A military party led by Lieutenant Governeur Kemble Warren, topographic engineer, U.S. Army, was ordered to explore the Nebraska and Dacota territories to devise the best route for a military road from Sioux City to the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains. The explorations started with the Sioux Expedition in 1855 with its summer season expedition along the Missouri River and then southward through the eastern sandhills and west to Fort Laramie, and in 1856 to the Yellowstone River region.
The primary object of the military force reconnaissance in 1857 was to examine the valley of the Loup Fork and the Niobrara River to determine their character. The party initially deployed at St. Louis and took the steamboat Florence to Fort Leavenworth where 36 mules and 22 horses were been procured and they then continued to Omaha City via river transport.
There was a subsequent ordeal endured by men of the expedition, very notably by notations in the original journals hand-written by topographer J. Hudson Snowden, Edgar W. Warren, and Lt. Warren. Their comments are quite brief in their entirety as typically only a single page or a few sentences were the essential words of a days' entry.
Snowden had the best penmanship, as his journal is the most expansive and descriptive, Mr. Warrens words were brief and provided interesting details by the leader of the exploratory military force. Lt. Warren wrote in a small notebook, with some of the words difficult to read, and there were problems due to fading, which tends to make it less possible to determine specifics of his comments.
Each of these journals are preserved, and available on microfilm - including those from the sandhills and other places visited - as part of the collection of Lt. Warren's papers at the New York State Library in Albany.
Also of importance, Dr. Ferdinand V. Hayden was the expedition's geologist and naturalist, responsible for findings relative to these topics. He prepared summary reports after the expedition was over, with a major portion issued as a "Catalogue of the Collections in Geology and Natural History." This includes details on plants and birds, with specimens of the latter still present in the collection of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Further details on the birds were noted by Spencer Fullerton Baird, John Cassin and George N. Lawrence in their 1860 tome, "The Birds of North America; the Descriptions of Species Based Chiefly on the Collections in the Museum of the Smithsonian Institution." Two particular highlights along the lower Loup Fork during July, were collected specimens of the Piping Plover and Vesper Sparrow, both distinctive firsts for the occurrence of these species.
Other principals of the party included a second topographer, P.M. Engel, meteorologist W.P.C. Currington and surgeon Dr. Samuel Moffett. The Second Infantry escort party was under the command of Lieutenant James McMillan.
An Arduous Journey
Very specific particulars are given in the following transcription of text associated with personally written accounts which are dramatically distinct history from 160 years ago this month. Nebraska is celebrating its sesquicentennial this year while the history for places within the sandhills occurred years previous while this great land was just a territory for the U.S. government. Multiple bands of the resident Indian tribes were well acquainted with the space while their experiences of such a great importance are little known.
Snowden: “Saturday June 27th 1857. Our party consisted of twenty men including every one. Six wagons (six mules on each) carried the provision, camp equipage, bedding, etc. We had also one spring wagon (4 mules) for the instruments. Five extra mules and twenty three horses made up the complement of our animals. We had not proceeded far upon the road when a violent thunder storm broke upon use, which came up from the N.W. and it rained hard for the space of an hour. About one o’clock we arrived at the Little Pappillion [=Papillion] R where we found no bridge, and the steepness of the banks rendering it impossible to cross our wagons. We found also we had missed the regular road, having left it two and a half miles back and that we had come too much to the south. We camped about one quarter of a mile down the creek in good grass, but no wood and none in sight except a fringe of trees about three miles to the south on the creek. Our road led us over rolling prairie; passing by a few cabins of settlers whose claims are fenced in by mud walls with ditches on the out-side, very common in a country where wood is scarce. Days travel 7 miles.
“Sunday, June 28th Remained in camp all day, which was occupied in distributing arms and equipment among the men. In the evening Dr. Hayden joined us he had been making geologic examination of portion of Blackbird hills. Lt. Warren started for Omaha City on his way to Sioux City, Iowa to procure the escort, leaving orders for me to proceed with the train to the mouth of Loup Fork of the Platte River and await there his arrival from Sioux City.
“Monday June 29th All the horses and mules stampeded in the night – about half past twelve o’clock, pulling up their picket pins. They ran in a circuit around the camp about a mile distant, two or three times when they all came in at full speed up to the tents and halted. They were soon secured and the mules tied up to the wagon wheels and the horses picketed close to the tents. The man on guard could not explain the cause of the panic among the animals.
