"The pirogue was drawn up a little below our camp, and secured in a thick copse of willow-bushes. We now began to form a cache or place of deposit, and to dry our goods and other articles which required inspection. The wagons are completed. Our hunters brought us ten deer, and we shot two out of a herd of buffalo that came to water at Sulphur Spring. There is a species of gooseberry, growing abundantly among the rocks on the sides of the cliffs. It is now ripe, of a pale red color, about the size of the common gooseberry, and like it is an ovate pericarp of soft pulp enveloping a number of small whitish seeds, and consisting of a yellowish, slimy, mucilaginous substance, with a sweet taste; the surface of the berry is covered glutinous, adhesive matter, and its fruit, though ripe, retains its withered corolla. The shrub itself seldom rises more than two feet high, is much branched, and has no thorns. The leaves resemble those of the common gooseberry, except in being smaller, and the berry is supported by separate peduncles or foot-stalks half an inch long. There are also immense quantities of grasshoppers, of a brown color, on the plains; they, no doubt, contribute to the lowness of the grass, which is not generally more than three inches high, though it is soft, narrow-leaved, and affords a fine pasture for the buffalo."
Captain Clark continued his observations up the long series of rapids and falls until he came to a group of three small islands to which he gave the name of White Bear Islands, from his having seen numerous white, or grizzly, bears on them. On the nineteenth of June, Captain Clark, after a careful survey of the country on both sides of the stream, decided that the best place for a portage was on the south, or lower, side of the river, the length of the portage being estimated to be about eighteen miles, over which the canoes and supplies must be carried. Next day he proceeded to mark out the exact route of the portage, or carry, by driving stakes along its lines and angles. From the survey and drawing which he made, the party now had a clear and accurate view of the falls, cascades, and rapids of the Missouri; and, it may be added, this draught, which is reproduced on another page of this book, is still so correct in all its measurements that when a Montana manufacturing company undertook to build a dam at Black Eagle Falls, nearly one hundred years afterwards, they discovered that their surveys and those of Captain Clark were precisely alike. The total fall of the river, from the White Bear Islands, as Lewis and Clark called them, to the foot of the Great Falls, is four hundred twelve and five-tenths feet; the sheer drop of the Great Fall is seventy-five and five-tenths feet. The wild, trackless prairie of Lewis and Clark's time is now the site of the thriving town of Great Falls, which has a population of ten thousand.
Here is a lucid and connected account of the falls and rapids, discovered and described by Lewis and Clark:
"This river is three hundred yards wide at the point where it receives the waters of Medicine [Sun] River, which is one hundred and thirty-seven yards in width. The united current continues three hundred and twenty-eight poles to a small rapid on the north side, from which it gradually widens to fourteen hundred yards, and at the distance of five hundred and forty-eight poles reaches the head of the rapids, narrowing as it approaches them. Here the hills on the north, which had withdrawn from the bank, closely border the river, which, for the space of three hundred and twenty poles, makes its way over the rocks, with a descent of thirty feet. In this course the current is contracted to five hundred and eighty yards, and after throwing itself over a small pitch of five feet, forms a beautiful cascade of twenty-six feet five inches; this does not, however, fall immediately or perpendicularly, being stopped by a part of the rock, which projects at about one-third of the distance. After descending this fall, and passing the cottonwood island on which the eagle has fixed her nest, the river goes on for five hundred and thirty-two poles over rapids and little falls, the estimated descent of which is thirteen and one-half feet, till it is joined by a large fountain boiling up underneath the rocks near the edge of the river, into which it falls with a cascade of eight feet. The water of this fountain is of the most perfect clearness, and of rather a bluish cast; and, even after falling into the Missouri, it preserves its color for half a mile. From the fountain the river descends with increased rapidity for the distance of two hundred and fourteen poles, during which the estimated descent is five feet; and from this, for a distance of one hundred and thirty-five poles, it descends fourteen feet seven inches, including a perpendicular fall of six feet seven inches. The Missouri has now become pressed into a space of four hundred and seventy-three yards, and here forms a grand cataract, by falling over a plain rock the whole distance across the river, to the depth of forty-seven feet eight inches. After recovering itself, it then proceeds with an estimated descent of three feet, till, at the distance of one hundred and two poles, it is precipitated down the Crooked Falls nineteen feet perpendicular. Below this, at the mouth of a deep ravine, is a fall of five feet; after which, for the distance of nine hundred and seventy poles, the descent is much more gradual, not being more than ten feet, and then succeeds a handsome level plain for the space of one hundred and seventy-eight poles, with a computed descent of three feet, the river making a bend towards the north. Thence it descends, for four hundred and eighty poles, about eighteen and one-half feet, when it makes a perpendicular fall of two feet, which is ninety poles beyond the great cataract; in approaching which, it descends thirteen feet within two hundred yards, and, gathering strength from its confined channel, which is only two hundred and eighty yards wide, rushes over the fall to the depth of eighty-seven feet.
