Previous entries from Palliser's Journey through the Rockies


August 24, 1858

The latitude obtained at noon was 50° 30' 14" north, and our general course since noon of yesterday has been S.S.W. In the afternoon we encountered more fallen timber, and at one point in the river, where it is shut in on either side by mountains, which rise from its surface almost perpendicularly, we made a considerable ascent, thus cutting off a sweeping bend.

The mountains in this part changed their geological formation, being composed of clay slate instead of the limestone, which characterizes the outer range of the Rocky Mountain chain.

Towards nightfall we were almost entirely stopped by the fallen timber, piled in some places to the height of 5 or 6 feet, and rendered still more impracticable by a dense growth of young pines which crowded themselves above the fallen wood.

Palliser's River at this place is a wild stream, contracting its channel gradually until it discharges its waters through a gorge in the mountains measuring only a few feet across. The sections of clay slate are very fine at this point, and the beds are nearly horizontal.

August 25, 1858

Seeing our difficulties increase we sent two axemen ahead to cut a road for the horses before we left our encampment...

Our course lay along the side of the mountains on the right bank of the river, where the slate strata appeared to incline to N.E. The softness of this rock is very remarkable. It can be broken by the slightest pressure of the foot, and is easily dug out from its stratified position by the hand.

We observed numerous berry-bearing bushes all along the mountain sides, facing the south. The raspberry and blueberry were by far the most plentiful. This latter attains a much larger size on the west than on the east of the Rocky Mountains, and when dried form an excellent addition to our tough elk meat The soil in which these bushes grew was of a light yellow sandy mud, which lay in large deposits between the hollows of the mountains, and also formed the immediate banks of the river.

August 26, 1858

We came upon a few recently deserted tents of the Kootanie Indians; these, unlike the buffalo skin lodges of Indians on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, are formed of flat boughs of the cyprée and prush and are covered with birch bark.

In the valley of this river we still found the white chalky deposit forming a remarkable feature, which frequently assumes the appearance of grotesque figures and ancient castles, and here also we found poplars for the first time west of the Rocky Mountains.

From the forks of the Kootanie there is a track to the Columbia Lakes, but so overlaid with fallen timber that we could afford neither time nor provisions to pursue it. Crossing the stream we followed the Kootanie track on the left bank of the river, with nothing to impede our progress, and encamped after going ten miles in a south by east direction in the valley of the river.

August 27, 1858

We crossed a small tributary of the Kootanie River, and had not gone far before we were stopped altogether by the precipitous character of the mountains on either side...The track to-day has been very bad, passing along a series of ravines, rocks, and gullies.

August 28, 1858

From 5.30 a.m. to 11 a.m. the road we traversed was as bad as that of yesterday...Captain Palliser, accompanied by our Stoney guide, ascended one of the mountains to obtain a view of the Columbia River... At three miles to the S. by W. of our dinner camp, we were opposite to the first of the Columbia Lakes, which at this point is only two miles distant from the Kootanie River.

August 29, 1858

At early morning the Captain arrived, having passed a pretty hard night; the lightning however had enabled him to descend the mountain and reach our camp very early in the morning.

At 9 a.m. we recrossed the Kootanie River,, and, continuing a south by east course till I 1.30, stopped for dinner nine miles to the north of the point where a large tributary joins the main stream from the east ... The river banks here display yellowish sandy mud, and the valley is composed of the same material. . A few salt lakes are found on the left bank of the river...

August 30, 1858

Just as we were about to encamp, a Kootanie Indian, the first human being we had seen on the west side of the mountains, made his appearance. A slight difference was observable in the cast of his features to that of the tribes we had previously been among. He informed us by signs that his camp was quite close by, and although not one of our party could speak a word of his extraordinary chuckling language, he nevertheless succeeded in informing us that he had seen Lieutenant Blackiston's party, that they had passed five days previous, that no traders had come to the Kootanic fort yet...

While we were taking dinner the Indian returned to his camp, and told his people of our arrival; the latter at once mounted and came to meet us. We soon descried in the distance about 2o riders coming at full speed towards us.

When we met them we were struck with the miserable appearance of the tribe; most of them were entirely naked except a cloth round the middle; they had neither bridles nor saddles, but guided their horses by a long hide fastened round the lower jaw

On arriving at their encampment their misery was more conspicuous; they were living on the berries which are so abundant on the Kootanie plains, and were possessed of absolutely no utensils for cooking. They had, however, numerous plates and dishes of basket work, which they are in the habit of making from the roots of the pine

In spite, however, of their great poverty in this respect, they are very rich in horses. Among the 11 tents we observed a band of at least 500, some of which were very fine animals. They possessed also a few domestic cattle, which they had obtained at Fort Colville.

Among these Indians we found an old man that spoke very fair Cree, and he informed us that Fort Colville is nine days' journey from their camp, and the track to it not very bad.

Through him we also inquired of them if it were possible to descend the Kootanie River from the point to the fort, and were told that the river becomes full of rapids and falls a little lower down, so that it would not be practicable, without a great number of severe portages.

Captain Palliser, in accordance with the instructions he had received from Her Majesty's Government, relative to communication with Colonel Hawkins, was desirous of going on to Colville, but in spite of the most liberal offers to any Indian who would guide him to the establishment, not one would undertake the task.

We were much surprised at the silence with which his appeal was received, but we subsequently learnt that the Colville tribe and the Kootanies were then at war with one another; but the Kootanies did not wish to tell us this) as they were apprehensive we should carry the information to their missionaries, who appear to exercise considerable influence among the tribe, and do a great deal of good.

As our horses were so fatigued as to be almost useless for the return journey across the mountains, we managed to exchange them with the Kootanies by giving some blankets, cloth, ammunition, and tobacco out of the stock we had taken across the mountains for this purpose.

September 1, 1858

Having completed our exchanges of horses, we started on our journey to recross the mountains to the Saskatchewan once more. Following a N.E. course we made for an opening which we had observed in the hills skirting the river, and through which we thought we had a chance of reaching the western base of the height of land. After desperate climbing and two days very hard work in the burnt woods we found that the mountains presented one unbroken wall skirting the Kootanie plain; we were therefore compelled to retire.

Being now in the centre of a vast system of mountains, where not a single animal nor even a track was to be seen, and having a long journey before us, we decided on adopting the North Kootanie pass; viz, the one entrusted previously to Lieut. Blackiston (sic)...

...thus being enabled to return by the Kootanie camp, and endeavouring to exchange a horse for one of their domestic cattle. We had been for some days on short allowance, eating chiefly berries, which gave the greater part of us an attack of sickness.

September 3, 1858

We arrived early at the Kootanie Indian camp, from which we had started on the ist of September, and at once asked for the two-year-old ox they had in their possession; and although the old chief was most unwilling to part with him, yet he at last agreed and we killed the animal on the spot.

Fearing lest a feast would be expected from us the horses were saddled while the meat was being cut up, and we started without any delay, still continuing our course down the left bank of the Kootanie River, S.S.E. for 14 miles, when we encamped. We passed an uncomfortable night, owing to heavy rain accompanied by thunder and lightning

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