On the twenty-seventh, the main party, which was working on the upper part of the portage, joined that of Captain Clark at the lower camp, where a second cache, or place of deposit, had been formed, and where the boat-swivel was now hidden under the rocks. The journal says:--
"The party were employed in preparing timber for the boat, except two who were sent to hunt. About one in the afternoon a cloud arose from the southwest, and brought with it violent thunder, lightning, and hail. Soon after it passed, the hunters came in, from about four miles above us. They had killed nine elk and three bears. As they were hunting on the river they saw a low ground covered with thick brushwood, where from the tracks along shore they thought a bear had probably taken refuge. They therefore landed, without making a noise, and climbed a tree about twenty feet above the ground. Having fixed themselves securely, they raised a loud shout, and a bear instantly rushed toward them. These animals never climb, and therefore when he came to the tree and stopped to look at them, Drewyer shot him in the head. He proved to be the largest we had yet seen; his nose appeared to be like that of a common ox; his fore feet measured nine inches across; the hind feet were seven inches wide and eleven and three quarters long, exclusive of the talons. One of these animals came within thirty yards of the camp last night, and carried off some buffalo-meat which we had placed on a pole."
The party were very much annoyed here by the grizzlies which infested their camp at night. Their faithful dog always gave warning of the approach of one of these monsters; but the men were obliged to sleep with their guns by their side, ready to repel the enemy at a moment's notice.
Captain Clark finally broke up the camp on Portage Creek, June 28, having deposited in his cache whatever could be left behind without inconvenience. "On the following day," the journal says:--
"Finding it impossible to reach the upper end of the portage with the present load, in consequence of the state of the road after the rain, he sent back nearly all his party to bring on the articles which had been left yesterday. Having lost some notes and remarks which he had made on first ascending the river, he determined to go up to the Whitebear Islands along its banks, in order to supply the deficiency. He there left one man to guard the baggage, and went on to the falls, accompanied by his servant York, Chaboneau, and his wife with her young child.
"On his arrival there he observed a very dark cloud rising in the west, which threatened rain, and looked around for some shelter; but could find no place where the party would be secure from being blown into the river, if the wind should prove as violent as it sometimes does in the plains. At length, about a quarter of a mile above the falls, he found a deep ravine, where there were some shelving rocks, under which he took refuge. They were on the upper side of the ravine near the river, perfectly safe from the rain, and therefore laid down their guns, compass, and other articles which they carried with them. The shower was at first moderate; it then increased to a heavy rain, the effects of which they did not feel; but soon after, a torrent of rain and hail descended. The rain seemed to fall in a solid mass, and instantly, collecting in the ravine, came rolling down in a dreadful current, carrying the mud, rocks, and everything that opposed it. Captain Clark fortunately saw it a moment before it reached them, and springing up with his gun and shot-pouch in his left hand, with his right clambered up the steep bluff, pushing on the Indian woman with her child in her arms; her husband too had seized her hand and was pulling her tip the hill, but he was so terrified at the danger that he remained frequently motionless; and but for Captain Clark, himself and his wife and child would have been lost. So instantaneous was the rise of the water that, before Captain Clark had reached his gun and begun to ascend the bank, the water was up to his waist, and he could scarcely get up faster than it rose, till it reached the height of fifteen feet, with a furious current which, had they waited a moment longer, would have swept them into the river just above the Great Falls, down which they must inevitably have been precipitated. They reached the plain in safety and found York, who had separated from them just before the storm to hunt some buffalo, and was now returning to find his master. They had been obliged to escape so rapidly that Captain Clark lost his compass [that is, circumferentor] and umbrella, Chaboneau left his gun, with Captain Lewis' wiping-rod, shot-pouch, and tomahawk, and the Indian woman had just time to grasp her child, before the net in which it lay at her feet was carried down the current."
Such a storm is known in the West as a cloud-burst. Overland emigrants in the early rush to California often suffered loss from these sudden deluges. A party of men, with wagons and animals, have been known to be swept away and lost in a flood bursting in a narrow canyon in the mountains.
"Captain Clark now relinquished his intention of going up the river, and returned to the camp at Willow Run. Here he found that the party sent this morning for the baggage had all returned to camp in great confusion, leaving their loads in the plain. On account of the heat, they generally go nearly naked, and with no covering on their heads. The hail was so large, and driven so furiously against them by the high wind, that it knocked several of them down: one of them, particularly, was thrown on the ground three times, and most of them were bleeding freely, and complained of being much bruised. Willow Run had risen six feet since the rain; and, as the plains were so wet that they could not proceed, they passed the night at their camp.