The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition - Vol. 6

The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition - Vol. 6

The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition - Vol. 6

The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition - Vol. 6


The first five volumes of the new edition of the Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition have been widely heralded as a lasting achievement in the study of western exploration. The sixth volume begins on November 2, 1805, in the second year of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark's epic journey. It covers the last leg of the party's route from the Cascades of the Columbia River to the Pacific Coast and their stay at Fort Clatsop, near the river's mouth, until the spring of 1806. Travel and exploration, described in the early part, were hampered by miserable weather, and the enforced idleness in winter quarters permitted detailed record keeping. The journals portray the party's interaction with the Indians of the lower Columbia River and the coast, particularly the Chinooks, Clatsops, Wahkiakums, Cathlamets, and Tillamooks. No other volume in this edition has such a wealth of ethnographic and natural history materials, most of it apparently written by Lewis and copied by Clark, and accompanied by sketches of plants, animals, and Indians and their canoes, implements, and clothing.

Incorporating a wide range of new scholarship dealing with all aspects of the expedition, from Indian languages to plants and animals to geographical and historical contexts, this new edition expands and updates the annotation of the last edition, published early in the twentieth century.


Below the Cascades of the Columbia River the Corps of Discovery passed into yet another natural region, the thick rain forest of the Northwest Coast. Many Indian villages dotted the banks of the Columbia, some of them inhabited by people frightened by the coming of strangers. Fortunately the sight of Sacagawea and her baby convinced them that the newcomers were not a war party. Near the mouth of the Willamette River they reentered the world of previously known geography, for boats of George Vancouver's British expedition had penetrated this far up the Columbia in 1792.

For November 7, 1805, Clark was able to note "Ocian in view! O! the joy." In fact, he was premature, for what they were seeing was only the wide estuary of the Columbia. Within a few days, however, Lewis and a few men pushing ahead did reach the coast. Their satisfaction at attaining their long-sought goal was considerably dampened by the weather, the characteristic rain and storms of the Northwest Coast winter. The party was trapped for days on the northern shore of the estuary, unable to move because of high winds and gigantic waves. "All wet and disagreeable" is an expression occurring frequently in Clark's journals, and on November 22, still immobilized, he burst out, "O! how horriable is the day." Their discomfort was not altered by seeing the Chinook Indians paddle their canoes across rough waters the explorers did not dare attempt.

They had arrived where they had longed to be, and they knew that the mountain winter would make the return east impossible for some months. Their immediate problem was to find a place near the coast to wait out the winter. There . . .

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