The Volcanoes of Lewis and Clark
October 10, 1805
Reaching the Snake - Clearwater Confluence with the Snake River
The Volcanoes of Lewis and Clark
Map of the Journey
Volcanoes, Basalt Plateaus, Major Rivers, etc.
Mount Adams, Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, Mount Rainier, and Mount St. Helens
CALENDAR of the Journey
October 1805 to June 1806
Along the Journey
Pacific Northwest Maps - Columbia River, Volcanoes, Flood Basalts, Missoula Floods, Geology, etc.
The Corps of Discovery
The Journey of Lewis and Clark
About the Reference Materials
The Journals, Biddle/Allen, DeVoto, Gass, Moulton, Topo Maps, and others
USGS Lewis and Clark Links
Links to USGS Websites highlighting the Lewis and Clark Journey
Publications Referenced and Websites Visited
On the Clearwater, Canoe Camp to the Potlatch River
Reaching the Snake,
Clearwater Confluence with the Snake River
Potlatch River, Lapwai Creek and Spalding (Idaho), Junction of the Clearwater with the Snake, Lewiston (Idaho) and Clarkston (Washington), Nez Perce National Historic Park, Clearwater River, and the Snake River
On the Snake River, Clearwater Confluence to Almota Creek
On October 7, 1805, Lewis and Clark and the
"Corps of Discovery" began their journey
down the Clearwater River and into the volcanics
of the Pacific Northwest. The Corps travelled from the
Clearwater to the Snake and down the
"Great Columbia", finally reaching the
Pacific Ocean on November 15, 1805.
Along the journey they encountered the
lava flows of the Columbia Plateau,
river channels carved by the great "Missoula Floods",
and the awesome beauty of five Cascade Range volcanoes.
[Click map for brief summary about the area]
To the Pacific - October 1805
Reaching the Snake -- Clearwater Confluence with the Snake
|Lewis and Clark's camp of October 8 and 9, 1805, was on the Clearwater River, a mile and 1/2 downsteam from the Potlatch River.|
|Thursday, October 10, 1805|
|A fine morning. We loaded the canoes and set off at seven o'clock. At the distance of two and a half miles we had passed three islands, the last of which is opposite to a small stream on the right [Catholic Creek]. Within the following three and a half miles is another island and a creek on the left [Lapwai Creek, site of today's Spalding, Idaho], with wide low grounds, containing willow and cottonwood trees, on which were three tents of Indians.|
Lapwai Valley and Spalding, Idaho:
Spalding, Idaho, is along U.S. Highway 95 approximately 10 miles east of Lewiston, Idaho, at the confluence of the Clearwater River and Lapwai Creek. The present day community and park area of Spalding (officially named in 1897) was originally called Lapwai and served as a traditional homesite for over 11,000 years to the Thlep-thlep-weyma band of Nez Perces. Each summer they moved to higher elevations to hunt, fish, gather roots, berries, and other wild foods, returning each fall in time for the salmon 'run' on the Clearwater River. The location was ideal where Lapwai Creek flowed into the Clearwater River. A large boomground where trees and branches washed downstream by spring floods were deposited provided enough firewood for a village of over 200 people. Winters were usually milder at this 700-foot elevation and the bluffs provided shelter from the winds and storms. In November, 1836, Henry and Eliza Spalding established the first mission to the Nez Perce. The Spaldings built their first home at Thunder Hill, 2 miles up Lapwai Creek but heat and mosquitos forced them to move to the banks of the Clearwater River where morning and evening breezes made for more pleasant living conditions. Rev. Henry Harmon Spalding wrote about his first view of Lapwai Valley in the fall of 1836. "We road on and entered the valley. It proved to be larger than we expected. It is on a little stream emptying into Koos Koos from the south. We found it well-timbered with cotton wood, balm of gilead, birch, and a few pine. Soon found good soil." In 1847, due to the murders of the Whitmans and 12 others at Waiilatpu, the Spaldings were ordered to close their mission. -- U.S. National Park Service Website, 2002, Nez Perce National Historical Park
Geology of Nez Perce County:
Almost all of Nez Perce County (includes Spaulding and the Lapwai areas) is underlain by the Miocene basalts of the Columbia River basalts which make up the steep sided plateau south of Lewiston. The Miocene basalts filled in and flowed up an ancestral Clearwater River canyon about 17 million years ago. -- Digital Atlas of Idaho Website, 2003
|Two miles lower is the head of a large island [Hog Island], and six and a half miles further we halted at an encampment of eight lodges on the left, in order to view a rapid before us [called "Ragid rapid" by Lewis and Clark, today's Reubens Rapid]: we had already passed eight, and some of them difficult; but this was worse than any of them, being a very hazardous ripple strewed with rocks: we here purchased roots and dined with the Indians. ...... After finishing our meal we descended the rapid with no injury, except to one of our boats which ran against a rock, but in the course of an hour was brought off with only a small split in her side. This ripple, from its appearance and difficulty, we named the Rugged rapid [Reubens Rapid].|
|"... at this riffle which we Call ragid rapid took meridian altitude of the Suns upper Limb with Sextt. 74o 26' 0" Latd. ... " [Clark, October 10, 1805]|
|We went on over five other rapids of a less dangerous kind, and at the distance of five miles reached a large fork of the river from the south [Snake River]; and after coming twenty miles, halted below the junction on the right side of the river [across from today's Lewiston, Idaho, and Clarkston, Washington]. ......|
Junction of the Clearwater with the Snake - Lewiston, Idaho, and Clarkston, Washington:
The Clearwater River joins the Snake River at River Mile (RM) 139. Today two major cities are located here: Lewiston, Idaho, and Clarkston, Washington. The cities were named for the explorers Lewis and Clark.
