May 15, 1833

15 May: Early in the morning, overcast sky; soon a strong wind. At 7:30, 64°F [17.8°C]. On the bank where we lay at anchor, there were thickets with prairie behind them. Here one saw many traces of the Indians’ horses and of a Dacota hunting camp, for numerous skulls of deer, elk, and smaller animals lay about. In the forest there was also a broad, trodden path. Dreidoppel shot a Turdus rufus (fox thrush), a fine songbird, which, however, is rather swift and timid and always in motion. He could not get close to any blackbirds.M56He found the nest of [a] Picus auratus in an old hollow trunk but could not reach it.

At seven o’clock we sailed backward to circumvent the sandbars. The Assiniboine approached. We frequently ran aground; we remained motionless until noon, when an anchor was cast out against the current. At twelve o’clock, 79°F [26.1°C] and a strong wind, which breaks the heat. About two o’clock the Assiniboine sailed past us; the keelboat Maria was far ahead of us near the right bank; both ships soon disappeared from view. At three o’clock we still lay motionless; the ship rolled so strongly from the wind that Mr. Bodmer could hardly sketch. The beautiful mountains before us appeared in manifold illumination. At four o’clock we had drifted somewhat farther to the left, so that we lay exactly opposite the place where we had spent the night. A thunderstorm now arose from W 5 S; there was distant lightning, and at this moment the ship began to move. The hills to the left, which we had observed for such a long time, now revealed their strange, isolated domes and protruding tops and edges in a very striking way. The Assiniboine sent the keelboat to reduce our weight, but this was no longer necessary, and it was fastened [to the ship].

Soon we were sailing along the steep right bank; here there are infertile hills of clay and argillite, mostly covered with dry grass; some thickets in the ravines, including cedar (Juniperus),M57Regarding this tree, it is said that Indian women eat the berries to prevent pregnancy. The wood is very good for steamboats, because it produces much steam. The entire vessel smells of it. ash, red willow (Cornus), Prunus padus, and buffalo berry. The hills are divided at short distances by vertical fissures and clefts; on them we again see the same fine white horizontal strata or stripes (probably argillite) as yesterday. For a long time we sailed along these steep bluffs. A white flower, related to Fumaria [——], was blooming here abundantly in sparse round tufts. Somewhat farther [on], these continuing bluffs seem to consist of limestone or sandstone on which dark layers of sand or and clay are found. All the land behind the bluffs consists uninterruptedly of hills of various extensions and shapes, sometimes more green, sometimes more yellow, depending on whether the grass is new, [and] otherwise devoid of any life and variety.

Presently we had an island near the left bank with a fringe of sand, willows, and tall cottonwoods behind them. On the right bank, the upper half of the hills was now regularly stratified clay or sand with argillite underneath. We caught up with the Assiniboine again, while there was intense lightning from dark clouds. The Assiniboine lay close to the bank, and her woodcutters were climbing on the hills, felling cedars, the wood of which they tossed down to the shore. We landed 300 paces farther ahead, and our crew, too, cut cedar wood on the hills. Meanwhile we undertook an excursion.[Page 2:78] In the evening At the place where the ship had been fastened to a boulder, a small creek emerged, with high, steep banks of a gray, hardened clay and with soft, wet soil. Along its banks grew bushes and short trunks of Celtis, ash, Prunus padus, Rosa not yet in bloom, Ulmus, [and] the other recently collected bushes, including Cornus sericea, buffalo berry, and several others. We caught a nice pale yellowish bat, saw several snakes, found big leg bones of animals deep in the clay of the creek, [along with] several big bison skulls, and [observed] various kinds of birds, including the blackbird, with its metallic luster, [and] the big lark; the wren was singing in the ravine. From this creek we climbed the singular prairie hills surrounding us and found some nice plants, frequently including the wild turnipM58The Canadian French call it pomme de prairie or pomme blanche. (Psoralea esculenta), which now had beautiful blossoms; [root] tastes like a turnip [when] it is cooked and roasted. It is nourishing and tasty. [We also saw] the cactus [——] that grew everywhere in these hills but was not yet in bloom.M59Regarding the cactus species of this region, see Major Long’s voyage, vol. 2, pp. 138, 140, 208. From the most distant peak above the river we had, in the midst of the dark thunderstorm, a magnificent view all around the amphitheater of strange hilltops; at our feet, the beautiful river, on which two steamboats gave off smoke and steam. Numerous sandbars, separated only by narrow channels, afford us no good prospects for our journey.

While we were absorbed in the observation of this interesting scene, the ship’s bell called us back; [it] is always rung twice to call back the men who are scattered far and wide. We hastened down the hills and continued our voyage. A fierce thundershower came at the right time. We found a channel with 5 feet of water, just as much as our ship needed; nevertheless, we struck bottom very hard several times. We sailed a little farther and then at nightfall halted at the right bank, where immediately large fires magnificently illuminated the dense forest and the woodcutters were very active. The night [was] very dark, the evening very warm.

Wednesday, May 15, 1833
XML Encoder: 
Cory Taylor (Automatically Generated)
Emma Burns
Zachary Joyce