"On the beach, near the Indian huts, we observed two canoes of a different shape and size from any which we had hitherto seen. One of these we got by giving our smallest canoe a hatchet, and a few trinkets to the owner, who said he had obtained it from a white man below the falls in exchange for a horse. These canoes were very beautifully made: wide in the middle, and tapering towards each end, with curious figures carved on the bow. They were thin, but, being strengthened by crossbars about an inch in diameter, tied with strong pieces of bark through holes in the sides, were able to bear very heavy burdens, and seemed calculated to live in the roughest water."
At this point the officers of the expedition observed signs of uneasiness in the two friendly Indian chiefs who had thus far accompanied them. They also heard rumors that the warlike Indians below them were meditating an attack as the party went down. The journal says:--
"Being at all times ready for any attempt of that sort, we were not under greater apprehensions than usual at this intelligence. We therefore only re-examined our arms, and increased the ammunition to one hundred rounds. Our chiefs, who had not the same motives of confidence, were by no means so much at their ease, and when at night they saw the Indians leave us earlier than usual, their suspicions of an intended attack were confirmed, and they were very much alarmed.
"The Indians approached us with apparent caution, and behaved with more than usual reserve. Our two chiefs, by whom these circumstances were not observed, now told us that they wished to return home; that they could be no longer of any service to us; that they could not understand the language of the people below the falls; that those people formed a different nation from their own; that the two people had been at war with each other; and that as the Indians had expressed a resolution to attack us, they would certainly kill them. We endeavored to quiet their fears, and requested them to stay two nights longer, in which time we would see the Indians below, and make a peace between the two nations. They replied that they were anxious to return and see their horses. We however insisted on their remaining with us, not only in hopes of bringing about an accommodation between them and their enemies, but because they might be able to detect any hostile designs against us, and also assist us in passing the next falls, which are not far off, and represented as very difficult. They at length agreed to stay with us two nights longer."
The explorers now arrived at the next fall of the Columbia. Here was a quiet basin, on the margin of which were three Indian huts. The journal tells the rest of the story:--
"At the extremity of this basin stood a high black rock, which, rising perpendicularly from the right shore, seemed to run wholly across the river: so totally, indeed, did it appear to stop the passage, that we could not see where the water escaped, except that the current was seemingly drawn with more than usual velocity to the left of the rock, where was heard a great roaring. We landed at the huts of the Indians, who went with us to the top of the rock, from which we had a view of all the difficulties of the channel. We were now no longer at a loss to account for the rising of the river at the falls; for this tremendous rock was seen stretching across the river, to meet the high hills on the left shore, leaving a channel of only forty-five yards wide, through which the whole body of the Columbia pressed its way. The water, thus forced into so narrow a passage, was thrown into whirls, and swelled and boiled in every part with the wildest agitation. But the alternative of carrying the boats over this high rock was almost impossible in our present situation; and as the chief danger seemed to be, not from any obstructions in the channel, but from the great waves and whirlpools, we resolved to attempt the passage, in the hope of being able, by dexterous steering, to descend in safety. This we undertook, and with great care were able to get through, to the astonishment of the Indians in the huts we had just passed, who now collected to see us from the top of the rock. The channel continued thus confined for the space of about half a mile, when the rock ceased. We passed a single Indian hut at the foot of it, where the river again enlarges to the width of two hundred yards, and at the distance of a mile and a half stopped to view a very bad rapid; this is formed by two rocky islands which divide the channel, the lower and larger of which is in the middle of the river. The appearance of this place was so unpromising that we unloaded all the most valuable articles, such as guns, ammunition, our papers,. etc., and sent them by land, with all the men that could not swim, to the extremity of these rapids. We then descended with the canoes, two at a time; though the canoes took in some water, we all went through safely; after which we made two miles, stopped in a deep bend of the river toward the right, and camped a little above a large village of twenty-one houses. Here we landed; and as it was late before all the canoes joined us, we were obliged to remain this evening, the difficulties of the navigation having permitted us to make only six miles."
They were then among the Echeloots, a tribe of the Upper Chinooks, now nearly extinct. The white men were much interested in the houses of these people, which, their journal set forth, were "the first wooden buildings seen since leaving the Illinois country." This is the manner of their construction:--
"A large hole, twenty feet wide and thirty in length, was dug to the depth of six feet; the sides of which were lined with split pieces of timber rising just above the surface of the ground, and smoothed to the same width by burning, or by being shaved with small iron axes. These timbers were secured in their erect position by a pole stretched along the side of the building near the eaves, and supported on a strong post fixed at each corner. The timbers at the gable ends rose gradually higher, the middle pieces being the broadest. At the top of these was a sort of semicircle, made to receive a ridge-pole the whole length of the house, propped by an additional post in the middle, and forming the top of the roof. From this ridge-pole to the eaves of the house were placed a number of small poles or rafters, secured at each end by fibres of the cedar. On these poles, which were connected by small transverse bars of wood, was laid a covering of white cedar, or arbor vitae, kept on by strands of cedar fibres; but a small space along the whole length of the ridge-pole was left uncovered, for the purpose of light, and of permitting the smoke to pass out. The roof, thus formed, had a descent about equal to that common among us, and near the eaves it was perforated with a number of small holes, made, most probably, for the discharge of arrows in case of an attack. The only entrance was by a small door at the gable end, cut out of the middle piece of timber, twenty-nine and a half inches high, fourteen inches broad, and reaching only eighteen inches above the earth. Before this hole is hung a mat; on pushing it aside and crawling through, the descent is by a small wooden ladder, made in the form of those used among us. One-half of the inside is used as a place of deposit for dried fish, of which large quantities are stored away, and with a few baskets of berries form the only family provisions; the other half, adjoining the door, remains for the accommodation of the family. On each side are arranged near the walls small beds of mats placed on little scaffolds or bedsteads, raised from eighteen inches to three feet from the ground; and in the middle of the vacant space is the fire, or sometimes two or three fires, when, as is usually the case, the house contains three families."