Confluence Overlook, Nez Perce National Historical Park:
Confluence Overlook is a highway pullout overlooking the confluence and valleys of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers. The pullout is about 8 miles north of Lewiston, Idaho, on the Lewiston Grade of U.S. Highway 95. The scene is dominated by a rolling grassy foreground that slopes steeply down to the Clearwater River, more than a thousand feet below. A sense of the confluence area and the scale of the surrounding uplands -- part of the Nez Perce homeland -- can be gained from this vantage point. -- U.S. National Park Service Website, Nez Perce National Historical Park, 2002
|The country at the junction of the two rivers [The Clearwater and the Snake] is an open plain on all sides, broken towards the left by a distant ridge of highland, thinly covered with timber [Craig Mountains]: this is the only body of timber which the country possesses; for at the forks there is not a tree to be seen, and during almost the whole descent of sixty miles down the Kooskooskee [Clearwater River] from its forks there are very few.|
|"... The Countrey about the forks is an open Plain on either Side I can observe at a distance on the lower Stard. Side a high ridge of Thinly timbered Countrey the water of the South fork is a greenish blue, the north as clear as cristial ... " [Clark, October 10, 1805]|
The Clearwater River drains approximately 9,645 square miles, and extends 100 miles north to south and 120 miles east to west. Four major tributaries drain into the mainstem Clearwater River: the Lochsa, Selway, South Fork Clearwater, and North Fork Clearwater Rivers. The Clearwater River has an international reputation as one of the best steelhead fisheries anywhere. The river, along with U.S. Highway 12, are part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Developed recreation sites in the area are primarily for boating and fishing, with camping available in a few locations. The North Fork of the Clearwater and the Lochsa Rivers provide miles of tumbling whitewater interspersed with quiet pools for migratory and resident fish. The Clearwater was used as a passageway by explorers and trappers, and later by miners and loggers because it was much more tame than its counterpart the Salmon River. -- Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority Website, 2002, Visit Idaho Website, 2002, and Idaho Museum of Natural History Website, 2002, Digital Atlas of Idaho
This southern branch is in fact the main
on which we encamped when among the Shoshonees.
The Indians inform us that it is
navigable for sixty miles;
that not far from its mouth it receives a
branch from the south
[possibly the Grande Ronde ???];
and a second and larger branch,
two days' march up, and nearly parallel to
the first Chopunnish villages,
we met near the mountains.
This branch is called
[possibly the Salmon ???],
and is the residence of a chief, who, according to their
expression, has more horses than he can count.
The river has many rapids, near which are situated many
At its mouth Lewis's river [Snake River] is about two hundred and fifty yards wide, and its water is of a greenish blue colour. The Kooskooskee [Clearwater River], whose waters are clear as crystal, one hundred and fifty yards in width, and after the union the river enlarges to the space of three hundred yards: at the point of the union is an Indian cabin, and in Lewis's river [Snake River] a small island [Hirzel Island]. ......
The Snake River originates in Yellowstone National Park at 9,500 feet and winds through southern Idaho before turning north to form the boundary between Idaho and Oregon. It finally joins the Columbia River near Pasco, Washington, at 340 feet in elevation, 1,036 miles from its source. How did it get its name? To identify themselves, Indians living along the river in southern Idaho used a hand sign that resembled the movement of a snake. Although it didn't mean "Snake", that name was given to this group of people, now known as Shoshone. The river flowing through the Snake Indian lands was given the tribal name. Lewis and Clark traveled through this area on their journey to find an inland waterway to the Pacific. Many miles upriver from Hells Gate State Park, the Snake River winds through Hells Canyon, one of the deepest gorges in North America. This wild and spectacular area is best visited by boat; there are no roads leading through the canyon. Old homesteads, long-forgotten prospector cabins, and Native American petroglyphs offer a fascinating human story in the midst of the spectacular scenery. -- U.S. National Park Service, Wild and Scenic Rivers Website, 2002, and Idaho State Parks and Recreation Website, 2002
The soil of these prairies is of a light yellow clay intermixed with smooth grass: it is barren, and produces little more than a bearded grass about three inches high, and a prickly pear, of which we now found three species ......
|"... worthey of remark that not one Stick of timber on the river near the forks and but a fiew trees for a great distance up the River we decended I think Lewis's River is about 250 yards wide, the 'Koos koos ke' River about 150 yeards wide and the river below the forks about 300 yards wide ..." [Clark, October 10, 1805]|
The Camp - October 10, 1805:
Lewis and Clark's camp of October 10, 1805, was on the north bank at the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake Rivers, where today, the "twin" cities of Lewiston, Idaho, and Clarkston, Washington, are located. The camp was on the Washington/Idaho border.
URL for CVO HomePage is:
URL for this page is: LewisClark/volcanoes_lewis_clark_october_10_1805.html
If you have questions or comments please contact: <GS-CVO-WEB@usgs.gov>
06/17/04, Lyn Topinka