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Lewis & Clark 101: The Basics
200 Years Ago This Week ...
Corps of Discovery

April 16, 2006

Week ending April 22: The Dalles and John Day Dam area

Highlights: While Capt. Clark scouts ahead to trade for horses, and other men make packsaddles for their cross-country shortcut to the Bitterroots, Lewis spends time at their “rock fort” campsite describing local plants (like the golden currant and wild hyacinth) and animals (like the western gray squirrel). While visiting villages on the river, Clark enjoys steamed onions but can’t sleep because of mice in his host’s bed mats. Noticing buffalo hides from the Missouri plains, seeing stacks of stored dried salmon from last fall, and experiencing tough bargaining, the captains soon realize they are in a major commodity exchange center of the West. While waiting for the spring salmon run, tribes engage in complex gambling games using bones and sticks. Lewis notes distinct climate and vegetation differences in the Columbia Gorge region, particularly the scarcity of wood for their fires on the east side. The party moves slowly upriver and portages around today’s Celilo Falls using ropes to maneuver their last two canoes. Along the riverbanks, Indians watch all these activities with interest, sometimes helping themselves to Expedition equipment if left exposed. A soldier still suffering from a bad back since leaving Fort Clatsop rides in a canoe and then gets a horse of his own. After several days of trading away clothing and most of their kettles, the Corps ends up with ten horses to carry equipment overland.

Words from the Journals: Clark lists one of his unsuccessful bids for horses: “a blue robe, Callico Shirt, a handkercef, 5 parcels of paint, a knife, jewelry, 4 braces of ribin, a pice of Brass and about 6 braces of yellow beeds plus my large blue blanket, my Coat, Sword & Plume none of which Seem to entice those people…” Upset by what they believe to be inhospitable treatment by local residents, Lewis decides not to leave anything of value behind: “we Cut up two of our Canoes for fire wood verry much to the Sagreen (chagrin) of the natives notwithstanding they would give us nothing for them.”

Today’s connections: Capt. Lewis mentions trading his “irons” for horses in this area. The Lewis branding iron owned by Oregon Historical Society was found along the mid- Columbia River in the 1890s. Tribes still gather at Celilo Falls 200 years later, for the traditional “first salmon” ceremony. This year, however, only one salmon was caught as the 2006 fish counts at the dams are drastically reduced.

Bicentennial events in the Pacific Northwest: The National Park Service traveling Bicentennial exhibit and related displays are open to visitors at Warm Springs, Oregon April 22-25. Presentations will include contemporary Indian culture and how Columbia River tribes viewed the Corps of Discovery. Friends of the Plankhouse at Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge have a full afternoon of family activities Saturday, April 22 followed by a native food tasting and raffle for Chinook Indian art at Ridgefield Community Center. See details at

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April 9, 2006

Week ending April 15: Beacon Rock to The Dalles

Highlights: It takes three days to cover seven miles in some of the most beautiful parts of the Gorge. Fierce rapids force the men use elkskin ropes to pull the canoes upstream. They must portage three miles around the roughest water in some of the most beautiful parts of the Gorge. After losing one canoe in the battle, and damaging the others, Capt. Lewis sends a group ahead to barter for a replacement and gather pitch from trees to seal the cracks. Friendly Indians trade them two small canoes for some skins. Encounters with other natives are not as cordial, and security becomes a concern. Someone tries to steal Seaman, Lewis’s Newfoundland dog, and the Captain sends three men with orders to retrieve the dog at any cost (and Seaman is turned over). The captains notice the housing, hairstyles and clothing of tribes of the mid-Columbia are different from those living downriver. Particularly noteworthy are skins of the mountain goat and big horn sheep, and the price goes up when they express interest. The captains know horses will speed their return journey to the Bitterroots, so they try to buy as many as they can.

Words from the Journals: Despite nasty weather and heavy spring run-off in the Columbia, Lewis briefly mentions Multnomah Falls and other legendary falls we enjoy today: “we passed several beautiful cascades which fell from a great hight over the stupendious rocks which close the river on both sides.” Worried about security, Lewis writes “we informed the nativ’s by Signs that if the indians insulted our men or Stold our property we Should Certainly put them to death.” After buying several dogs for camp food, Lewis writes “the dog now constitutes a considerable part of our subsistence…I prefer it to lean venison or Elk, and is very far superior to the horse...”

Today’s connections: Tribal burial sites the explorers describe at Lower and Upper Memaloose Islands are interpreted at Memaloose Wayside on I-84. The expedition’s Rock Fort campsite is in a light industrial area of The Dalles and remains an important historic site with good signage.

Bicentennial events in the Pacific Northwest: Re-enactors are continuing their journey upstream in authentic dugouts and spending each night in real campsites. National Guard members provide backup assistance. For a schedule, see Visit the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center in Stevenson, Washington and the visitors center at Bonneville Dam to appreciate more about the Expedition’s experience through the Gorge and the tribes whose descendants are still here today.

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April 2, 2006

Week ending April 8: Washougal and into Columbia Gorge.

Highlights: Reports from upriver tribes verify the lack of game and salmon ahead, so hunters bring in meat to dry over low-burning campfires for six days. Capt. Lewis astonishes some visitors with his air gun. Local residents point out the Corps missed a large river the captains will later name Multnomah (now the Willamette). Hired for a magnifying glass, a guide leads Clark’s small party back downstream overnight to explore the Willamette, going as far up the river as today’s St. Johns Bridge area. Journals for this week add descriptions of several tribes and villages (including one at today’s Portland Airport), dogwood trees, salmonberries, mountain quail, as well as insects such as ticks, long-legged spiders and butterflies. The captains draw the layout of a typical Upper Chinookan-style plankhouse, a long multi-family dwelling with separate apartments. Hunters capture three black bear cubs which they exchange with local Indians for wapato (popular potato-like bulbs growing in water).

Words from the Journals: Seeking wapato from reluctant sellers at one local villages, Clark throws a piece of “portfire” (a fire starter—its neither crude nor a match, but more of a flash and a pop fire starter) into their fire and it immediately flashes brightly. He then uses a magnet to twirl the needle on his compass. The families are so alarmed they drop several parcels of wapato at the captain’s feet and “begged me to take out the bad fire” while “a very old blind man implored his god for protection.” Clark quickly regrets this deception, smokes a pipe with them, and pays the women the “full amount” for the wapato.

Today’s connections: Clark’s forecast of the region’s agriculture potential: “Soil of the richest quality.” His prediction about the Willamette River will also come true: the water is “Sufficiently deep for a Man of War or Ship of any burthen”(near the Port of Portland’s Terminal 4). Home of Clark’s guide is a village known as Nichaqwli (nee CHALK lee) near today’s Blue Lake Park in Fairview. A monument to this village has been created in a secluded area at the west end of the lake, coordinated by the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, the Confederated Tribes of G rand Ronde, and Metro. Native-designed art pieces suggest village life of the time. Funding sources included Spirit Mountain Community Fund, Regional Arts and Culture Council, Oregon Heritage Commission and the National Park Service among others.

Book of the Week: A fine historical travelogue of the Expedition’s journey along the Columbia is Stephen Dow Beckham’s Lewis & Clark: From the Rockies to the Pacific, with photography by Robert M. Reynolds.

Bicentennial events in the Pacific Northwest: Re-enactors are continuing their journey upstream in authentic dugouts. You will find they staying at the new Capt. William Clark Park at Cottonwood Beach [Washougal]. Stop by for a visit! For a schedule, see Watch for other events this spring. Corps II will be in Stevenson April 6-10.

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March 26, 2006

Week ending April 1: Longview area to Washougal/Sandy River region.

Highlights: As they make their way up the Columbia, visitors in canoes from several riverbank villages greet the Corps of Discovery daily to trade. On shore, hunters watch a condor drag a large deer about 30 yards, skin it and break the back bone. Remembering the Cathlapotle village they passed on the downriver trip in November (present-day Ridgefield, Washington Wildlife Refuge), the captains now pull in for a closer look at the 14 plankhouses and residents. They present a medal to the “first chief,” which he immediately turns over to his wife. They also buy 12 dogs to add to their food supply. Learning the spring salmon run is stalled and remembering that game on the Columbia Plateau is scarce, they camp at today’s Washougal and begin to lay in provisions. Believing the Quicksand (Sandy) River might drain California, they send two men to explore the stream. After venturing up six miles, the men confirm what local informants had told them: this stream is fed by the Mt. Hood region and is not the mythical river that drains California as they thought.

Words from the Journals: At one point the captains see familiar chives that “form a perfect turf and are quite as agreeably flavoured” as the ones back home. At Cathlapotle, “the frogs are croaking in the swamps and marshes; their notes do not differ from those of the Atlantic states.” They describe how women collect wapato by “getting into water up to their necks”, loosening the small tubers with their toes, and “throwing them into small canoes.” In the Portland/Vancouver area, the captains accurately predict why settlers will soon come: “this valley would maintain 40 or 50 thousands souls if properly cultivated and is indeed the only desirable situation for a settlement which I have seen on the west side of the Rocky mountains.” Lewis provides a familiar word picture of Mt. St. Helens before the 1980 eruption: “the most noble looking object of its kind in nature..its figure is a regular cone.”

Today’s connections: One of the Expedition’s layovers for hunting and canoe repair is on Deer Island in Columbia County, one of the few geographic features named by the captains still on maps today. At today’s Sauvie Island, abundant stands of wapato still grow in waterways as a reminder of why the captains originally named this island for that valuable staple 200 years ago.

Bicentennial events in the Pacific Northwest: Learn about the Corps of Discovery in the Portland/Vancouver area at several locations this weekend: the Cathlapotle replica plankhouse at Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge (, a day-long exhibition at Troutdale Historical Society April 1; and a re-enactment of the Corps’ tour of the Willamette River at 3:00 p.m. Sunday, April 2 at Cathedral Park at St. Johns Bridge. The National Park Service traveling exhibit at Grand Ronde closes April 2 and then opens again April 22 at Warm Springs.

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March 19, 2006

Week ending March 25: Fort Clatsop to Clatskanie, Oregon.

Highlights: Rain, hail and wind continue to keep the explorers penned up inside as they prepare to leave Fort Clatsop earlier than originally planned. The captains issue certificates of good conduct to visiting chiefs along with lists of the explorers in the Corps of Discovery and their mission. They turn over their winter “huts and furniture” to friendly Clatsop chief Coboway. Two rifles are repaired by their gunsmith and the captains praise themselves for bringing extra parts that guaranteed their firearms were always in working order over the past two years. At 1 p.m. on March 23, the Corps says farewell to Fort Clatsop and push up river. Over the next two and a half days they travel over 45 miles through islands along the south shore of the Columbia to the Clatskanie River area, occasionally hunting and trading with native villagers along the way.

Words from the Journals: Final physical descriptions of local Clatsop Indians include the process for flattening the heads of infants, customary clothing, jewelry (beads and bracelets of copper and iron), and even how men and women wear their hair (“loosly flowing on the back and sholders, divided in center and behind the ear on each side”). They also record the words used by local tribes to describe white visitors like the Corps (“cloth men” or blanket people). Regarding family life in the region, the captains notice more equality in male and female roles: “The men of these nations partake of much more of the domestic drudgery than I had first supposed…they collect and prepare all the fuel, make the fires, assist in cleansing and preparing the fish and always cook for feasts and the strangers who visit them.” Other men’s chores apparently include building homes, canoes and wooden utensils. However, men and women share responsibilities for taking care of the canoes. On an optimistic note after months of gray days, Capt. Lewis writes “Altho’ we have not fared sumptuously this winter and spring at Fort Clatsop, we have lived quite as comfortably as we had any reason to expect we should...” Despite the rough weather, Lewis notes: “the leafing of the hucklebury riminds us of spring.”

Today’s connections: According to Lewis, body piercings were also the fashion 200 years ago on the lower Columbia, particularly dentalium shells through the nose with shells suspended by string. Dentalium shells, then an extremely valuable trade item, were harvested off the shores of today’s Vancouver Island.

Bicentennial events in the Pacific Northwest: Mike Carrick, expert on firearms carried by the Expedition, will make two free public presentations over the next week: 11 a.m. Saturday, March 25 at Tualatin Heritage Center, 8700 SW Sweek Drive, and again at Troutdale Historical Society, Saturday April 1 as part of a day-long commemoration of the Corps’ visit to the Sandy River area. For a schedule of re-enactors following the return route, including several descendants of original Corps of Discovery members, see They welcome visitor questions about what it’s like to travel the river in dugout canoes today following 1800 Army camp routines (with a few modern touches). The National Park Service traveling exhibit moves on to Grand Ronde March 25-April 2 hosted by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. See for a daily schedule of performances.

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March 12, 2006

Week ending March 18: Fort Clatsop.

Highlights: Winter sea life along the coast and estuary take several pages of the journals as the captains list shellfish (clams, mussels, periwinkles), seaweed (kelp), mammals (porpoises, whales) and more descriptions of birds, trout, steelhead and salmon. Of particular interest to the easterners is how local tribes dry salmon roe for later eating and how all parts of a whale are used. While local residents also relish eating fresh porpoise, the captains find the taste “disagreeable.” Worries about weather and rough river travel to reach the more protected Cathlamet area prompt the captains to leave Fort Clatsop earlier than April 1. They send men to kill more elk and buy two more canoes. Their inventory of trade goods is now extremely low (smaller articles would fill one handkerchief) plus used clothing and several robes, including five made from their large U.S. flag. Leather work during their many days of confinement resulted in 358 pairs of moccasins for the return trip. A local “old baud” sets up camp nearby offering several women for sexual favors, but after treating several cases of venereal disease all winter, and with their impending departure, the captains warn the men to refrain. A Quinault Indian visitor from the northern coast (Willapa Bay) tells of trade ships visiting his area at this time.

Words from the Journals: Looking ahead, the captains worry about their slim stock of trade goods for horses and food they will need for the return trip: “a scant dependence indeed for the tour distance before us.” The sharp Chinookan traders squeeze Lewis’s barely-used uniform and “half-carrot” of tobacco for one cedar canoe “which is equal in value to a wife and generally given in exchange to the daughter for a daughter.” Watching to see if the men ignore temptation by the “old baud”, Capt. Lewis writes “I believe notwithstanding every effort of their winning graces, the men have preserved their constancy to the vow of celibacy.”

Today’s connections: When is it OK to break a code of conduct? The captains authorize stealing of a second Chinookan canoe on the pretense it was payback for elk carcasses taken earlier in the winter by local residents (even though the offenders had already tried to make recompense). The cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki) is one of many plant and animal species today that bear the name of Lewis or Clark.
Books of the Week: Popular Naselle, Washington speaker and writer Rex Ziak has a new book Lewis and Clark: Down and Up the Columbia River (Moffitt House Press) featuring an eight-foot fold out map with commentary.

Bicentennial events in the Pacific Northwest: The free exhibit and hourly performances at the traveling National Park Service Corps of Discovery II and Tent of Many Voices runs March 13-20 in St. Helens, then travels to Grand Ronde for two weeks. See for details. Presentations in the tent alternate between tribal stories and Lewis and Clark history, natural science and implications for today. Re-enactors and exhibits from other state and federal agencies will be stationed nearby.

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March 5, 2006

Week ending March 11: Fort Clatsop.

Highlights: Friendly Clatsop Indian chief Coboway brings along two of his children with gifts of dried smelt which the captains deem “excellent..and very acceptable particularly at this moment.” Of the several men in the party who are convalescing, their soldier Bratton continues to suffer severe pain in his lower back. The captains wish they could supply a better diet for those suffering from various illnesses and injuries. Often using comparisons to species back home, they continue describing herons, fishing hawks, kingfishers, gulls, cormorants, loons, geese, swans, mallards and several other ducks, divers, and teal. The golden eagle rates several paragraphs along with commentary on how tribes across the country revere its tail feathers for ceremonies and regalia. Snakes and lizards are added to their wildlife lists. Hunters report several elk killed, but some meat must be hauled five miles. Hunters also say they measured one “pine tree” (sitka spruce) 300 feet tall and 42 feet around.

Words from the Journals: Entries about bird life also involved a taste test. Of the cormorant, Capt. Clark says “we found this bird fat and tolerably flavoured as we decended the Columbia.” Of one duck, Lewis says it is “equally delicious” as those in the United States but two others are “unfit for uce.” After one man returns from trading with the Cathlamet Indians for smelt, fresh sturgeon and wapato, this welcome food prompts Lewis to write “we once more live in clover.”

Today’s connections: During the dreary winter at Fort Clatsop, the captains dutifully followed Jefferson’s instructions to make copies of their journals in case one set were lost, even reproducing several fine drawings of fish and the heads of birds. How they needed a photocopy machine! Clark, the map maker, typically rewrites Lewis’s entries word for word, but still adds his own insights occasionally.
Books of the Week: How the several journalists kept their records and how editors over the years have published various versions is an interesting story itself. Bernard DeVoto produced an early history of the journals. Gary Moulton, editor of the most recent comprehensive collection, provides good background as well. James Holmberg’s 2005 edition of the Sgt. Floyd journal is the most recent addition to the journal bookshelf. The Lewis & Clark College library holds many of these rare editions available for viewing by special appointment.

Bicentennial events in the Pacific Northwest: Sunday, March 11 is the last day of the National Lewis and Clark Exhibition at Oregon Historical Society. Crowds have been growing the last month. For a look at the Lewis and Clark story from the view of tribes, visit Clark County Historical Society’s “Native Perspectives on the Trail: A Contemporary American Indian Art Portfolio.” The museum is located at 1511 Main St. in Vancouver. Plan ahead for the return of the National Park Service Corps of Discovery II and Tent of Many Voices free exhibition in St. Helens March 13-20.

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February 26, 2006

Week ending March 4: Fort Clatsop.

Highlights: Hunters search far afield for the prized elk as food supplies begin to run low. In the meantime, the Corps feasts on smelt, sturgeon and wapato (their “potato”) purchased from visiting Clatsop Indians. They learn how local residents cook sturgeon in a pit lined with hot stones interspersing cuts of fish between layers of bush branches topped by a cover of woven mats. Water poured through the mesh vaporizes when hitting the hot stones, thus steaming the sturgeon filets. The captains continue their careful scientific descriptions of animal life from the Montana plains to the Pacific, often comparing their new discoveries to familiar species back in the United States. This week they focus on smaller four-legged creatures: mountain beaver, badger, wood rat, mouse, mole, skunk, hare, and rabbit. These birds rate their attention: grouse, pheasant, crow, blackbird, hawks, turtle dove, robin, woodpecker, wren, snipe, sparrow, lark, crane and dozens of aquatic birds. Visiting Tillamook Indians offer to sell Clark a 10-year old boy captured from another tribe. The captains learn these “slaves” are adopted into families as if they were their own children.

