William Clark at Pirogue Island?
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Posted by Patrick Petroff (+22) 19 years ago
I remember a few years ago when I was in high school or junior high (1993-97) I saw an article on the front page of the Miles City Star in regards to the possibility that William Clark and the men of his return expedition had possibly camped out at Pirogue Island (or to some Doeden's Island). Currently I am reading Stephen E. Ambrose's "Undaunted Courage" (God bless his soul for making such uncomprehensible errors in his works) and with the upcoming workshop of the "Lewis and Clark as Naturalists" coming this Sunday, I thought it might be an interesting subject to bring up. I am unfamiliar with what was said in the article and if indeed anything was discovered at a possible campsite (if found). Was the theory of William Clark camping here derived from his journal? Was there a deposit of mercury discovered? A subject like this is special because it deals with the Yellowstone Valley before the arrival of soldiers and merchants in 1876.
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+11757) 19 years ago
The island--which is now an unmaintained state park--has been scoured by water and ice in high water years so although there has been some informal snooping around, the professionals say, since Clark was there one night, there is no chance of finding anything.

Stephen Ambrose was fascinated with Lewis so sort of skipped over Clark's return journey. It was Clark who stayed at Pirogue Island, July 29, 1806. From the description in Clark's journal--which I don't have handy but have read many times including just a few days ago when transcribing into a book I'm working on--Pirogue Island is a 99% certainty as his campsite.

Kathy Doeden is working on a river guide we hope to publish this summer on a stretch of the Yellowstone including the island.

--Amorette
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Posted by Patrick Petroff (+22) 19 years ago
Thank you Amorette for the information. I will also more than likely refer to Gary Moulton's revised journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition to find out more information. The date you have given is a great help and a lead into my own independent study of the journey.

I did read that Stephen Ambrose was considering writing a book about William Clark, but because Lewis and Clark historian James Ronda was writing a biography on Clark he decided to let Ronda do the book without there being any competition between the two. A respectful move on his behalf. Therefore Ambrose undertook the task of Meriwether Lewis.

As far as which book of Ronda's that Ambrose spoke of is unclear. Ronda has wrote the books "Voyages of Discovery", "Finding the West", and "Jefferson's West" since then and I do not know which one, if any, pertain to William Clark and his adventures. Possibly one of the works contains a historian insight about Clark at Pirogue Island, but clearly no more than what Clark wrote in the journal itself. Once again thank you for the information.

Pat.
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Posted by Patrick Petroff (+22) 19 years ago
I have reviewed Gary Moulton's "The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition", Volume 8 and found the entry of William Clark in his reference to Pirogue Island. He also speaks of the confluence of the Tongue River and Yellowstone, "[...] I arived at the enterance of a River which I take to be the 'Lazeka' or Tongue River it discharges itself on the Stard.Side and is 150 yards wide of water [...]". It is amazing to think that the Tongue was once 150 yards wide! It is unreal the impact human life has had on the Yellowstone Valley. A place Granville Stuart once called "a poor spot" to live. Clark I believe also talks little of the nature of Pirogue Island and its backside channel (correct me if I'm wrong). "I crossed the rochejhone and encamped on an island close to the Lard.Shore. [...] the Current rapid and the Chanel Contains great numbers of Snags. near its enterance there is great quantities of wood Such as is common in the low bottoms of the Rochejhone and Missouri." He also speaks of the surrounding area, "[...] tho' I believe that the Country back thro' which this river passes is an open one [...]". The idea or dream of finding this campsite are beyond dismal. Like you mentioned Amorette, the river has risen to its high levels possibly washing away any evidence. There could be miniscual hope that the river deposited sand on top of the site and 'shielded' it from being eroded into the river. Even the chances that Clark and his comrades left any sign behind just over one night is zero to none. But if that spot wasn't eroded away... if Clark was carrying Rush's Bilious Pills or administered any to his crew beforehand... it could be possible to find tracings. Only if the geographical structure of the island has changed and eroded to history's liking can anything be found. Of course only archaeologist Ken Karsmizki and long time Lewis and Clark excavator, has the open hand to the technology and endorsements of National Geographic and Discovery Channel to fund such an excavation. I must do further research before I jump too ahead of myself though.

--Pat.
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