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Moments in Time, From the Journals of Lewis & Clark

Using their own Journal entries, we retrace the steps of America’s foremost explorers, as they set out from St. Louis in May of 1804, “destined for the discovery of the interior of the continent of North America.”

The thirty-five video segments – each a minute in length – move the Expedition through the Dakotas, through Montana and Idaho, to the Pacific Ocean, and back to St. Louis in September of 1806.

By all accounts, it was a remarkable journey, and no one has yet improved upon Lewis and Clark’s unique and insightful first-person accounts.

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1804

May 14, 1804 - Proceeding up the Missouri
I set out at 4 oclock p.m., in the presence of many of the neighboring inhabitants, and proceeded on under a gentle breeze up the Missouri.
--William Clark

May 20, 1804
We set forward...in order to join my friend, companion, and fellow laborer Captain William Clark...destined for the discovery of the interior of the continent of North America.
-- Meriwether Lewis

May 24, 1804
Passed a very bad part of the river called the devils race ground…the swiftness of current wheeled the boat, broke our tow rope, and was nearly oversetting the boat.
-- William Clark.

September 17, 1804 - Immense herds of buffalo
Having for many days past confined myself to the boat, I determined to devote this day to amuse myself on shore with my gun… accordingly, before sunrise I set out with six of my best hunters… This plain… is entirely occupied by the burrows of the barking squirrel heretofore described.

This scenery already rich pleasing and beautiful was still farther heightened by immense herds of buffalo, deer, elk and antelopes which we saw in every direction feeding on the hills and plains. I do not think I exaggerate when I estimate the number of buffalo which could be comprehended at one view to amount to 3000.
--Meriwether Lewis.

October 25, 1804 - At the Mandan village
Several Indians visit us this evening. The son of the late great chief of the Mandans who had two of his fingers off and appeared to be pierced in many places. On inquiring the reason was informed that it was a testimony of their grief for deceased friends… a mark of savage affection.

October 26
Many men, women, and children flocked down to see us. Captain Lewis walked to the village with the Chief and interpreters, my rheumatism increasing prevented me from going also, and we had determined that both would not leave the boat at the same time until we knew the disposition of the natives. Some chiefs visited me and I smoked with them. They appeared delighted… with my black servant.
--William Clark

December 7, 1804 - Wolves and frozen feet
We were informed by a chief that great numbers of buffalo were on the hills near us. Captain Lewis with a party went out and killed eleven… the weather so excessive cold and wolves plenty, we only saved five of them.

January 10, 1805
This morning a boy of thirteen years of age came to the fort with his feet frozed, having stayed out all night without fire, with no other covering than a small robe… the mercury stood at 72 below the freezing point. Several others stayed out all night not in the least hurt… Customs and habits of those people has anured them to bear more cold than I thought it possible for man to endure.
--William Clark

Scout-History

Proceeding up the Missouri (Journals of Lewis and

Lewis and Clark Journal Entries May 14-24, 1804

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Proceeding up the Missouri (Journals of Lewis and
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Proceeding up the Missouri (Journals of Lewis and
Immense herds of buffalo (Journals of Lewis and C
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Immense herds of buffalo (Journals of Lewis and C
At the Mandan village (Journals of Lewis and Clar
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At the Mandan village (Journals of Lewis and Clar
At the Mandan village (Journals of Lewis and Clar
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At the Mandan village (Journals of Lewis and Clar
1805

February 11, 1805 - Sacajawea Gives Birth
About five o'clock this evening one of the wives of Charbono was delivered of a fine boy. It is worthy of remark that this was the first child which this woman had borne, and as is common in such cases, her labor was tedious and the pain violent. Mr. Jessome informed me that he had frequently administered a small portion of the rattle of the rattlesnake, which he assured me had never failed to produce the desired effect, that of hastening the birth of the child… Whether this medicine was truly the cause or not I shall not undertake to determine, but I was informed that she had not taken it more than ten minutes before she brought forth.
--Meriwether Lewis

April 7, 1805 - Back on the Missouri
Our vessels consisted of six small canoes, and two large pirogues. This little fleet, although not quite so respectable as those of Columbus or Captain Cook, were still viewed by us with as much pleasure as those deservedly famed adventurers ever beheld theirs.

