Gates of the Rocky Mountains

Friday July 19, 1805

Captain Lewis: “The Musquetoes are very troublesome to us as usual.    this morning we set out early and proceeded on very well tho’ the water appears to encrease in volocity as we advance.    the current has been strong all day and obstructed with some rapids, tho’ these are but little broken by rocks and are perfectly safe.    the river deep and from 100 to 150 yds. wide. I walked along shore today and killed an Antelope.    whever we get a view of the lofty summits of the mountains the snow presents itself, altho’ we are almost suffocated in this confined vally with heat.    the pine cedar and balsum fir [1] grow on the mountains in irregular assemleages or spots mostly high up on their sides and summits.    this evening we entered much the most remarkable clifts that we have yet seen.    these clifts rise from the waters edge on either side perpendicularly to the hight of [NB: about] 1200 feet.    every object here wears a dark and gloomy aspect.    the tow[er]ing and projecting rocks in many places seem ready to tumble on us.    the river appears to have forced it’s way through this immence body of solid rock for the distance of 5¾ miles and where it makes it’s exit below has thrown on either side vast collumns of rocks mountains high.    the river appears to have woarn a passage just the width of it’s channel or 150 yds.    it is deep from side to side nor is ther in the 1st 3 miles of this distance a spot except one of a few yards in extent on which a man could rest the soal of his foot.    several fine springs burst out at the waters edge from the interstices of the rocks.    it happens fortunately that altho’ the current is strong it is not so much so but what it may be overcome with the oars for there is hear no possibility of using either the cord or Setting pole.    it was late in the evening before I entered this place and was obliged to continue my rout untill sometime after dark before I found a place sufficiently large to encamp my small party; at length such an one occurred on the lard. side where we found plenty of lightwood [2] and pichpine. this rock is a black grannite below and appears to be of a much lighter colour above and from the fragments I take it to be flint of a yelloish brown and light creemcolourd yellow.— [3]    from the singular appeaerance of this place I called it the gates of the rocky mountains. [4]    the mountains higher today than yesterday, saw some Bighorns and a few Antelopes also beaver and Otter; the latter are now very plenty one of the men killed one of them today with a setting pole.    musquetoes less troublesome than usual.    we had a thundershower today about 1 P. M. which continued about an hour and was attended with som hail.    we have seen no buffaloe since we enterd the mounts.    this morning early Capt. Clark pursued his rout, saw early in the day the remains of several Indians camps formed of willow brush which appeared to have been inhabited some time this spring.    saw where the natives had pealed the bark off the pine trees about this same season.    this the indian woman with us informs that they do to obtain the sap and soft part of the wood [NB: wood] and bark for food.    at 11 A. M. Capt. C. feell in with a gang of Elk of which he killed 2.    and not being able to obtain as much wood as would make a fire substituded the dung of the buffaloe and cooked a part of their meat on which they breakfasted and again pursueed their rout, which lay along an old indian road.    this evening they passed a hansome valley watered by a large creek [5] which extends itself with it’s valley into the mountain to a considerable distance.    the latter part of the evening their rout lay over a hilly and mountanous country covered with the sharp fragments of flint which cut and bruised their feet excessively; nor wer the prickly pear of the leveler part of the rout much less painfull; they have now become so abundant in the open uplands that it is impossible to avoid them and their thorns are so keen and stif that they pearce a double thickness of dressed deers skin with ease. Capt. C. informed me that he extracted 17 of these bryers from his feet this evening after he encamped by the light of the fire. I have guarded or reather fortifyed my feet against them by soaling my mockersons with the hide of the buffaloe in parchment.    he encamped on the river [6] much fortiegud having passed two mountains in the course of the day and travelled about 30 miles.”—

The Journals of Lewis and Clark

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Lochsa River

The Lochsa River is in the northwestern United States, in the mountains of north central Idaho. It is one of two primary tributaries (with the Selway to the south) of the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River in the Clearwater National Forest. Lochsa is a Nez Perce word meaning rough water.[6][7] The Salish name is Ep Smɫí, “It Has Salmon.”[8]

The Lochsa (pronounced “lock-saw”) was included by the U.S. Congress in 1968 as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.[9] The Lochsa and Selway rivers and their tributaries have no dams, and their flow is unregulated. In late spring, mid-May to mid-June, the Lochsa River is rated as one of the world’s best for continuous whitewater.

–wikipedia

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Lochsa Lodge

Unloading the truck at the Lochsa Lodge. The Lochsa Lodge is a “resort” just on the western side of the Idaho/Montana border. This location is also the site where Lewis and Clark camped during their expedition.

I spent a couple of days here, and will definitely return.

“Clark recorded that on the night of September 14, 1805, the Corps “Encamped opposit a Small Island at the mouth of a branch on the right side of the river which is at this place 80 yards wide, Swift and Stoney.” That river’s Indian name, which the journalists evidently never heard, is Lochsa, meaning swift water. The “branch”–a small stream–no longer flows; its bed was obliterated during the expansion of the ranger station. The men put their 40 horses on the island for the night, probably to discourage them from wandering away in search of food. The Corps bypassed this campsite by several miles on their return trip in June of 1806.

