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Push to the Pacific

Guided by the Nez Percé, the men and women of the corps reach the Columbia amid threats for their lives

After a difficult crossing over the Bitterroot Mountains (the northern Rockies), the corps set up camp and began work on canoes to journey down the Snake River to the Columbia. (They lent their horses to the Nez Percé Indians.) From existing maps, the captains knew that the Columbia would take them all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The river had been charted from the west some 13 years earlier by Robert Gray, an American sea captain, who had named the waterway after his vessel.

October 6, 1805 [Capt. William Clark]
All the Canoes finished this evening ready to be put into the water.

October 8 [Sgt. Patrick Gass]
A 9 o’clock in a fine morning we continued our voyage down the river; passed three islands and several rapids; and at noon stopped at some Indian lodges, of which there are a great many along the river. At 2 we proceeded on again. In the evening, in passing through a rapid, I had my canoe stove, and she sunk. Fortunately the water was not more than waist deep, so our lives and baggage were saved, though the latter was wet....Two chiefs of the upper village joined us here, and proposed to go on with us, until we should meet with white people; which they say will be at no great distance.

October 10 [Clark]
Our diet extremely bad haveing nothing but roots and dried fish to eate, all the Party have greatly the advantage of me, in as much as they all relish the flesh of the dogs, Several of which we purchased of the nativs for to add to our Store of fish and roots.

October 13 [Clark]
[Sacagawea,] the wife of Shabono our interpetr we find reconsiles all the Indians, as to our friendly intentions a woman with a party of men is a token of peace.

October 16 [Clark]
After getting Safely over the rapid and haveing taken Diner Set out and proceeded on Seven miles to the junction of this river and the Columbia which joins from the N.W.

October 17 [Clark]
This river is remarkably Clear and Crouded with Salmon in maney places, I observe in assending great numbers of Salmon dead on the Shores, floating on the water and in the Bottoms which can be seen at the debth of 20 feet. the Cause of the emence numbers of dead Salmon I can’t account for So it is I must have seen 3 or 400 dead and maney living.

October 23 [Gass]
The country on both sides of the river here is high, and the bluffs rocky....The high water mark below the falls is 48 feet, and above only 10 feet four inches from the surface of the water: so that in high water there is nothing but a rapid, and the salmon can pass up without difficulty.

October 23 [Clark]
Great numbers of Indians visit us both from above and below [the falls]. one of the old Chiefs who had accompanied us from the head of the river, informed us that he herd the Indians Say that the nation below intended to kill us, we examined all the arms &c. complete the amunition to 100 rounds. The nativs leave us earlyer this evening than usial, which gives a Shadow of Confirmation to the information of our Old Chief....our two old Chiefs appeared verry uneasy this evening.

October 24 [Clark]
Our 2 old Chiefs deturmin to return home, Saying they were at war with Indians below and they would kill them.

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