At the Clark's Fork

Confluence of the Yellowstone and Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone

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Aerial view of braided river channels in a broad valley

© 1998 by Larry Mayer. All rights reserved.

The confluence of the Yellowstone River with the Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone. The view is toward the southwest. On the horizon is the Beartooth Range, which include the highest mountain in Montana, 12,709-foot Granite Peak. Three miles up the Yellowstone, just out of the picture at upper right, is the town of Laurel, Montana; 25 miles downriver, below the photo, is the city of Billings.

Clark and his contingent arrived here early in the morning of July 24, an estimated twenty-nine miles downstream from the Canoe Camp, and indicated in his courses and distances for that date that he believed it was the Bighorn River.1

This . . . River is 150 yards wide at it's Mouth and 100 a Short destance up. The water of a light Muddy Colour, and much Colder than that of the Rochejhone. A Small island is Situated imediately in its mouth.

Apparently he reviewed his Yellowstone River journey when he visited with the Mandans and Hidatsas again in mid-August 1806, and was told this was the river they called "The Lodge Where All Dance"—perhaps actually a reference to the "old Indian fort of logs and bark" some six miles farther downriver, that Shannon had noticed as they passed by:

This Lodge, a council lodge. It is of a Conocil form 60 feet [in] diamuter at its base built of 20 poles, each pole 2-1/2 feet in Secumpheranc and 45t feet Long . . . & covered with bushes. In this Lodge I observed a Cedar bush Sticking up on the opposit side of the lodge fronting the dore. On one side was a Buffalow head, and on the other Several Sticks bent and Stuck in the ground. A Stuffed Buffalow skin was Suspended from the Center with the back down. On the top of those poles were deckerated with feathers of the Eagle & Calumet Eagle, also Several Curious pieces of wood bent in Circleler form with sticks across them in form of a Griddle hung on tops of the lodge poles, others in form of a large Sturrip.

He later told Biddle that he considered this a good place for a trading post because the beaver country began here.

1. Gary Moulton, ed., TheJournals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition (13 vols., Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 1983-2001), 8:221n.