July 4: Cokahlah ishkit

Camp of July 4, 1806

To see labels, point to the image.

Interactive aerial photo labeling a canyon in the Blackfoot River

© 2003 Airphoto, Jim Wark. All rights reserved.

Four miles from their July third campsite on Grant Creek they arrived at the mouth of today's Blackfoot River, which was paralleled by the trail the Nez Perce Indians called, according to the captains, Cokahlah-ishkit"—the "road to the buffalo."1 Lewis discovered the river to be "60 yds. wide deep and rapid." It was, he continued, "not navigable in consequence of the obstruction of rocks and rapids &c." Those impediments are but faintly discernible in this photo, which was taken early in May when the river was at its seasonal peak level.

The party proceeded eight miles along the north bank to a "handsom bottom on the river where there was an abundance of excelence grass for our horses." Remarkably, and for a change, there were no mosquitoes.

En route that afternoon Lewis added the skins of two squirrels to his collection. One was "of the speceis common to the Rocky Mountains," which was Richardson's ground squirrel. The identity of the other is not known.

If Lewis and his companions paid any special notice to the patriotic holiday, neither the captain nor Sergeant Gass mentioned it in their journals.

The lines on the steep mountainsides are logging roads. Most are on property owned by lumber companies, and most are permanently closed after timber harvesting is done. The mountain to the left of the river has been logged more recently than the one on the right. With a yearly average of only 12 to 15 inches of precipitation, this is semi-arid country, so regrowth is slow in this part of the Rockies.


1. The Nez Perce word for "Road to the Buffalo" is properly transliterated into Ooq' aalx' Iskit.

Funded in part by a grant from the Montana Cultural Trust