“We started at 8 1/2 o’clock, travelled back on the road until we struck the military road surveyed by Capt. M. McPherson which runs between Omaha City and Fort Kearny. In 5 1/2 miles after reaching this we crossed Little Pappillion R. which is five or six yards wide, with steep banks and miry bed. 2 1/2 miles further on we came to the Big Papillion R. about 10 yds wide, like the first with banks steep and miry bed. Neither of these streams have any wood worth mentioning upon their banks in sight of the road. We crossed there on new bridge built by the government. After leaving the Big Papillion we passed over high rolling prairie. We overtook and passed a Mormon train outward bound on their way to Great Salt Lake City consisting of about 250 persons, 36 ox wagons, many old and feeble men and women accompanied this train, travelling 15 sometimes 20 miles a day on foot (induced to undertake this journey of more than 1000 miles across the plains and buoyed up by the expectation of reaching soon the ‘Land of Promise.’ We arrived at Elkhorn River and camped in the valley about a quarter of a mile from the ferry. Here we found a train of Mormons who had renounced their faith and who were returning to the states, they had the US flag flying. Their train consisted about 100 to 150 souls and 20 wagons drawn by splendid oxen; the men from this train went over and preached to the outward bound train (which had come up and are now camped near us) advising them in the strongest terms if they valued their liberty to turn back and not proceed to Salt Lake but it had no effect. We made today 24 3/10 miles.
“Tuesday June 30th I engaged the ferry but as soon as we arrived last night so as to be ahead of our Mormon friends, and at 8 o’c we commenced to cross the river. The boat could only carry one wagon and one pair of mules at a time and it was nearly one o’clock before we were all over. The Elk horn is here 150 feet wide, water is clear, swift. It is full on account of late rains & very crooked. Above the ferry on eastern side is about one & a half miles wide while below the river cuts the bluffs on that side which ran covered to some extent with scrub oak, cottonwood, ash, etc. grow along the bottom in considerable quantity. There are no bluffs on west side in sight but one broad prairie bottom extending to the Platte River (some 12 miles distant). After leaving the ferry the road passes through old sloughs (now filled with water, in which our teams mired and we were delayed some time by the breaking of a wagon poles. Have found road over the bottoms muddy and heavy. Arriving at Raw Hide Creek about 7 o’c. We crossed over on an unfinished bridge and camped on the bank in fine grass. A few scattered trees fringe the bank and indicate its course through the bottom. It is about 5 yds wide with clear water and rolling grass covered banks. Made today 3 2/10 miles.
“July 1st 1857 Wednesday. Started this morning at 9 o’clock. The road passes through the bottom. The Platte River in sight to the south as indicated by the timber and the bluff on the south side. On our right the course of the Elk Horn was marked by the bluffs on the northern side and the timber, while a tree here & there and now and then a clump of trees pointed out the direction of Raw Hide Cr. In the fork of the Elk Horn and Platte is one large bottom low and miry in wet weather sustaining a most luxuriant growth of grass. We camped about one o’clock on the bank of the Platte river which is here cut-up into sloughs, bottom of quick sand. It is about one mile wide and not over three feet in the deepest part. We passed the city of Fremont is about one & a half miles back from our camp consisting of nine house scattered over considerable ground. From our camp a faint outline of low bluffs are visible far to the north.
“We made to day 12 2/10 miles.”
“July 2d – Thursday. Left camp at 8 1/2 o’clock.
“The road was over higher ground, through prairie covered with high course grass which is not liked by the animals. We passed several settlements and camped on the Platte River in good grass and wood. The wood along the river is cottonwood in groves some of which are quite large, however not extending far back from the stream. We made today 14 1/2 miles.”
"Friday 3d. Started at 8 1/2 o’c. In 8 1/2 miles we came to Shell Creek a small crooked stream, with a few scattered, stunted trees on its banks. It is about 10 yds wide miry banks and miry bed. We crossed a log bridge about one mile from the mouth, the road after crossing this creek passes up the valley of the Platte leaving the river some distance to the south. We found no camping place until we arrived at a small lake called ‘White Lake’ which is not more than a few hundred yards from the bank of the Platte. The grass here is very fine, but wood is scarce on the main shore of the river and is principally confined to the islands, which are covered with fine cottonwood timber. The river seems to be full and the current is very strong.
“Our Mormon friends of which I have spoken before came up and camped about a mile above us on the river. They had prayer meetings every night which were attended by some of our party.”
“Saturday July 4th. Started at 9 o’c. Road was very good and at 11 o’c we arrived at Columbus City which is built up of log houses some in number. It being a national festival we found all the inhabitants of the city numbering some twenty-five men actuated by the ‘glorious spirit’ of the ancestors, preparing to do honor to this occasion ... makes speeches and they invited us to join them, informing us that liquor was free and that a big dinner was being prepared somewhere in town. Not being able to accept the hospitality of the city we passed on up Loup Fork and finding no place to camp I returned down the stream and camped about a mile and a half from Columbus City, in good grass & wood. Made to day 11 miles.”