Words from the Journals: Constant cold, rain, sick men, and the routines of camp life are beginning to have a psychological impact on the captains: “..we are counting the days which seperate us from the 1st of April and which bind us to fort Clatsop.” The captains observe how local tribes eat the root of cattail which they believe would be an “excellent starch.”

Today’s connections: Northwesterners can sympathize with the Corps of Discovery waiting for the long, wet days to end. Winter 1806 seems to be more snowy at the coast than usual. The captains say “a high mountain” 18 miles from Fort Clatsop (likely today’s Saddle Mountain) is covered in snow most of the winter.

Book of the Week: Mike Lapinski’s The Elk Mystique, published by Stoneydale Press Publishing Co. and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, provides a good overview of why the “wapiti” has been an important part of American life for centuries.

Website of the Week: Keep checking for new entries. This remains the premier site for background on the Corps of Discovery. Excellent graphics and sound bites include the call of an elk.

Bicentennial events in the Pacific Northwest: Plan ahead to attend the next national bicentennial event sponsored by the Nez Perce Tribe June 14-17 in Lewiston, Idaho and nearby historic areas. Go to for details.

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February 19, 2006

Week ending February 25: Fort Clatsop.

Highlights: With time to review and revise their notes, the captains continue their descriptions of animal species over the past months. This time they focus on antelope, deer, elk, foxes, raccoons, sheep, squirrels and wolves. One of the men brings cranberries for the sick. Lewis frets that the Corps is becoming too comfortable with neighboring tribes and visitors and are letting down their guard. Rain continues to disrupt hunting and other daily activities. Using head measurements taken earlier, several Clatsop Indian visitors bring custom-made woven cedar bark hats that are popular items. Capt. Lewis describes why the sea otter pelt is “the most delightfull fur in the world”, pointing to its silky sheen interspersed with “fine black Shining hairs.” Smelt (thought to be herring and anchovies by the captains) are starting to run in the Columbia and are “skimmed or scooped” with nets by native fishermen about 40 miles upriver. “I think them superior to any fish I ever tasted,” says Lewis.

Words from the Journals: Once again the journal keepers rave about the artistry of local tribes: “the woodwork and sculpture of these people as well as these hats and their waterproof baskets evince an ingenuity by no means common among the Aborigines of America.” On the men’s health: “we have not had as many sick at any one time since we left Wood River…the general complaint seams to be bad colds and fevers, something I believe of the influenza.” Too many clouds at the coast keep the explorers from gathering mapmaking and weather data: “I am mortfyed at not having it in my power to make more celestial observations since we have been at Fort Clatsop, but such has been the state of the weather that I have found it utterly impracticable…”

Today’s connections: Smelt dippers are on the lookout this month for the mysterious “eulachon” running up the Sandy and Cowlitz Rivers. In recent years the migrations have been sporadic. Lewis and Clark quickly learned to love this tasty fish known also as candlefish because their oily bodies burned when dried and lighted.

Book of the Week: A finely-detailed smelt drawing from the journals is the cover art for Paul Cutright’s comprehensive guide to flora and fauna documented by the explorers titled Lewis and Clark: Pioneering Naturalists.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Times to see OMSI’s IMAX film “Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West” are posted at Only three more weeks left to visit the National Lewis and Clark Exhibition at Oregon Historical Society.

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February 12, 2006

Week ending February 18: Fort Clatsop.

Highlights: Three Northwest icons rate several paragraphs and drawings in the captains’ journals this week: lush ferns, an “evergreen shrub” we will later know as Oregon grape, and a condor. Saltmakers at today’s Seaside report they have made three bushels in all, so the captains decide this is enough for the return trip. They order the cairn closed and equipment hauled back to the fort. One of the party purchases a robe made from the three “tiger cat” skins. Later we know this to be the Oregon bobcat, another new discovery for scientists. Capt. Lewis takes time to list all the four-legged mammals they’ve seen on the trip, noting particularly the horses used by tribes between the Rockies and Cascades. Two men continue to be very sick with various treatments given, including sage tea. The Corps learns one of the trade ships that sometimes visits the Columbia River mouth usually has three cows on board, prompting the captains to believe there must be a white settlement on the north coast.

Words from the Journals: Hunters wound a condor with a wingspan of over nine feet. They report it made a “loud noise very much like the barking of a dog.” The captains provide three pages of details about this legendary “thunderbird”. “I believe this to be the largest Bird of North America” says Clark. Finishing much of his map work, he finally declares: “we now discover we have found the most practicable and navigable passage across the Continent of North America.” They believe the tribes’ “abundance and cheapness of horses will be extremely advantageous” to future fur traders.

Today’s connections: Oregon grape is just one botanical find by Capt. Lewis that will later become a Northwest state flower; Washington’s rhododendron is another. The captains write glowingly of the Appaloosa horses used by the Nez Perce Tribe. Youth and adults in that tribe are again breeding, training and working with these unique horses to keep Appaloosa traditions alive.

Book of the Week: An Oregon National Guard officer/writer Timothy X. Merritt has teamed with photographer Craig C. Harmel to publish Our Destiny Entwined: A Tale of the Corps of Discovery’s Winter at the Pacific Coast featuring photos of re-enactors who perform at Fort Clatsop. Ordering information at

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Saltmakers will recreate their camp February 17-19 at Seaside’s Turnaround. Only four weeks left to visit the National Lewis and Clark Exhibition at Oregon Historical Society. See for details. Volunteers can help move 400 logs for the new Fort Clatsop by contacting Park Ranger Bob Conway at (253) 569-4193 or (503) 861-4400. Help is needed each afternoon and evening from February 22 through March 21.

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February 5, 2006

Week ending February 11: Fort Clatsop.

Highlights: The weather is unusually cold in January and early February with several days of snow. Ice greets the men on the river banks. Good news arrives when a hunting party finds their lost native-made canoe in a small inlet. It was earlier carried away by the tides and winds. Capt. Lewis still puzzles over the various species of conifers in the area, finally just numbering them 1,2,3,4,5. Pressed leaves and stems from salal and vine maple will later become new discoveries for botanists around the world. A black bear surprises some of the men, but Clatsop Indian neighbors assure them the bears are usually “in their holes” now. Hunters finally retrieve several elk killed days earlier, but some of the meat is missing and the captains blame local residents. Several men suffer injuries and illness while others stay busy jerking their elk meat which is hard to do in their “huts” with continuous rain outside keeping humidity high.

Words from the Journals: Probably glad for a change in the menu, elk brisket, tongue and marrow bones are a special treat for both dinner (lunch) and supper: “this for Fort Clatsop is living in high Stile, and in fact fiesting...” The captains learn that many years ago smallpox spread through Indian villages along the Columbia and Pacific coast. Apparently it took only four or five years for the disease to reduce the population drastically.

Today’s connections: Berries from salal, a familiar shrub in Pacific Northwest coastal areas, were brought back by the Expedition and successfully propagated by President Jefferson’s friends back home. Lewis writes again about the pacific blackberry which grows thickly in Columbia River country. This is one of the parent stocks of our well-known Marionberry, but it was also a popular fresh food (not dried) for local tribes. This berry is different from the Himalayan blackberry now considered a nuisance.

Book of the Week: Two newer books on medical aspects of the Lewis and Clark story are David Peck’s Or Perish in the Attempt and Bruce Paton’s Lewis and Clark: Doctors in the Wilderness.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Clark County Historical Museum presents Native Perspectives on the Trail: A Contemporary American Indian Art Portfolio, an exhibition of contemporary prints by 15 American Indian artists responding to the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial. Call (360) 993-5679 or visit

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January 29, 2006

Week ending February 4: Fort Clatsop.

Highlights: Details about life along the lower Columbia fill many journal pages as the captains write about and sketch canoes, canoe paddles, an unusual knife, a typical Clatsop hat, a brown thrush, and games of chance played by Clatsop Indians and other tribes they’ve met on the trip. The work party 16 miles away at the coast sends back its first bushel of salt scraped from pots kept boiling night and day. Checking through their gunpowder supplies, the captains are proud of their ingenious system for protecting it in lead canisters sealed with a cork and wax. Despite several spills in rivers, most containers are airtight and intact. The men would melt the canisters to make bullets.

Words from the Journals: After telling us how the Corps bought dozens of dogs to eat as they descended the Columbia River, Capt. Lewis finally explains (in one line) why local tribes value them: “the nativs of this neighbourhood have a Small Dog which they make usefull in hunting the elk.” In a reference to the Bible about carvings on Chinookan Indian canoes, Lewis says: “their images are representations of a great variety of grotesque figures, any of which might be safely worshiped without committing a breach of the commandments.” The captain notes “some of the large canoes are upwards of 50 feet long and will carry from 8 to 10 thousand lbs. or from 20 to thirty persons…”

Today’s connections: Straining his botanical skills, Lewis admits difficulty distinguishing between the various conifers of the Pacific Northwest. He often calls them “pine.” Just as we marvel at the world’s largest Sitka spruce not far from Seaside, Lewis is particularly impressed by that species at the coast. To see a building inspired by the Clatsop hat drawn by Lewis, visit the chapel at Lewis & Clark College. The high stakes Indian games described by the captains may be a precursor of wagering at casinos today. However, 200 years ago these games of risk were accompanied by singing.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Oregon Historical Society offers several programs free with regular museum admission: Tuesday, February 7: Landon Jones on “William Clark: The Necessary American”, 7 p.m.; Wednesday, February 8: Black Heritage Month program on York with Darrell Millner, 7-9 pm.; Saturday, February 11: Lewis and Clark Children's Theatre, 2-4 p.m. Players from Seattle's Theater Troupe "Playback Theater," will interview children about their connection to Lewis and Clark and then will "act out" the children's responses. The Saltmakers return to Seaside on President’s Day weekend near the turnaround. Re-enactors will keep their pots boiling and answer questions as if you were on the beach with them 200 years ago. Children might want to bring something to trade. What would these workers really want?

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January 22, 2006

Week ending January 28: Fort Clatsop.

Highlights: Food is on the minds of the Corps, both for their written record and their stomachs. Two hunting teams are sent out from the Fort. One group recruits some Clatsop Indian helpers to haul back their three elk kills, but snow hides carcasses in the coastal range when searchers go to retrieve the other team’s meat. The explorers work hard to tan elk skins for moccasins and clothes. Meanwhile at today’s Seaside, the saltmakers are also trying to stay fed as they replenish the Fort’s salt supply. One of the new roots the men learn to like tastes like wheat dough. They observe local residents eat it “voraciously.” Another root is too tough to chew easily, but reminds them of sweet potato. Roots of the thistle taste better when eaten with whale oil or beaten in cold water to resemble mush. The men’s favorite is still the wapato, a starchy bulb which they note grows only in waterways, ponds and lakes for 70 miles downstream from today’s Sandy River. This is also one of the valuable items of trade for upriver Chinook Indians who sell basketsfull to Columbia estuary tribes and white visitors. Local berries and fruit such as salal, huckleberries and Oregon crabapple also receive detailed botanical analysis in the journals. Wood from the crabapple is shaped into axe handles and wedges, becoming “excessively hard when seasoned”.
Words from the Journals: Neighboring Clatsop Indians go along with some of the hunters. Lewis says the visitors have “a very exalted opinion of us as marksmen and the superior excellence of our rifles…my Air-gun also astonishes them..(they) think it is great medicine.”

Today’s connection: Sexually-transmitted disease is readily apparent to the captains who observe evidence in local tribes and are treating their own men with mercury-laden medicine. This is the evidence some archeologists were seeking as they tried to pinpoint Fort Clatsop’s location. Military code specified latrines should be 50 paces away. No mercury traces were located at the present site during several years of probes.

Book of the Week: Several cookbooks using the Lewis and Clark theme have been published during the Bicentennial period. Mary Gunderson has written two: Cooking on the Lewis and Clark Expedition and The Food Journal of Lewis and Clark.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Student Conservation Association members from several states are leading efforts to rebuild Fort Clatsop. Visitors are invited to the Clatsop County Fairgrounds to see the construction underway, talk with park staff and help with the work. The Clatsop County Fairgrounds are located approximately 4 miles south of Astoria on Hwy 202. For information, call Pete Field (503) 861-4402. Log work should be completed in March with re-assembly scheduled for spring at the original site.

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January 15, 2006

Week ending January 21: Fort Clatsop.

Highlights: Camp routines for the Corps of Discovery now begin to focus on President Jefferson’s original instructions and less on basic shelter. Hunting squads are dispatched to acquire food since bartering with visiting tribes is depleting scarce trade goods. The captains give up tools for making moccasins in return for edible roots of ferns, thistles and the popular wapato. However, their visitors will not exchange sea otter skins for anything but the Expedition’s last six fathoms of blue beads. Lewis writes several pages of valuable ethnographic descriptions still used by researchers today. A main topic is hunting techniques: bows and arrows (meatcutters find several elk with old arrow points still lodged inside), snares, camouflaged pits, deadfalls (a weight tripped and falling on the victim), and spears (for beaver and otter), and guns (seldom effective, using old American and British muskets, not rifles). Arrows used for hunting waterfowl rate two separate drawings because of their unique design. Lewis describes each step of construction and how materials are applied (using elk sinew for thread and sturgeon “gleue” for attaching feathers). The arrow point end comes apart so the main shaft floats in the water for retrieval and re-use. He also provides details of bone fish hooks, keying a description to each part of the drawing. On local housing, Clatsop-area plankhouses seem shorter and more rectangular to the captains than the larger style they saw upriver.

Words from the Journals: Lewis is fascinated by hats and “baskets formed of cedar bark and beargrass so closely interwoven that they are watertight without the aid of gum or rosin; some of these are highly ornamented with strans of beargrass which they dye of several colours and interweave in a variety of figures.” Some are small as a cup, writes Lewis, while others are up to five or six gallons in size. Non-water-tight baskets sometimes carried on their heads for holding berries, roots and fish are often conical shaped. Cooking baskets apparently stand up well to boiling water heated by hot rocks.

Today’s connection: Things always work out in the end. Looking back on the decision about where to spend the winter, Lewis expresses satisfaction with adequate food supply, “houses dry and comfortable,” and each man “content with his situation and fare.” Involving the whole group in an important decision like where to build the fort seems to be paying off. Describing Chinookan-style hats “with a high crown rather larger at the top than where it joins the brim,” Lewis sees similarities with fashions in the US and Britain in the years 1800 and 1801. Local traders know these are hot items for white men, much needed gear for a rainy winter at the coast 200 years before Gore-Tex.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Clark County Museum in Vancouver offers a spectacular collection of Northwest Indian baskets, complete with a color guidebook. Many Chinook Indian artifacts are also on display. The museum lists a number of public programs with a Lewis and Clark connection at The Vancouver Sympohony is also continuing its series of Bicentennial offerings, one this weekend. Go to

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January 8, 2006

Week ending January 14: Fort Clatsop and Cannon Beach.

Highlights: Capt. Lewis stays at Fort Clatsop to handle paperwork, and track down canoes that float way, while Clark leads a group of men and Sacagawea to investigate the beached whale and describe tribes and terrain. How the native people boil down the blubber in cedar troughs using hot stones draws their attention. Whale oil is highly valued and not easily obtained by the explorers. Tribal informants at the mouth of the Columbia easily name the captains or names of ships which cross the bar from April till early fall, buying hides and furs for eventual transport to Canton, China. The captains also hear words they recognize (like musket, powder, “damned rascal” and “sun of a bitch”). They wonder if local tribes have been talking with American or British seafarers. Lewis is impressed with how tribal visitors inhale when smoking, but apparently have had no exposure to alcohol from traders.

Words from the Journals: Clark recalls the Bible story of Jonah, writing “I thank providence for directing the whale to us; and think him much more kind to us than he was to jonah, having Sent this monster to be Swallowed by us in Sted of swallowing of us as jonah’s did.” Clark is also a real promoter for Cannon Beach: “rocks of emence Sise out at a great distance from the Shore and against which the Seas brak with great force gives this Coast a most romantic appearance.”

Today’s connection: Clark measures the whale beached near Ecola State Park at 105’ long. The gray whales traveling along the Oregon coast this time of the year would rarely be much longer than 50 ft. Some experts believe this particular specimen must have been a blue whale whose range today is further out to sea. On the other hand, local tribes would say Creator once again provides these gifts when needed.

Website of the week: Find out more on whales, and visit what might have been “Clark’s Point of View” at Tillamook Head at This website adds new features monthly and continues to be the best overall reference for the Lewis and Clark story.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: On Thursday, January 19, Oregon Historical Society offers Sacagawea, Bird Woman: An Indian Historian's View with Dr. Jeanne Eder. Cocktails 6-9 p.m. Program starts at 7 p.m. See for details. Looking ahead, see costumed re-enactors make salt authentically at Seaside’s Avenue U, February 17-19.

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January 1, 2006

Week ending January 7: Fort Clatsop.

Highlights: New Years Day, like Christmas morning, begins with rifle volleys to celebrate the holiday. The captains agree the men are dreaming of being home a year from now. The operating rules for Fort Clatsop require two pages, including a command that each night guard will bring two loads of wood to the commanding officers’ quarters every morning. There is now time to begin writing up earlier notes and describing the natural world around them, particularly birds and a skate (fish). Clark finally accepts the fact that “intolerably troublesom flees” will not disappear. Hunting parties once again go out and local visitors drop in with items for trade. First results from the saltmakers at the coast arrive, along with blubber from the whale that washed up near today’s Cannon Beach. Lewis says it is “pallitable and tender” not unlike pork fat, but “more spongey and somewhat coarser.” The salt is “excellent white & fine” and the men are glad to have it again. Clark leads a team to visit the saltmakers and see the beached whale. Sacagawea goes along after insisting “she had traveled a long way with us to see the great waters” and also the “monstrous fish.” Clark describes their climb up today’s Tillamook Head as the “Steepest worst and highest mountain I ever ascended.”

Words from the Journals: Lewis, whose journal entries begin after weeks of silence, says the best thing about their 1806 New Year is knowing they will be able “to participate in the mirth and hilarity of the day” on January 1, 1807. With all hard spirits used up at Great Falls, Montana, they are content with “solacing our thirst with our only beverage pure water.” Comparing his men’s like of dog meat to the native preference for whale blubber, he notes “our party is perfectly reconciled to subsist on dogs and have now become extremely fond of their flesh,” preferring it to venison or elk. When Lewis is writing, Clark’s copies most of his partner’s entries for safekeeping. On eating dogs, Clark adds this: “I have not become reconsiled to the taste of this animal as yet.” Without a dictionary, Lewis still often gets his spelling right. Describing trade with local Chinook Indians, he complains about their “avaricious all grasping disposition.”
Today’s connection: As an early health educator, Clark takes issue with Lewis and the other men on constant use of salt on what they eat. He says he can do without it, preferring the natural flavors of his food.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: For a post-holiday workout, try the Saturday, January 7, “A Whale of a Hike” over Tillamook Head to Ecola State Park. For more details or to register, or call (503) 436-2623. Attend a free lecture at Fort Clatop, Sunday, January 15, 1 p.m. with Julie Stein discussing "Lewis and Clark: Where exactly were they?" On Thursday, January 19, Oregon Historical Society offers Sacagawea, Bird Woman: An Indian Historian's View with Dr. Jeanne Eder. Cocktails 6-9 p.m. Program starts at 7 p.m. See for details.

