Written by Robert Heacock with photography by Kris Townsend, this paperback details the Lewis and Clark Expedition on the Snake and Columbia Rivers from 1805 to 1806.
A list of book Chapters with an overview of each and dates of exploration follows.
On the Snake River
October 10-17, 1805
Down the Columbia to Celilo Falls
October 18-23, 1805
Celilo Falls to Great Shute
October 24-31, 1805
Great Shut to Columbia Estuary
November 1-7, 1805
Columbia Estuary to Fort Clatsop
November 8-December 7, 1805
December 8, 1805 to March 22, 1806
Fort Clatsop to Provision Camp
March 23-31, 1806
Provision Camp to Great Shute
April 1-10, 1806
Through the Great Shute to Overland Trail
April 11-21, 1806
Overland Trail – Celilo Falls to Yellepit
April 22-28, 1806
Overland Trail – Walla Walla River and return to the Snake River
April 29-May 4, 1806
Below you can view sample pages from your chosen chapter.
One of the last unexplored coastlines on the planet, save for the poles. First touched by Englishman Sir Francis Drake in 1579, at Nehalem Bay in Tillamook County Oregon, the areas that are now Oregon, Washington and British Columbia were shown on early maps as pure conjecture, while the United States southern and eastern coasts and South America were well explored. Eventually the area was targeted by the Russians, Spanish, French, English and the upstart Americans. American politicians and merchants, including Thomas Jefferson, knew that a strong America depended upon the expansion of commerce. The nation’s borders also had to be defined, and thus the area had to be explored.
After an initial Spanish voyage by Bruno De Heceta in 1775, the area was visited by Captain James Cook in 1778 followed by others including Captain John Meares in 1786 and then Captain George Vancouver. But it was the American Captain Robert Gray who won the race to locate and enter the mouth of the Columbia River on May 12, 1792. With British fur trading activity in the northern portions of the continent increasing, and Chinese markets beckoning, it was imperative that American interests be solidified.
Napoleon Bonaparte of France, with the stroke of a pen, chose to consolidate his own interests, and with the sale of the Louisiana Territory said “… I have just given England a maritime rival that sooner or later will humble her pride”.
The time was ripe for such an expedition. And after many months of training, and then traveling under difficult conditions and enduring backbreaking labor, the Lewis and Clark Expedition had finally crossed the last of the Rocky Mountains. They were finally on their way down the “Kooskooskee” or Clearwater River and eager to be ‘back on the map’ as defined a decade earlier by Captain Vancouver and Captain Grey.
This book begins and ends where the Lewis and Clark Expedition met what is now known as the Snake River, as it enters the State of Washington. The Snake River then joins the ‘Great River of the West’ or Columbia River and proceeds alongside neighboring present day Oregon to the Pacific Ocean. In that time, they encountered some of the most spectacular landscapes and endured times as desperate as any on the entire journey.
October 24, 1805
The Nez Perce chiefs who had accompanied them from the Clearwater River decided to return home, as they did not feel they were safe with the Indians below the falls and did not understand their language well enough. But they were persuaded to remain for a few more days in the hope that their differences with the lower tribes would be remedied.
At 9:00, the Expedition continued downriver and shortly arrived at what they called the Short Narrows, which confined the river in a channel 45 yards wide for 1/4 mile, then widened to about 200 yards wide. The enormous force of the water was impressive: ‘in those narrows the water was agitated in a most Shocking manner boils Swell and whorl pools, we passed with great risque it being impossible to make a portage.’ The modern term is Ten Mile Rapids, but the area is now flooded behind The Dalles Dam.
Two miles further downriver Clark was again in turbulent water, getting some water in the canoes. He landed on the north bank at a village of 20 houses, put the men who could not swim on shore, along with guns and papers, and walked the length of their newest challenge, the Long Narrows or the modern Five Mile Rapids. More than a mile in length, he writes ‘I pursued this Channel which is from 50-100 yard wide and Swels and boils with a most Tremendous manner.’
