west side of the mountains and own many horses.
Thus, we once more resumed our journey. On the 21st two other Indians joined our guide who led us at once to our Canoe River. We did not find any reed canoes there for the crossing; so we killed two horses and made a canoe with the hide of one of them. In this we got across the river. On the other side I found thirteen of Mr. Crook's men who told me that since we had left they had not seen either Mr. Crooks or the two men who were with him. When we had all effected a crossing by the 23rd, my people took heart. All of Mr. Crook's men were extremely weak and exhausted, four of them even more than the others. They handed over to me a horse and some goods. When three of them expressed the wish to remain with the Snakes, I gave them a canoe and some supplies. They crossed the river on the following day, and I hoped that they would not be long in finding Mr. Crooks and his party.
My group was now made up of thirty-two white men, a woman eight months pregnant, her two children, and three Indians. We had only five puny horses to feed us during our trip over the mountains. On the 24th I [at last] turned away from the Canoe River, remembrance of which will always cause us some moments of unhappiness. We traveled west, crossing hills by a trail that was sometimes level enough, more often irregular, but always good. A little snow fell and a little rain. On the 28th we crossed a brook that flowed northward. Mountains crowded us on each side; to the left was one that we had to climb. It extended from north to south, was heavily wooded, and was covered with snow. On the 29th we had a good trail through a level valley and we forded the river twice. ( 106 miles west)
On the 30th, after we had left the river at a spot where it thrusts into the mountains to the north, we came to another beautiful valley several miles wide and very long. A pretty stream meanders there and the beaver seem to be plentiful. Happily we found six Shoshone tepees and many horses. These Indians sold us four horses, as well as three dogs and some roots. They told me that we still had three nights to sleep before we came to the Sciatoga village and they showed me a pass in the mountains through which we had to travel. They added that not much snow was there, but they had so often given me erroneous reports that I did not take this news seriously. On every side of us snow blanketed the mountains. The pregnant woman gave birth to her child early the next morning. Her husband [Dorion] remained with her in the camp for a day, then rejoined us on the 31st. His wife rode horseback with her newly born child in her arms. Another child, two years old and wrapped in a blanket, was fastened by her side. One would have thought, from her behavior, that nothing had happened to her. (21 miles west)
My people asked me not to travel on the 1st of January without first celebrating the new year. I agreed to the idea willingly because most of them were very tired from having daily no more than a meager meal of horse meat and from carrying packs on their shoulders while crossing the mountains.
From the 2nd to the 7th of January we crossed the valley, following a small stream for several miles into the mountains and climbing many pine-covered hills. On the peaks we waded through snow half way up our legs, at times plunging into it to our waists. We lacked water. On the 4th we were at a point as high as the mountains that surrounded us, some wooded, but all covered with snow. The weather was overcast and cold. On the 6th we saw the sun for the first time since climbing into these mountains, and the snow decreased. To the west we could see what appeared to be a plain. On the 7th we came to a small stream that led us to an extremely narrow pass through mountains of immense height. Everywhere we found horse trails used by the Indians in hunting deer which must be plentiful here, for we saw many herds of black-tail. The snow disappeared entirely. The Dorion baby died. By nightfall several of our men had not arrived at camp. (68 miles west)
The little stream joins another much larger one, and near their confluence on the 8th we found a village of Sciatogas and Tushepahs made up of thirty-four tepees. They had at least two thousand horses. Their tepees are made of matting. They are clothed in good robes of buffalo or deerskin; they have deerskin shirts and leggings and in every respect their clothing is as good as any of the best-provided Indian peoples. In their homes they have kettles and copper pots, as well as other things that suggest some intercourse with the inhabitants along the seacoast. They have some axes, too, and a skillfully wrought stone hammer that they use to pound roots, cherries, and other fruits, as well as fish. Pointed pieces of elkhorn serve in lieu of wedges to split wood. Women have willow-twig hats very neatly made and decorated. Their water containers are also made of willow, and in these they cook their meat by putting red-hot stones from the fire into them. However, copper kettles are preferred, three or four of them usually hanging in their tepees. (15 miles west)
These Indians pleased me greatly when they told me that some white men had reached the Columbia, a two-day trek from this spot. It appears that grass grows here all winter long, for the mountain slopes are green.