We were now about to penetrate a country at least two thousand miles in width, on which the foot of civilized man had never trodden… and these little vessels contained every article by which we were to expect to subsist or defend ourselves…

I could but esteem this moment of my departure as among the most happy of my life.
--Meriwether Lewis.

April 13, 1805 - An accident on the river
The wind was in our favor after 9 a.m. … until about 2 in the afternoon when a sudden squall of wind struck us and turned the pirogue so much on the side as to alarm Sharbono who was steering at the time. This accident was very near costing us dearly… we had embarked on board of it our instruments, papers, medicine and the most valuable part of the merchandise which we had still in reserve as presents for the Indians.

We saw also many tracks of the white bear of enormous size… The Indians give a very formidable account of the strength and ferocity of this animal, which they never dare to attack but in parties of six, eight or ten persons...
--Meriwether Lewis.

May 14, 1805 - A grizzly attacks
In the evening the men in two of the rear canoes discovered a large brown bear lying in the open grounds… six of them went out to attack him. Two of them reserved their fire… the four others fired nearly at the same time and put each his bullet through him.

In an instant this monster ran at them with open mouth. The two who had reserved their fires discharged their pieces at him as he came towards them… This however only retarded his motion for a moment only…he pursued two of them so close that they were obliged to throw themselves into the river… so enraged was this animal that he plunged into the river only a few feet behind… when one of those who still remained on shore shot him through the head...
--Meriwether Lewis.

May 26, 1805 - Upon seeing the Rocky Mountains
On arriving to the summit of one of the highest points in the neighborhood, I thought myself well repaid for my labor; as from this point I beheld the Rocky Mountains for the first time… While I viewed these mountains I felt a secret pleasure in finding myself so near the head of the heretofore conceived boundless Missouri; but when I reflected on the difficulties which this snowy barrier would most probably throw in my way to the Pacific… it in some measure counterbalanced the joy I had felt in the first moments in which I gazed on them. But as I have always held it a crime to anticipate evils I will believe it a good comfortable road until I am compelled to believe differently.
--Meriwether Lewis.

May 30, 1805 - White Cliffs of the Missouri
The obstructions of rocky points and riffles still continue as yesterday; at those places the men are compelled to be in the water even to their armpits, and the water is yet very cold… Added to this the banks and bluffs along which they are obliged to pass are so slippery and the mud so tenacious that they are unable to wear their mockersons…in short their labor is incredibly painful and great, yet those faithful fellows bear it without a murmur.

The hills and river cliffs which we passed today exhibit a most romantic appearance… As we passed on it seemed as if those scenes of visionary enchantment would never have an end.
--Meriwether Lewis.

June 13, 1805 - The great falls of the Missouri
I had proceeded on this course about two miles… when my ears were saluted with the agreeable sound of a fall of water, and advancing a little further I saw the spray arise above the plain like a column of smoke…I hurried down the hill… to gaze on this sublimely grand spectacle… the grandest sight I ever beheld…

I wished for the pencil of Salvator Rosa or the pen of Thompson that I might be enabled to give to the enlightened world some just idea of this truly magnificent and sublimely grand object, which has from the commencement of time been concealed from the view of civilized man.
--Meriwether Lewis.

June 23, 1805 - Portaging the falls
This evening the men repaired their mockersons... to protect their feet from the prickly pears... They are obliged to halt and rest frequently... At every halt these poor fellows tumble down and are so much fatigued that many of them are asleep in an instant... some are limping from the soreness of their feet; others faint and unable to stand for a few minutes, with heat and fatigue, yet no one complains. All go with cheerfulness.
--Meriwether Lewis.

July 4, 1805 - Celebrating Independence Day
Not having seen the Snake Indians or knowing in fact whether to calculate on their friendship or hostility we have conceived our party sufficiently small and therefore have concluded not to dispatch a canoe with a part of our men to St. Louis … and all appear perfectly to have made up their minds to succeed in the expedition or perish in the attempt.