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December 25

Week ending December 31: Fort Clatsop.

Highlights: Barely settled in their new home, the men wake the captains outside their windows on Christmas morning with volleys of gunfire, cheerful shouts and songs. After breakfast, it’s time for a gift exchange: the captains distribute half the remaining tobacco to those who use it and give handkerchiefs to the others. Capt. Clark receives fleece clothing from Meriwether Lewis, a pair of moccasins and basket from two men, 24 white weasel tails from Sacagawea, and roots from visiting Clatsop Indians. The men work all week building furniture and the outside security fence and gates. A team lugs several iron pots to the ocean so salt making can begin. Hunters replenish their elk meat supply which spoils quickly in the moist and moderate weather. Fleas torment the men night and day, both in their clothing and in their beds. “Musquetors” also bug the men. Clark notes “my man York” suffers from a bad cold and aches from lifting heavy logs. Indian visitors bring valuable roots and berries to sell and others tell about a whale that foundered on the coast to the southwest (today’s Cannon Beach). Clark gives a visiting chief a razor. Concerned about disappearing items, the captains impose new rules for visitors: the gates will be shut at sunset and no one can spend the night. Posting a guard is also a new procedure, but after minor grumbling, tribal visitors and traders quickly adjust.

Words from the Journals: Clark writes: “We would have Spent this day the nativity of Christ in feasting, had we any thing either to raise our Sperits or even gratify our appetites, our Diner concisted of pore Elk, So much Spoiled that we eate it thro’ mear necessity…” On New Year’s Eve, Clark observes evidence of prior European visitors: “With the party of Clat Sops who visited us was a man much lighter Coloured than the natives are generally, he was freckled with long duskey red hair, about 25 years of age, and must Certainly be half white at least, this man appeared to understand more of the English language than the others of his party, but did not Speak a word of English..”

Today’s connection: Famous Pacific Northwest slugs rate this description in Clark’s journal: “Snales without Cover is Common and large.” As the year closes, Clark tries to put a positive spin on coastal weather: “this day proved the best we have had Since at this place, only 3 Showers of rain to day.”

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Volunteers can help prepare logs for the new Fort Clatsop replica by checking with Pete Field, Project Manager, at (503) 861-4402. Clark’s elk skin journal containing the floor plan for Fort Clatsop is on display until March 11 at Oregon Historical Society in Portland. Go to for exhibition details.

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December 18

Week ending December 24: Fort Clatsop.

Highlights: The Corps spends the week before Christmas working on their new quarters and trying to lay in a food supply. Rain turns to hail and snow at times. Capt. Lewis describes a gray jay and Steller’s jay in careful detail, often comparing features to birds back home. The elk meat they worked so hard to get is spoiling before they can completely dry it. Pounded (powdered) salmon purchased near today’s Celilo Falls gets wet and molds. Local Clatsop Indians bring roots, mats and berries to sell, but continue to demand high prices (blue and white beads, fish hooks, tobacco, files for sharpening and even some of the pounded fish from upriver). A chief offers women to the men, and when the captains say no, the chief is displeased. One of the men builds writing desks for the captains so their paperwork will be easier to spread out. Two men are dispatched to flatlands near the ocean to gather a plant that mixes well with their tobacco. Capt. Clark sends a small stick of cinnamon to a sick man in a Clatsop village who had displayed friendship. On a rainy Christmas Eve day, the men start moving into their “huts.”

Words from the Journals: Alternating gusts of rain and snow halt construction one day because of inadequate clothing: “The men being thinly Dressed and mockersons without Socks is the reason that but little can be done at the Houses to day…”

Today’s connection: While the captains had vowed to maintain high standards of conduct in their relations with tribes, they sometimes break their code. To speed up construction of Fort Clatsop, for example, they take two canoe loads of planks from what they say is an abandoned house across the bay. This is likely a seasonal home (fishing grounds) for Chinookan people of the lower Columbia who retreat inland during the winter. At the same time, Capt. Clark complains of petty theft by visitors to their camp.

Website of the Week: How schools are approaching the Lewis and Clark story? See a resource designed for teachers in Vancouver, Washington:

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: During the holiday period, Fort Clatsop will offer a variety of “wintering in” activities for all ages. Schedule for lectures, ranger talks, and hikes are best found by searching for Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks, then click on Events.

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December 11

Week ending December 18: Fort Clatsop area.

Highlights: Preparing logs and framing their winter huts is now the top priority for the wet and ailing Corps of Discovery. In addition to fleas flourishing in their fur clothing and bedrolls, complaints include a dislocated shoulder, “biles” on the skin, a sprained knee and “disentary.” Elk are indeed more plentiful on the south side of the Columbia, and hunters kill 17 of the large animals. It takes two-days for Capt. Clark and several men to retrieve the carcasses and back sprains occur from carrying the heavy meat. Top priority is building a smokehouse. Jerking (drying) the elk is hard to do in the stormy weather and the meat spoils quickly if not preserved. A Clatsop chief named Coboway visits the construction site with food and pelts to trade.

Words from the Journals: Trying to buy wapato and skins for clothing from the local Clatsop Indians is increasingly difficult: “they never close a bargin except they think they have the advantage. They value the blue and white beeds highly.” Meantime, framers of the first Fort Clatsop are busy: “all the men at work about the house, chinking, dobbing and cutting out doors.”

Today’s connection: This week volunteers are stripping donated logs as Fort Clatsop III is being recreated at the Clatsop County Fairgrounds in Astoria. It will be reassembled later in 2006 on the same foundation used for the 1955 replica. Did the Chinook and Clatsop Indians have trouble with fleas? Perhaps not since their clothing and other household goods were typically made from cedar. Pet beds today are often stuffed with cedar shavings, said to be a natural insect repellant. For a free pamphlet titled Lewis and Clark and Oregon Forests, call Oregon Forest Resources Institute, 503-229-6718. The carpenters were amazed at how well some of the logs split into planks, a common technique used by native peoples in the region.
Website of the Week: To learn about the tribe whose ancestors greeted the Expedition in the Fort Clatsop area, go to

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: A rough blueprint of Fort Clatsop is found in the elk skin journal kept by Capt. Clark, one of the many artifacts now on display at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland. See for hours and costs. The Lewis branding iron used to mark trees is among the items owned by OHS.

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December 4

Week ending December 10: Astoria and Seaside, Oregon area.

Highlights: Separated into two and sometimes three groups for a week, Lewis probes the lower Columbia estuary to find a suitable winter campsite while Clark continues to battle high waves, winds and driving rain around today’s Tongue Point. Finally, Lewis returns with two men to describe an ideal location close to game, a fresh water spring, and access to the river with some protection from storms. After more weather delays, the men pack their canoes for the final time this winter and follow Lewis to the chosen spot. While Lewis immediately sets the men to work on clearing timber, Clark now becomes the scout and leads a small team on a three-day trek to the beach, ending up at today’s Seaside. Here they spend one night with friendly villagers where Clark demonstrates his marksmanship by shooting brants (geese) at 40 yards. The natives provide a feast of fish, boiled roots and a compote of salal and other berries. Clark describes two hand games played by his adult hosts: one for gambling and another comparable to backgammon. The men also discover how tough shopping with local tribes will be during their winter stay: to trade for some roots, red beads are refused, but small fish hooks are acceptable currency.

Words from the Journals: “1000 conjectures has crowded into my mind respecting his probable Situation & Safty,” writes Clark, as he worries over the fate of Lewis who is long overdue trying to find a suitable spot to spend the winter. Leading the first tour group to visit Seaside, Clark gives this report on his lodging: “I had not long been on my mat when I was attacked most violently by the flees and they kept up a close Siege duering the night.”

Today’s connection: Hunting for a spot suitable for saltmaking is one of the first tasks after arriving at their future Fort Clatsop site. Rather than heading directly west to present-day Fort Stevens, the men hike 16 miles to today’s Seaside. Why? Billions of gallons of fresh water pouring out of the Columbia dilute the salinity for several miles up and down the coast, impacting the time needed to boil down the salt.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: The traveling National Park Service exhibit and Tent of Many Voices wraps up its 2005 schedule December 11 near the O.O. Howard House at the Fort Vancouver Historic Preserve. Hourly presenters between 9 and 4 cover a wide range of topics. Exhibits by the National Guard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are accompanied by a replica keelboat, dugout, Chinook canoe and a self-guided interpretive tour of Lewis and Clark’s journey and tribes they met. Schedule is accessible at For a unique perspective on the Lewis and Clark journey from the eyes of tribes they met west of the Rockies, attend the public launch of a new radio series December 11 between 1-5 p.m. at the Portland State University Native American Student and Community Center. Details at

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November 27

Week ending December 3: Astoria, Oregon area.

Highlights: Determined to see if the Clatsop Indians were right about more elk being on the south side of the river, the Corps makes its way around today’s Tongue Point and is once again pinned down by the weather, resulting in a two-foot crack in one canoe. Capt. Lewis takes a small group on ahead in their native-built canoe to see if they can find a suitable spot for winter camp. What the captains thought would be a short scouting trip turns into a week of frustration as the men probe the dense shoreline underbrush and small inlets. The hunters finally succeed, but getting the meat hauled out proves difficult. Back at base camp on the exposed shoreline, the worried Clark tries to overcome rotting tents and wet clothes while he and others suffer from diarrhea they attribute to eating powdered salmon. Sacagawea apparently tries to comfort Clark by giving him a piece of hard bread she’s been saving until her baby could start eating hard food. Even though the bread has gotten wet and is slightly sour, Clark says it gives him “great Satisfaction, it being the only mouthful I had tasted for Several months past.” These weather delays give the journal keepers time to list some of the rich plant and wildlife resources of the area, particularly roses and bird life. We also read first details of what we know now as the Pacific blackberry, salmonberry, Oregon crabapple and Pacific madrone. Clark also describes how lower Columbia tribes often bury their dead with paddles and utensils inside canoes raised on scaffolds, apparently to speed their journey to another life.

Words from the Journals: “O! how disagreeable is our Situation during this dreadfull weather,” laments Clark. One night the wind “blew with such violence that I expected every moment to See trees taken up by the roots, maney were blown down.” Clark laments it’s been 24 days since they arrived at the “Great Western (for I cannot say Pacific) Ocian as I have not Seen one pacific day since my arrival…”

Today’s connection: The Pacific blackberry the explorers describe along the Columbia River is part of the genetic pool for the famous Marionberry grown widely in the region. This plant is not the same as the Himalayan blackberry regarded as a non-native, invasive species.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Fort Vancouver National Historic Reserve hosts the Corps of Discovery II through December 11. This free National Park Service exhibit offers an audio tour of the Journey of Discovery and a separate Tent of Many Voices features hourly presentations by Lewis and Clark and tribal presenters and entertainers. Other state and federal agencies also have displays. For information, see The four-month long National Exhibition at Oregon Historical Society in downtown Portland requires two hours for a thorough visit. Look for the icon on many artifacts indicating items brought back by the Expedition or related documents written about it. Timed entry tickets help keep the numbers of visitors small for easy viewing. Plan for extended time see other exhibits at the Museum, such as Oregon My Oregon and art by Warm Springs native artist Lillian Pitt.

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November 20

Week ending November 26: Lower Columbia River estuary.

Highlights: Returning from his hike north on today’s Long Beach Peninsula, Capt. Clark rejoins Lewis at the base camp west of the Astoria Bridge where they brand their names on trees. Visiting Clatsop Indians from the Oregon side offer to sell two sleek, valuable sea otter pelts. Clark really wants these two skins, but the traders demand high prices. Finally, the visitors point to Sacagawea’s blue-beaded belt. The deal is made and the next day Clark gives Sacagawea a cloth coat as payback. Knowing they’ve accomplished Jefferson’s goal to reach the Pacific via the Columbia, the men prepare to head back upriver until another fierce storm pins them down. Two days later when the sun reappears, they decide not to act hastily and conduct a poll to gather everyone’s opinion (including Sacagawea and York). Hearing from the Clatsop Indians that abundant elk are available, and still hoping that a trading ship will pull into the bay, the Corps votes to check out the other side of the river as possible winter quarters. Sacagawea’s opinion: stay close to a supply of wapato. Making the rough four-mile crossing in their clumsy dugouts near today’s Astoria is still impossible, so they retreat upriver near Pillar Rock where the channel is narrower and protected by small islands.

Words from the Journals: The familiar refrain “O how miserable is the day” continues as Pacific storms regularly pound the Northwest coast. On the other hand, Capt. Clark indicates the temperate climate is a factor in the decision to stay at the coast for the winter.

Today’s connection: Re-enactors will commemorate the “vote” November 24 at Station Camp west of the Astoria Bridge in Washington state. Historians debate whether this was truly a vote as we understand elections today; most believe this was another good example of the co-captains’ leadership as they built group consensus. Other choices for spending the winter were up near The Dalles or in the Sandy River area where they remembered an ample food supply and friendly natives. The explorers also enjoy cranberries in the Long Beach region, a crop that will make the area famous someday.

Website of the Week: The US Geodetic Survey’s website provides daily views of the geography encountered by the Expedition using old and contemporary pictures and maps. The website also features volcanoes (Mts. Rainier and St. Helens) the explorers saw from their lower Columbia vantage point. See

Book of the week: Oregonian editorial page writer David Sarasohn’s new book Waiting for Lewis and Clark (Oregon Historical Society Press) provides an inside look at how the three-year Bicentennial commemoration was developed nationally and its legacies for the changing West.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: The free National Park Service traveling exhibit nicknamed Corps of Discovery II opens its two-week Portland-area run at historic Fort Vancouver on November 28. The Fort Clatsop Visitors Center, centerpiece for the new Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks, still provides informative exhibits while archeologists wrap up their work where the old replica stood. Fort Clatsop III will be reassembled in March.

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November 13

Week ending November 19: Between the Astoria Bridge and Long Beach, Washington.

Highlights: Still pinned down on the north side of the Columbia by rough water, high tides and nasty weather, the captains worry about the men’s exposure and little hot food. Three men use their lighter Indian-made canoe to move around an exposed point. At another time, the Expedition separates into three different groups as they seek a sheltered campsite and any sign of European traders who might be in the area. Their buckskin clothes literally melts after a week of constant moisture. Some of their equipment mysteriously disappears; confrontations with native passersby follow. Their own trade goods now very low, they discover the Chinook Indians are tough traders. Finally a break in the weather and a sandy beach mean hot meals and a chance to dry some of their gear. bring a good view of the ocean. Each captain leads scouting parties to the north side of the Columbia’s mouth around Cape Disappointment where they carve names in trees where seafarers have done the same. Clark leads a group up today’s Long Beach. Along the way, they shoot a condor with a nine-foot wingspan.

Words from the Journals: Sergeant Patrick Gass, whose journal was the first published and can be seen at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at Cape Disappointment (Ilwaco), summarizes the men’s elation: “We are now at the end of our voyage, which has been completely accomplished according to the intention of the expedition, the object of which was to discover a passage by the way of the Missouri and Columbia rivers to the Pacific ocean.

Today’s connection: The California condor may once again roam the Columbia drainage if efforts by the Oregon Zoo are successful. In an isolated Clackamas County sanctuary, Zoo experts run a captive breeding program which has already produced eggs sent to San Diego for hatching.

Book-of-the week: The Corps of Discovery could have avoided lots of troubles with Keith G. Hay’s Lewis and Clark Columbia River Water Trail: A Guide for Paddlers, Hikers, other Explorers published by Timber Press, Portland.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Maya Lin will dedicate her first creation in a series of public art projects inspired by the Lewis and Clark story at Ilwaco, Washington Friday, November 18. While in the area, visit Ilwaco Heritage Museum with its Chinook Indian exhibit and amazing Lewis and Clark in Popular Culture collection. The National Park Service Corps of Discovery II traveling exhibit is free in Seaside November 19-22. Visitors review highlights of the Trail with audiophones then visit the Tent of Many Voices for half-hour presentations and entertainment. A replica keelboat and tipi are also on display.

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November 6

Week ending November 12: From the Cowlitz River to the Megler, Washington area east of the Astoria Bridge.

Highlights: The five canoes cover 30 miles a day as the explorers anticipate the successful end of their voyage. But with victory in reach, they run into major trouble. Fierce rain and wind, pounding waves, and high tides keep them pinned on the north side of the Columbia. They marvel at how well the light Chinookan cedar canoes easily ride the waves (“they are the best navigators I ever Saw”) while their own sluggish dugouts must wait for brief breaks in the weather and current to inch from cove to cove. The men spend one night camping on boulders and driftwood while trying to protect their canoes from being crushed by massive logs rolling onto shore and rocks falling from cliffs above. Their buckskin clothing is rotting from constant moisture. Dense underbrush makes hunting impossible. Fresh water is difficult to get because of the salty river water. Still, the journal keepers take time to describe the lifestyle of their Chinook Indian visitors who stop by to trade fresh salmon and wapato—some wearing sailors’ coats and trousers.

Words from the Journals: While fleas picked up at abandoned villages continue to infest their clothing and blankets, it’s the “Wet and disagreeable” weather that now dominates daily life. “It would be distressing for a feeling person to See our Situation,”says Capt. Clark.

Today’s connection: Hearing and seeing breakers in the distance, Clark’s journal entry for November 7 reflects the explorers’ excitement: “Great joy in camp we are in View of the Ocian…which we been So long anxious to See..” They were actually nearly 20 miles and several days away from the Pacific sands.
Book-of-the week: Rex Ziak’s engaging book In Full View is a well-illustrated daily summary of the Expedition’s difficulties in the Columbia estuary. Ziak grew up in that area and uses journal references to back up his theories on where the explorers paddled, hiked and camped.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: “Days of Struggle and Discovery” is the headline piece for a Nov. 12-13 concert by the Vancouver Symphony at Skyview High School. for details. Dedication of a new 6-mile Fort-to-Sea Trail from Fort Clatsop to the ocean is scheduled Tuesday, November 14 as part of the week-long Destination: The Pacific national Bicentennial activities stretching from Long Beach, Washington to Seaside/Cannon Beach, Oregon. See for details. Maya Lin will describe her designs for several public art projects commemorating the Corps of Discovery and tribes they met during three Portland, Vancouver and Ilwaco appearances Nov. 16-18. See for her lecture and groundbreaking schedule. Oregon Historical Society plans several activities in conjunction with its national exhibit of artifacts that begins a four-month run November 11. Timed entry ticket information is at

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October 30

Week ending November 5: From Bonneville Dam past Portland, Vancouver, and St. Helens.