All my men rejoined me except the Canadian Carrire. Someone had seen him on the previous afternoon sitting on horseback behind a Snake Indian. They were in front of a lodge that we had passed a few miles from our camp of the night before.
I cannot thank Providence enough for our having reached this point, for we were excessively tired and weak. We had only two horses left, both no more than skin and bones. That night we dined on some rather poor deer meat and some roots.
We remained six days in this place. I bought eight horses and two colts. We ate two of the horses and I gave two to our guides in payment for their services. Some of my men also bought horses. Several men were ill, some from overeating, others apparently from eating roots. Still others were lame. On our last day here, each one made moccasins for himself and prepared to continue the journey. I dispatched two men to look for Carrire but they did not find him. This unfortunate fellow had probably followed an Indian hunting trail and become lost. The Snakes had moved their lodges elsewhere, and my men could get no information about him. The Sciatogas also moved their tepees a day's journey downstream.
We got under way again on the 15th and reached the village of the Sciatogas on the banks of the Umatilla River. These Indians told us about a river upstream that they called the Walla Walla. According to Clark's map, I supposed it to be the little river that he places at a confluence with the Columbia, near some beds of shellfish. From what I learned, the Canoe River is Lewis's Kemoenoum. (15 miles northwest)
These Indians had some venison, but they wanted to sell it at such a high price that I could not afford it. They hunt deer by chasing them on horseback and surrounding them. They use the bow and arrow with remarkable skill, and are superb horsemen.
It rained so heavily during our stay on the banks of the Umatilla that the water rose with amazing speed. We were compelled to break camp in a hurry. Three of our horses tied to stakes in the lowlands were drowned. The Indians also had to move to higher ground. I bought four horses from them. I wanted quite a number because the Indians told me that I could get a canoe in exchange for a horse. They added that in about six nights I would be at the Great Falls of the Columbia. On the 19th we continued downstream along the Umatilla. Beaver must be abundant here, for many places were filled by their dams. Several of my people traveled on horseback, as I did. On the opposite side of the river we saw the lodges of the Akaitehis Indians who live on the Columbia. One of them swam to our camp and gave us some very satisfying details about the white men who had preceded us going downriver. (15 miles northwest)
I bought still another horse from the Sciatogas who again had moved their camp below us, and I said good-bye to them. They are the cleanest Indians that I know of and, like all the others, they are very proud. They eat neither dogs nor horses, and they will not allow anyone to bring the meat of these animals into their tents. I pleased them no end when I told them that I would return to their village with merchandise to trade for beaver. They already had some pelts and they told a very confusing tale about some white men who came to trade and who gave them tobacco and smoked with them. One of the white men, they said, had a house on the Columbia. My Canadians thought that the white man in question must be an agent of the Northwest Company. (12 miles west)
At last, on the 21st, we reached the banks of the Columbia, for such a long long time our cherished goal. We had come 1,751 miles and had lived through unbelievable hardship and privation. I expressed with difficulty our joy at the sight of this river. It was three quarters of a mile wide here; its banks were bare of trees, were filled with pebbles and in some places with steep rocks.
The area was inhabited by the Akaitchis Indians, a wretchedly poor tribe that have neither moccasins nor leggings. Their clothing consists of only a robe of buffalo, deer, rabbit, fox, or even duck skin. To this meager equipment, they sometimes add wolf-skin sleeves. Their huts are well constructed of matting with roofs like the roofs of houses. These structures are very light and warm. Holes scooped out of the ground and lined with mats are living quarters for the women, who are usually naked. Some have a fragment of robe to cover their shoulders, but all of them wear around their waists a leather belt that passes between their thighs and indicates that they aim to be modest.
These Indians are better stocked with food than the Snakes, for it seems that dried salmon is plentiful in their homes. They gave us many fresh salmon trout that they had caught at the mouth of the Umatilla River. This is excellent fish. Their canoes are made of pine trunks split in half, and consequently they are not raised at either bow or stern. Since they have no special tool, they use fire to hollow out their trees.