This evening we gave the men a drink of spirits, it being the last of our stock, (and some of them appeared a little sensible of its effects.) The fiddle was played, and they danced very merrily… We had a very comfortable dinner of bacon, beans, sweet dumplings, and buffalo beef. In short we had no just cause to covet the sumptuous feasts of our countrymen on this day.
--Meriwether Lewis.

August 8, 1805 - Beaverhead Rock
The tumor on Captain Clark's ankle… is still much swollen and inflamed and gives him considerable pain. The Indian woman recognized the point of a high plain to our right which she informed us was not very distant from the summer retreat of her nation... This hill she says her nation calls the beaver's head…

(As it is now all important with us to meet with those people as soon as possible,) I determined to proceed tomorrow with a small party to the source of the principal stream of this river and pass the mountains to the Columbia; and down that river until I found the Indians; in short it is my resolution to find them or some others, who have horses if it should cause me a trip of one month.
--Meriwether Lewis.

August 12, 1805 - Entering Idaho

At the distance of 4 miles further the road took us to the most distant fountain of the waters of the Mighty Missouri in search of which we have spent so many toilsome days and restless nights. Thus far I had accomplished one of those great objects on which my mind has been unalterably fixed for many years. Judge then of the pleasure I felt in allaying my thirst with this pure and ice-cold water… ...we proceeded on to the top of the dividing ridge from which I discovered immense ranges of high mountains still to the west of us with their tops partially covered with snow. I now descended the mountain… Here I first tasted the water of the great Columbia River.
--Meriwether Lewis.

August 12, 1805 - Meeting the Shoshone Indians

At the distance of 4 miles further the road took us to the most distant fountain of the waters of the Mighty Missouri in search of which we have spent so many toilsome days and restless nights. Thus far I had accomplished one of those great objects on which my mind has been unalterably fixed for many years. Judge then of the pleasure I felt in allaying my thirst with this pure and ice-cold water… ...we proceeded on to the top of the dividing ridge from which I discovered immense ranges of high mountains still to the west of us with their tops partially covered with snow. I now descended the mountain… Here I first tasted the water of the great Columbia River.
--Meriwether Lewis.

August 17, 1805 - Sacajawea meets her brother
Sacajawea was sent for. She came into the tent, sat down, and was beginning to interpret when in the person of Cameahwait she recognized her brother. She instantly jumped up and ran and embraced him, throwing over him her blanket and weeping profusely. The chief was himself moved, though not in the same degree. After some conversation between them she resumed her seat, and attempted to interpret for us, but her new situation seemed to overpower her, and she was frequently interrupted by her tears. After the council was finished the unfortunate woman learnt that all her family were dead except two brothers…
--William Clark

August 23, 1805 - The impossible Salmon River
At four miles we came to a place the horses could not pass without going into the river... I set out with three men directing those left to hunt and fish until my return... The river from the place I left my party to this creek is almost one continued rapid... Below my guide and many other Indians tell me that... the water runs with great violence from one rock to the other on each side foaming and roaring through rocks in every direction, so as to render the passage of any thing impossible...and the hills or mountains were not like those I had seen but like the side of a tree straight up.
--William Clark

September 16, 1805 - Crossing the Bitterroots
Last night about 12 oclock it began to snow. We renewed our march early, though the morning was very disagreeable, and proceeded over the most terrible mountains I ever beheld.
--Patrick Gass

September 16, 1805
I have been wet and as cold in every part as I ever was in my life. Indeed I was at one time fearful my feet would freeze in the thin mockersons which I wore.
--William Clark

September 21, 1805
I find myself growing weak from the want of food and most of the men complain of a similar deficiency, and have fallen off very much.
--Meriwether Lewis

September 24, 1805 - Illness hits
Captain Lewis sick. All complain of a lax and heaviness at the stomack. Several men so unwell that they were compelled to lie on the side of the road for some time. Others obliged to be put on horses. I gave Rushes pills to the sick this evening.
--William Clark

October 7, 1805
I continue very unwell but obliged to attend everything. All the canoes put into the water and loaded, fixed our canoes as well as possible and set out... proceeded on past 10 rapids which were dangerous. The Canoe in which I was struck a rock and sprung a leak.
--William Clark