Powell Ranger Station of the Clearwater National Forest, which was built here about 1910, was named for the trapper and homesteader Charley Powell, who lived nearby at the time.” –lewis-clark.org

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Black Eagle Falls

The last of the falls that Lewis and Clark had to get around on the Missouri river. This photo was taken from the side of the road that runs parallel to the Missouri in Great Falls.

A writer from the Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine toured the falls of the Missouri in the autumn of 1887 and reported: “The appearance of the Black Eagle Fall suggests its future use. Some day it will drive saws, spindles, and mill-stones.”4 Indeed, plans for harnessing the fall’s potential were already under way. The first dam, completed in 1891, provided both direct mechanical power and a limited amount of electricity for local use.

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Bald Eagles

Not the best photo I’ve taken. This will have to do for today’s upload.

2 Bald Eagles flying over the great falls of the Missouri in Great Falls, Montana.

The autofocus on my camera does not work as well as it does on the traditional DSLR.

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Great Falls Storm

This is a photo of the storm on the walk back to the truck from Crooked Falls. I was luckily able to make it back before the storm passed through. Lewis and Clark faced similar storms during almost this exact time of year in their portage of the great Falls.

“Despite their splendor the Great Falls presented much danger and hardship for the explorers. In one afternoon Lewis’s path converged with a bear, a mountain cat or wolverine and three buffalo bulls; to Lewis it seemed that “all the beasts of the neighbourhood had made a league to distroy me, or that some fortune was disposed to amuse herself at my expence” (140). Many members of the expedition were ill, including Sacagawea who had been suffering for more than a week from an unknown sickness. Clark, Charbonneau, Sacagawea and her baby nearly drowned in a violent storm of torrential rain and huge hailstones. Grizzly bears, rattlesnakes and mosquitoes were a constant worry, even to the dog, Seaman, who Clark noted was “in a constant state of alarm with these bear and keeps barking all night” (151) –nps.gov

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Crooked Falls

At about ten o’clock on the morning of June 14, 1805, Captain Lewis took his gun and his espontoon and set out on a short walk up the north side of the river (at right in this photo), to see how far the rapids extended above the “grand Fall.” With the Hidatsas’ assurance of a half-day portage still in mind, he fully expected he would be back at camp by noon.

After passing one continued rapid and three small cascades of about four or five feet each[,] at the distance of about five miles I arrived at a fall of about 19 feet; the river is here about 400 yds wide. this pitch which I called the crooked falls occupys about three fourths of the width of the river, commencing on the south side, extends obliquly upwards about 150 yds.[,] then forming an accute angle extends downwards nearly to the commencement of four small Islands lying near the N. shore; among these Islands and between them and the lower extremity of the perpendicular pitch being a distance of 100 yards or upwards, the water glides down the side of a sloping rock with a volocity almost equal to that of it’s perpendicular decent.
For a time, later in the nineteenth century, it seemed to some viewers that “horseshoe fall,” would be more descriptive, but Lewis’s name has prevailed. The islands and sloping rock Lewis noted have been obliterated by the in-fill on the north bank, which covers three large pipes that carry water from an intake above Rainbow Fall to a powerhouse a short distance below Crooked Falls.

By Jim Wark
Of all the falls of the Missouri, this one remains the nearest to the way it looked to Lewis and Clark.

Just above these falls, the captain continued, “the river makes a suddon bend to the right or Northwardly. I should have returned from hence but hearing a tremendious roaring above me I continued my rout across the point of a hill a fiew hundred yards further.” — lewisandclark.org

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Great Falls Storm

There were some ominous looking clouds to the south on the hike down to Crooked Falls. This would have been the area where Lewis and Clark made their portage around the falls.

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Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls was first discovered by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Rainbow Falls and downstream Crooked Falls are the only two waterfalls on the Missouri-Mississippi river system to remain in an almost-natural condition. Black Eagle Falls and Great Falls are half- occupied by their dams’ powerhouses, and Colter Falls is submerged. The waterfall received its name from the frequent presence of rainbows in its spray before the dams were built.

Meriwether Lewis was known to comment on the falls:

. . . hearing a tremendious roaring above me I continued. . . a few hundred yards further and was again presented by one of the most bea[utiful]objects in nature, a cascade of about fifty feet perpendicular stre[t]ching at [right angles] across the river from side to side to the distance of at least a quarter of a mile. here the river pitches over a shelving rock, with an edge as regular and streight as if formed by art, without a nich[e] or br[eak] in it; the water descends in one even and uninterrupted sheet . . .

The waterfall was named “Beautiful Cascade” and later “Handsom[e] Falls” by Lewis, but was given its present name by Thomas B. Roberts, a railroad engineer, in 1872. — From Wikipedia

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Montana

This photo was taken along Highway 287 just north of Three Forks, MT. The highway follows the Missouri. This scene is just to the west and would be what Lewis and Clark saw as they made their way to the three forks.

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