“Sunday July 5. This being the point designated by Lieut. Warren for me to await his arrival, and expecting to remain several days, we fixed up a barometer and psycrometer[?], or neither two thermometers to assure there purpose, not being able to [word n.l.] regular bycrememoties[?], and by 12 mi we had the observations going. I found one of the thermometers broken in taking it out of the case. Weather is quite pleasant, but warm during the middle of the day. Our hunter started out yesterday afternoon to procure some fresh meat for our camp. He returned this evening however without success. He said he travelled some twenty miles without seeing any game.
“Monday July 6th The mosquitoes were very bad all last night – interfering with our taking the meteorological observations. I discharged Eugene Girard on account of drunkenness and refusing to perform his duties and made him leave the camp.
“The Loup Fork here is 600 yards wide between the banks, the water is clear. Bottom of rolling sand which washes out from under your feet, letting you down over your head if you remain in one place long. Current very strong, it being impossible to walk up against it, where it is three or four feet deep. In the channel it is about five feet deep. Just above our camp a ferry has been established, but it is out-of-order.
“Tuesday July 7 Dr. Hayden went over to examine Shell Creek. He says it is about 7 or 8 miles distant to the north. It contains considerable water has steep mud banks and is very difficult to cross, considerable timber grows along the banks.”
"Wednesday July 8th The wind from south & SE has been blowing for the last few days. I tried to procure some fresh meat for the camp but did not succeed.”
Thursday July 9th Nothing occurred to relieve the monotony of camp life. Rained during the forenoon, wind from SE. I notice in the bottom near our camp ridges of sand about twenty-feet high covered with a scattered growth of grass and weeds. They run nearly at right angles with the course of the stream. I saw many of these ridges along the Platte river which ran parallel with the stream.
“Friday July 10th Heavy clouds came up with all the appearance of a violent storm about noon. It rained for a short time quite hard. Wind changed very much during the day from SE around by W & N to NE then to SE again. Although the rain ceased the heavy cumulo stratus clouds remained, threatening a storm.
“Saturday July 11 Remained cloudy all night but no rain fell. Wind all day from S & SE with occasional showers.
“Sunday July 12th Warm during the morning clouded up in the evening, and we were again threatened with a storm.
“Monday July 13th. Rained violently in the night the storm crossing from the NE with a great deal of thunder & lightning. In a Mormon camp on the river about a mile distant a woman was killed by lightning and another injured. Four Pawnees came into camp in the evening to beg we gave them something to eat and sent them away.
“Tuesday July 14th Several Pawnees came into our camp to day. They are on their way up the Platte as also are the Omahas for their summer hunt expecting to find buffalo near Fort Kearny. Shortly after their departure we found our rain gauge missing from the place where it had been put to catch the rain. We concluded some of the Pawnees must have taken a fancy for it and borrowed it.
“Wednesday July 15th Lieut. Warren came into camp in the afternoon. He left the escort and its train eight miles back on Shell Creek where they have to build a bridge before they can cross.”
Edgar Warren: “July 12, 13, 14, 15. At Loup Fork still we had a hard thunder storm here on the night of July 12. It commenced at first by blowing very hard it then commenced raining very hard. Mosquitoes are very troublesome here.”
At the Loup Fork on July 15th, Lieutenant Warren's group recently arrived from Sioux City, met up with the other contingent of men and equipment that had left Omaha City – the supply depot on the Missouri River – on June 28th. The route crossed the Elk Horn River, on to the Platte River, past Fremont City and Columbus, and northwest along the Loup Fork, as the Loup River was called at the time. They paid to use the ferry crossing of the Loup, with one wagon and its team taken across on each float trip.
Snowden: “Thursday July 16th Lt. Warren took some men with axes, and returned to Shell C. to aid the party there in building the bridge. They arrived at our camp about 5 o’clock in the evening in a violent storm of rain, every one getting a drenching before the tents could be pitched.
“The escort is commanded by Lieut. Jas. McMillan of the 2d Reg of Infantry. He started from Ft. Randall with 30 men but having to wait some ten days at Sioux City for Lt. Warren to join him twelve of his men deserted. Five wagons accompanied the escort the teamsters of which with the soldiers swelled the number of our party to 51 men. July 17 and 18 were spent in rearranging the loads in the wagons and in organizing the party. We sent back to Washington a sketch of our two routes thus far.”
Specimen collected: American Woodcock on July 18th.