October 17, 1805 - Down the Columbia
The number of dead salmon on the shores and floating in the river is incredible to say -- and at this season they have only to collect the fish, split them open and dry them on their scaffolds on which they have great number... great numbers of Indians on the banks viewing me and 18 canoes accompanied me from the point... Those people respect the aged with veneration. I observed an old woman in one of the lodges which I entered. She was entirely blind... had lived more than 100 winters. She occupied the best position in the house, and when she spoke great attention was paid to what she said.
--William Clark

October 24, 1805 - The gut-swelling rapids
At this place the water of this great river is compressed into a channel between two rocks not exceeding forty five yards wide and continues for 1/4 of a mile... I determined to pass through this place notwithstanding the horrid appearance of this agitated gut swelling, boiling and whorling in every direction... however, we passed safe to the astonishment of all the Indians of the last lodges who viewed us from the top of the rock. The principal chief from the nation below with several of his men visited us... Peter Crusat played on the violin and the men danced which delighted the natives, who show every civility towards us.
--William Clark

November 7, 1805 - The great western ocean
Great joy in camp we are in view of the ocean, this great Pacific Ocean which we been so long anxious to see.

December 1, 1805
The immense seas and waves which break on the rocks and coasts... roars like an immense fall at a distance, and this roaring has continued ever since our arrival in the neighborhood of the sea coast, which has been 24 days since we arrived in sight of the Great Western --for I cannot say Pacific -- ocean, as I have not seen one pacific day since my arrival in its vicinity.
--William Clark

December 25, 1805 - Christmas at Fort Clatsop
...we were awoke by the discharge of the fire arms of all our party and a salute, shouts and a song which the whole party joined in under our windows, after which they retired to their rooms ... After breakfast we divided our tobacco... one half of which we gave to the men of the party who used tobacco, and to those who do not use it we make a present of a handkerchief... We would have spent this day, the nativity of Christ, in feasting, had we anything either to raise our spirits or even gratify our appetites. Our dinner consisted of poor elk, so much spoiled that we ate it through mere necessity. Some spoiled pounded fish and a few roots.
--William Clark

Scout-History

Sacajawea gives birth (Journals of Lewis and Clar

Lewis and Clark Journal Entries February 11, 1805

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Sacajawea gives birth (Journals of Lewis and Clar
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Sacajawea gives birth (Journals of Lewis and Clar
Back on the Missouri (Journals of Lewis and Clark)
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Back on the Missouri (Journals of Lewis and Clark)
An accident on the river (Journals of Lewis and C
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An accident on the river (Journals of Lewis and C
A grizzly attacks (Journals of Lewis and Clark)
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A grizzly attacks (Journals of Lewis and Clark)
Upon seeing the Rocky Mountains (Journals of Lewi
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Upon seeing the Rocky Mountains (Journals of Lewi
White Cliffs of the Missouri (Journals of Lewis a
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White Cliffs of the Missouri (Journals of Lewis a
The great falls of the Missouri (Journals of Lewi
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The great falls of the Missouri (Journals of Lewi
Portaging the falls (Journals of Lewis and Clark)
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Portaging the falls (Journals of Lewis and Clark)
Celebrating Independence Day (Journals of Lewis a
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Celebrating Independence Day (Journals of Lewis a
Beaverhead Rock (Journals of Lewis and Clark)
Scout-History
Beaverhead Rock (Journals of Lewis and Clark)
Entering Idaho (Journals of Lewis and Clark)
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Entering Idaho (Journals of Lewis and Clark)
Meeting the Shoshone Indians (Journals of Lewis a
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Meeting the Shoshone Indians (Journals of Lewis a
Sacajawea meets her brother (Journals of Lewis an
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Sacajawea meets her brother (Journals of Lewis an
The impossible Salmon River (Journals of Lewis an
Scout-History
The impossible Salmon River (Journals of Lewis an
Crossing the Bitterroots (Journals of Lewis and C
Scout-History
Crossing the Bitterroots (Journals of Lewis and C
Illness hits (Journals of Lewis and Clark)
Scout-History
Illness hits (Journals of Lewis and Clark)
Down the Columbia (Journals of Lewis and Clark)
Scout-History
Down the Columbia (Journals of Lewis and Clark)
The gut-swelling rapids (Journals of Lewis and Cl
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The gut-swelling rapids (Journals of Lewis and Cl
The great western ocean (Journals of Lewis and Cl
Scout-History
The great western ocean (Journals of Lewis and Cl
Christmas at Fort Clatsop (Journals of Lewis and
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Christmas at Fort Clatsop (Journals of Lewis and
1806

