Monday, March 29, 2010

The Great Falls ...

Yesterday's post prompted me to reflect on what Lewis & Clark might have thought of the Great Falls of the Missouri, so I pulled out Bernard DeVoto's compilation of their journals and started to read. Apparently Lewis first saw the falls on June 13, 1805:
I had proceded on this course about two miles with Goodrich at some distance behind me whin my ears were saluted with the agreeable sound of a fall of water and advancing a little further I saw the spray arrise above the plain like a collumn of smoke which would freqently dispear again in an instant caused I presume by the wind which blew pretty hard from the S.W. I did not however loose my direction to this point which soon began to make a roaring too tremendious to be mistaken for any cause short of the great falls of the Missouri.
Lewis then wrote a long and detailed description of the falls, doing his best to record both the physical details of the place and its beauty. And then he wrote this when he was done:
after wrighting this imperfect description I again viewed the falls and was so much disgusted with the imperfect idea which it conveyed of the scene that I determined to draw my pen across it and begin agin, but then reflected that I could not perhaps succeed better than pening the first impressions of the mind;
Though the portage itself was a chore, the falls were an extraordinary and lovely place for the explorers ... and they remained such for another century. It's too bad we've ruined so much of it now with dams and reservoirs.

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