Mouth of Yellowstone River

1805 Apr 26
"We continued our voyage in the morning and by twelve o'clock encamped at eight miles distance, at the junction of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers; where we were soon joined by captain Lewis."

Lewis, Meriwether, 1774-1809 and Clark, William, 1770-1838.
History of the Expedition Under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark, to the Sources of the Missouri...
Philadelphia: Bradford and Inskeep, 1814. 2 Vols. Vol. 1, p. 195.

"after I had completed my observations in the evening I walked down and joined the party at their encampment on the point of land formed by the junction of the rivers; found them all in good health, and much pleased at having arrived at this long wished for spot, and in order to add in some measure to the general pleasure which seemed to pervade our little community, we ordered a dram to be issued to each person; this soon produced the fiddle, and they spent the evening with much hilarity, singing & dancing, and seemed as perfectly to forget their past toils, as they appeared regardless of those to come." [Lewis.]

Thwaites, Reuben Gold, 1853-1913, Editor.
Original journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804-1806….
New York : Dodd, Mead & Company, 1904-05. Vol. 1, Part 2, p. 338.

The expedition arrived at the Mouth of the Yellowstone River Apr 26, 1805. Lewis had arrived a day earlier to reconnoiter this major landmark between the Mandan Villages and the Great Falls. The strategic location and proximity of wood suggested to both Lewis and Clark the advantages of a trading establishment in the area. In 1828 the Upper Missouri Outfit of the American Fur Company began construction of Fort Union, its showplace on the Upper Missouri for trade with the Assiniboin, Blackfeet and Crow Nations. Catlin and Bodmer painted the site in 1832 and 1833 respectively. The fort was abandoned in 1866, but its massive and imposing structure is evident in the meticulous reconstruction.

On the return trip, William Clark followed the course of the Yellowstone from near present-day Livingston, Montana to its juncture with the Missouri. Along the way, his party passed a large rock which Clark named Pompey's Tower, located a east of present-day Billings, Montana. Clark carved his name and the date into the rock.

Two days after departing the Mouth of the Yellowstone, the Corps had their first serious encounter with a Grizzly Bear.

"…captain Lewis who was on shore with one hunter met about eight o'clock two white bears: of the strength and ferocity of this animal, the Indians had given us dreadful accounts:…Lewis and the hunter fired and each wounded a bear: one of them made his escape; the other turned upon captain Lewis and pursued him seventy or eighty yards, but being badly wounded he could not run so fast as to prevent him from reloading his piece, which he again aimed at him, and a third shot from the hunter brought him to the ground:"

Lewis, Meriwether, 1774-1809 and Clark, William, 1770-1838.
History of the Expedition Under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark, to the Sources of the Missouri...
Philadelphia: Bradford and Inskeep, 1814. 2 Vols. Vol. 1, p. 200.

Between the Yellowstone and The Three Forks, these aggressive and ferocious bears became so numerous that Lewis wrote, "The White bear have become so troublesome to us that I do not think it prudent to send one man along on an errand of any kind, particularly where he has to pass through the brush." (Thwaites, 1904. Vol. 2, p. 193). Old Ephraim, as he was known by the Mountain Men, became a favorite subject for Western artists including Catlin and Bodmer. Even Patrick Gass included an image of shooting bears in his journal of the expedition, published in 1807.