Geography and History of the Travels of Lewis and Clark Part 2

About the history and geography of the travels of Lewis and Clark, an expedition through then uncharted parts of the United States.


Lewis and three companions scouted ahead of the main party in search of Indians to buy horses from. Climbing up Lemhi Pass, Lewis became the first American to cross the Continental Divide, on Aug. 12, 1805. Soon after, Lewis met a hunting party of 60 Shoshone warriors, whose chief turned out to be Sacagawea's brother. After Sacagawea had had a family reunion and Lewis and Clark had bought horses, they all rode north through the Bitterroot Valley and prepared to cross the Bitterroot Range. With winter fast approaching, the expedition hacked a trail through the thickly forested Lolo Pass. Their food ran out, and they were forced to eat horses, candles, and bear oil. Finally they reached the western valleys of the Rocky Mountains, where they found food.

They arrived at a river which they named the Clearwater and, with the help of friendly Nez Perce Indians, constructed canoes. Lewis and Clark paddled down the Clearwater to the Snake River, where they lost one canoe in the rapids. From the Snake, they entered the Columbia River. On Oct. 16, 1805, Lewis and Clark came to the mouth of the Columbia and the Pacific Ocean. South of the Columbia, along the Pacific coast, they built a cluster of log cabins, which they dubbed "Fort Clatsop."

The foggy, rainy winter of 1805-1806 was spent at Fort Clatsop. Bored and depressed, Clark noted that all that winter the sun shone only six days. In need of salt, the explorers went to a nearby beach and evaporated it from the ocean. Also that winter, Lewis and Clark took Sacagawea to see a whale that had washed up on a cape to the south.

When spring came, Lewis and Clark eagerly started their homeward trek, on Mar. 23, 1806. They retraced their steps to Lolo Pass and the Bitterroot Valley. There they separated according to previous plans. Lewis went west across the Rockies to the Great Falls and then retraced their original westward path to the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers. Clark followed their route back to the headwaters of the Missouri and then hiked westward to the Yellowstone, where he found huge herds of buffalo. He boated down the Yellowstone to the Missouri, where he rejoined Lewis. Traveling together again, Lewis and Clark floated down the Missouri the same way they had come.

On Sept. 23, 1806, they spotted St. Louis on the horizon and docked that afternoon. Lewis remarked, "We were met by all the village and received a harty welcom from it's ihabitants." Thus ended the first recorded journey across the North American continent.

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