The military party "Moved up the Loup Fork with the whole command consisting of the escort from the 2nd Inf. under Lt. James McMillan consisting of 16 men and two noncommissioned officers," Lt. Warren described in his July 19th journal entry. "Myself and six assistants before mentioned and 24 employees employed in teamster herd, etc. Five of the latter being employed for the Quarter Master dept to drive the teams of the escort." ... "Mr. Johnson is wagon master, Curtis & Lamouraux are hunters. The train consists of 11 wagons and an ambulance. There are 77 mules 33 of which are Quarter Master and 23 horses. The loads in the wagons do not exceed 1500 lbs. Our whole number of persons is 51 and we have provisions for about one month."
G.K. Warren: “The following is the order of the March
“1st the assistants when not specially engaged will ride at the head of the train. Mr. Snowden and Mr. Engel will note the topography. Mr. Currington will have the meteorological dept. the instruments being carried in the ambulance. He and Dr. Moffett will be habitually near this vehicle. The wagon master will be always with the train. The loose animals will follow immediately the rear of the train in charge of 6 to 8 men.
“Dr. Hayden geologist and naturalist will go any where his duties call him in making researches.
“Lt. McMullen – to whom belongs everything relating to the discipline if the escort and it efficiency – will be entrusted with the defense of the train and he will be habitually with it. The soldiers will be allowed to ride in the wagons and distributed thru the trains.
“On arriving at camp the animals will be hobbled and turned loose with two herders or picketed at the discretion of the wagon master unless special directions are otherwise given. They will all be picketed before dark. The guard will go on as soon as sunset and be continued until sun rise or till all the camp is aroused.
“The night will be divided into four reliefs or watches, and beside the sentinels whose numbers will respond upon circumstances will consist of two persons an officer of the guard, one of whom shall remain up till 1 a.m. when he shall be relieved by the other who will continue till breakfast time. It shall be the duty of the officer of the guard in the morning to see that the wagon master and teamster and herders are awakened at day break, and the animals turned loose under charge of herders or changed to fresh grass or kept picketed, at the discretion of the wagon master.
“At from 1 to 1 1/2 or 2 hours after this the animals will be caught up and harnessed and tents struck preparatory to marching.
“No person will be excused from duty by reason of sickness except on the recommendation of Dr. Moffett. And all sick persons must call and see him in the morning before breakfast or immediately on coming to camp in the evening.
“The cooks are excused from guard duty.
“The following persons will be detailed in turn as officers of the Guard. Sg. McMillen, Mr. Snowden, Mr. Engel, Mr. Carrington, Dr. Moffett, Dr. Hayden, Sergt. Murray, Louis Gerber, Mr. Johnson.
“All other persons will be detailed as sentinels of which there shall not be less than two and one of them to be a civil employee.
"The officer of the guard will see to the proper deposition of the sentinels whose duty it shall be to preserve quiet among the animals & prevent their straying, keep all wild beasts from entering camp, guard against attack from Indians and prevent their stealing the horses or mules. Sentinels will always challenge any one approaching them and all prowlers about camp whether animals or Indians will be fired upon.
“Men will always sleep with their arms by their sides, ready for immediate use upon any alarm being given by the sentinels, and in such an event will be particular not to run about unnecessarily but keep as quiet as possible till the cause of the alarm is ascertained. It is especially enjoined that no one in such a case fire upon an object at a distance as they may thus shoot men of our own party, but reserve their fire for their own defense in the event of being individually attacked.
“In all cases of attack night or day no man must fire of his piece at one enemy till his own immediate personal safety renders it necessary, and never at a greater distance than 30 paces unless specially directed.
“The train in marching must keep well closed up, nothing of necessary to effect this or halting the head of the train. This is a measure for defense. In case an attack is threatened during the march, the train will be immediately formed in the column this must come as rapidly as possible. In country were danger is to be apprehended, the horses will always in camp be kept picketed close to the tents.
“All persons are enjoined to keep constantly on the lookout for Indians and must keep ever before them that on being always ready to defend ourselves all our lives defended.”
Snowden: July 19th Sunday Rained during the night, with considerable thunder and lightning. Having every thing prepared we broke up our camp and by 10 o’c were pursuing our route up the Loup Fork. The road follows the edge of a low mesa at the foot of which is a stagnant slough in some places filled with rushes and marsh weed. A thin fringe of cottonwood trees indicated the position of the river about 1 1/2 to 2 miles to our left. Grass along the road good. The bluffs on the right were very smooth and rolling 2 to 2 1/4 miles distant. We crossed the dry bed of what I afterwards learned to be Lost Creek (deserving its name from that fact that it has running water where it comes through the hills & which sinks, after it reaches the bottom) about 2 miles before we arrived at the mouth of Looking Glass creek where we camped in good grass. All the wood here is confined to islands none upon the main shore.”
