Lewis and Clark

The Lewis and Clark expedition across the present day United States began May 14, 1804. With the approval of President Jefferson and the U.S. Congress, Lewis and Clark gathered an exploration party of about four dozen men. These men headed off to discover Western America. On September 1, 1805, they arrived at the Bitterroot Mountains, near present day Idaho. This began a nightmare that would not end until they reached modern-day Weippe. September 1, 1805, the explorers set out traveling west, heading into rough, seldom traveled, mountainous country. They stopped at today?s North Fork of the Salmon River, known as Fish Creek to Lewis and Clark, where they caught five fish, and were able to kill a deer (MacGregor 125). Some of the men?s feet and horse?s hooves were injured due to the rough, rocky terrain. The next day, they were entering mountains far more difficult to pass than any American had ever attempted (Ambros 284). Clark describes the route: "Throu? thickets in which we were obliged to cut a road, over rocky hillsides where horses were in perpetual danger of slipping to their certain distruction and up and down steep hills?" (De Voto 232). Traveling along the steep hills, several horses fell. One was crippled, and two gave out. Patrick Gass described the trip that day as, "?the worst road (If road it can be called) that was ever traveled" (MacGregor 125). To make conditions even worse, it rained that afternoon, which made the trail even more treacherous. The party was only able to travel five miles that day. On September 3, snow fell and the team?s last thermometer broke. Several more horsed slipped and injured themselves. Later that day, the snow turned into sleet. The expedition family consumed the last of their salt pork and fish and began their descent into the Bitterroot Valley. That night, was the coldest yet. The next day, the party went down a very steep descent to a river that Lewis named, Clark?s River, (Today known as The Bitterroot River.) There, they encountered a band of Salish Indians, whom the captains called Flatheads. They stayed there with the Indians the next couple of days to trade. They acquired thirteen new Appaloosa Horses, including three colts, for seven worn out horses. The Salish Indians shared berries and roots with the men for their meals. On September 6, they set off traveling northward along the Bitterroot River for about ten miles. They camped that night with nothing to eat but some berries and corn. Along their travel they viewed the Saw-toothed Bitterroot Range to the west of the valley. The next two days were spent traveling north, trying to find a safe passage over the Saw-toothed Bitterroot Range. September 10, Captain Lewis sent out all of the hunters. They returned with some game. John Colter brought back three Indians from a tribe that lived across the mountains, probably Nez Perce. The Indians were in pursuit of a band of Shoshones that had stolen more than twenty horses from the Nez Perce Indians. This was proof to Lewis and Clark that the Bitterroot Mountains could be crossed. One of the three Indians agreed to remain with the Americans to introduce them to his tribe. Their tribe resided in the plain below the mountains, on the Columbia River. The Indian said that it would require five sleeps to reach his tribe (De Voto 237). That evening, the party put their packs in order and made final preparations for crossing the Bitterroot Mountains. On September 11, two of the party?s horses had strayed. This delayed the explorers from leaving until late that afternoon. They were able to travel seven miles before they had to set up camp for the night. The hunters, who had been previously sent out, returned having killed nothing. Clark described the day as, "Verrey Worm" (De Voto 237). The next day, the terrain began to get really rough. They had reached the mountains, which were very steep. The road through the mountain was covered with fallen timber and undergrowth. Captain Clark described the road as, "intolerable" (De Voto 237). They traveled eight miles along the steep mountains without water. They made camp on the hillside next to Traveler?s Rest Creek. Some of the party did not arrive until after ten that night. Both the men and horses were extremely fatigued. They