In the summer of 1805, the Lewis and Clark expedition was making it’s way westward up the Missouri River. This was a crucial time for the Corps of Discovery. Once they reached the Continental Divide they would leave their canoes behind and carry their equipment by horse. Their plan was to trade for horses with the Shoshone Indians, but so far not a single Indian had been seen.
On August 7, Sacagawea, the Shoshone wife of the Corp’s French/Indian interpreter, identified “Beaver’s Head Rock”, pointing them towards her people. Leaving the main party to drag canoes up the river, Lewis and three men proceeded overland searching for Indians and their valuable horses. They followed a well-defined “road” finding sign of Indian activity but the natives eluded them. They crossed the Continental Divide into the Salmon River drainage to experience a dramatic first meeting with the Shoshone. Lewis convinced them that they were friends, setting the stage for an unlikely family reunion and the important overland journey.
The Truth about Lewis & Clark
The Bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition perpetuates many myths about the journey. To begin: Thomas Jefferson did not hire Meriwether Lewis to command the Expedition. The Expedition’s goal, initially, was not to explore the Louisiana Territory , newly-purchased from France . Lewis and William Clark were not co-captains. Sacagawea was not a guide (she was even more important).
Most important: all segments of the Lewis and Clark trail were not equal. River travel, on the Missouri , Jefferson, Beaverhead, Clearwater , Snake, and Columbia Rivers was exciting, eventful, even dangerous. Winter at Fort Clatsop was dull, monotonous, boring-and scientifically productive. But the heart of the Expedition-its moment (months) of truth-lay in the Rocky Mountains . Crossing the Rockies exposed the Expedition to uncertainty, delay, danger, even failure. In the end, Lewis could boast of discovering “the shortest and most practicable route” across the continent. But he was wrong.
For a more complete appreciation of Lewis and Clark’s journey across the Continental Divide and through the Rocky Mountains, contact us for information on your personal tour. We also offer guided tours of Montana Ghost Towns and scenic historic sites.