January 6, 1806 - Sacajawea and the monstrous fish
Captain Clark set out after an early breakfast with the party in two canoes as had been concerted the last evening. Charbono and his Indian woman were also of the party; the Indian woman was very importunate to be permitted to go, and was therefore indulged. She observed that she had traveled a long way with us to see the great waters, and that now that monstrous fish was also to be seen, she thought it very hard she could not be permitted to see either.
--Meriwether Lewis.

January 8, 1806
From this point I beheld the grandest and most pleasing prospects which my eyes ever surveyed. The innumerable rocks… against which the seas brake with great force gives this coast a most romantic appearance.
--William Clark

April 19, 1806 - Arrival of the salmon
There was great joy with the natives last night in consequence of the arrival of the salmon. One of those fish was caught; this was the harbinger of good news to them. They informed us that these fish would arrive in great quantities in the course of about five days.

April 22, 1806
We obtained four dogs and as much wood as answered our purposes on moderate terms.
--Meriwether Lewis

April 29, 1806
Several Indians applied to me today for medical aid, one a broken arm, another inward fevers and several with pains across their loins, and sore eyes. I administered as well as I could to all.
--William Clark

May 1, 1806 - The Nez Perce, honest and sincere
... three young men arrived... bringing with them a steel trap belonging to one of our party ... I think we can justly affirm to the honor of these people that they are the most hospitable, honest, and sincere people that we have met within our voyage.

May 5, 1806
At the second lodge we passed an Indian man gave Captain Clark a very elegant grey mare for which he requested a vial of eyewater which was accordingly given him…Captain Clark gave an Indian man some volatile liniment to rub his knee…The fellow soon after recovered and has never ceased to extol the virtues of our medicines and the skill of my friend Captain Clark as a physician.
--Meriwether Lewis

May 13, 1806 - The horses of the Nez Perce
This morning Captain Clark was busily engaged with his patients until 11 oclock. In the evening we tried the speed of several of our horses. These horses are active, strong, and well formed. These people have immense numbers of them, 50, 60 or a hundred head is not unusual for an individual to possess. They do not appear to be so much devoted to baubles as most of the nations we have met with, but seem anxious always to obtain articles of utility, such as knives… Blue beads however may form an exception to this remark; this article among all the nations of this country may be justly compared to gold or silver among civilized nations.
--Meriwether Lewis.

June 14, 1806 - Anxious to cross the Bitterroots
We have now been detained near five weeks in consequence of the snows; a serious loss of time at this delightful season for traveling. I am still apprehensive that the snow and the want of food for our horses will prove a serious embarrassment to us as at least four days journey of our route in these mountains lies over heights and along a ledge of mountains never entirely destitute of snow. Everybody seems anxious to be in motion, convinced that we have not now any time to delay if the calculation is to reach the United States this season; this I am determined to accomplish if within the compass of human power.
--Meriwether Lewis.

June 17, 1806 - Forced to turn back
We proceeded down hungry creek about seven miles passing it twice... Here was winter with all its rigors. The air was cold, my hands and feet were benumbed... If we proceeded and should get bewildered in these mountains the certainty was that we should lose all our horses and consequently our baggage... and thus eminently risk the loss of the discoveries which we had already made if we should be so fortunate as to escape with life... under these circumstances we conceived it madness in this stage of the expedition to proceed without a guide... The party were a good deal dejected though not as much so as I had apprehended they would have been.
--Meriwether Lewis.

June 27, 1806 - The Nez Perce lead the way
From this place we had an extensive view of these stupendous mountains principally covered with snow like that on which we stood; we were entirely surrounded by those mountains from which to one unacquainted with them it would have seemed impossible ever to have escaped; in short without the assistance of our guides I doubt much whether we who had once passed them could find our way to Traveller's Rest in their present situation for the marked trees on which we had placed considerable reliance are much fewer and more difficult to find than we had apprehended. These fellows are most admirable pilots; we find the road wherever the snow has disappeared though it be only for a few hundred paces.
--Meriwether Lewis.