Highlights: Rain and waterfalls welcome the Corps of Discovery to the west Columbia Gorge where tribal villages lie on both sides of the river and native boat traffic increases. One last hurdle remains: the “Great Shute” (narrow, rocky rapids near today’s Cascade Locks) requires a difficult 2.5 mile portage. After sliding the boats over rocks on poles, three canoes require repairs. The men see California condors and at Beacon Rock measure a 9-inch tidal effect from the ocean. Visited by a growing number of Chinookan people, Clark discovers his pipe tomahawk missing. Now anxious to get to the Pacific, the explorers push ahead. The men also welcome a new food to their diet called wapato which they compare to a “Small Irish potato.” Native women wade into waterways, pluck the “bulb” from the muck with their toes, then gather the valuable floating harvest into small canoes built for that purpose.

Words from the Journals: Leaving the Gorge and approaching today’s Sandy River, Clark writes the first tourism slogan for the region: “The Countrey has a handsom appearance…” The men call it Quick Sand River because not much earlier in geologic time Mt. Hood erupted. Debris altered the Columbia channel leaving the Sandy River with two mouths and a large delta. Bountiful geese, ducks and other birds greet the explorers and provide several meals along this stretch of the Columbia. One night Clark says he cannot sleep because of “emensely noumerous” waterfowl and their “horid” noise.

Today’s connection: Changes in the types of trees, plants and geology through the Gorge still impress visitors today. Coincidentally, on what we call Halloween Day now, Clark describes eight burial vaults built with planks, filled with bodies tied in skins with carved totem-like figures nearby. In 1938, Bonneville Dam eliminated the treacherous rapids to make river travel easier. Near today’s Crown Point and Rooster Rock, Clark says: “We encamped under a high projecting rock,” an area where “mountains leave the river on each Side.” From today’s airport region to the Ridgefield and St. Helens area, the explorers describe several multi-family housing developments and at one village count 52 canoes of all sizes and purposes pulled up on shore. Hidden by islands, the men miss today’s Willamette River and won’t describe it till their return trip in April.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Re-enactors appear Nov. 1-2 at Capt. William Clark Park in Washougal and Nov. 3-4 at Frenchman’s Bar county park in Vancouver. On Saturday, Nov. 5, St. Helens is sponsoring a one-day waterfront commemoration of the Expedition’s passage through their area. Also on Nov. 5, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge sponsors “A View from Cathlapotle”, a large village described by Lewis and Clark. Short native and Lewis and Clark interpretations of the 1805-1806 period are scheduled in a newly-built Chinookan-style plankhouse during the day. Re-enactors will also visit. On Friday, Nov. 11 opening ceremonies for our region’s five-day Signature Event for the Bicentennial kick off at 10 a.m. (see Events are scheduled from Long Beach to Cannon Beach through Nov. 15. Oregon Historical Society also opens its four-month exhibition on Lewis and Clark on November 11 (see

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October 23

Week ending October 29: From Celilo, Oregon to White Salmon, Washington.

Highlights: Near present-day Celilo, the men use elkskin ropes to lower empty canoes down 20-foot falls and steep rapids. For other whitewater stretches, the captains order the non-swimmers to portage the gear along the Columbia’s basalt ledges while daredevil Corps members maneuver their canoes through the river’s “whorling” waters. Onlookers from one village tell the captains they are astonished the men survived. Their two volunteer Nez Perce guides say farewell, warning of dangers from tribes ahead. More evidence of European trade is seen: a British musket, a cutlass, brass tea kettles, and a mixed-race child. The men are impressed with the sleek and light cedar canoes of the lower Columbia tribes, some with elaborate carved figures. They count 17 adults in one craft.

Words from the Journals: As the captains negotiate with new chiefs who speak a different language at this cultural divide, they also renew their diplomatic efforts (including fiddling and dancing). Says Clark: “we thought it necessary to treat these people verry friendly & ingratiate our Selves with them to insure us a kind & friendly reception on our return.”

Today’s connection: Lewis and Clark never mention the age-old rock art of the Columbia Gorge, particularly the legendary “She Who Watches” petroglyph at Horse Thief (now Columbia Hills) State Park. Dozens of rock art examples rescued before Columbia dam flooding were installed this year along a park roadway. The Corps of Discovery just missed the popular trade mart at Celilo where tribes came annually from all directions to trade their wares for the abundant salmon products offered by the Columbia fishing families. The Expedition’s Rock Fort campsite in The Dalles is still accessible near an industrial area. It is one of the few pinpointed campsites along the Trail where journal descriptions match today’s geography. As the fleet moves downstream, they notice the famed thermal winds that now attract windsurfers and parasailers. The men receive gifts of “philburts,” little knowing Oregon would someday be the nation’s largest producer. Clark may be the first Northwest visitor to pronounce steelhead “the finest fish I ever tasted.”

Book of the Week: Ruth and Emory Strong’s classic book titled Seeking Western Waters: The Lewis and Clark Trail from the Rockies to the Pacific, published by Oregon Historical Society, provides an interpreted daily summary of the Corps’ trip down the Columbia. It focuses on tribal and natural history.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Re-enactors in dugouts will meet the public at several locations along the Columbia for the next several weeks. For an approximate schedule, check A locally-produced 13-part radio series offering new perspectives on the Expedition is now airing on Oregon public radio (OPB). See

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October 16

Week ending October 22: Leaving Pasco, Washington and approaching Celilo Falls east of The Dalles, Oregon.

Highlights: Amazed at the stacks of salmon drying on scaffolds in the windy and barren country, the men believe the native people use the dried filets for fuel as well as food. They continue to buy dogs, believing the spawning fish are unfit to eat. Crowds of villagers meet and greet the Expedition all along this stretch of the river. At one point, Capt. Clark says “they came down and formed a ring and danced for Some time around us.” More portages and rough rapids face the fleet daily. Diplomacy with tribes includes giving of medals and other gifts. The captains notice distinct changes in language and cultural practices between upriver and downriver tribes. They observe flattened heads, a mark of distinction separating the lower and upper classes, and a sailor’s jacket that has been traded upriver from the mouth of the Columbia. Burial practices fascinate Clark, particularly a site where horses were apparently sacrificed with the deceased.

Words from the Journals: From the riverbanks, growing numbers of people watch the strange white visitors, prompting this familiar “space alien” remark by Clark: “They said we came from the clouds…and were not men.” Describing a 100-year old woman in one village, Capt. Clark notes she occupies “the best position in the house, and when She Spoke, great attention was paid to what She Said.” Their hospitable new friend Chief Yellepit, of the Walla Walla Indians, wants them to stay and meet his people, but the captains want to push on to the Pacific and “promise to Stay with him one or two days on our return.”

Today’s connection: Tribes along this section of the Columbia created the first protein powder. Pulverized dried salmon, a valuable commodity for exchange, would last for years when packed into tightly woven baskets. The Corps of Discovery buys a large supply. As the men leave the Walla Walla River area and enter today’s Oregon near Hat Rock, they also begin to see Mt. Hood’s “Conocal form Covered with Snow” See for details.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Our closest official Bicentennial signature event opens Friday, November 11 at Fort Stevens State Park. See for a comprehensive schedule of free and ticketed events. The Corps ran out of hard alcohol early, but Jack Daniels is launching a new bottling for the Bicentennial on Wednesday, October 26 at Blue Lake Regional Park in Fairview, Oregon. Watch for the schedule of the National Park Service free traveling exhibit that will stop in Umatilla County and The Dalles this month.

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October 9

Week ending October 15: Leaving the Idaho/Washington border on the Snake River, heading toward Tri-Cities.

Highlights: Rapids and canoe spills continue to plague the explorers. One major accident dumps much of their valuable gear in the river. Men downstream catch some of the floating bundles, forcing delays to dry food, clothing and bedding. Their Shoshone guides suddenly depart without pay for leading the Corps over the Bitterroots, but two Nez Perce Indian leaders offer to accompany the Corps on the next leg of the journey to The Dalles area. Capt. Clark makes notes on Nez Perce dress, amusements, health, and burial practices. Even though he doesn’t like it himself, on one day Capt. Clark notes the men buy 15 dogs to supplement their diet of dried salmon. As firewood becomes scarce, the men break their rule about respecting tribes: they burn valuable planks hidden on an island by local fishermen.

Words from the Journals: Though she was originally brought along as an interpreter, Clark observes how Sacagawea plays another key role among the tribes they meet: “The wife of Shabono our interpreter we find reconciles all the Indians, as to our friendly intentions…a woman with a party of men is a token of peace.”

Today’s connection: This section of the Snake River is now calmed by four dams (Lower Granite, Little Goose, Lower Monumental and Ice Harbor) which facilitate boat traffic to Lewiston/Clarkston. The same stretch is also the focus of salmon restoration debates.

Websites of the week: For seven self-guided hikes with Lewis and Clark themes, go to For free interpreted hikes starting October 22 in the Columbia Gorge, see Friends of the Columbia Gorge also plan public presentations, such as one on the California condor, first documented by the explorers in the Gorge and again in the lower Columbia estuary.
Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: The annual Birdfest at Ridgefield National Refuge October 15-16 includes walks at the new Cathlapotle Plankhouse. The journals list 14 plankhouses there when the Corps passed by in 1805. The Expedition visited Cathlapotle in spring 1806. Re-enactors following the Lewis and Clark Trail this year make their first Oregon stop October 19 at Irrigon. Called the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles, the 33-member group will set up camp nightly along the Columbia using the journals as their guide. Their itinerary to Fort Clatsop is available at Members include local volunteers who want to re-live the adventure. Visitors to their encampments are welcome.

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October 2

Week ending October 8: Downstream from Orofino, Idaho in Clearwater River country.

Highlights: After a week of gastro-intestinal problems, boiled horsemeat finally revives most of the sick men. Capt. Lewis, however, continues to suffer several more days and Clark has a rough 24-hour siege as well. “Swelled bowels” are blamed on eating so much camas (roots) and dried fish. As most men finish building the five canoes that will carry them downstream trip to the Pacific, others cut the manes and brand their horses with a “U.S. Capt. M. Lewis” logo. Saddles and two canisters of gunpowder are buried for safekeeping. Nez Perce tribal members volunteer to keep the herd until the expedition’s return. Loading all the party in canoes, the dugouts encounter rough rapids with minor repairs needed after one crackup. Another accident the next day dumps all gear and passengers into the swift, cold water leaving one man injured and the boat stranded on rocks.

Words from the Journals: Clark’s words speak for themselves about camping with men in close quarters: “Capt Lewis & my Self eate a Supper of roots boiled, which filled us So full of wind, that we were Scercely able to Breathe all night…”

Today’s connection: Oregon Historical Society owns the branding iron apparently used by the captains to identify horses and mark trees to claim territory. The tool was found in the early 1890s around Memaloose Island near The Dalles. One of the few artifacts from the Corps of Discovery that still exists, it will be part of the national exhibition at OHS beginning November 11. Tickets are being sold on a timed entry basis. See for details.

Websites of the week: For a look at how modern-day Lewis and Clark buffs still try to navigate the Clearwater River in dugouts, go to

Book of the week: Stephen Dow Beckham and Robert M. Reynolds have compiled an impressive photo/narrative summary titled Lewis & Clark: From the Rockies to the Pacific that gives an explorer’s eye view from the Continental Divide west.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Rare book collector and popular speaker Roger Wendlick of Portland will describe his passion for tracking down old Corps of Discovery books and maps at 1 p.m. October 16 at Fort Clatsop. Title: “Shotgun on My Chest: Stories of an Obsessed Lewis and Clark Book Collector.” Also on October 16, up the Columbia Gorge in Irrigon, enjoy an afternoon of tribal and Lewis and Clark family-oriented activities from 1-6 p.m. in the community park.

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September 25

Week ending October 1: Near Highway 12 in the Orofino, Idaho area.

Highlights: With fresh game scarce, the men are still having great difficulty coping with their new diet of roots and salmon. Apparently Sacagawea and her baby are unaffected. Capt. Lewis suffers the entire week; indeed most of the men are treated for severe stomach cramps and diarrhea. Visitors from villages up and down the river pass by with dried and fresh food to trade. Beads seem to be the preferred medium of exchange. The Expedition’s major goal now is to find trees large enough to build five dugout canoes. Cutting them down with small axes, however, proves to be difficult. Then carving out the knotty pines is even harder. Once again their native friends provide help; Nez Perce canoe builders show them how to use hot coals to speed the process.

Words from the Journals: Learning a new construction technique, Sgt. Patrick Gass, the Expedition’s master carpenter, writes: “All the men are now able to work, but the greater number are very weak. To save them from hard labor, we have adopted the Indian method of burning out the canoes.”
Today’s connection: Go to, then dig into Discovery Paths/Technology/Dugouts at to see how a modern-day researcher is learning about dugouts and their performance on rivers.
Websites of the week: Link to more information on the Nez Perce Tribe by visiting

Book of the week: Salmon and His People: Fish and Fishing in Nez Perce Culture by Dan Landeen and Allen Pinkham is a comprehensive look at how salmon have been a central part of life for interior Pacific Northwest Native Americans for centuries.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Master storyteller and author William Kittredge kicks off Lewis & Clark College's two-day Bicentennial symposium with a lecture September 29 at 7:30 p.m. at PSU’s Native American Student and Community Center, 710 S.W. Jackson Avenue in Portland. See www.thejourneycontinues for registration details. Next week, The Oregonian's David Sarasohn presents a reading and book signing for his new book, Waiting for Lewis and Clark at Oregon Historical Society, 6 p.m. Free of charge and open to all.

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September 18

Week ending September 24: Finally emerging from Idaho’s Bitterroots into today’s Weippe and Orofino area.

Highlights: With Capt. Clark and hunters two days ahead, the main party struggles through steep and rocky ravines. Packhorse problems continue to plague travel, though a lost Indian horse killed by Clark provides welcome food for the malnourished, starving men who follow. One horse carrying heavy ammunition miraculously survives a 100-foot fall and resumes travel 20 minutes later. Time is lost hunting another animal carrying Capt. Lewis’s winter clothing. Finally, Clark stumbles into warmer flat country where Nez Perce Indian women are harvesting camas root, a small starchy bulb. Exchanging gifts for provisions, and describing the pits used to steam the vegetables, he overeats and gets sick that evening. While most of the Nez Perce men are off protecting the villages from hostile tribes, Clark holds a midnight parley with Chief Twisted Hair who is overseeing salmon fishing and other food gathering. Clark sends a care package of salmon and roots back into the mountains for the main party. We later learn from Nez Perce oral history about the role of an old Nez Perce woman named Watkuweis who saves the Corps of Discovery from likely massacre. Like Sacagawea, she had been captured years earlier, but remembered being helped by white people. Now an elder in the tribe, she admonishes young warriors to let the Corps of Discovery proceed.

Words from the Journals: In some of his last journal entries until January at Fort Clatsop, Lewis provides detailed word pictures of birds, one whose notes resemble the mewing of a cat, and three varieties of grouse new to science. After the difficult last two weeks, we can empathize with his “pleasure I now felt in having tryumphed over the rocky Mountains and decending once more to a level and fertile country…”

Today’s connection: Travel guides warn of eating too much strange food, but the men in the Corps of Discovery ignore Capt. Clark’s warning about eating too much too quickly: “I cautioned them of the Consequences of eateing too much..” Most get violently ill, with some lying by the trail in misery and then barely able to ride horseback. The famous Dr. Rush “thunderbolts” are again the medicine of choice. Some ribbons said to be given by the captains to Nez Perce children are on display at the Nez Perce National Historic Trail museum in Spalding, Idaho along with a peace medal presented to one of the chiefs.

Websites of the week: Watch the Oregon Historical Society website ( for background on lectures that start this week on the national exhibition opening November 11 and continuing into March, 2006.

Book of the week: Do Them No Harm by Zoa L. Swayne traces the Bitterroot saga and reviews Nez Perce Indian oral tradition about the role of Watkuweis in saving the Expedition.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: The third Bicentennial symposium sponsored by Lewis & Clark College in Portland begins Thursday, September 29 and continues through Saturday, October 1. See for registration details. Theme is the rivers of Lewis and Clark and meanings today.

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September 11

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Week ending September 18: Pushing over the Lolo Trail in Western Montana in the area of Highway 12.
Highlights: Scarce game and weather of all extremes lie ahead as the Expedition faces the most difficult part of their journey yet. Trying to follow well-worn paths used for centuries by the Nez Perce Indians to reach buffalo country, their guide Toby makes several false turns. Early-falling snow is a new enemy, often hiding signs of the trail which usually follows high ridges where there are more open spaces. Steep and rocky slopes are dangerous for the horses. More than one loses footing and tumbles as much as 60 feet down ravines, but each time the horse escapes without serious harm. In one accident, Capt. Clark’s writing desk is smashed. When fatigued horses falter, they are left behind; if they stray, time is lost retrieving them. Fresh meat and water are a major concern, so the men kill one colt, then another, sometimes melting snow for water. They notice travelers before them have eaten the inner bark of Ponderosa pine. Finally the captains decide they should temporarily split the party with Clark going on ahead to hunt.

Words from the Journals: “I have been wet and as cold in every part as I ever was in my life…fearful my feet would freeze in the thin mockersons which I wore” writes Clark. Even with concerns about personal survival, the journal keepers make note of birds and geography of the area. On a high peak with a break in the clouds, Clark can see open prairies in the distance, but high mountains still surround them.
Today’s connection: Boiling water added to dry soup mix is today’s quick lunch. The early version carried by the Corps of Discovery was apparently distasteful and a last resort. In addition to canisters of portable soup, Lewis lists their food inventory as horses, some bear oil, and 20 pounds of tallow candles.
Websites of the week: Start planning ahead for Oregon and nearby Washington events this fall at and

Book of the week: Feasting and Fasting with Lewis and Clark by Leander Holland includes a recipe for making portable soup from the 1800s. After hours of boiling and straining a brew of calves’ feet, veal, mutton and beef, the cook winds up with a gelatinous slab like bouillon.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Make reservations now for Destination the Pacific, a series of public events and lectures (some free) beginning November 11 at the mouth of the Columbia. This is our region’s official event as part of the national Bicentennial. See

September 4

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Week ending September 10: In the Bitterroot Valley of Western Montana.

Highlights: Stumbling out of the first rugged range of mountains, the Corps of Discovery follows today’s Bitterroot River for a few days of flat travel and better access to meat and berries. However, cold nights and snowy crags to their left are a constant reminder of what’s still to come. In this beautiful valley, the Expedition meets the Flathead Indians who, like the Shoshone Indians, are preparing to send hunters east for buffalo. Actually these Salish people do not flatten their heads at all, a tradition the explorers will see later along the lower Columbia. The captains eagerly barter for “elegant” horses to increase the Expedition’s train to 40. When handing medals to four men they believe to be chiefs, the English-speaking captains rely on one of their bilingual men who knows French to pass the message to Sacagawea’s husband Charbonneau. He translates French phrases to Hidatsa, Sacagawea’s second language. She converts Hidatsa to a Shoshone boy with the Flathead tribe who passes the message along to the Salish leaders. In other times, sign language is also used. During this week the captains learn about a shortcut through the mountains that would have saved them over 50 days. They make note of this for the return trip.

