May 29, 1833
29 May: Early in the morning, beautiful sunshine, pleasant weather. Always bluffs to the left. At seven o’clock we halt about 1 mile from the end of the Big Bend and cut wood in a small cedar wall. Here we climbed very high hills, some of which were bare on top, black, and burned [and] from which one could survey almost the entire Big Bend. In the south one saw several hilltops, which are called Medicine Hills, peeping forth; they are located about 8 miles from Medicine Creek, which flows into the Missouri on the left side somewhat farther on. The view from that high point was very interesting: vast prairies bounded by hill chains. On the hills themselves, we very often found Cactus opuntia, as well as Yucca angustifolia and other nice plants; pairs of Fringilla grammaca Say inhabited the small bushes in the ravines and on the slopes. We pursued them in this difficult, elevated, hilly country, rent by ravines, without, however, capturing this interesting prize today.[Page 2:98] One recognizes this bird from its two white tail feathers; perched on a shrub, it utters its short, warbling song.
After three-quarters of an hour, we moved on. At 7:30, 60°F [15.6°C]. The right bank was still low, with willows and cottonwoods; the left one has high, grayish brown clay bluffs, rough and unattractive [and] steep, with ravines in which many cedars grow. We pass the end of Big Bend. In the ravines to the left, the cedars increase more and more; they already cover the slopes and even several hilltops. On the bank to our right, the extended prairie [is] vast, the hill chains far in the distance. On the left bank before the hills, there is soon lowland with a thicket of willows of the narrow-leaved variety [and a] densely compact underwood of Cornus sericea. Here the Indians have as much kinnikinnick as they can possibly use. Somewhat farther on, there is an island to our left covered with willow and cottonwood. We cross over to the right bank; here along the river, a 40 to 50-foot-high slope with scattered thickets. After a half hour a creek called Medicine River empties to the left, a brook that comes from wooded banks. The hills to the right along the shore are barren, with withered grass and little dry vegetation. The weather [is] cool, the wind strong; a dark rain sky. In the ravines to the right, cottonwoods and buffalo berry. The turtledove and the redheaded woodpecker were very numerous. We saw three antelope coming out of a ravine and fleeing across the hills. After ten o’ clock, heavy widespread and persistent rain darkens the region. To the left, wide sandbars; the region is now more flat. After twelve o’clock we have bluffs to our left, behind which are several striking hills that resemble round towers and pastries. Farther on, very many cedars along the walls and ravines of this bank.
From the bluffs we moved to the right across the river to a prairie on alluvial soil when we saw four men land in a boat on a sandbar in the river. Two of them were brought back in a boat; one was Mr. Lamont, a partner in the Fur Company who had just come from the Little Missouri [Bad River].M85The other was Major Mitchell, who has charge of Fort Piegan, or McKenzie, near the falls of the Missouri. Before us we had an island behind which Cedar Island appears. The travelers, who wanted to go to St. Louis, returned with us and stayed on the steamboat. Striking view of the grayish yellow hill chains with black patches behind us. Farther on to the left is tall forest. We strike bottom but without delay. Remarkable view of the black-flecked hills and heights; urubus fly above them. On the left bank, much burned, dried timber. We pass Cedar Island, on which many cedars grow. From here it is 30 miles by land to the Little Missouri, or Teton, River [Bad River]; by boat it is approximately 35. A black tern (Sterna [— —]) on shore close to us. Later, prairie to the left; on the right bank, hilly terrain, pale green with blackish bluffs.
At five o’clock we halt to the left near the prairie and cut wood in the border of bushes and trees along the bank. Here in an old hollow tree, we found the nest of Falco sparverius; shortly before we had seen that of the bald eagle. In the prairie, Tradescantia virginica bloomed close together beautifully in large patches, sometimes blue, sometimes violet-red, sometimes completely lacquer-red. Allium [— —] was exceptionally abundant here; the trees included oak, elm, ash, box elder, and cedar. We stayed here for about half an hour; we also saw Little Soldier in his buffalo hide walking about in the grass on shore. Later [on], the area [continued to] vary in the manner described until dusk, when we put in at the right bank and spent the night there. Wolves howled in the wilderness.