May 10, 1833

10 May: In the morning, dreary sky, wind, rain. The river has risen but is now very turbulent. Among the crew that Mr. McKenzie put ashore last evening was a Frenchman from Rheims, François Roi, whose name was the cause of mirth. People reflected about the name to be given the newly founded kingdom (royaume).

At 7:30, 58°F [14.4°C]. About eight o’clock we put in on the left bank, where the Assiniboine had left large amounts of good, excellent firewood for us. As a sign, someone had blazed the trees on the bank. We went ashore, but rain prevented us from going far. Here numerous vines with still-closed flowers grew beneath the cottonwoods; the red willow (Cornus [—]), a small rose I had already found earlier (Rosa [—]), thickets of willow, ash, etc., grew here. The vegetation was still too new to exhibit interesting species. In the forest just [a] very few birds were singing, including a thrush [Illegible word].

Today our voyage from St. Louis has lasted exactly four weeks.[Page 2:64] The voyage swiftly proceeded along the left bank. Here we observed a deer skeleton with head and antlers. In this region of the river, one often sees many bison (buffaloes, Bos bison) in the prairies in the winter. We soon reached the hill chain along the left bank, which rises picturesquely above the forest along the shore. The domes are gently sloping, some of their ledges unusual; they are partly covered with a beautiful green carpet, partly with yellow grass; toward the front, primarily steeply cut-off bluffs. On the opposite side, alluvial deposit with sand forest. Near the bluffs, individual conifers are mixed with the deciduous trees. In the gullies between the domes, there are thickets. Here the color of the bluffs is brownish violet, partly mixed with red clay underneath. The river flows here for a rather long distance along the hill chain. Near the mountains the buffalo berry grows in large quantities.

As the hills come to an end, that is, as the river turns away from them, tall forest arises, in the understory of which red willow (Cornus) very frequently blooms. Farther on, the forest on the bank is extraordinarily entwined with vines; then follow more cottonwoods and willows. Terrible destruction of the slender, narrowleafed willows along the shore; everything lies crisscross in disarray. Some willow trunks lie far out in the river and are still connected with the wooded bank by long vines, like ropes. We had a beautiful view back toward the hill chain. Gradually their character changes more and more. Now they are already far more barren, the forests not so tall. Soon they will be more and more barren, overgrown with short grass, which finally also comes to an end. To the left we have enormously extensive sandbars; behind them, the gently elevated edge of the endlessly extended prairie. Before these sandbars we run aground. The boat made soundings; after some time we continue along the right alluvial bank overgrown with willows until we again reach the long green hill chain that approaches the river. Before it, the prairie extends, [with] a border of forest or willow thickets along the Missouri. On the highest ridge of those hills, close to the river, one sees the grave made from poles and wood of three Sioux (Dacota) Indians who were killed by lightning here; it has approximately this shape [see fig. 8.24]. Figure 8.24. Dacota grave.

Not far behind this hill chain, that is, beyond the spot where they come so close to the Missouri, a small river empties, the Vermillion River (White Stone River on Lewis and Clark map). It enters the Missouri at an acute angle. Wild geese and ducks in abundance. A pair of beautiful big birds of the former variety, with six young ones, was swimming at [river] outlet and anxiously striving to bring their young to safety. They led them into the willow thickets, and one of the parents remained close by; the male probably did not hold out quite so long. Here at the mouth of the Vermillion, it is said that one can easily catch very fine fish.

At twelve o’ clock noon, 61°F [16.1°C]. It continued raining incessantly until one o’clock [and] then it cleared up. The sun shone for a short time, but the sky remained overcast. After some time we again reached bluffs to the left: their walls were steep; on top they were wildly overgrown with short, old trees. From these hills the river turns right again. We followed the right bank, where we observed an eagle’s nest on a tree. In the shallow water, we made a long halt. The region was very flat all around; on the horizon appeared strips of willows and tall forest; behind us we saw the beautiful hill chain in its full extent.[Page 2:65] Yesterday Mr. Bodmer made a pretty sketch of it. To the right of us lay a broad sandbar with driftwood.

We proceeded by fits and starts; [first] we had little, then more water. Long detained by sandbars, we nevertheless finally navigated farther but received severe jolts. To the left in the forest along the edge of the shore, several striking hills appeared, cut off from the river but green above. The actual hill chain before us was concealed by forest; later it made a very picturesque appearance. Extensive sandbars in the river; then the region was flat for a long time; finally steep bluffs again, very high, behind the forest. On some of them grow conifers, undoubtedly Juniperus virginiana (cedar). On the slope buffalo berry grows frequently. Down on the shore, a dense, wild forest of moderately tall trees, among which there are also conifers. This soon gives way to alluvial soil, and here there is immediately a dense willow and cottonwood forest on the bank, with dense underwood of red willow (Cornus sericea), now generally with white blossoms. Behind this shoreline forest rise tall limestone bluffs, which rest on argillite or graywacke, perhaps coal slate. Individual domes are remarkable. On the spots overgrown with timber stand short, old trees with very irregularly curled branches.

We landed at a level, narrow area before the hills at 5:30 and took in wood, which stood here in readiness. On the darkly colored hills, the fresh, bright green vegetation was most picturesque. Down below, before the hills, among the cottonwoods and willows grew Cornus sericea, Aquilegia [—], with red flowers, an Aralia [—], a Viola with a white flower that is light violet inside (Viola [—]), Prunus padus, etc.

At six o’clock we continued our voyage. One of the tall bluffs now appeared black, like coal slate. We steamed to the right across the river; here there was a tall, shady grove of slender, spreading cottonwoods with a beautiful green carpet beneath them. Turtledoves (Columba carolinensis) were here in large numbers; they were drinking on the river. This beautiful grove alternated along the bank with prairie and areas of sparse forest; behind this forest border, the prairie extended endlessly. If one looked at the tall cottonwood forest, the high white-gray pillars gleamed splendidly against the black intervals. Somewhat farther [along,] the first beaver’s lodge that we saw on the Missouri appeared near the bank; it was made of collected driftwood but not finished. Not far from it we found thick cottonwoods that had been gnawed through and had fallen over in all directions.Figure 8.25. Beaver-felled tree. The beaver had gnawed only a narrow ring around the tree, by no means so wide as one generally cuts with an axe. We sailed somewhat farther and then lay to for the night near the right bank (the “right bank” is actually the left bank of the river).

Sunday, May 10, 2020
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