Words from the Journals: Thinking about all their struggles, journal keeper Joseph Whitehouse writes about the past few days: “in all the hardship that they had yet undergone they never once complained, trusting to Providence & the conduct of our officers in all our difficulties.”

Today’s connection: In his largest-ever painting, a 12 ft. by 26 ft. panorama which still hangs in Montana’s state capitol, Western artist Charles Russell imagines the meeting between the Corps of Discovery and the Flathead Indians in the Bitterroot Valley. Many experts wish Jefferson would have sent a sketch artist with Meriwether Lewis to record such moments.

Website of the week: Before heading west over today’s Lolo Pass, the captains decide to give the men an extra day to rest and dry their wet gear before the ordeal ahead. See how Montanans are preserving this famous spot at Travelers Rest is also a key terminus on the return trip next year.

Videos of the week: Two DVDs offer particularly good insights on Lewis and Clark among the Indians: “Native Homelands along the Lewis & Clark Trail” and “Contemporary Voices along the Lewis & Clark Trail.” See for ordering information.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: A national traveling exhibit, “Discovering the Rivers of Lewis & Clark” opens September 9 and closes October 28 at Vancouver’s Water Resources Education Center. See

August 28

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Week ending September 3: Near today’s Salmon, Idaho climbing slowly into rugged mountain country.

Highlights: With 29 packhorses, many not in good shape, the Corps of Discovery says farewell to Sacagawea’s brother Cameahwait. They also leave the Lemhi Shoshone villages where fresh salmon was the only reliable protein (and not very satisfying to these red meat- loving European Americans). In the distance they see smoke from wildfires set to alert friendly tribes it’s time to head east for buffalo hunting on the Missouri. Their native guide Old Toby, a volunteer who says he knows the way to bigger Columbia River tributaries, leads the party across steep and treacherous ridges where they must often cut their own trail. Experts today still can’t agree on exactly where the Expedition camped during part of this period or why they chose this difficult route with a 2500 foot rise in elevation at one point. Horses suffer serious falls and somehow their weather thermometer breaks. Journal entries by Capt. Lewis stop for several days and Clark’s notes are short and cryptic: “with the greatest dificuelty and risque we made five miles today.” Rain and sleet fall on top of a two-inch layer of snow.

Words from the Journals: Joseph Whitehouse, another journal keeper, names one bad six-mile stretch the “dismal swamp”, a term that will appear again in November when the party is pinned down on the north shore of the Columbia at “dismal nitch.”

Today’s connection: Despite their best efforts in bartering, the captains do not succeed in getting a good horse for every person plus others to carry baggage. Horses brought many changes to the native populations of North America. Tribes of this region are still known for fine steeds. Lemhi Shoshone horse traders likely saw a way to weed out their lesser-quality stock in return for items like muskets, a pistol, a knife, powder and balls.

Website of the week: Search for “Lemhi Pass” and you’ll find photos and background on this section of the Trail thanks to agencies like the U. S. Forest Service.

Book of the week: Carolyn Gilman’s “Lewis and Clark Across the Divide” is one of the best keepsake volumes from the Bicentennial and is a preview of the blockbuster exhibit coming to the Oregon Historical Society in November.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Now is the time to order tickets for the only national Bicentennial signature event in our region beginning November 11 at the mouth of the Columbia. Go to for the full schedule of activities, speakers and exhibits—many requiring paid admissions, but some free. Maps to places like Dismal Nitch will be available.

August 21

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Week ending August 27: Capt. Lewis oversees equipment transport toward Lemhi Pass while Clark probes a fork of the Salmon River in today’s Idaho.

Highlights: Fast-talking Lewis stalls Sacagawea’s brother and other hunters from leaving for buffalo country until he can barter for 25 horses, load them up, and hire extra help to move baggage across the Rockies. Ink freezes in his quill pen at night and local forecasters warn snow is coming. Still, Lewis makes time to describe how moccasins are made by his hosts, native dress, bear claw necklaces, sweet grass, an elaborate fishing weir, the equal voice of women in conversations, flint knapping, arrow making, shield construction, steelhead trout, bitterroot, and fennel. The Corps shares its food supply with local villagers who particularly like the dried winter squash brought from the Mandan-Hidatsa villages. Lewis tells Cameahwait they, too, could learn to farm squash and beans when more white men come in the future. In turn, the Lemhi Shoshone Indians share berries and salmon. Clark confirms what his guide warned: canoes will not survive the dangerous rapids. Finally trading for enough horses and mules to begin the trek, the men sink their canoes in the river with rocks, pack the horses and mules, and start moving their gear over today’s Lemhi Pass. One baggage carrier pulls out of the caravan for an hour. Lewis learns she gives birth, then continues the journey!

Words from the Journals: Clothing of the Lemhi Shoshone Indians is as “decent and convenient” as any he’s encountered so far. An ermine tippet he receives is “the most eligant peice of Indian dress I ever saw.” Lewis also likes their values, noting “they do not disturb any article they see lying about” and always return what’s borrowed.

Today’s connection: Gun safety once again rates mention in the journals. When demonstrating his air gun near St. Louis, Lewis grazes the head of a woman bystander. This week a hunter across a pond fires at some ducks. The lead ball ricochets off the water and lands a few feet from Lewis. Just six weeks from the end of the journey in 1806, Lewis actually gets shot in the buttocks and must ride horizontally in a canoe until the wound heals.

Website of the week: To learn more about the Lemhi Shoshone people, go to
Book of the week: Idaho native James R. Fazio’s Across the Snowy Ranges is a well-researched summary of the Expedition’s trials crossing the Rockies with photos of the geography as it looks today.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Visit Bonneville Dam August 26-28 for an impressive lineup of speakers, demonstrations, films, and exhibits commemorating the Expedition’s travels down the Columbia River. See for more details.

August 14

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Week ending August 20: Preparing to cross the Continental Divide at Lemhi Pass near the Montana/Idaho border.

Highlights: Waiting for Capt. Clark to come up with the boats and gear, Lewis delays his new Lemhi Shoshone friends from their annual buffalo hunting trek. He mentions a woman from their nation is traveling in the main party. From principal chief Cameahwait, who Sacagawea later recognizes as her brother, he learns more about the rugged mountains they face and the “great or stinking and illy tasting lake they call the Ocean.” Mulling over what lies ahead, Lewis writes” if women and children can pass these mountains, we can do it too!” Hunger is now a major concern for everyone. Using the last flour, Lewis makes a pudding of flour and berries enjoyed by all. When Corps of Discovery hunters finally kill three deer, their native companions quickly devour all organs and entrails on the spot, even sucking soft matter from the hoofs! Lewis keeps one quarter of the meat for his men and gives away the rest. Trying hard to win friendship, extra hands and horses, the captain promises guns and merchandise for Cameahwait’s people whose poverty is real and who constantly fear better-armed enemies. Finally Clark arrives as promised by Lewis. In a “really affecting meeting,” Sacagawea meets her brother and a childhood friend who was captured at the same time several years earlier. As this week ends, the men barter for horses (many with Spanish brands) and begin the process of making pack saddles to carry their goods over to the Lemhi Shoshone villages near present-day Salmon, Idaho. With a native guide, Clark takes several men to see if the Columbia tributary will be navigable and if trees for dugouts can be found. Other men build a cache to store items for the return trip.

Words from the Journals: Lewis is very impressed by the resilience of the Lemhi Shoshone people: “notwithstanding the extreem poverty of those poor people they are very meery they danced again this evening until midnight.” He points out they are extremely honest, frank in communication, fair in trading, generous in sharing, and enjoy games of risk and storytelling. After months on the trail, Lewis is also learning more about leadership in tribes. “Every man is a chief,” he writes, based on competencies needed at the time. “The one who enjoys the greatest share of confidence is the principal Chief.”

Today’s connection: Lewis marks his 31st birthday August 18 with poignant reflections on his life so far and personal goals for the future. Guessing he’s reached the halfway point of life expectancy, he regrets having “done but little, very little indeed, to further the happiness of the human race.” Admitting he can’t recall those many hours he wasted, he “dashes those gloomy thoughts” and promises “to live for mankind as I have heretofore lived for myself.” (Note: Meriwether Lewis dies October 11, 1809 apparently of self-inflicted wounds.)

Book of the week: Reality TV cannot match the activities described during this period of the journey. Go to any version of the journals to read how Meriwether Lewis makes on the spot decisions and describes Sacagawea’s people. His August 1805 passages are long and detailed.

August 7

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Week ending August 13: Reaching the Continental Divide at Lemhi Pass near the Montana/Idaho border.

Highlights: Sacagawea recognizes a hill well known to her people as the Beaverhead. Capt. Clark, pained by a serious boil on his ankle, leads the weary main party through rough and shallow waters: “they are getting weak soar and much fortiegued” he writes. Shannon gets lost again, this time for more than two days. Capt. Lewis continues ahead to find the Shoshone Indians whose horses they need to cross the Rockies. Finally, with his spyglass, Lewis sees a lone native man on horseback. He waves a blanket in the air and places it on the ground thinking it a gesture of goodwill, adding some gifts and pointing to his white skin. The man rides off, perhaps spooked by the other men with their guns. As they follow his trail, the men attach a U.S. flag to a pole to attract attention. At last they see two women, a man and some dogs in the distance. When one of the dogs approaches, Lewis thinks of tying some beads and trinkets to its neck as a messenger. After this encounter fails, and after hiking across more ravines, they suddenly stumble on a girl and two women. He showers them with gifts and paints their cheeks with vermillion. The women lead Lewis and his men two miles ahead where they find 60 Lemhi Shoshone riding “excellent horses.” After hearing the women’s story, the Shoshone men “caress and besmear” Lewis and his scouting party with what Lewis calls “the national hug.” With their shoes off as a sign of peace, leaders of both groups sit closely in a makeshift shelter for ceremonial smoking. Long talks begin. Lewis gives Cameahwait (the “principal chief”) a U.S. flag. Later he distributes trinkets to women and children. The chief offers to share a meager supply of food. Music and dancing continue after Lewis goes to bed at midnight.

Words from the Journals: On August 12, after so many months of hard work, Lewis and a handpicked group finally reach “the most distant fountain of the waters of the mighty Missouri in surch of which we have spent so many toilsome days and wristless nights.” They then climb to the crest of the Continental Divide and see “immence ranges of high mountains still to the West of us with their tops partially covered with snow.” Descending the steeper west side, Lewis finds another creek: “here I tasted the water of the great Columbia River.” Later, when celebrating with the Lemhi Shoshone, he tastes his first salmon which convinces him “we are on the headwaters of the Pacific Ocean.”

Today’s connection: Misinterpretations of a foreign language may lead to unforeseen consequences. Lewis learned this lesson after apparently asking Sacagawea how to introduce himself as a “friendly white man,” likely not words in her language. When meeting the Lemhi Shoshone people, Lewis shouts “tab ba bone” while pointing to his skin. Experts believe the word might have been interpreted as alien, stranger or “from

Website of the week: To follow progress of the new “Fort to Sea Trail” now underway between Fort Clatsop and the ocean, go to Another example of strong partnerships, the Trail was inspired by the trek made by members of the Corps of Discovery to their Salt Works in January 1806.

July 31

(Download PDF)

Week ending August 6: Seeking the Missouri’s headwaters through the Twin Bridges region of western Montana.

Highlights: Capt. Clark reaches his 35th birthday August 1, but there is no pause to celebrate. Taking three men with him, Capt. Lewis hikes some 25 miles daily in a last-ditch effort to find the Snake (Lemi Shoshoni) Indians. Behind him, despite the worsening “tumor” (boil) on his ankle, Clark and his team struggle to pull the heavy boats through riffles and rapids. One canoe overturns in the current, nearly pinning Joseph Whitehouse underneath. Another is swamped, requiring a day to dry their goods. The men wish they could travel by land instead. Despite illness and injuries that beg for rest, the Corps keeps pushing ahead, always making note of birds, mammals, plants, weather and surroundings. Berries are a treat at meals and they observe a bear also enjoying the “currants.” Colder weather at night requires two blankets now. Shannon, lost earlier in the spring for two weeks, fails to return from a hunting trip. Firing guns and “sounding” their signal horn bring no response.

Words from the Journals: Satellite phones would have helped the separate parties communicate! Lewis writes a note to Clark telling which channel to take and ties it on a green tree branch leaning over the river. A beaver cuts the pole down and Clark misses this crucial information! He detours his men up a difficult fork in the river where the boat accident occurs.

Today’s connection: Even if his iron boat experiment failed earlier, Lewis describes an invention that worked extremely well: lead canisters filled with gunpowder, then corked and waxed tightly. Each heavy cylinder held enough powder to fire shot melted from its lead.

Website of the week: The latest nickel in a series of new coins for the Bicentennial will be released Friday morning near Ilwaco and in the Portland area on Saturday afternoon at Blue Lake Regional Park in Fairview. Rolls of the “Ocean in View” nickels will be exchanged for $2 cash by West Coast Bank between 1-4 p.m. The artist who designed the Pacific coast image will be available to sign the rolls at no additional charge. Learn more about the United States Mint commemorative coins at

Bicentennial activities in Oregon and Washington: This Saturday, August 6, 1-8 p.m., Grand Ronde Confederated Tribe members and Lewis and Clark re-enactors offer an experience of life on the Trail 200 years ago. Nichaqwli (nee chalk lee) was the name of a village at today’s Blue Lake whose native son guided Capt. Clark downstream to find the Willamette River. Food, exhibits, and period music will be available. Two unofficial members of the Corps of Discovery whose graves are in Oregon will also be recognized during the afternoon: Jean Baptiste Charbonneau (Sacagawea’s son) died in eastern Oregon in 1866 and Francois Rivet, a boatman hired to help the Expedition up the Missouri, later settled in the Willamette Valley. Rivet, noted in the journals because he danced on his head at Fort Mandan, will “return” in the person of Alex Garibay, a 23-old world-class breakdancer from Los Angeles. His performances to fiddle tunes will occur hourly. For information, contact [email protected].

July 24

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Week ending July 30: Reaching and resting in the Three Forks area of western Montana.

Highlights: Capt. Clark continues to scout ahead of the main party in hopes of finding Sacagawea’s people, the Snake Indians, and their horses. He sees hoof prints now and then, and continues on despite “akeing in all my bones.” At one point, Sacagawea’s husband Charbonneau, a non-swimmer, is nearly swept away until rescued by Clark Meanwhile, Capt. Lewis even pitches in to help move the canoes up the Missouri, increasingly difficult with more rapids and a narrowing channel. Stickers get caught in their skin and clothing (not just from prickly pear) and blisters erupt on their feet. Clark returns with no news, and his fever worsens, so the Expedition halts to rest. Five of the famous “thunderbolt” pills, a strong laxative recommended by Dr. Barton in Philadelphia, seem to help Clark recover. Ahead, they still get glimpses now and then of the snow-clad Rocky Mountains—constant reminders of what’s to come.

Words from the Journals: Sacagawea recognizes the countryside around Three Forks. She tells the Corps this is the place where she was captured five years earlier by Hidatsa Indians who killed several adults and boys in the process. Lewis writes, “…I cannot discover that she shews any immotion or sorrow in recollecting this event, or of joy in being again restored to her native country…”

Today’s connection: This Three Forks area of Montana is one of the few places along the Trail where geographic names given by the captains still apply today: the Jefferson, Gallatin and Madison Rivers. Gallatin was Secretary of the Treasury and Madison, Secretary of State and later president.
Website of the week: An important river campsite in our local area will be opened to the public August 5-7. See for more details. The new Captain William Clark Park at Cottonwood Beach (at Washougal) will be formally dedicated Sunday, August 7 with re-enactors arriving to cut an elkskin rope. Lewis and Clark Journals editor Dr. Gary Moulton will review the days spent here in early spring 1806.

Book of the week: To follow the maps mainly drawn by Clark, see if your local library can obtain the Atlas of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Volume 1 of the 13-book set edited by Moulton.

Bicentennial activities in Oregon and Washington: A free special train through the Columbia Gorge this Thursday, July 28 features stops at significant Lewis and Clark sites. Sponsored by Oregon Operation Lifesaver and emphasizing rail safety, the tour leaves Vancouver Amtrak Station at 7:30 a.m. Visitors can board or debark at stations along the way to Wishram, returning on the Oregon side. Call 503-363-6587 or visit [email protected].

July 17

Week ending July 23: Pushing up the Missouri River through the Gates of the Mountain region of Montana toward Helena.

Highlights: “Almost suffocated” by heat in the valley, glimpses of snow-covered Rocky Mountains to the west remind the men why they need help to make it over. Capt. Clark agrees to take a scouting party ahead to locate Sacagawea’s people known for their fine horses. They observe smoke thought to be signals, so the men leave ribbon and cloth as symbols of friendship. Though progress is often “slow and tedious,” Lewis stays with the boats and keeps records of big-horned sheep bouncing from rock to rock 500 feet high and a flax plant that will eventually be named for him. Passing through “the most remarkable cliffs that we have yet seen” he names the area Gates of the Mountains, still a popular scenic wonder today. Wood is scarce at one point, so buffalo dung serves as fuel for cooking fires. Despite making two-layered deer skin moccasins, prickly pear cactus and sharp flint rocks cut and bruise their feet. One evening Clark pulls 17 spines from his feet and Lewis can “scarcely find a place to lye” another night because the prickly pears are so abundant. Sacagawea recognizes part of this area which cheers the men knowing they are drawing closer to the Missouri’s headwaters.

Words from the Journals: Mosquitoes not only drive the men crazy, but they seldom spell the word the same: misquetors, musquetoes, musquitors, musqutors are a few of the attempts.

Today’s connection: The Corps of Discovery sees one phenomenon that distinguishes the Pacific Northwest from their green summer hills of Appalachia, “hill sides and high open grounds is perfectly dry and appears to be scorched by the heat of the sun.”

Book of the week: “Ocian in view! Oh! the joy: Lewis & Clark in Washington State,” by Roger Cooke and Robert C. Carriker is a new book on the Corps of Discovery’s time in the Evergreen State. Order through Washington State Historical Society, 253-798-5902.

Bicentennial activities in Oregon and Washington: A family event Saturday August 6 at Blue Lake Regional Park features Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde members and Lewis and Clark re-enactors demonstrating life on the Columbia 200 years ago. Hours are 1-8 p.m. Park entry is $4 per car. Free cake in honor of Sacagawea’s son, whose first birthday was at Fort Clatsop, will be provided by West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce members. Indian Fry Bread and Indian Tacos also available.