It was late in the day and they had to delay passing Long Narrows. When he returned from his inspection, he found Lewis meeting with chiefs from below the falls and ‘Crusat played on the violin, which pleased the Savage and the men danced.’
But with a portage not possible, ‘I determined to pass through this place notwithstanding the horrid appearance of this agitated gut Swelling, boiling and whirling in every direction (which from the top did not appear as bad as when I was in it) however we passed safe to the astonishment of all the Inds,’ which is an understated show of bravery and resolve. He also stopped to meet natives who he said ‘re(ce)ived me verry kindly’ and noted that the 20 foot x 30 foot sunken homes were the first wooden houses since they left Illinois. Clark also noted the fish drying process, and just above Spearfish Lake counted a stack of 107 large baskets of pounded fish, for a total of over 10,000 pounds of fish. They also noted a mixed race child among the Indians and an increasing number of trade goods.
Chapter continues in the Paperback version….
April 29, 1806
Yellepit furnished them with two canoes to transport their baggage across the river, but they had difficulty gathering the horses. The acquired two more dogs, and by 11:00 were across the river and ready to proceed, but their guide told them it was too late in the day to reach the next location with water, so they decided to stay at the mouth of the Walla Walla River. Their camp was on the Walla Walla River and near a fish weir that Lewis described extensively, noting this weir is important to other camps of Yellepit’s people.
Two chiefs gave them good horses in exchange for medals and one of Lewis’s personal pistols he kept in a case, along with several hundred rounds of ammunition. They also provided more medical care. Ordway wrote: ‘these natives are the kindest and the most friendly to us than any we have yet Seen.’ There was no dancing this evening because of the strong wind and cold weather.
April 29, 1806 campsite was one mile from the mouth of the Walla Walla River, or probably about one half mile northwest of the grain elevator. The site is now under the back waters of McNary Dam and Lake Wallula. River Mile Marker Columbia 314.5
April 30, 1806
Again with difficulty, they collected their horses, purchased two more horses and four more dogs and by 10:00 were ready, except for finding Clark’s white horse. Yellepit came to see them off, and when the white horse could not be found, he borrowed Lewis’ horse to search himself. The horse was eventually found and Lewis’ horse returned. They started the next stage of their journey and ‘accordingly we took leave of these friendly honest people the Wollahwollahs and departed at 11 A. M.,’ accompanied by their Chopunnish guide, and the other Chopunnish man and his family. Their horses now totaled 23.
They continued, following the Road to the Buffalo to the next location, passing an area of 15-20 foot sand dunes, and camped on the Touchet River with an abundance of wood they had not had since they left Rock Fort.
The first day’s travel of the Overland Trail does not follow modern paths, and so can only be intercepted at certain points. An alternative is to go east on Hwy 12 for 12 miles to Touchet, and turn north at the gas station on Touchet North Road. Go 13.6 miles to the April 30, 1806 campsite. The campsite is north of the marked turnout, river MM 14 on the map, near where the bridge crosses the Touchet River. This area is where the trail came back together.
For the 1806 Overland Trail return, go east from Pasco on Hwy 12 to mm 305.6 and the Old Fort Walla Walla turnout just south of the pulp mill at Wallula. The trail went just south of modern turnout and through the northeast corner of the Wallula townsite. The original river channel was much further out, about 1.5 miles, Yellepit can be seen from Wallula across the river and is a mile south of navigation light and sand dune.
Chapter continues in the Paperback version…
The paperback book is available for purchase on Amazon or directly from us at the links below.
Kris Townsend has spent the past 20 years researching, traveling, and photo-documenting the Lewis and Clark trail. He strives to capture the places, people, animals, plants, and artifacts as they were described in the expedition journals. His work can also be viewed at lewisandclark.today. Kris has taught primary grade school, been a college instructor in computer science and information systems, and is an author for the Skills for Success college textbook series published by Pearson Higher Education. He lives in Eastern Washington and enjoys hiking old roads and trails in the nearby deserts, Palouse hills, and channeled scablands.