July 1, 1806 - Dividing the party
From this place I determined to go with a small party by the most direct route to the falls of the Missouri...and myself and six volunteers to ascend Maria's River with a view to explore the country... The other part of the men are to proceed with Captain Clark to the head of Jefferson's River where we deposited sundry articles and left our canoes... Captain Clark with the remaining ten... will proceed to the three forks of the Missouri. Here he will build a canoe and descend the Yellowstone River... to the Missouri where should he arrive first he will wait my arrival.
--Meriwether Lewis.

July 15, 1806 - Return of the grizzly
A little before dark McNeal returned with his musket broken off at the breach, he had approached a white bear within ten feet without discovering him, the bear being in the thick brush. The horse took the alarm and turning short threw him immediately under the bear; this animal raised himself on his hinder feet for battle, and gave him time to recover from his fall which he did in an instant and with his clubbed musket he struck the bear over the head and cut him with the guard of the gun and broke off the breech… This gave McNeal time to climb a willow tree which was near at hand… It seems that the hand of providence has been most wonderfully in our favor with respect to them, or some of us would long since have fallen a sacrifice to their ferocity.
--Meriwether Lewis.

August 12, 1806 - The party re-united
At 1 p.m. I overtook Captain Clark and party and had the pleasure of finding them all well. As writing in my present situation is extremely painful to me I shall desist until I recover and leave to my friend Captain Clark the continuation of our journal.
--Meriwether Lewis

August 12, 1806
I was alarmed on the landing of the canoes to be informed that Captain Lewis was wounded by an accident... I examined the wound and found it a very bad flesh wound,... Captain Lewis informed me the accident happened the day before by one of the men, Peter Crusat, mistaking him in the thick bushes to be an elk...
--William Clark

September 20, 1806 - St. Louis in sight!
We saw some cows on the bank which was a joyful sight to the party and caused a shout to be raised for joy... Every person... seem to express great pleasure at our return, and acknowledged themselves much astonished in seeing us return. They informed us that we were supposed to have been lost long since, and were entirely given out by every person.

September 23, 1806
We rose early... descended to the Mississippi and down that river to St. Louis at which place we arrived about 12 oclock. We suffered the party to fire off their pieces as a salute to the town. We were met by all the village and received a hearty welcome from its inhabitants.
--William Clark

Scout-History

Sacajawea and the monstrous fish (Journals of Lew

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Sacajawea and the monstrous fish (Journals of Lew
Scout-History
Sacajawea and the monstrous fish (Journals of Lew
Arrival of the salmon (Journals of Lewis and Clar
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Arrival of the salmon (Journals of Lewis and Clar
The Nez Perce, honest and sincere (Journals of Le
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The Nez Perce, honest and sincere (Journals of Le
The horses of the Nez Perce (Journals of Lewis an
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The horses of the Nez Perce (Journals of Lewis an
Anxious to cross the Bitterroots (Journals of Lew
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Anxious to cross the Bitterroots (Journals of Lew
Forced to turn back (Journals of Lewis and Clark)
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Forced to turn back (Journals of Lewis and Clark)
The Nez Perce lead the way (Journals of Lewis and
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The Nez Perce lead the way (Journals of Lewis and
Dividing the party (Journals of Lewis and Clark)
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Dividing the party (Journals of Lewis and Clark)
Return of the grizzly (Journals of Lewis and Clar
Scout-History
Return of the grizzly (Journals of Lewis and Clar
The party re-united (Journals of Lewis and Clark)
Scout-History
The party re-united (Journals of Lewis and Clark)
St. Louis in sight! (Journals of Lewis and Clark)
Scout-History
St. Louis in sight! (Journals of Lewis and Clark)
Funding for “Moments in Time” was provided by the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation. Additional funding was provided by the National Center for Outreach and the J.A. & Kathryn Albertson Foundation Education Fund in the Idaho Community Foundation