Camp Disappointment

A Second Look

Cut Bank Creek

aerial view of Cut Bank Creek

Cut Bank Creek, like the Two Medicine River, flows from the billion-year-old Precambrian Belt rocks, 2,000 feet thick, that comprise the mountains known since the 1890s as the Lewis Range. The mountains to right of center are in today's Glacier National Park. The supposed site of Lewis's camp on July 22-25, 1806, is on the left (south) side of the creek, left of center in the photo.

Map showing Lewis's route from the Great Falls to Camp Disappointment

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. Highway 2. 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.

Drouillard's Route

From their camp on the north fork of the Marias River, now called Cut Bank Creek, Lewis dispatched George Drouilliard and Joseph Field to hunt. Reubin Field stayed with the captain.

July 23, 1806

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 considerable bend to the West just above us.

That cinched it. The Marias did not originate north of the 50th parallel. Besides, neither hunter had any success, and provisions were low. They just managed to get by on one small trout, a few passenger pigeons, and a little mush of biscuitroot. "As if the fates were against me," Lewis complained, his watch stopped. Nevertheless, he stayed where he was for two more days, hoping to make observations from which to determine the latitude and longitude of the place he was to dub "Camp Disappointment."