Warren: “Monday July 20
“Day fine for travelling, cloudy with light east wind, made 21 m. Crossed Beaver C. in about 9 m. this stream is about 25 ft. wide 2 1/2 feet deep bottom hard banks 6 ft. high and soft. Considerable wood along it and much scrubby oak on the ravines and this [word n.l.] was quite abundant on our right along the journey of Loup Fork.
“We passed an old dirt village one of them on the bluff very old, found here some pieces of Indian pottery. The other on the bottom two miles back from camp was lately deserted. The charred upright beams still standing. Road today excellent probably bad in spring.”
Snowden: "July 20th Monday We started this morning at 7 o'clock, passed in one quarter of a mile over the ground destined to sustain the City of Monroe, which is laid off and has two houses already built and a well dug. In three quarters of a mile further on we crossed Looking Glass creek at a good ford, hard bottom of sand. After leaving this the road follows the valley lying between this stream and Loup Fork sometime crossing ridges of sand, same as those called fortifications in Lewis & Clark report. At 10 1/2 o'c we arrived at Genoa (about 9 mile) a Mormon settlement. The houses are all built upon a table land running from the bluff a few feet above the level of the bottom by which they have a large farm fenced in dirt wall with a ditch on the outside. The town contains probably some 250 to 300 inhabitants. This is the last settlement up the river. Half mile beyond this we came to Beaver Creek which was bad to cross having mud bottom & steep banks. It is about 20 yards wide, 2 1/2 to 3 feet deep. Cotton wood & scrub oak along the valley, the latter filling all the ravines running into the stream. Bluffs come in on both sides close leaving no valley. After leaving this creek the valley of the Loup Fork is not so wide and the road upon which we were travelling becomes more indistinct showing less use. I went up on the bluffs about 3 1/2 to 4 miles after passing the Beaver Cr, and came upon the ruins of an old Pawnee village, mounds of earth covered by a rank growth of weeds marked the spots where once the lodges stood; pieces of glass and broken pottery lay scattered around; gophers & other burrowing animals now the only inhabitants of this once large & populous village. Every mound where a lodge stood being filled with their holes. All the ravines near this village are filled with oak and also upon the slope of the bluff.
"The country through which we passed to day is very fertile. Fine grass in the bottom and upon the hills. We camped at 4 o'clock PM on the bank of the river. We passed another old village about two miles back, situated on the bank of the river; and the abandonment of it appears to have been much more recent than that of the one mentioned above. The charred beams of wood which supported the house are still standing amidst the ruins and in a very good state of preservation. Road to day was very good and we made 21 miles."
Edgar Warren: “July 20. To day we travelled up the loup fork river 21 miles there was a few settlements along the road we crossed looking glass creek after this our road was over a low prairie with a few hills scattered around and some low bushes along the loup fork river in some places the woods was very thick we crossed Beaver creek then our road was over bottom land surrounded on the right by hills and there was also groves of trees scattered around through the hills.”
“July 21. Marched today 21 1/4 miles. Crossed Calamus C. about 35 yards wide 2 1/2 feet deep, bottom sandy ford good. Mr. Engel examined it about 5 or 6 miles up.
“Observed for time and latitude at camp, but found that Wurdeman’s sextant had a bad index glass.
“The old wagon road we had been following today gave out at camp probably crossing the river, passed one creek just before getting to camp but forced us to go into the Loup Fork to get around its mouth. Passed some old Pawnee villages saw one or two during today.”
Snowden: "Tuesday July 21st Started at 7 o'clock, ascended the mesa and in three quarters of a mile we came to another old Pawnee Village on the bank of the river. One and a half miles further on we came to Calamus River, a beautiful stream which is 35 yards wide wide, has a hard sand bottom about 2 1/2 to 3 feet deep, clear water running between rounded grass covered banks. Mr. Engel went up to examine it. He found the hills to close in upon it leaving no valley. Scrub oak fills all the ravines. After crossing this stream the road led us over a low mesa here & there crossing a ravine. The valley of the river widens to about 6 miles between the bluffs and the road gradually became more indistinct until one we lost sight of it, but found it again and followed it to our present camp in a narrow valley, the hills closing in here on the river.
"The wood along the stream diminishes as we ascend but the grass along our river route was very fine."
Edgar Warren: “July 21st
“To day we travelled 21 miles up the Loup fork river. Our road was mostly over low bottom land we crossed one creek soon after starting the road was surrounded on the right by hills we crossed several gulleys on the road we also passed through some low bottom land which was very thick with bushes.”
