69. Beaverhead Rock

Beaverhead River

View northeast, downstream

Beaverhead Rock: long ridge abutting a winding river

© 2000 Airphoto—Jim Wark

Home Ground

With what satisfaction and relief Lewis must have written, on 8 August 1805: "The Indian woman [Sacagawea] recognized the point of a high plain to our right which she informed us was not very distant from the summer retreat of her nation on a river beyond the mountains which runs to the west." The Corps, reunited again, were traveling up today's Beaverhead River, and the landmark was Beaverhead Rock (near center of photo, about one-third from top). From the right perspective, in good light, and with a willing imagination, this prominent tilt of limestone is said to look like the head of a swimming beaver.

As welcome as Sacagawea's announcement was, it couldn't relieve all the men's frustrations. The going here was slow and frustrating. As Clark noted, "[The river] forms itself into smaller circular bends, which are so numerous that within the last fourteen miles we passed thirty-five of them." Worse yet, with the river at its late-summer lowest, the men had to drag the canoes over one gravelly riffle after another. Several days later Clark acknowledged, "[They] complain verry much of the emence labour they are obliged to undergo & wish much to leave the river," concluding cryptically, "I passify them."

Upon hearing Sacagawea's confirmation that her people were likely nearby, the expedition split up once more. Lewis took a small party overland to search out the Shoshones while Clark continued up the river.

The following July, the Beaverhead was somewhat deeper, and the return river trip was much easier than in 1805. The Corps averaged an estimated forty-seven miles a day for three and a half days.


From Discovering Lewis & Clark from the Air
Photography by Jim Wark

Text by Joseph Mussulman
Reproduced by permission of Mountain Press