July 10 (Download PDF)

Week ending July 16: Leaving Great Falls, Montana up the Missouri River.

Highlights: Putting the failed iron boat experiment behind them, work teams now must increase their dugout canoe fleet to 8 for the next leg of the journey. Locating large cottonwood trees is difficult. Then, axe handles keep breaking and finding wood to make 13 new ones is also hard. Mosquitoes and black gnats swarm around their faces. Vowing never to be so negligent again, sleepless Capt. Lewis sends a man to retrieve his protective net at their base camp. Seaman proves his skills by chasing a wounded deer into the river, drowning it, and bringing it to the hunters. Signs of recent tribal activity increase, but they have seen no native people for many weeks. They find the framework of a huge tipi made from 13 cottonwood logs 50’ tall set into the earth, 60’ in diameter and 216 foot circumference at the base. Lewis believes this to be a “council house for some great national concern.” It was likely a medicine lodge used for ceremonies. Lewis gets serious again with his scientific duties and describes several plants he’s not seen before, pressing many for future reference.

Words from the Journals: Not afraid to try new things, Lewis describes one evening treat: “Here for the first time I ate of the small guts of the buffaloe cooked over the blazing fire in the Indian stile without any preparations of washing or other clensing and found them very good.”

Today’s connection: Sounding like trip organizers today, Lewis complains as they load the boats: “we find it extremely difficult to keep the baggage of many of our men within reasonable bounds. They will be adding bulky articles but of little use or value to them.”

Website of the week: Sierra Club offers daily journal entries and a “then/now” look at the natural world at

Book of the week: Smithsonian Magazine’s July edition features the Cathlapotle Plankhouse at Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge north of Vancouver. The magazine has offered a continuing series on the Lewis & Clark expedition.

Bicentennial activities in Oregon and Washington: The Albany, Oregon Regional Museum celebrates its 25th anniversary July 29 by inviting Meriwether Lewis (Tim McNeil) to share highlights of the Corps of Discovery. Call (541) 967-7122 for details.

July 3

Week ending July 9: Near Great Falls, Montana where a 17-mile portage ends and the men prepare to push on.

Highlights: Unexplained booms mark the 4th of July as the Corps of Discovery still wonders what causes the mysterious cannon-like sounds in broad daylight. The captains give some of the men a day off to go visit the “grand and interesting scene” at the falls. Using up the last of their alcohol, the celebration continues late into the night with “songs and festive jokes.” Still working to distill “tar” (pitch) from green wood as sealant for skins covering the iron boat, Capt. Lewis pushes forward with his experimental craft. Failing at that, the men concoct a mixture of beeswax, tallow and powdered charcoal to cover the skins. After drying, the huge boat looks perfectly fine for carrying 4 tons of equipment. But, his fears soon come true. When launched, the hide hull leaks badly. “Mortifyed”, he orders the boat sunk, skins retrieved and the iron frame buried. Meanwhile, the men observe buffalo herds are dwindling and they will soon miss their favorite “white pudding” (sausage) as they make their way to the “shining mountains.” One hot afternoon, musket-ball size hail covers the ground during a thunderstorm, so the crew makes ice drinks.

Words from the Journals: In a July 4 musing about his men, Lewis says: “all appear perfectly to have made up their minds to succeed in the expedition or perish in the attempt. We all believe that we are now about to enter on the most perilous and difficult part of our voyage, yet I see no one repining; all appear ready to meet those difficulties which wait us with resolution and becoming fortitude.”

Today’s connection: Capt. Lewis looks for alternative solutions to an unexpected problem and wishes he’d made other decisions in the process. Research and development for new products today is also a continuous process of learning from mistakes.

Website of the week: For an interesting site built by California news reporter as he traveled the trail in 2003, see

Book of the week: For a good overview of this section of the Trail, see Ella Mae Howard’s “Lewis & Clark: Exploration of Central Montana.”

Bicentennial activities in Oregon and Washington: Experience life before Lewis and Clark, and hear re-enactors describe what it was like being part of the Corps of Discovery at Blue Lake Park in Fairview, Oregon on Saturday afternoon, August 6. A monument to the Nichaqwli (nee chalk lee) village whose native son led Capt. Clark to the Willamette River will be dedicated that afternoon.

June 26

Week ending July 2: Near Great Falls, Montana where a 17-mile portage moves dugouts and baggage around five waterfalls in the Missouri River

Highlights: Grizzly bears roam close to the upper camp, as Capt. Lewis’s dog Seaman barks them away both night and day. Lewis orders his small work party to travel in pairs and sleep with their guns as they continue to prepare hides and wood for the experimental iron frame boat. He takes over cooking duties so others can continue fabrication of this “novel peice of machinism” which now has required preparing 28 elk and 4 buffalo hides. One work party tries to steam tar (pitch) from wood in a pit for eventually sealing the seams. Meanwhile, Capt. Clark and the other men struggle with their makeshift carts that often break down as they cross the rolling prairie and deep ravines. A severe rain and hail storm hits one day with near disaster. Taking shelter under a rock shelf in a ravine, Clark, Charbonneau and Sacagawea and baby Pomp barely escape a torrent of water, rocks and mud that suddenly rushes down the canyon and rises to 15 feet. Sacagawea holds Jean Baptiste safely, but loses his cradleboard and clothes. Other valuable items are lost, but their best compass is finally found buried in muck. The delays force Lewis to realize there is no way they can get to the Pacific and back before winter as they originally hoped.

Words from the Journals: Out on more exposed ground, the men shed their shirts because of the heat as they hauled their “trucks” of gear. Clark reports the fierce hail and wind storm leaves “most of them bleeding freely and complaining of being much bruised.” Gathered safely in camp that evening to find dry clothes, Clark once again issues some grog (whisky or rum diluted with water) “to console them in some measure for their general defeat.” Returning to the flood spot, Clark finds their temporary shelter filled with “hugh Rocks.”

Today’s connection: Sudden thunderstorms anywhere in the West can cause dry creek beds to become violent. And even in Oregon, stories of hail damaging cars, houses and crops are not unusual.

Website of the week: To begin planning summer visits to the mouth of the Columbia portion of the Trail, start with

Book of the week: Art of the Lewis & Clark Trail edited by Jeff Evenson is a remarkable collection of paintings by well-known artists who created impressions of the journey: Charles M. Russell, Robert Bateman, John F. Clymer, Karl Bodmer, Michael Haynes, and others.

Bicentennial activities in Oregon and Washington: This week officially opens the Oregon Garden’s new Lewis and Clark “living museum” which features plants described by the captains in each of the “bio” zones they found along our portion of the Columbia. Go to for directions to Silverton.

June 19

Week ending June 26: Near Great Falls, Montana where a 17-mile portage gets underway around five waterfalls in the Missouri River.

Highlights: Still regaining strength, Sacagawea suffers a brief relapse when eating too much too soon. The captains separate so Clark can mark a trail for moving boats and baggage across ravines and rolling prairie. Lewis worries how to build a 36 x 4’ iron frame boat using wood braces and cured elk hides. Designed at Harpers Ferry, the experimental craft requires materials hard to find along the river, particularly pitch for sealing the seams after the hides are sewn around the frame. Lewis guessed right that such a craft would ride lighter and higher when the river becomes shallow. Meanwhile, hunters butcher and dry over 1400 pounds of buffalo and elk to keep the hungry crews fed. Hungry wolves steal a portion, however. One calm and clear day the men hear mysterious booms which still occasionally occur today with no explanation. The men dig more storage pits to cache extra luggage they will pick up on next year’s return trip. One man startles a grizzly that chases him over a bank, but now mosquitoes become the new challenge. For the portage, the men build carts with wheels crosscut from a single large cottonwood tree growing conveniently nearby. The first trip hints at what’s to come: cactus spines, sharp-edged dried clay ridges left by buffalo hooves, hot sun and axle breakdowns. With his medical kit left back at the main camp, Lewis uses his pocket knife to bleed a sick Corps member.

Words from the Journals: Despite the “incredible fatigue” of several men who faint and fall asleep when stopping, “no one complains, all go with cheerfulness.” The captains express pride in the men’s resourcefulness by catching the wind to help propel their boat carts across the prairie. “This is dry land sailing in every sense of the word,” says Clark.

Today’s connection: Knowing the importance of good morale, the captains encourage their men to “shake a foot” and “dance on the green” to Cruzatt’s fiddle tunes. Measures of whiskey also keep spirits up. Clark enjoys coffee one morning, a treat he’s not tasted since Fort Mandan.

Website of the week: Watch for new items appearing regularly at this premier website:

Book of the week: For an interesting summary of key facts written for quick reference, see Lewis and Clark for Dummies by Sammye Meadows and Jan Pruitt.

Bicentennial activities in Oregon and Washington: To join with enthusiasts from around the country, go to Hear music of the Expedition and dozens of presenters on many facets of the story at the Foundation’s annual meeting in Portland in early August.

June 12 

Week ending June 18, 1805: Approaching and scouting out the Great Falls area of Montana.

Highlights this week: Hiking up to 27 miles one day, Capt. Lewis is determined to find the falls which would validate they are on the right course to the Rocky Mountain headwaters of the Missouri River. Meanwhile, Capt. Clark is laboring with the rest of the crew bringing up the boats and gear. One man accidentally grabs a rattlesnake instead of a branch. Finally Lewis hears the roar and sees spray from the first of five waterfalls that will require a difficult portage. Deciding to go ahead alone one day, Lewis believes “all the beasts of the neighbourhood had made a league to distroy me.” After shooting a buffalo, there’s no time to reload his rifle to stop a grizzly bear who attack the intruder. Seeing no tree to climb, Lewis makes a 90-yard dash to the river. Twelve miles later, a wolverine threatens the explorer, soon followed by three bull buffaloes running “full speed toward me.” Prickly pears piercing his feet remind him this is not a bad dream! During this time Sacagawea continues to be seriously ill, later to be “cured” by water from a nearby sulphur spring.

Words from the journals: Like many of us, Lewis finds words or sketches won’t do the job. The waterfalls are so impressive he wishes he had the skills of a famous Italian painter and Scottish poet popular at the time: “I hope to give to the world some faint idea of an object which at this moment fills me with pleasure and astonishment.”

Today’s connection: While Lewis worries about his literary ability, Clark aims for measurement precision. He reports the height of the highest falls to be 97’ ¾”, the next 47’8” and another 14’7”. Dams along the river have since altered these cataracts.

Website of the week: To start your own exploration of this area of the Lewis and Clark Trail, go to

Book of the week: One of several good photography books covering the Trail is Bill and Jan Moeller’s Lewis & Clark: A Photographic Journey.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Remembering life before Lewis and Clark, the tribal museum at Warm Springs, Oregon opens a new exhibit: “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” on June 23. A reenactment of the 1855 Treaty signing is scheduled June 25. (541-553-3331)

June 5

Week ending June 11, 1805: Pausing at the confluence of the Missouri and Marias rivers near today’s Fort Benton, Montana as the men try to determine which stream to follow.

Highlights this week: The men split into three groups: two exploring the waterways while others stay at the base camp. Capt. Lewis and his party take longer than expected, partly because of the famous “gumbo” Montanans know so well today. This clay-like soil turns extremely slippery in rain. On one cliff 90 feet above the river, Lewis slips down and jams his espontoon (long staff with steel point) into the dirt to stop his fall. Then his companion Windsor also slips down the precipice with one arm and leg dangling over the side. Lewis calmly talks him back up, telling him to use his knife to dig footholds. On this side trip, Lewis takes time to document birds, fish and the topography despite an attack of dysentery which he treats using chokecherry twig tea. When the scouting parties rejoin, it’s time for whisky rations, singing and dancing before digging another storage cache (pit) to deposit heavy items for the return trip. Despite the data laid before them, all the men except the captains still believe the Marias to be the true Missouri. But, they also know who’s in charge. Knowing how crucial this decision is with the Rocky Mountains looming in the distance, Lewis decides to go overland to find the waterfalls the native informants say will mark the mountain source of the Missouri. Meanwhile, Sacagawea becomes very sick and Capt. Clark resorts to bleeding her as a way to rid the cause.

Words from the journals: Writing about Windsor’s near miss, Lewis says “I disguised my feelings and spoke very calmly to him and assured him that he was in no kind of danger.” That night they camp in an abandoned Indian lodge where he says “I was fully repaid for the toil and pain of the day, so much will a good shelter, a dry bed, and comfortable supper revive the spirits of a weary, wet and hungry traveler.”

Today’s connection: After hiding the red pirogue (large rowboat) under driftwood on a small island, the men brand trees to ward off intruders. Bearing the words “U.S. Capt. M. Lewis”, this tool was found in the early 1890s on an island near The Dalles, Oregon. Owned by Oregon Historical Society, it will be on display there starting November 11 as part of a traveling exhibition for the Bicentennial.

Website of the week: To follow activities in the Clark County/Vancouver region in Washington state, go to

Book of the week: For a comprehensive look at maps leading up to and following the Corps of Discovery, see Lewis and Clark: The Maps of Exploration, 1507-1814 published by University of Virginia Library.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Visit a comprehensive collection of materials highlighting the 1905 Lewis and Clark “world’s fair” in Portland at the Collins Gallery in the Multnomah County Library. See for more details.

May 29

Week ending June 4, 1805: Moving through the White Cliffs area of the Missouri River Breaks and arriving near today’s Loma, Montana.

Highlights this week: “Scenes of visionary enchantment” do not ease the pain of sharp rocks slashing the men’s moccasins and feet. This is an area of geological wonders lining the riverway with “a thousand grotesque figures” and “a romantic appearance” whose capitals and pedestals Capt. Lewis compares to Roman ruins. The captains give extra rations of whisky to keep spirits up. One night the dog Seaman diverts a raging buffalo bull that tears through camp, damaging York’s rifle in one of the boats (the white pirogue) and narrowly missing the men’s tents. After several recent mishaps with the white pirogue, Capt. Lewis is convinced an “evil gennii” possesses the boat. One tributary they name Judith River for Capt. Clark’s sweetheart back home. Lewis describes several new birds and trees for science. As the week ends, the captains are faced with one of their famous leadership dilemmas present-day writers describe as “the Marias River decision.” No one told them there would be a confluence of two equal-size streams. The captains believe the southern branch to be the Missouri while most others believe they should follow the northwestern stream. Two short scouting parties do not return with convincing evidence. On June 4, the captains decide each will lead a 36-hour exploration of both branches and then look at the data.

Words from the journals: A grizzly chases two men until falling with a shot in the head, “the only way to conquer the ferocity of those tremendous animals.” Writing about the unexpected junction in the river, Lewis says “our cogitating faculties have been busily employed all day.” Describing the song of a flying bird, Lewis says it sounds like “twit twit twit” and that grasshoppers appear to be the main food supply of the “numerous progeny of the feathered creation.”

Today’s connection: Good leaders try to build consensus and involve the entire group in data-based decision making at critical junctures.

Website of the week: To follow the events of the bicentennial in Oregon, keep checking where back issues of this column also appear.

Book of the week: Paul Sivitz has published a handy book titled Discovering the Birds and Mammals of the Lewis and Clark Trail which describes only those species still easily seen while driving along the Trail. Order directly from him at [email protected]

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: A national meeting of Lewis and Clark enthusiasts will be held August 6-10 in Portland, hosted at Lewis & Clark College. Find out how to register for one day or the entire five-day package at

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May 22

Week ending May 28, 1805: Moving into a NE Montana region known today as the Missouri River Breaks, still looking much the same as when Lewis and Clark passed through.

Highlights this week: Hard winds sometimes delay progress. Along some stretches, the men must pull their boats through rocky and rough rapids using long ropes made of woven elk hides or hemp. Often they walk a narrow shoreline; sometimes they wade in water as deep as their chests. The terrain becomes more barren and ice greets them one morning. Fewer trees mean fewer beaver, but the river produces tasty catfish for a change of diet. Big horn sheep are now a new target for the hunters and the head and horns of one are added to the baggage. They describe how tribes shape the horn for utensils and bows and believe its plastic-like quality would make a good market for hair combs. Despite the cold temperatures at night, a new pest appears: mosquitoes. Large prairie dog colonies in the arid climate cause the journalists to wonder how the burrowing animals live without water most of the year. Capt. Clark says, “this Countrey may with propriety I think be termed the Deserts of America.”

Words from the journals: One day the captains briefly glimpse peaks of the Rocky Mountains for the first time. Capt. Lewis secretly reveals his pleasure at being “near the Missouri headwaters”, yet realizes there is difficulty to come if they must pass that “snowey barrier” on their way to the Pacific. He remembers his own philosophy: “I will believe it a good comfortable road until I am compelled to believe differently.”

Today’s connection: Scientists would later discover the prairie dog does not depend on drinking water, getting its moisture instead from plants. This might explain why the caged prairie dog sent to Jefferson lived just fine on its long journey to the president. After not seeing any native people since leaving Fort Mandan, the men discover evidence floating in the river: a lodge pole and a “football” (not unlike today’s version).

Website of the week: To learn more about prairie dogs today, start with a site that describes their present situation:

Book of the week: See Handbook of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan for traditional games used for learning and sport.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Life in a Columbia River native village will be demonstrated Saturday, August 6, 2005 at Blue Lake Park in east Multnomah County. Members of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde will demonstrate stick games and other authentic Upper Chinookan lifeways.

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May 15

Week ending May 21, 1805: Moving up the Missouri River through areas now covered by Fort Peck Reservoir.

Highlights this week: Perhaps remembering how calmly Sacagawea reacted to the boat accident last week, the captains name a Missouri tributary in her honor. Capt. Clark narrowly escapes being bitten by a rattlesnake while walking on shore; that evening, a tree catches fire and the guard warns them to move their tents. Later, winds topple the tree where the captains’ “lodge” had stood. Burning coals damage the tents and a wildfire breaks out which they cannot extinguish. The hunters kill several deer to replace clothes, particularly “Legins and Mockersons,” which are beginning to wear out. One day the marksmen wound a mountain lion while it buries a partly-eaten deer. Seaman suffers a dangerous wound when retrieving a beaver shot by a hunter. Its sharp teeth sever the artery in a hind leg and Lewis can hardly stop the bleeding.

Words from the journals: After drying out goods waterlogged by the swamped boat, Capt. Lewis is relieved their loss was confined to some garden seeds, a little gunpowder and some “culinary articles.” He says Sacagawea had more “fortitude and resolution” than anyone on board the vessel. Describing the tree that nearly fell on them, Lewis draws on a science analogy: “we should have been crushed to atoms.”

Today’s connection: This week the journal keepers describe a plant that will continue to plague them all across Montana: prickly pear cactus. Still today these small, spiny pin cushions hide in the grass ready to test the unprotected hiker.