“July 22. Travelled 7 1/3 miles. Passed to creeks to day that forced us down to Loup Fork and crossed Warren’s fork about 175 yds at its mouth, camping in the point of land at the north fork. Somewhat difficult from quick sands, mired the first wagon, and doubled teams on all the others.
“Observed for time and latitude with the Gamby sextant which appears to be much superior to Wurdeman’s.”
Snowden: “Wednesday July 22d Left camp at 7 a.m. The wagon had considerable trouble in passing point of the bluff (which was close to the river pinnacle above our camp) and sank into the quick sands of a slough across which they were compelled to cross to get around the hill, then again experience some difficulty to ascent the mesa. After travelling one mile we passed an old Pawnee village grown up with weeds similar to those before mentioned and altogether was the place where they had a large cornfield. In six miles we came to creek water in holes having a good deal of wood along it as far up as I could see, we crossed at its mouth and in a mile further we came to the north fork of Loup River, which has the same general direction as the stream we have been following the Loup R. here turning off to the south, we crossed the north fork which is about [n.l.]/5 yds wide, with quick sandy bottom, our first wagon sank up to the bed and the load had to be carried by the men ashore, fortunately the stream was not more than 2 1/2 feet deep – by doubling the teams the other wagons were crossed without any further accident. We camped on the point of the fork in pretty good grass and wood sufficient for fuel – after leaving our camp of last night there is no appearance of a road any further up the valley. The one we followed that far was made by an emigrant for which, and they must cross the river there and go over to the Platte valley. Grass along the route today not as good as usual – the wood thus far decreases as we ascent the valley being confined to islands and isolated points where the fires which yearly consume the grass, can not reach it – the land also decreases in caliber although thus far it is very good – we made to day 7 1/2 miles.”
Edgar Warren: “July 22nd.
“To day we travelled up the Loup Fork River and 7 and 2/10 miles our road was over low prairie land and in some places the brush was very thick along the road there was some bluffs we crossed on creek to day.
“We also crossed a branch of the Loup Fork River.”
“July 23. Train travelled 15 1/2 miles bridging two creeks. Much of the bottom sandy.
“Passed a fire that had burned up to within 6 miles of camp, nearby from the Forks.
“I and Lamouraux went up the north branch of Warren’s fork about 25 miles to some high hills which be close with in the left bank. Here we could see some 15 to 20 miles further up these hills were the Tertiary formation of the bad lands and gathered some fragments of turtles and other bones. Time did not suffice for much examination. Cedar and oak filled the ravines. We did not join the main camp till 10 P.M. travelling this day from 50 to 55 miles. Saw only two deer. Game very scarce. Valley of stream about 2 m. wide, side stream miry.”
Snowden: “Thursday July 23d We started at 7 o’clock. Lt. Warren accompanied by one man went up the N Fork to examine it while the train followed the main river, we travelled for 9 miles, over the prairie bottom most of which had just been burned and the fire was travelling to the north and NW, when we came to a small creek which required bridging, the bottom being miry, after this we passed over low rolling hills of course drift sand & gravel, with poor grass upon them growing in tufts, in .5 miles from our first bridge we came to a small creek with steep banks running water 3 feet deep, but not more than 12 feet wide. Here we had to build another bridge which occupied all the men for more than two hours, the hills above this creek run in close to the river on a slope of one of which we camped, wood along the river to-day confined entirely to islands and isolated points. Lt. Warren went 25 miles up the North Fork found the general direction to be N 57o W as far as he went, there was not much wood along the valley, he found the bottom to be full of quick sands wherever he attempted to cross, & where he turned back the country partook of the character of the ‘mauvaise terres’ being rocky and has cedar growing in the ravines of the bluffs – we made today 15 1/2 miles-“
Edgar Warren: “July 23rd. To day we travelled 15 miles and between 4/10 and 5/10 of a mile our road for the first part of the way was over low prairie land we also saw the prairie on fire to day and also passed over some places where the grass had burned down we also crossed two creeks to day the first one had to be filled in with dry brush and weeds and the other one had to have a bridge built over it after we crossed. The last creek our road was over hills until we reached the low land where we camped.”
On July 24th the expedition passed the South Loup river which they designated at Currey’s fork but which was designated as the South Branch on a military map showing the expedition route.
“July 24. Travelled 17 1/2 miles passing the south branch or Carry’s [=Currey] Fork. During the day the grass on the hills looked red and dry, from the effects of the sun’s rays. We had to keep on high bluffs to avoid the ravines which came in on the north side opposite the forks. Had to bridge one creek at a beaver dam.
“A single bull buffalo was seen near our evening camp and killed furnishing us with good beef.
“There was plenty of cotton wood along Currey’s Fork as far as we could see it, but very little on the main stream.
