The buffalo have not yet quite gone, for the hunters brought in three, in very good order. It requires some diligence to supply us plentifully, for as we reserve our parched meal for the Rocky Mountains, where we do not expect to find much game, our principal article of food is meat, and the consumption of the whole thirty-two persons belonging to the party amounts to four deer, an elk and a deer, or one buffalo, every twenty-four hours. The mosquitoes and gnats persecute us as violently as below, so that we can get no sleep unless defended by biers [nets], with which we are all provided. We here found several plants hitherto unknown to us, of which we preserved specimens."
On the fourteenth of July, the boats were finally launched, and next day the journal records this important event:
"We rose early, embarked all our baggage on board the canoes, which, though eight in number, are heavily loaded, and at ten o'clock set out on our journey. . . . At the distance of seven and a half miles we came to the lower point of a woodland, at the entrance of a beautiful river, which, in honor of the Secretary of the Navy, we called Smith's River. This stream falls into a bend on the south side of the Missouri, and is eighty yards wide. As far as we could discern its course, it wound through a charming valley towards the southeast, in which many herds of buffalo were feeding, till, at the distance of twenty-five miles, it entered the Rocky Mountains and was lost from our view. . . .
"We find the prickly pear, one of the greatest beauties as well as greatest inconveniences of the plains, now in full bloom. The sunflower, too, a plant common on every part of the Missouri from its entrance to this place, is here very abundant, and in bloom. The lamb's-quarter, wild cucumber, sand-rush, and narrow dock, are also common."
The journal here records the fact that the great river had now become so crooked that it was expedient to note only its general course, leaving out all description of its turns and windings. The Missouri was now flowing due north, leaving its bends out of account, and the explorers, ascending the river, were therefore travelling south; and although the journal sets forth "the north bank" and "the south bank," it should be understood that west is meant by the one, and east by the other. Buffalo were observed in great numbers. Many obstacles to navigating the river were encountered. Under date of July 17, the journal says:
"The navigation is now very laborious. The river is deep, but with little current, and from seventy to one hundred yards wide; the low grounds are very narrow, with but little timber, and that chiefly the aspen tree. The cliffs are steep, and hang over the river so much that often we could not cross them, but were obliged to pass and repass from one side of the river to the other, in order to make our way. In some places the banks are formed of dark or black granite rising perpendicularly to a great height, through which the river seems, in the progress of time, to have worn its channel. On these mountains we see more pine than usual, but it is still in small quantities. Along the bottoms, which have a covering of high grass, we observed the sunflower blooming in great abundance. The Indians of the Missouri, more especially those who do not cultivate maize, make great use of the seed of this plant for bread, or in thickening their soup. They first parch and then pound it between two stones, until it is reduced to a fine meal. Sometimes they add a portion of water, and drink it thus diluted; at other times they add a sufficient proportion of marrow-grease to reduce it to the consistency of common dough, and eat it in that manner. This last composition we preferred to all the rest, and thought it at that time a very palatable dish."
They also feasted on a great variety of wild berries, purple, yellow, and black currants, which were delicious and more pleasant to the palate than those grown in their Virginia home-gardens; also service-berries, popularly known to later emigrants as "sarvice-berries." These grow on small bushes, two or three feet high; and the fruit is purple-skinned, with a white pulp, resembling a ripe gooseberry.
The journal, next day, has the following entry:--