Camp Disappointment

Old Bones

photo of bison bones

J.Agee photo

These bones protruding from the south bank of Cut Bank Creek about 24 inches below ground level possibly indicate the use of the nearby buffalo jump long before Lewis camped here. The Blackfeet Indians generally abandoned that means of killing bison after they acquired horses and developed the "surround"method, sometime before the middle of the 18th century.

Some students of the Expedition believe that since Lewis had ample evidence that Blackfeet Indians had recently been in the area, he would not have camped under that bluff because, with his back to the river, he would have been vulnerable to a surprise attack. It may be that he and the three men with him camped near the creek about a tenth of a mile to the west of the bluff.

In any case, Lewis made no mention of bison remains beneath the cliff, so it is probable that these bones were already covered by river-borne silt.

More bones to pick:

Robert E. Lange, "Meriwether Lewis's 'Camp Disappointment': Present Day Glacier County, Montana," We Proceeded On, Vol. 3, No. 1 (February 1977).

Wilbur P. Werner, " . . . only one smal trout," We Proceeded On, Vol. 13, No. 4 (November, 1987).

A Second Look

In 1806, with George Drouillard, Joe Field, and Reubin Field, Meriwether Lewis made a second excursion up the Marias, this time on horseback. The four men reached the northernmost point of the Expedition's exploration on July 22, camping on the south side of today's Cut Bank Creek about twelve miles northeast of present Browning, and six miles north of U.S. to aerial photo of Cut Bank CreekHighway2. They had "arrived at a clump of large cottonwood trees in a beautifull and extensive bottom of the river about 10 miles below the foot of the rocky mountains where this river enters them."

as I could see from hence very distinctly where the river entered the mountains and the bearing of this point being S of West I thought it unnecessary to proceed further.

Their camp was 232 river miles, or 152 parallel land miles, from the mouth of the Marias River. On the morning of the 23rd, Lewis

dispatched Drewyer and Joseph fields this morning to hunt. I directed Drewyer who went up the river to observe it's bearings and the point at which it entered the mountains. This he did and on his return I observed the point at which the river entered to bear S 50 degrees W. distant about ten miles the river making a considrable bend to the West just above us.

Actually, they were about 20 land miles from the point where Cut Bank Creek enters the mountains, and 44 river-miles from the ultimate source of the creek at Pitimaken Lake, 1,500 feet below the Continental Divide, in Glacier National Park.