We crossed the river because the Akaitchis told us that the trail passed along the right, or north, bank. We left on the 23rd after purchasing some fresh fish and nine dogs. The route along the river was very good. We camped that night close to a village of Indians who had about 50 canoes. I bought nine dogs that were quite fat and made a delicious dinner. Their meat seemed most savory to us, both wholesome and strengthening; on the other hand, horsemeat, however well prepared, is not nourishing, no matter how much of it one eats. The weather was beautiful and very mild, much like the beautiful days of the month of October. (12 miles)
From the 24th to the 28th we followed the river which flows almost directly west. Its banks are generally bare. Frequently we came upon Indian lodges and the Indians sold us dogs, but they put such a high price on elk or deer meat that I could not afford it. Moreover, they caused us much trouble by stealing the ropes by which our horses were tethered. The animals ran away and we lost a great deal of time rounding them up. Sometimes the Indians stole the horses and hid them. The natives here ate acorns and told me that a short distance from the river we could find many white oaks. (57 miles west)
On the 28th the countryside again became quite mountainous. The Indians seemed to be less wretched. They told me of some white men who had built a large house at the mouth of the river, surrounding it with stakes, etc. They themselves had not gone to the river mouth, but they insisted that the white men were concerned and were waiting for a large number of their friends. They watched constantly from the banks of the Columbia, these Indians said, and when their friends arrived, those at the river's mouth would dry their tears and sing and dance.
On the 29th the mountains and rocks along the riverside became more numerous. The Indians whom we saw had many horses, and we began to set up a watch at night. (15 miles)
We camped on the 30th opposite the mouth of the Deschutes, called Tou-et-ka by the Indians. They came in great numbers to dance in honor of our arrival, but their multitude worried me. I pretended to be ill and asked that I be left alone. In a short time they complied with my wishes. (14 miles)
On the 31st we passed Celilo Falls that we had viewed in the distance the day before. I could not see the largest of them which was on the south bank. The river course is dammed by rocks over which the water rushes violently through several channels.
A village called Ouaioumpoum is situated on the north river bank at that spot where the Falls begin. The Indians give a special name to each village that has more than one lodge in it, and they love to talk about their villages to strangers.
At an early hour we reached the village of Wishram. It is at the entrance to a long gorge through which the river has carved a channel of from 200 to 240 feet wide and several miles long. This is the great fishing ground of the Columbia. It looks like one of the seaport villages on the east coast of the United States. On both sides of the river we saw large platforms made of carefully woven stakes. On these the Indians dry their fish. The ground around them is covered with bones and heads of fish. In the spring when the river waters are high, the salmon arrive in schools so large that the Indians can catch them in purse nets attached to the ends of poles. To accomplish this they stand on the edges of those rocks that extend farthest in to the river.
The Indians in this area are the most intelligent that I have met so far. One of them who knew a few English words told me that Mr. David Stuart had gone to one of the northern tributaries of the Columbia to spend the winter; he had, in fact, seen Stuart's trading post. And he recounted for me the disaster that overtook Mr. McKay and the ship Tonquin.
Today we saw some little white oaks. The countryside became more rugged and the mountains higher. Not far below the Falls, on the south bank, we saw a snow-covered peak that I had first seen on the 20th of this month and that I guessed was Vancouver's Mt. Hood. (12 miles)
February 1. A great number of Indians gathered this evening near our camp. Since they found no opportunity to steal our horses or baggage, they planned a unique stratagem in order to get something. They told us that about forty Indians were coming from downriver to attack us and take our horses. We paid little attention to their narrative and later some chiefs of their village arrived, armed with knives, spears, etc., telling us the same story, and saying that they wanted to stay with us. I received them most coldly, though we smoked a pipe together. Then I assembled everybody in our camp and placed watches at several spots. This procedure produced the effect that I had hoped for. The Indians soon left and brought to me a man who they said, was chief of the village that had planned to attack us. They gave him credit for having dispersed the crowd. I smoked with them again, and a little before daylight they returned to their homes. These rascals thought that by frightening us I would give them two or three horses to assure the safety of the rest. As one of our horses had got loose on the evening before and was not to be found in the morning, I sold him for two packs of pounded and dried salmon I each weighing seventy pounds. We camped that night on the hills in the midst of bushes, pines, and oaks. (10 miles)
I could find only one canoe, that I could get in exchange for a horse. The Indians have large numbers of them, strongly made of pine and raised at both bow and stern, some of them capable of carrying three thousand pounds. Despite my injunctions that we keep close watch, the Indians stole an axe. Encouraged by their success, several of them followed us on the 2nd. They snatched two guns from us and, although our horses were in our camp, made off with one of them at eleven o'clock at night. On the 3rd I embarked in a canoe and sent my horses ahead.