“There are some very remarkable white bluffs on Currey’s Fork a few miles above its mouth on the right bank probably soft sandstone, the ridge between Loup Fork and the Platte has frequently presents a white sandy appearance.”
Snowden: “Friday July 24th Started at 7 o’c. We had to leave the valley and ascent the hills in order to head ravines. After travelling ten miles we came to a small creek, with no wood except one or two dead trees here and there, with very steep banks and which required bridging. This was done at the foot of a beaver dam, with a few dead cottonwood trees and willow bushes & grass. The river near this place forks. One coming in from south. Loup Fork here turns more to the west. After leaving the bridge we crossed the hills for one mile when we came into the valley of the river up which we travelled about six and a half miles where we camped on the river. One buffalo bull was killed about two miles back from camp – this was the first game that has been killed since leaving Omaha. Days travel was 7 6/10 miles.”
Edgar Warren: “July 24th. To day we travelled up the Loup Fork River 17 and 6/10 miles our road was over hills with some rolling prairie until we arrived within a short distance from our camp we crossed one creek one creek to day which we had to build a bridge over our hunter killed one buffalo to day. A short distance from camp there is some prairie dog houses several of these dogs were killed to day. One of our men found a pair of deer horns here to day. A short distance from camp the road comes off of hills on to low bottom land.”
“July 25. Had a fine cool day with some light showers of rain and travelled 23 1/2 miles. Route good, some streams easily crossed. River valley and bluffs quite sandy, first 12 miles of river no timber, rest of it occasionally timbered on the points with cotton wood.
“Saw buffalo grass in the bottoms saw a herd of antelope for the first time.
“One man of our party named May very sick from fever and delirious. Commenced raining hard before sunset and continued through the night. One of the sentinels must have fired off his gun in the night as a shot was heard in camp though both sentinels denied it. The soldier probably lied.”
Snowden: “Saturday July 25th Started at 7 1/4 o’clock. After travelling two miles and a quarter we came to small spring for which required some filling in the bed, thence our route [n.l.] through sand hills for 3/4 of a mile where we came out upon a prairie bottom, over this we pursued our way until 5 o’c. p.m. where we camped on the bank of river in good grass. The wood along the river to day is confined to islands and in not very large quantities. The valley varied from 3 to 5 miles in width supporting a fine growth of grass; we crossed several ravines with standing water which in very wet conditions might cause some delay in crossing.
“The difficulty in these places consists in the steep banks & miry beds. Road to day was very straight – made 23 1/2 miles.”
E. Warren: “July 25th
“This day we travelled up Loup Fork Creek 21 miles and 1/2 our road for a little while after we left camp was over low bottom land we crossed some hills to day after this our road was over low bottom land again. We passed two prairie dog villages. We also crossed several gulleys some of these had water in them also saw a herd of antelopes we had a little shower of rain but it did not last long.”
Warren: “Sunday July 26. Laid by all day rained till in the afternoon when it cleared off. We were all occupied fixing things and I calculated our time and latitude.”
Snowden: “Sunday July 26th We remained in camp all day on account of rain and one of the men who was quite sick.”
E. Warren: “Sunday, July 26th.
“Remain here still it rained here to day.”
“July 27 travelled 24 1/4 miles much of the way thru sand hills in the valley bluffs sandy but more level that portions of the bottom. Valley of the river 4 to 5 miles wide in places but very sandy. Road to day good sand flies very annoying – grass is not good throughout the valley. Wood very sparse. Some few pine trees in the bluffs.
“Observed for latitude and time.
“Loup Fork at camp 250 yds wide.”
Snowden: “Monday July 27th Started at 6 1/2 o’clock. The first six miles we travelled over a low mesa when we came into low sand hills through which we travelled for four miles emerging there our course led us up the valley over good ground. The sand hills extending along on our right hand.
“We crossed the beds of two small creeks (now dry) while crossing through the sand hills, on one of which where it leaves the high bluff I saw there a few large pine trees. The creeks show evidence of having lately been very full of water. After leaving these hills the grass improves in quantity and quality along the route. We passed in seven miles further, a place where there has been a large Indian encampment. Wood on the river very scant and small.
"We camped on the river in pretty good grass. The valley of the river here is 4-5 miles wide, close on opposite side. Grass, wood water etc. Days march 24 1/4 miles.”
E. Warren: “July 27th
“This day we travelled up the Loup Fork River 24 1/4 miles our road was mostly over low bottom land we passed over some sand hills the hunters killed one antelope and one buffalo to day.”
“July 28. Made 17 3/4 miles. River diminishing in size & width and totally perceptible. Timber very scarce.
