102. Bend of the Yellowstone

Livingston, Montana

View south, up the Yellowstone

City on the plains before the snow-capped mountains

© 2000 Airphoto—Jim Wark

"Of Great Service"

On 3 July 1806, at Travelers' Rest, the captains divided the Corps into two units. Clark would lead his men on an exploration of the Yellowstone River. Lewis was to take the others to the Great Falls via the Blackfoot River, then, with a detail of three men, explore more of the Marias River than he had in the spring of 1805. They expected to reunite at the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers about 1 August.

Clark and his contingent returned to Camp Fortunate, emptied the cache, raised the six dugout canoes from their hiding places, and arrived at the Three Forks of the Missouri about noon on 13 July. At 5 p.m. Clark, with ten men, plus Sacagawea and fifteen-month-old Jean Baptiste, set his course overland along the east fork of the Gallatin River. As he started over the mountains at today's Bozeman they observed several Indian and buffalo roads heading northeast across the mountains at the head of the river. However, Clark reported, "the indian woman who has been of great Service to me as a pilot through this Country recommends a gap in the mountain more South which I shall cross." This was one of the few times Sacagawea acted as the guide that legend has made of her, and it was crucial to Clark's timely progress down the Yellowstone.

On the 15th, having crossed the mountains separating the Gallatin from the Yellowstone drainages, the party descended a slope (at right in photo) on "a well beaten buffalow road" toward the Yellowstone River. The Yellowstone flows north out of a mountain-bounded valley between low spurs of the Gallatin and Absaroka Ranges (background left), which Clark described as "rugged and covered with Snows."

The party struck the river, "wide, bold, rapid and deep," at the bend at about the center of this picture, in present-day Livingston, Montana. From where Clark stood, the fertile river basin now called Paradise Valley was hidden from his view, and the party pressed on downstream.


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

Text by Joseph Mussulman
Reproduced by permission of Mountain Press