Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Meriwether Lewis, 21 September 1806

St. Louis September 21st. 1806


Having acquired information & provisions of the Mandans On the evening of the 7th of Apl. 1805 we embarked with our baggage on board 2 large perogues and six small canoes at Fort Mandan—on a Voyage of Discovery to the Pacific Ocean. The party consisted of the following persons my friend and Colleague Capt. Wm Clark, Interpreters George Drewyer and Touasant Charbono, Sergts. John Ordway Nathanial Pryor and Patric Gap, privates John Sheilds &c & a Shoshone Woman and child wife and Infant of Tout. Charbono and York a black man servant to Capt. Clark making a total with myself of 33 persons. A Man of the Mandan nation also set out with us under promis to accompany us to the Rocky mountains with a view to reestablish peace between the Minnetares & Ahwahaways and the Shoshones and others at the head of the Missouri, but becoming very early tired of his mission he abandoned us on the 8th. and returned to his village. the river was full and the water excepcionly cold the ice which Confined it from the 1st of November 1804 haad departed only within a few days previously. in this navigating we employed the oar, cord and sail the water being too high to permit the uce of the seting pole which in the latter part of summer and autumn may be employed to great advantage on a large proportion of every part of the Missouri, (and when the state of the river is such as to permit the uce of the pole it is always to be prefered to the oar in resisting the forse of its currant.) we ascended with as little difficulty as we had previously met with, found the river, equally wide deep and navigable as below fort Mandan. *it may not be amis to premise that the distances herein stated are those from the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi from which you will recollect that Fort Mandan is 1609 miles distant. we have through the whole course of the voyage taken a chart of the several rivers which we have navigated on a large scale, as well as delienated our several tracts by land marking our dayly encampments the entrance of watercourses points of celestial observation and all other places and objects worthy of notice.—at the distance of 1699 mile from the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi we arrived on the 13th. of Apl. at the entrance of the little Missouri a handsom river of [. . .] yds in width discharging itself on the S side navigable for canoes [. . .] ms. here we remained untill the 15. when pursuing our rout we passed the entrance of the white earth river on the th of Apl. At 1. ms. this river discharges itself on the N.E. side in yards in width and appears as if it might be navigated with small canoes many miles it’s course is due north through an open level plain A small party of whitemen, residing with the Mandans, had ascended the Missouri within [. . . .] miles of the entrance of this river about 4 years before but we have no certain account of any white persons reaching its entrance previous to ourselves, from hence therefore our footsteps were on unkn ground. here the beaver become very abundant on the R. at this distance of 1888 miles we reached the entrance of the Yellow Rock river on the 27th. of Apl. this noble branch of the Missouri discharges itself on the S.W. side. it is nearly as wide as the Missouri has from 6 to 8 feet water with an even gentle currant, it discharges much more water than any other branch of the Missouri at least twice as much at many seasons of the year as the river Platte which has been hitherto considered the most conspicuous among the branches of the Missouri. we examined the country minutely in the vicinity of the entrance of the River [Rogkejnes] and found it possessed of every natural advantage necessary for an establishment, it’s position in a geographical point of view has destined it for one of the most important establishments both as it reguards the fur trade and the govorment of the natives in that quarter of the continent. Having made the necessary observations at this place we left it on the [. . . .]of Apl determining to explore this river on our return. still ascending we passed the entrance of two handsome rivers on the N.E. side the 1st. at 1944 ms. to which we gave the name of Marthy’s river the 2nd. at 53 miles further which we called Procupine river, the 1st. is 50 yads. wide and the 2nd. 112, both discharge considerable quantities of water; the latter one we beleive to be navigable many miles for canoes the latter not so far. On the [. . .]. of May we arrived at the entrance of a bold river on the N.E. side 150 yds. wide which from the colour of it’s water we called milk river. the currant is gentle stream deep and is probably navigable for large perogues or boats for 150 miles, that is judging from streams of similar size which like it pass through an open country. It’s course as far as we could discover it from an eminence as about 30 Ms. was due north and [. . . .]


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