78. Canoe Camp on the Clearwater

North Fork and Clearwater River Confluence

View east, upstream

aerial view of two rivers surrounded by modern buildings joining

© 2000 Airphoto—Jim Wark

Canoe Camp

Still sick and exhausted from their recent crossing of the Bitterroot Mountains, Lewis, Clark, and their crew arrived on 26 September 1805, at what they called Canoe Camp, on the Clearwater River. In the photo, the camp was near the point of the triangle at lower right, between the highway and the south (right) bank of the river. The stream entering from the left is the North Fork of the Clearwater, which the captains named the Chopunnish River after what they understood as the Nez Perces' name for themselves. For the next twelve days, in oppressive heat, the Corps burned and hacked, with axes "Small & badly Calculated" for the task, five dugout canoes from large ponderosa pine logs.

They also established firm friendships with several generous and helpful Nez Perce Indian leaders who lived nearby: We-ark-koomt, or Apash Wyakaikt (Flint Necklace); Tun-nach'-e-moo-toolt (Broken Arm); Walamottinin (Twisted Hair); Neesh-ne-park-ke-ook (Cut Nose); and Te-toh ar sky, who, with one of his sons, would guide the expedition as far as the Great Falls of the Columbia, at today's The Dalles, Oregon. Both captains, always listening closely to unfamiliar tongues, labored to write phonetic approximations of Indian names and other vocabulary.

On their return trip, the Corps camped about twenty miles upstream from here from 13 May to 10 June 1806. Lewis's 17 May diary entry reflects the homesickness and frustration all the men endured. "I am pleased at finding the river rise so rapidly," for it signified the steady progress of the spring thaw in the mountains, "that icy barrier which separates me from my friends and Country, from all which makes life esteemable." He chided himself: "Patience, patience."


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

Text by Joseph Mussulman
Reproduced by permission of Mountain Press