May 16, 1833
16 May: In the morning, some rain, strong wind, overcast sky; at 7:30, 64°F [17.8°C]. To the left we soon have a series of rugged bluffs; to the right along the bare yellowish or greenish hills, there is a prairie dog village, past several of which we have already sailed. The strong, unpleasant wind blows directly against us; it comes from the west, from the direction of the river. Numerous gulls (Larus) streak upstream: there are two kinds, one of them with a black head. We strike bottom; the boat makes soundings. To the left along the bank are low bluffs with blackish and whitish stripes; practically every 60 to 70 paces a ravine appears in them in which cedars and green thickets grow. Farther on, the hills along the coast are lower, the steep bluffs or the front cutoffs small and triangular; cedars everywhere here along their front sides.
We now reach the long-awaited Cedar Island, covered along its edge with willows, buffalo berry, and cottonwood thickets and mostly also with slender cedars. We put in here and cut cedar wood, some of it with the most beautiful violet-red color and with white-yellowish veins running along the edge. This island formed a beautiful dark, dense wilderness of slender cedar trees, 60 or perhaps more feet tall,[Page 2:79] the rough bark of which hangs down in shreds and peels off. Many stood withered, [while] others lay broken down; they fall down now with a crash under the blows of our axes. These conifers were mixed with Celtis, Ulmus, Fraxinus, Prunus padus, Cornus sericea, Populus, [and] Salix (the latter one along the water’s edge) and entangled with Rhus, Vitis, Celastrus,M60Smilax. and one species of Clematis, the seeds of which have much white woolly material; until now, the vines [have been] merely buds without open blossoms. On the ground grew Convallaria, which has been mentioned several times already; beautifully blooming Ribes, with yellow blossoms; a Rosa without flowers; Menispermum; [and] Viola [——], with large, heart-shaped, pointed leaves and blue flowers. Otherwise, few blossoming plants.
In the wild, dark entanglement of this primeval forest, one heard only a few bird calls; one of them, an often-repeated call with two sounds, was that of Wilson's Turdus aurocapilla, which creeps around in the dark thicket, most often in pairs. We bagged several of them. We found many elk and deer tracks here; we saw where they had been rubbing against the cedars and found their droppings. A bison had decayed here; we found all its bones lying together.
Here I must note that at the next bend of the river downstream (that is, where I had described the bluffs along the left bank), Lewis and Clark found a 40 to 45-foot-long animal skeleton (see their description of the journey and the map). According to Lewis and Clark, Cedar Island is 1,075 miles distant from the mouth of the Missouri.
Because of the strong contrary wind, we remained here for a long time. Mr. McKenzie had 30 to 40-foot-long sturdy young cedars felled and stripped of their bark to make [tipi] poles for a skin lodge. I went out with my gun and in the dense forest found some very interesting small birds, including Muscicapa ruticilla and the striated songbird with the yellow-red legs (Sylvia
autumnalis striata Lath). The rusty-brown wood thrush was singing, in a manner very similar to our song thrush, in the tall branches of the trees; with the dense foliage, it is difficult to find [the bird]. Doves (Columba carolinensis) were also here, but I saw no woodpeckers at all.M61 Mr. Bodmer saw the yellow woodpecker (Picus auratus), but this much is certain: woodpeckers, which are very numerous in all North American forests, were seldom seen here. Fringilla erythrophthalma was shot as well.
At twelve o’clock, 71°F [21.7°C]. Since we still have a strong, unfavorable wind, which agitates the waves so much that the pilots [cannot] discern the signs of sandbars, we remained at anchor, and several of the ship’s crew went out with muskets or rifles. It can be assumed that the range of the wild turkey reaches up to about here. An occasional turkey had been shot much farther upstream along the Missouri, even on the Yellowstone, but farther upstream there are no woodlands that could protect these big birds. The Indians in the regions where these birds are not found like to barter for their beautiful tail feathers and wings to make fans and other things with. Mr. McKenzie had brought large numbers of them on the steamboat.
Dreidoppel had been in the forest and had [seen] several crows and a big yellow-bellied flycatcher (Muscicapa crinita Linn., Bonap.), which we had already found in Pennsylvania. Wild geese and white gulls flew around the ship in the afternoon. Later wild doves (Columba migratoria) were brought in, and in a hollow tree was found the nest of a large wood rat that shows many similarities with the Norway ratM62Mus [——]. but appears to be of a different species, since its tail is shorter and hairier. Its four young ones were still blind, white underneath and a dark ash-gray on the back; by contrast, the old animal had a reddish, gray-brown color on its upper parts. When a hollow tree near our anchoring place was set on fire, a male rat like this one was also found; [it] was shot.
When night arrived several very large fires were burning on the bank; this provided a very beautiful view in the forest of mixed cedars and deciduous trees. The wind had abated somewhat, but it was slightly cool. The boat had been sent out to[Page 2:80] take soundings so that we could depart early in the morning.