Website of the week: For a good summary of the journey with a special focus on the natural world, explore the Nature Conservancy’s comprehensive overview at

Book of the week: For persons planning to drive the Lewis and Clark Trail this summer, a comprehensive guidebook to highways and byways is Julie Fanselow’s Traveling the Lewis and Clark Trail. Other guidebooks are produced by Montana Highways and National Geographic Society.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: SOLV, the Oregon-based environmental cleanup network, has designated its annual “Down by the Riverside” event this weekend to prepare for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. The May 20-21 clean-up sites follow not only the Columbia River trail but are spread across the state. More than 17,000 volunteers turned out last year. See for locations.

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May 8

Week ending May 14, 1805: Moving up the Missouri River in the vicinity of today’s Fort Peck, Montana.

Highlights this week: Two more grizzly bear encounters are worse than before. One “monster” runs more than a mile despite taking several lead balls in the lungs and shoulder; another is shot by six hunters and chases one of them into the river. Lewis writes: “I do not like these gentlemen”! On two different days, Sacagawea’s husband Jean Baptiste Charbonneau wins both praise and wrath. The men love his tasty buffalo sausage described as a “great delicacy of the forest.” However, during a sudden windstorm one of their large boats nearly capsizes with Charbonneau at the helm. “Crying to his god for mercy” rather than following orders, boatman Pierre Cruzatt threatens to shoot him “if he did not take hold of the rudder and do his duty.” Elk and buffalo are so plentiful and gentle “the men throw sticks and strones to drive them out of the way.” Sacagawea shows the men how to find and use wild licorice and “white apples” (prairie turnips) she digs from the earth.

Words from the journals: Admiring the roots dug by Sacagawea, Capt. Lewis thinks back to his fine food life as President Jefferson’s aide: “I have no doubt our epicures would admire this root very much in their ragouts and gravies instead of the truffles morella.”

Today’s connection: Watching their valuable cargo and best boat nearly swamp 300 yards away, Lewis was preparing to dive into the rough, cold river before realizing the odds were “100 to one” against him. Two centuries later, summer swimmers still forget those dangers.

Website of the week: Plug in to a live discussion “Nutrition and the Expedition: Eating on the Trail” May 19, 10:30-11:30 a.m. PDT at or

Book of the week: “Feasting and Fasting with Lewis & Clark: A Food and Social History of the Early 1800s” by Leandra Zim Holland details daily diets while on the Trail and in kitchens back home.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: The Oregon Symphony premiers a new work by Oregon composer Kevin Walczyk titled “Corps of Discovery” May 14-16 at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland. See


May 1

Week ending May 7, 1805: Moving up the Missouri River in the vicinity of today’s towns of Poplar and Wolf Point, Montana.

Highlights this week: Rising water and strong winds continue to hamper the fleet. One morning a heavy frost and quarter inch of ice on the water bucket greets early risers, and a sudden snowstorm hits another night. Metal parts on both larger boats break, requiring on-the-spot repairs. One of the canoes overturns, causing a delay to dry out wet gear. A hunter reports several yards of scarlet cloth hanging high in a tree which Capt. Lewis believes might be a sacrifice to the “great spirit.” One man complains of rheumatism and another is treated for dysentery using a laxative and then an opium derivative to help him sleep. They encounter a second, even-larger grizzly bear—this one requiring 10 shots to kill. Estimated weight: 600 lbs. and over 8 ft. tall. Lewis says the men have now had their curiosity satisfied about these bears! No one can believe how the animals defy death.

Words from the journals: Lewis writes long, detailed descriptions of birds, wolves, coyotes and the composition of a stream bed. His word pictures of each new scene often use analogies like this: “we passed beautiful plains…as level as a bowling green…reaching as far as the eye can see.”

Today’s connection: Areas of our Columbia Plateau resemble the Corps’ description of NE Montana in early May. David Nicandri, director of the Washington State Historical Society, will discuss “What did Lewis & Clark Know about the Columbia River and When Did They Know It? Tuesday, May 10 at 7 pm, in the LaCenter, Washington, Community Center.

Website of the week: To learn more about what else was happening 200 years ago for a particular day along the Trail, see

Book of the week: For youth, a popular overview of the story is Rhoda Blumberg’s The Incredible Journey of Lewis and Clark reprinted by several publishers.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Plan ahead to hear Oregon’s Trail Band perform its popular “In the Spirit of Lewis and Clark” program at Westview High School in Beaverton at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 14. A benefit for Portland Downtown Lions Club charitable projects, the auditorium is at 4200 NW 185th Ave., ½ mile north of Sunset Hwy. $26 general admission, tax deductible.

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April 24

Week ending April 30, 1805: Moving up the Missouri River in the vicinity of today’s North Dakota/Montana border and Brockton, Montana.

Highlights this week: Strong winds and blowing sand cause delays and sore eyes. Capt. Lewis complains about grit stopping his pocketwatch. His dog Seaman wanders off overnight, but returns the next day. Arriving at the confluence of the Yellowstone River, the captains accurately predict the future location of Fort Union. Reaching this juncture calls for an extra measure of whiskey and a party that night. In their first close encounter with grizzlies, Capt. Lewis wounds, then kills, an estimated 300-pound specimen and makes a detailed scientific description. He can hardly believe how a beaver could fell a 3-foot diameter tree and how wolves single out an antelope from a herd, then take turns running it to exhaustion. Capt. Clark credits Sacagawea for recognizing a “delicious froot,” probably a variety of currants.

Words from the journals: After Lewis wounds the grizzly, it chases him 70-80 yards before he can take another shot. “…it is a much more furious and formidable animal” than the black bear, says Lewis, “but they are no means as dangerous as they have been represented.” This prediction will be proven wrong further ahead on the trail.

Today’s connection: Visit the Oregon Zoo in Portland for a close-up look at mammals described by Lewis and Clark (elk, mountain goats, beaver, bear, wolves, sea otters and harbor seals).

Website of the week: For a real-life application of math to measure river flow, check out an Internet-based activity April 28 between 10:30-11:30 a.m. at or You will see students learning how Lewis and Clark’s calculations compare with methods used by the U.S. Geological Survey along the Missouri River today.

Book of the week: To better understand how geographers viewed the West, and the contributions made by Lewis and Clark, see John Logan Allen’s Lewis and Clark and the Image of the American Northwest, 1991, Dover Publications.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: April 28-May 1 marks the second year of a
popular family event at Tamástslikt Cultural Institute near Pendleton. This spring’s theme: “Salmon, Horses and Hospitality: Lewis and Clark in our Camp.” See for details.

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April 17

Week ending April 23, 1805: Facing strong winds and frequent delays, the expedition moves slowly up the Missouri River in the region of today’s Williston, North Dakota. Collapsing riverbanks nearly hit their fleet more than once.

Highlights this week: The captains describe evidence of many native villages, including a scaffold used for burials. Dogs in travois harness and a favorite horse are apparently sacrificed nearby to assure a smooth journey to the next world. Snagged buffalo hair bleached by the sun hangs from rose bushes. Capt. Lewis says it’s silky and soft enough to spin for cloth. One morning, two men argue over who owns a beaver caught in two different traps. During this period, several men are writing in their journals, often copying each other because President Jefferson wanted a “back up” version in case one was lost.

Words from the journals: From a hilltop, Capt. Lewis has “a most inchanting (enchanting) prospect of the Country around & the meanderings of two rivers which is remarkably Crooked” while Capt. Clark walks through “extensive bottoms of timber intersperced (interspersed) with glades and open plains.”

Today’s connection: The language skills of the journal keepers will be tested even more as the Corps of Discovery keeps moving westward. Finding appropriate words to describe immense herds of buffalo and incredible scenery proves difficult with quill pen and ink. Travelers today know their electronic technologies can never adequately capture these same scenes.

Website of the week: See for an on-line auction of native art, media and other items being sold to help fund a radio programs highlighting tribal perspectives on the Lewis and Clark journey (see below). Earlier programs featured tribes along the Missouri River.

Book of the week: A new book by Alan H. Hartley titled Lewis & Clark: Lexicon of Discovery helps sort out the language used by the journal writers in the Corps of Discovery.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: “Lewis & Clark Walk and Bike” on Saturday, April 23 covers downtown Vancouver and the Historic Reserve. See or call 1-877-269-2009. Sunday, April 24 marks the official launch of the Wisdom of the Elders radio series west of the Continental Divide. The festivities are scheduled 1-5 p.m. at the Native American Student and Community Center at Portland State University, corner of Broadway and Jackson.

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April 10

Week ending April 16, 1805: Moving up the Missouri River in the vicinity of today’s Fort Berthold and Garrison Reservoir NW of Bismarck, North Dakota.

Highlights this week: The captains describe a “level and fertile plain as far as the eye can see” and a bluff of burning coal giving off clouds of smoke. They note bald eagles, geese, magpies, herds of antelope, elk and buffalo, fine-looking beaver, gray brants and large white cranes, but complain of mosquitoes. One night they make a “comfortable dinner” on venison steaks and beaver tails. Crumbling river banks threaten their fleet and on another day one of the large pirogues carrying their most valuable cargo and the non-swimmers barely escapes being capsized. A creek is named for Charbonneau, one of their interpreters and husband of Sacagawea, who remembered camping there on a prior hunting trip. They believe that point to be the farthest west white people have ever ventured. How local tribes capture antelope using a corral-like “funnel” is noted as are several old hornet nests. A stray dog follows the Corps for several days, apparently with the approval of Seaman, Capt. Lewis’s pet Newfoundland and the Expedition’s own mascot.

Words from the journals: On-shore hikers spot their first “enormous” grizzly bear tracks and Capt. Lewis writes “the Indians give a very formidable account of the strength and ferocity of this anamal,”.adding that native hunters frequently fall victim to the beasts.

Today’s connection: Shale hills in this region of North Dakota are coal rich and sometimes burn spontaneously. Oil can be harvested from these geological deposits, but the process is expensive.

Website of the week: See for a nice digital review of the flora and fauna encountered by Lewis and Clark as compiled by the Smithsonian Institution.

Book of the week: For an inexpensive summary of the animals documented by Lewis and Clark, see “The Natural History of the Lewis and Clark Expedition” by Raymond Darwin Burroughs who once taught biology at Willamette University in Salem.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Portland State University’s Office of Extended Studies is leading trips on the Columbia River portion of the Trail which includes a Lewis and Clark historic dinner created by Western Culinary Institute. For details, call 503-725-3276.

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April 3

Week ending April 9, 1805: Loading boats and leaving Fort Mandan, near Mandan and Hidatsa Indian villages on the Missouri River about 38 miles north of present-day Bismarck, North Dakota.

Highlights this week: The men complete boxing and baling items to be sent to President Jefferson as well as their own baggage they will carry up the Missouri River in 6 dugout canoes and 2 pirogoues (large rowboats). Three cages of live animals are sent to the president: a prairie dog, 4 magpies and a prairie hen. Only the prairie dog and one magpie eventually arrive alive at today’s White House. Several.Mandan and Arikara Indian representatives bid farewell and gifts are exchanged. April 7 is finally push-off date for the Corps of Discovery’s journey west. Lewis and Clark take turns walking on shore to better describe the geography. At night, the captains, interpreters, Sacagawea and the baby nicknamed Pomp share a tipi whose construction Lewis describes in detail.

Word from the journals: Capt. Lewis says the departure is one of the happiest moments in his life, fulfilling a dream he’s had for 10 years (he had tried to volunteer on an earlier mission by President Jefferson to find the Northwest Passage). Comparing their flotilla to Columbus and Capt. Cook, Lewis writes, “We are now about to penetrate a country at least 2,000 miles in width” with every hope of success. “Penetrate” here refers to European Americans mapping and documenting the region for the first time.

Today’s connection: The Expedition’s exhilaration about finally “lifting off” to places citizens in the U.S. had never seen might be comparable to NASA’s space teams excited about their latest mission. Like the Corps of Discovery, recent NASA shuttle research crews have also included women and persons of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Website of the week: Comparing the Lewis and Clark journey to NASA is one of the themes This site also contains helpful information on tribes the Corps of Discovery encounters along the way.

Book of the week: For an abridgement of the definitive 13-volume set edited by Gary Moulton, who spent 20 years compiling that comprehensive series, see his 2003 single title “The Lewis and Clark Journals: An American Epic of Discovery.”

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: The 50-member Oregon Chorale will stage its original comedy Paddle Your Own Canoe April 9-10 and 16-17 at the Hillsboro High School Auditorium, 3285 SE Rood Bridge Rd, Hillsboro, Oregon. Reservations are required. Call 503-648-3620 or reserve online at

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March 27

Week ending April 2, 1805: Wintering over at Fort Mandan, near Mandan and Hidatsa Indian villages on the Missouri River about 38 miles north of present-day Bismarck, North Dakota.

Highlights this week: Working in “perfect harmony and good understanding towards each other” the men prepare their boats for the journey west. Local tribes delight in retrieving drowned buffalo that fell through upriver ice even though the meat is spoiled. Anticipating departure, the party is in high spirits and nightly dancing continues. The captains work on reports that will be sent back to President Jefferson on the keelboat which is too large to navigate upper reaches of the Missouri. Thunder and lightning and intermittent rain occur as all watercraft are tested. One visiting Mandan Indian secondary chief leaves the Fort “miffed” because no one has time to give him attention.

Word from the journals: Capt. Clark describes the extraordinary dexterity of the native men who jump from one ice cake to another in the river trying to catch the floating dead buffalo.

Today’s connection: Butchers today age beef before cutting the carcass for sale. In many cultures certain foods are allowed to “ripen” before serving. To celebrate Christmas at Fort Clatsop the next winter, the men will eat “pore elk” which has started to spoil—perhaps one of the reasons salt was needed to mask the taste!

Website of the week: For better understanding of the tribes encountered by Lewis and Clark and oral histories they pass down about the Corps of Discovery, follow the work of Rose High Bear at This nonprofit organization based in Portland is capturing the stories of elders for broadcast on public radio.

Book of the week: Several books summarize the Corps of Discovery story from the eyes of Capt. Lewis’s pet Newfoundland Seaman. Eugene, Oregon author Robert Young’s “Passage” is a children’s activity book for young readers ( Wilsonville, Oregon author Roland Smith’s “The Captain’s Dog” is widely used in upper elementary reading programs (

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: This week marks the dedication and opening of the Chinookan style plankhouse replica at Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge some 14 miles north of Vancouver off I-5. See for details.

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March 20

Week ending March 26, 1805: Wintering over at Fort Mandan, near Mandan and Hidatsa Indian villages on the Missouri River about 38 miles north of present-day Bismarck, North Dakota.

Highlights this week: Hints of spring emerge as ice on the Missouri starts to break up, rain instead of snow begins to fall, and swans and geese fly NE. Returning from visiting a detachment of men building smaller boats, Capt. Clark finds beds of pumice stone, signs of ancient volcanic activity. He brings samples back to melt (fuse) in the blacksmiths’ forge. The captains give visiting dignitaries a peace medal, clothes and wampum as part of continued Indian diplomacy. The Expedition gives over 80 medals to important people during the entire trip. A delegation from another tribe explains everyday words to help the captains keep records on native vocabulary. The boat builders carry four new canoes 1.5 miles to the river, preparing to float them down to Fort Mandan when the ice clears.

Words from the journals: A visiting chief delays his departure till morning to see men in the Corps of Discovery dance, which Clark says “is common amusement” during long nights at the Fort. For a family learning activity, make a vocabulary list of common expressions like amusement in other languages just like Jefferson asked Capt. Lewis to do.

Today’s connection: Oregon Historical Society uses the Jefferson peace medal carried by Lewis and Clark as its logo. A real one owned by the Society will be on display November 11 till March 11, 2006 during a national touring exhibition of Expedition-related artifacts.

Website of the week: To monitor a “moving national park” slowly making its way to our area as it follows the Lewis and Clark Trail, check out

Book of the week: Serious followers of the Corps of Discovery will want the 2004 Encyclopedia of the Lewis & Clark Expedition by Elin Woodger and Brandon Toropov nearby as a reference tool..

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Next week Amy Mossett, a leader in coordinating national tribal involvement in the Bicentennial, will interpret the life of Sacagawea from her Hidatsa Indian perspective at a special lecture 7 p.m. March 29 at Gaiser Hall, Clark College, Vancouver. See for details.

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March 13

Week ending March 19, 1805: Wintering over at Fort Mandan, near Mandan and Hidatsa Indian villages on the Missouri River about 38 miles north of present-day Bismarck, North Dakota.

Highlights this week: Housekeeping chores keep the men busy drying out their goods, making more war axes, and hulling corn received in trade for these weapons. Visits from local French Canadian traders and nearby tribal representatives continue. Charbonneau thinks twice about meeting terms of the captains’ offer to join the Expedition and asks for forgiveness for his “foolish behavior” last week. The captains sign him up officially, knowing his Shoshoni wives (Sacagawea the only one finally making the trip) will be even more valuable in obtaining horses to cross the Rocky Mountains. However, she is never paid for her many contributions.

Words from the journals: In an elaborate two-page technical description, Lewis reports how the Arikara and Mandan Indians make ceramic beads using a secret process apparently passed eastward from the Shoshoni Indians in present-day Idaho and Western Montana. Crushed glass/clay is shaped in a cylindrical form, placed perpendicularly in an oven with the bead’s aperture kept open with a small stick.

Today’s connection: Glass beads favored by tribes and carried by the Corps of Discovery typically came from Italy, but the less-technical manufacturing process described for Lewis likely produced the larger variety worn as pendants. Any pow wow in the Northwest will include vendors of beads and beadwork still popular today.

Website of the week: For an advance look at a national exhibit headed for the Oregon Historical Society in November, go to Here you can preview artifacts on tour to only five cities during the Bicentennial.

Book of the week: Indian Trade Goods is a useful, inexpensive reference booklet on beads and other items favored by Northwest tribes. It is available from Oregon Archaeological Society

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: For a multicultural family experience where authentic beadwork and other life skills are taught by Northwest tribal members, consider attending the “Hallowed Ground” family camp at Wallowa Lake July 23-28. Go to for registration details. This is homeland for the Chief Joseph band of the Nez Perce Indians whose hospitality to the Corps of Discovery is legendary.

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March 6

Week ending March 12, 1805: Wintering over at Fort Mandan, near Mandan and Hidatsa Indian villages on the Missouri River about 38 miles north of present-day Bismarck, North Dakota.

Highlights this week: Smoke rises from burning prairie grass, a native way of clearing undesirable plants and assuring better forage for buffalo in the spring and summer. The youngest enlisted man George Shannon (19) cuts his foot with a sharp tool (adze) used to carve new boats, a process that appears to be going well. Capt.Clark gives a sick native child Rush’s “thunderbolts” (nickname for a strong laxative sent with Lewis by Dr. Benjamin Rush in Philadelphia). Clark takes time to smoke a pipe with a Mandan Indian chief which he writes is “the greatest mark of friendship and attention” when conducting diplomatic relations. Sacagawea’s husband Toussaint Charbonneau objects to terms of his verbal employment as interpreter; the captains’ apparent reply is “take it or leave it” since there was no written contract.

