Lost in the Mountains
In the Weippe Prairie
Guides on the River
Finding Refuge with the Nez Perces
"Great Numbers of Women Gathered Around Me”
(William Clark, September 20, 1805)
Although the Corps had received directions and fresh horses from the Salish, the following weeks were marked by disappearing trails, diminishing food supplies, and worsening weather. Clark scouted ahead for a clear trail. “From this mountain,” Clark wrote on September 15, “I could observe high rugged mountains in every direction as far as I could see.” The next day it began to snow. Three days later, Clark and a few men again set out to search for food.
Two days later, his small group suddenly found themselves in “level pine country.” They had arrived at Weippe Prairie, a camas root digging site visited each fall by Nez Perces and other Indians. Clark saw three young boys and gave them presents. Soon a man came to greet them and take them to a “large spacious lodge,” where, Clark reported, “great numbers of women gathered around me with much apparent signs of fear.” They were served “buffalo meat, dried salmon, berries, and roots in different states.” Luckily, the expedition had encountered another group interested in forging alliances with strangers.