75. Travelers' Rest

Lolo, Montana

View west, upstream

aerial view of a green valley with a small city

© 2000 Airphoto—Jim Wark

Turning Point

Led by their Shoshone guide Toby, the Corps of Discovery walked along the Bitterroot River—they called it "Clark's River"—between snowcovered mountains, the Bitterroots to the west (see photoo) and the Sapphires to the east. In the afternoon of 9 September 1805 they turned westward at a creek they dubbed Travelers' Rest, today known as Lolo Creek. They stopped at a gathering place that Indians had been using for that same purpose for thousands of years, on the tributary now known as Lolo Creek, about two miles above the Bitterroot River. The captains soon recognized it as a focal point in Western geography and intertribal politics.

For three days the Corps rested here, gathering strength for the arduous 150-mile trek across the Bitterroot Mountains. The campsite was about two-thirds down in the photo, among the cottonwoods that shelter Lolo Creek, which snakes up from the bottom center toward the right. Archaeological evidence uncovered at Travelers' Rest in summer 2002 had established the precise location of the Corps's camps of 9 through 11 September 1805 and 30 June through 3 July 1806.

Traveling eastward in spring 1806 over "those tremendious mountanes," the Corps arrived back at Travelers' Rest on 30 June. There they prepared their equipment and supplies for the next leg of the trip. They also rested and gathered courage for what would be the most perilous phase of the entire journey.

Ready to depart on the morning of 3 July 1806, the expedition—thirty-three souls and a dog, with sixty-seven horses—split into two detachments. The captains' intricate and risky plan would at times divide the Corps into five units, making each of them highly vulnerable to Indian attacks. Independently, the various detachments would retrace the Beaverhead, Jefferson, and Missouri Rivers, and explore the Marias and Yellowstone.


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

Text by Joseph Mussulman
Reproduced by permission of Mountain Press