Word from the journals: “Inducement” of an early crop of prairie grass by burning was part of the environmental plan for upper Missouri tribes. Early Northwest tribes used the same strategy to induce healthy hunting grounds and forests in the Cascades and Willamette Valley according to Portland anthropologist Robert Boyd..

Today’s connection:
Powerful laxatives and purgatives were the two common medical treatments of the time, doctors believing it important to remove evil substances causing the problem. Today we know these techniques usually make things worse.

Website of the week: Tribes living in the Fort Mandan area built earth lodges for permanent homes, while along the lower Columbia the journal-keepers described large plankhouses made from cedar. To be one of the first visitors inside a new replica later this month at Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge north of Vancouver, check out

Book of the week: A quick-read paperback that sets the stage for the Bicentennial in the Oregon Country is now available from Oregon Historical Society Press. Ask for Carl Abbott and William L. Lang’s Two Centuries of Lewis & Clark. An overview of Portland’s 1905 world’s fair is included as well as perspectives from Bobbie Conner, director of the Tamaststlikt Cultural Institute on the Umatilla Indian Reservation..

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: OMSI’s Omnimax Theatre runs the popular 5-story-screen film “Lewis and Clark: Great Journey West” regularly. See for the changing schedule.

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February 27, 2005

Week ending March 5, 1805: Wintering over at Fort Mandan, near Mandan and Hidatsa Indian villages on the Missouri River about 38 miles north of present-day Bismarck, North Dakota.

Highlights this week: Capt. Clark works on his maps while others dry meat for the pantry and make charcoal for the blacksmiths. Men are dispatched several miles upriver to find timber and start building pirogues (large canoes) since the keelboat will be returned to St. Louis in the spring with reports to President Jefferson. Meanwhile, visits by French-speaking traders and neighboring chiefs bring gossip and letters warning of potential trouble among tribes. Clark takes time to describe dried purple coneflower root, a medicinal plant he’s told cures snakebite, toothache and rabies. One of the Mandan Indian chiefs who visits the Fort is Sheheke, who had earlier promised Lewis and Clark “if we eat, you eat.” In 1806, he travels down the Missouri River with the expedition as an ambassador to Congress and the President from the Mandan nation

Word from the journals: Describing how to use the purple coneflower root on a snake or spider bite, Clark says you first scarify the area (scratch the skin), then chew or pound the root to a pulp and apply it to the area twice a day.

Today’s connection: Today we know purple coneflower as “echinacea”, one of the top-selling herbs in America available in teas, capsules, lozenges, cough syrups and tinctures. Many use it for preventing colds, flu and sore throats. According to Portland ethnobotanist Judy Bluehorse Skelton, some people trespasson tribal lands to harvest the plants illegally..

Website of the week: Visit to learn about a new exhibit at Oregon Historical Society on the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial and American Pacific Exposition and Oriental Fair. It is open till September 18.

Book of the week: Tracy Potter’s Sheheke, Mandan Indian Diplomat is one of the few books written about tribal leaders who met Lewis and Clark. He weaves an engaging biographical story about Sheheke, also known as White Coyote or Big White, his visit with Jefferson and his difficult return.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Troutdale Historical Society (503-661-2164) is featuring Gary Lentz, popular interpreter of Corps of Discovery daily life, at a public program Sunday, March 20 at 2 p.m. Lentz, president of the Washington chapter of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, is considered an expert on medical treatments used by Lewis and Clark.

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February 20, 2005

Week ending February 26, 1805: Wintering over at Fort Mandan, near Mandan and Hidatsa Indian villages on the Missouri River about 38 miles north of present-day Bismarck, North Dakota.

Highlights this week: Social visits from local tribes keep life at the Fort interesting. The captains use these opportunities to gather cultural information for President Jefferson. One visitor describes the death of a man “120 winters old” who wanted his body to be dressed and set on a stone facing south; other visiting chiefs tell of men in their tribe who travel three days to a sacred place (“Medison Stone”) where they learn of things to come in the future. After many hours of hacking and prying, the Expedition’s boats are finally set free from thick river ice. But, the elk skin rope used to winch the boats to shore keeps breaking! It takes three days to finish the job. As his father pulls him on a sleigh, the Corps says farewell to the boy whose frostbitten toes Capt. Lewis had to amputate in January.

Word from the journals: “ repeated exertions the whole day we accomplished this troublesom task” writes Capt. Clark as he describes the hard job of cutting their boats loose from the ice. Everyday exertion keeps the Corps of Discovery in fine physical and mental shape during the long winter at Fort Mandan.

Today’s connection: At Columbia Hills State Park east of Dallesport, Washington, visitors can see a free new outdoor exhibit of pictographs and petroglyphs rescued from the rising backwaters behind Columbia River dams. Also at the park you may visit “She Who Watches,” our area’s most famous petroglyph. Call 509-767-1159 for a guided tour on Friday or Saturday mornings. Today, this is still a sacred site important for the spiritual development of tribal members living in the Northwest. Lewis and Clark make no reference to this artwork or vision quest site as they passed through the Columbia Gorge.

Website of the week: To learn more about the boats used by the Expedition, catch a live program February 24 right from Fort Mandan: go to or

Book of the week: To read more about “She Who Watches” in a children’s book format, see Willa Holmes’ book by that name. There are alternative versions of the legend of Tsagagalal, but this is one passed down by the Wishram Indians.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Still playing till February 27 is “Bridge of the Gods”, a play by Ed Edmo and designed by Lillian Pitt. Hear Coyote and She Who Watches as they tell the story of the beautiful Loowit and brothers Wyeast and Klickitat who cannot learn to live in peace. Produced by Tears of Joy Theatre, the play is on stage at the Winningstad Theatre in Portland. Call 503-248-0557 or 360-695-0477 for details.

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February 13, 2005

Week ending February 19, 1805: Wintering over at Fort Mandan, near Mandan and Hidatsa Indian villages on the Missouri River about 38 miles north of present-day Bismarck, North Dakota.

Highlights this week: Upon his return, Capt. Clark lists day-to-day events on their 10-day hunt. Hunters sent out to bring back hundreds of pounds of meat stored in log pens are met by Indians who steal their horses and burn the meat. With the help of several Mandan volunteers, Capt. Lewis leads a group in pursuit of the marauders, but to no avail. Based on moccasins left behind, the Mandan Indian helpers identify the raiders as Sioux Indians. Over two tons of boned-out meat (40 deer, 3 buffalo and 16 elk) are finally hauled 22 miles over the ice and snow. Along the way, one of the Mandan chiefs suffers eye damage from reflection of the sun off the white surface. The treatment is “jentilley Swetting” by throwing snow on hot stones. Clark spends time this week working on his list of rivers and geographic features that lie ahead, thanks to information gleaned from interviews with tribal and Canadian traders.

Word from the journals: One of the raiding Sioux Indians apparently has a change of heart about capturing three horses and wins notice from Clark for his intercession, leaving the meat haulers one horse to pull the protein supply.

Today’s connection: Snow blindness can still be a painful condition, but the cornea heals quickly. This incident is only one of many where steam and heat will be used to help cure various ailments—a treatment still very common for us today.

Website of the week: To explore what life is like in the Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara Nation today, and their tribal histories over time, see

Book of the week: Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns’ Lewis and Clark: the Journey of the Corps of Discovery, an illustrated history book published simultaneously with their PBS four-hour documentary, provides an engaging look at daily life along the Trail.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Tamástslikt Cultural Institute east of Pendleton, and the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla Homeland Heritage Corridor in northeast Oregon and southeast Washington, offers a free map showing Sehaptian geographic place names used in the area before and after the Corps of Discovery passed through our region in 1805-06. Call 541-966-9748 for a copy. The Institute plans living history presentations beginning spring 2005.

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February 6, 2005

Week ending February 12, 1805: Wintering over near Mandan and Hidatsa Indian villages on the Missouri River about 38 miles north of present-day Bismarck, North Dakota. Capt. Clark’s party still hunting for game.

Highlights this week: Excitement at the Fort on February 11, as Sacagawea gives birth to a son who will travel with the Corps of Discovery! However, “her labour was tedious and the pain violent” so, thanks to the suggestion of René Jessaume, a French-speaking trader and interpreter, Capt. Lewis administers two rattlesnake rattle rings crushed in a little water. Apparently it works; ten minutes later Jean Baptiste Charbonneau is born. Lewis questions the scientific validity of the treatment, noting in his journal, “I want faith as to it’s efficacy.” Bartering for corn continues, now with scrap metal from a burned-out camp stove. The native people use it to make arrow points and hide scrapers. Lewis describes how local tribes care for their horses by keeping them inside their homes (earth lodges) where the animals seem to thrive on eating slender cottonwood sticks.

Word from the journals: One night Corpsmember Thomas Howard slips back to the Fort. Finding the gate closed, he scales the wall. Lewis says “an Indian who was looking on” did the same thing, a serious security breach. The next day, a court martial “for setting such a pernicious example” sentences the soldier to punishment by 50 lashes, but no record is made of the penalty being carried out.

Today’s connection: Jean Baptiste Charbonneau (nicknamed Pomp), child of Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-speaking trader/interpreter, and Sacagawea, a Shoshoni (Agaiduka) Indian, grew to adulthood fluent in several languages and skilled in many trades. While traveling through eastern Oregon at age 61, he dies of pneumonia and is buried near the hamlet of Danner, some 15 miles from Jordan Valley in Malheur County. His grave can be visited today. If your family or group wants to organize a birthday party for Pomp, email [email protected] for ideas and learn how to be part of a national network of folks planning a celebration in 2005.

Website of the week: For an e-book style summary of Jean Baptist Charbonneau’s life, see

Book of the week: For a quick lesson on Sacagawea, Jean Baptiste and Toussaint Charbonneau, buy “A Charbonneau Family Portrait” by Irving W. Anderson at the Fort Clatsop book store ($3.50). Or, call 503-861-4452.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: Amy Mossett, member of the Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota, will be sharing Hidatsa Indian perspectives on the life of Sacagawea on March 29 at Clark College in Vancouver. Admission is free. Go to for information.

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January 30, 2005

Week ending February 5, 1805 brings weather similar to what North Dakotans today often experience: cold and windy. Fort Mandan is now replicated near the town of Washburn, some 40 miles north of Bismarck.

Highlights this week: Dwindling meat supplies force Clark to take about 16 men, 3 horses and 2 sleighs on what will be a 10-day, 60-mile hunting trip. Meanwhile, Lewis draws and describes the war axes his blacksmiths create to trade for corn with nearby Mandan and Hidatsa Indians. Apparently formed out of scrap stove parts carried from Wood River, Illinois, the heads are typically thin, about 8” long and 5” deep in a diamond shape with perforated holes for decoration. Worries about damage to their boats keep the men working to melt, chop or pry their vessels free from the frozen Missouri, where “strata” of ice and water continually defy their efforts.

Word from the journals: Provisions were always on the minds of the Expedition. But other “big words” used by the Journal keepers this week illustrate how their vocabulary would still challenge good spellers today: turbid, luminous, expedient, exhausted, convenient, dimension, ornament, perforate, strata.

Today’s connection: On their return trip in spring 1806, the Corps spends several days near today’s Washougal, Washington/Troutdale, Oregon to gather meat provisions before attempting the strenuous portages and currents of the Columbia River Gorge. A new Captain William Clark Park in Washougal will be dedicated August 7, 2005 to commemorate what is sometimes nicknamed “Provision Camp.”

Website of the week: Anyone interested in traveling the Trail this year should first check the official Bicentennial website:

Book of the week: To learn about weather patterns the Corps of Discovery faced in our Pacific Northwest later in 1805-06, read Lewis & Clark’s Northwest Journey: “Weather Disagreeable!” written by George R. Miller, retired meteorologist living in Gresham, published by Frank Amato Publications, Inc. in Portland (503-653-8108).

Bicentennial events next week in Oregon/Washington: Oregon Historical Society is hosting a national traveling exhibit on “The Literature of Lewis and Clark” prepared by Lewis and Clark College in Portland. Included are rare books and a map like the ones carried by the Corps of Discovery. For hours and fees, see The journals of the Corps of Discovery include descriptions of plants found in a botany reference book Lewis consulted along the way, for example. He had earlier learned basic botanical knowledge from Dr. Benjamin Barton, author of one of the books they brought along.

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January 24, 2005

Week ending January 29, 1805 brings a short break in the frigid weather so the men have time to hunt (with no luck) and gather wood. Hidatsa or Mandan Indian visitors from nearby villages share a meal with the Expedition and seem to be “much Pleased” according to Clark. A replica of Fort Mandan can be visited today near Washburn, North Dakota north of Bismarck.

Highlights this week: One of the blacksmiths creates a popular customized war axe which becomes a valuable trade item for corn and other supplies. Perhaps to keep the men busy, the captains send work parties to free their icebound boats in the Missouri River, but no luck on this task either. One man gets violently sick, so Capt. Lewis “bleeds” the patient (a common treatment for serious illness, believed to rid the body of bad blood). “Dr. Lewis” also must finally amputate the toes of a young native boy who they earlier treated for frostbite.

Word from the journals: Remedies used by Lewis and Clark were the most advanced of their time. In addition to bleeding, using strong laxatives and emetics (purging) was another popular remedy along with herbal treatments Lewis learned from his mother and the medical techniques the two captains learned from tribes they met.

Today’s connection: What winter lesson did the captains learn about the physics of rapid temperature change and gases trapped in the pores? Hot rocks they thought would melt thick ice around the boats immediately broke apart when hitting the icy water!

Website of the week: To see how the nearby Hidatsa and Mandan Indians might have lived 200 years ago, check out For a description of the area around Fort Mandan, see

Book of the week: The first book on medical aspects of the journey was written by Portland physician E. G. (Frenchy) Chuinard titled Only One Man Died.

Bicentennial events next week in Oregon/Washington: To see a replica of a medical chest similar to what the Corps of Discovery might have carried, visit the Cargo Exhibit at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in The Dalles. This impressive display provides an up close and personal look at the 30 tons of supplies carried by the Expedition along the way. For hours and costs, call 541-296-8600 or visit

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January 17, 2005

Week ending January 22, 1805 continues to be cold but busy at Fort Mandan near Hidatsa and Mandan villages some 38 miles north of Bismarck, North Dakota.

Highlights: Capt. Lewis shoots his air gun to impress local audiences with the power of their new “white father.” Native leaders have heard this storyline before from British, Spanish and French authorities. The power struggle brewing between American fur traders and the British Hudsons Bay Company and North West Company impacts conversations with a visiting trapper/trader who Lewis and Clark believe has poisoned some tribes’ attitudes about the Expedition. Trying to be a peacemaker with one young war chief, Lewis warns the “Great Father” (Jefferson) will “open their ears” if his nation does not listen and give up their aggression. The warrior agrees to back down if a raid “would be displeasing to us.”

Word from the journals: Remarkable: a term used often during the long Fort Mandan winter: “nothing remarkable happening.” However, even during slow times the men were writing. We have five different narrative journals accessible today, plus maps and other data still used by scientists and scholars in 2005. Kept by officers and a private, there are frequent overlaps when the journalists copy each other’s entries. Jefferson wanted back-ups in case a journal was lost.

200 Years Later: Captain Clark is impressed with how tribal members share food in each village. Today we also see families, neighborhoods and nations organizing food banks, co-ops, and supplies for people in need. When united around a common goal like survival, as in tsunami-stricken regions now, old arguments seem to fade.

Website of the week: For a popular guide to the entire story, including the difficult time in present-day North Dakota, go to

Book of the week: Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage is a favorite choice for readers wanting to feel the passion and perils the Corps of Discovery faced, particularly the role of Meriwether Lewis.

Bicentennial events next week in Oregon/Washington: Portland Art Museum’s new exhibit titled “People of the River: Native Art of the Oregon Territory” runs January 22-May 29. Designed to set the stage for the Bicentennial, the show features first-ever- displayed objects from five tribal communities who have lived over 10,000 years along the Columbia River from the Snake River to the Pacific. For hours and costs, call 503-226-2811 or visit the Museum’s website at

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January 10, 2005

Week ending January 15, 1805 finds Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery at their newly-built Fort Mandan near the Missouri River. Nearby villages of Mandan and Hidatsa Indians comprised a major regional trading center for visiting tribes, trappers, traders—the equivalent of our shopping malls. Fort Mandan camp is replicated today near Washburn, North Dakota, 38 miles north of Bismarck. The weather is often below zero with moderate snowfall and the Corps journal keepers record a total eclipse of the moon one night.

Highlights: On New Years day, the Corps of Discovery had fired their small cannons and held dancing demonstrations designed to build political and commercial alliances. Word spreads about Clark’s black slave York, a man caught between two cultures, who local Indians viewed as “big medicine.” The Expedition’s blacksmiths busily repair tools brought in by tribal members in exchange for dried corn, beans and squash, the major agricultural commodities of the area. Captain Clark expands his maps based on visiting tribal and trapper descriptions of upriver geography. They are amazed at how young natives survive in open country under frigid conditions, even as they treat one boy for frostbite. The Corps observes two spiritual ceremonies: one to empower men for raids against enemies, another to assure successful buffalo kills.

Word test from their journals: observation. During the lunar eclipse, Lewis is frustrated “by clouds which continued to interrupt me throughout the whole observation.” In a 16-page letter, Thomas Jefferson required his Army expedition to measure and describe literally everything they saw, tasted, smelled and felt. On one day at Fort Mandan, Clark observes their Fahrenheit thermometer registers -40? He then answers a math question, “how many degrees below freezing is this?” (Answer: 72).

200 Years Later: Francois Rivet, an engage who helped the Corps of Discovery with their keelboat and two pirogues up the Missouri, is noted for “dancing on his head” during their parties. How is Oregon forever linked in history to this French-speaking hired hand? (He is buried in St. Paul, Oregon where he settled on a land claim many years later).

Website of the week: To find out what the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikira tribes who encountered Lewis and Clark say about Lewis & Clark, and what happened after their visit, go to

Book of the week: For a comprehensive look at how Lewis and Clark fared with the Mandan and Hidatsa people, as well as other tribes, read James Ronda’s Lewis and Clark Among the Indians.

Bicentennial events in Oregon/Washington: White Bird Dance Company will take Francois Rivet’s “break dance” style to a new level September 17, 2005 when Project Bandaloop dancers will be suspended from the St. Johns Bridge as part of a public festival to help commemorate the Corps’ visit in the Portland area. It is believed the Expedition reached up the Willamette River as far as Terminal 4 near the University of Portland.

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