"After raging among the rocks, and losing itself in foam, it is compressed immediately into a bed of ninety-three yards in width: it continues for three hundred and forty poles to the entrance of a run or deep ravine, where there is a fall of three feet, which, added to the decline during that distance, makes the descent six feet. As it goes on, the descent within the next two hundred and forty poles is only four feet; from this, passing a run or deep ravine, the descent in four hundred poles is thirteen feet; within two hundred and forty poles, another descent of eighteen feet; thence, in one hundred and sixty poles, a descent of six feet; after which, to the mouth of Portage Creek, a distance of two hundred and eighty poles, the descent is ten feet. From this survey and estimate, it results that the river experiences a descent of three hundred and fifty-two feet in the distance of two and three quarter miles, from the commencement of the rapids to the mouth of Portage Creek, exclusive of the almost impassable rapids which extend for a mile below its entrance."
On the twenty-first of the month, all the needed preparations having been finished, the arduous work of making the portage, or carry, was begun. All the members of the expedition were now together, and the two captains divided with their men the labor of hunting, carrying luggage, boat-building, exploring, and so on. They made three camps, the lower one on Portage Creek, the next at Willow Run [see map], and a third at a point opposite White Bear Islands. The portage was not completed until July second. They were often delayed by the breaking down of their rude carriages, and during the last stage of their journey much of their luggage was carried on the backs of the men. They were also very much annoyed with the spines of the prickly pear, a species of cactus, which, growing low on the ground, is certain to be trampled upon by the wayfarer. The spines ran through the moccasins of the men and sorely wounded their feet. Thus, under date of June twenty-fourth, the journal says (It should be understood that the portage was worked from above and below the rapids):--
"On going down yesterday Captain Clark cut off several angles of the former route, so as to shorten the portage considerably, and marked it with stakes. He arrived there in time to have two of the canoes carried up in the high plain, about a mile in advance. Here they all repaired their moccasins, and put on double soles to protect them from the prickly pear, and from the sharp points of earth which have been formed by the trampling of the buffalo during the late rains. This of itself is sufficient to render the portage disagreeable to one who has no burden; but as the men are loaded as heavily as their strength will permit, the crossing is really painful. Some are limping with the soreness of their feet; others are scarcely able to stand for more than a few minutes, from the heat and fatigue. They are all obliged to halt and rest frequently; at almost every stopping-place they fall, and many of them are asleep in an instant; yet no one complains, and they go on with great cheerfulness. At the camp, midway in the portage, Drewyer and Fields joined them; for, while Captain Lewis was looking for them at Medicine River, they returned to report the absence of Shannon, about whom they had been very uneasy. They had killed several buffalo at the bend of the Missouri above the falls, dried about eight hundred pounds of meat, and got one hundred pounds of tallow; they had also killed some deer, but had seen no elk."
Under this date, too, Captain Lewis, who was with another branch of the expedition, makes this note: "Such as were able to shake a foot amused themselves in dancing on the green to the music of the violin which Cruzatte plays extremely well."