I met my people at a village at the mouth of the Klickitat River that enters the Columbia from the north bank. I bought three canoes, each costing one a horse; but while I traded, the Indians stole a tomahawk and our last axe. They also made off with Dorion's horse that grazed near his tent. The Canadian had unwisely raised his tent some distance from our camp. (9 miles)
On the 4th the violence of the wind compelled me to remain, in spite of myself, in this den of thieves. I bought still another canoe for a horse; and on the next day when I reached another village, I traded our last three horses for two canoes. It seemed to me that the trail by land ended at this village. Hills became snow-covered mountains on which we saw pines. They bordered the river on both sides. Cottonwoods, oaks, and ash trees grew on the waterside, oaks on the nearby hills.
The rain increased greatly and the wind held me for several days opposite an Indian village. A Clatsop Indian came to see us and spoke to me about the establishment at the mouth of the Columbia - as well as about the tragic loss of Mr. McKay. He was the third man to relate to me this grievous story. He knew a few English words and asked me for news about Mr. Lewis and Mr. Clark and some of their companions. However, he had learned of the death of Mr. Lewis. (26 miles)
The wind subsided on the 10th and we got under way early. When we arrived at the beginning of some large rapids (15 miles), I examined the portage on the north bank. The trail was only good for something over a mile. We therefore landed all our canoes at ten o'clock and within an hour we were below the rapids which are very large. In dashing against the rocks, the water produces some unusually high waves. No boat could ride through them, at least in the present condition of the river which narrows formidably between hills and rocks. From this point on downriver, oaks and ash become more common. We saw quantities of hazelnut trees, too. At these rapids we found a second salmon fishery, a village on the north bank, and three lodges on the opposite side. The Indians here have a penchant for blue glass beads. Numerous rivulets that plunge down from the mountains above add to the beauty of the countryside. (16 miles)
On the 11th rapids covering space of miles forced us again to land our canoes. Finally about eight miles from the great rapids we encountered the last of them. Below this the river spreads to its usual width, which is about three-quarters of a mile wide. The hills diminish in size and retreat from the river banks. The intervening space is covered with pine, oak, ash, cottonwood, maple, hazel, and willow trees. (12 miles)
On the 13th I passed the confluence of the Sandy River, which rushes from the south bank of the Columbia through two mouths, thereby forming a great sandbar. Twenty miles farther downstream the Columbia is joined by another river [the Willamette] that is nearly 1,800 feet wide. A large island [Sauvie Island] stands before its mouth and several small islands below it. The Columbia at this point is about a mile and a quarter wide. On both sides we found vast rush-covered areas, some small prairies, and often some ponds. Seals were numerous here. We could see more distinctly than before the mountain that I mentioned earlier and that I have no doubt is Vancouver's Mt. Hood. For two days the wind blew with great force. Rain, hail, and snow fell. (52 miles)
On the 14th the mountains once more drew close. We camped at the mouth of a small river on the north bank [the Cowlitz]. Indians spoke to us about the establishment of our compatriots, adding that we had one more night before arriving. (36 miles)
On the 15th we passed several large islands. The terrain on the north bank was covered with oak and ash trees but all were inundated. I stopped by some Indian huts where I found four of our Fort Astoria men who were trading sturgeon and fishing for some excellent little fish that are about six inches long. The Indians call them othlecan [candlefish] and catch many of them in the spring. We made camp on two low islands near the south bank. (27 miles)
During our trip on the river we had frequently come to the lodges of Indians who sold us dogs, dried salmon, beaver pelts, wapatoo roots - which are the ouapasippin of Mississippi - finally some Othlecan.
On the 16th we departed early. It had rained during the night and the fog was so thick that we could see only the lowlands and some small islands. All were inundated. The fog dissipated in the afternoon at high tide. I realized that we were paddling through a large bay and soon afterward I saw Fort Astoria on the south bank. (30 miles)
I had the pleasure of seeing Mr. McKenzie and Mr. McClellan once again. They had arrived a month earlier after suffering unbelievable hardships. In my diary I had noted February 16. At the fort it was counted the 15th. It was a great delight for travelers overcome with weariness to rest comfortably, surrounded by friends, after such a long journey in the midst of savage people of whom it is always wise to be wary.
We had covered 2,073 miles since leaving the village of the Aricaras.