“Passed some 6 or 7 miles from morning camp the place where I crossed in 1855. Commenced running about [word n.l.] day and forced us to camp near some high sand hills by the river which were torn on the N.W. side by the wind and cherry trees on the N. side nearly covered up. Occasionally to day sand hills filled the whole valley.”
Snowden: “Tuesday July 28th Started at 6 1/2 o'clock. Our route along the valley was rather sandy occasionally passing through spurs of sand hills, which run out from the main bluff. The wood along the stream is very small and scarce and the grass along the valley poor. In the afternoon it commenced raining hard from N.W. which caused us to camp in a bend of the river where the sand hills through which we had been travelling for the last few miles, run in close to the stream, they were very much cut by the winds and were about entirely destitute of vegetation. On the south side of these hills, a few sand cherry bushes and currants exist. Made to day 17 8/10 miles.”
E. Warren: “July 28th
“To day we traveled 17 8/10 miles our road was mostly over low bottom land except in a few places where there was some small hills we had a hard shower of rain to day but it stopped a few hours after we had camped saw some antelopes to day there is some bluffs a short distance from where we are camped.”
“July 29. Travelled 19 3/4 miles over very high with sand and some of the small [word n.l.] miles become timed out. River near camp about 100 yds wide – very little wood. Buffalo sign but only an occasional bull. Grass much eaten off. Antelopes not numerous.
“Tho overcast all night I observe for latitude.”
Snowden: “Wednesday July 29th. Started at seven o'clock. We travelled to day along the valley of the river. The sand hills close in on both sides of the river which is quite sandy, occasionally through sand hills, which today were very close to the river as were those on opposite side having a very narrow valley. From the tops of the hills looking back the hill appear to increase in height and present into the country you see nothing but sand the same monotonous unvarying appearance.
“The grass in the valley is scant and inferior in many places, eaten down by buffalo large herds numerous of which must have recently been here, judging from the numerous & fresh signs, their tracks all lead to the south, to the Platte valley where these animals migrate in the summer to graze. Our hunter saw a horse in the hills on the south side of the river, probably left behind by some war party of Indians. River became narrow very rapidly and is quite tortuous, and filled with low grassy islands. Sand hills on both sides leaving very little valley and we were sometimes compelled to cross points of these hills where they come in close to the bank of the stream. There is no wood except a few bushes along the river and on some of the islands. We camped in a small valley, where we found good grass. All along the river since we struck the Sand Hills is a narrow bottom filled with springs, which must be supplied from the infiltration of the rains which fall upon the Sand Hills sinking into the basins of which it reaches the river through these bottoms which are wet & boggy and this probably will account for the rapid failure of the water in the Loup Fork as we ascend – Made 19 3/4 miles -”
E. Warren: “July 29th
“To day we travelled up the Loup Fork River 19 3/4 miles our road was mostly over low bottom land except in some places where there was some sandy hills. Off on our right there was hills all along the road to day where we are camped grass is not very good, and there is no wood close by camp.”
Collected two type specimens of the Vesper Sparrow at Loup confluence with the Platte river, as well as the type specimen of the Belted Piping Plover subspecies. Specimens in the Smithsonian collection.
On the 30th the expedition passed the mouth of the Dismal river.
“July 30. Travelled 18 miles camped early in fine grass, buffalo sign abundant but only saw bulls. About 5 or 6 miles from morning camp the river divides into two nearly equal branches. We took the one which we came upon [words n.l.] north – more wood above on these forks [word n.l.] below.
“This other fork (same N. Fork) seemed from the appearance off our bluffs to turn much to the south. Day very warm wind south.”
Snowden: “Thursday July 29th Started at 6 1/2 o’clock and travelled along at the foot of the sand-hills. The valley occasionally very narrow. In about six miles we came to a point where the river forks, both streams being nearly of the same size. We followed the largest which turned toward the NW before arriving at the fork we passed several places where Indians had recently been encamped. After passing the fork the valley of the river is about half a mile wide. Grass in it poor, and the wood along the river confined to islands (however in somewhat larger quantity on our route yesterday). Buffalo signs were numerous and we saw four or five bulls one of which was killed. The sand hill occupy both sides of the river some of them are much broken & cut by winds, supporting a very scant vegetation and presenting a very scarce and monotonous appearance. The river varies in width 100 to 150 yds and is about 2 to 2 1/2 feet deep. Made to day 17 3/4 miles.”
E. Warren: “July 30th
"Today we travelled up Loup Fork River 17 8/10 miles our road was over low bottom land. The country around us was mostly sand hills there was one buffalo killed to day. Where we are camped grass is not very good and no wood close to camp. There was some few scattered timber spots along the river.”
It was during the following days that the expedition travelled along the Middle Loup river within what is now Thomas county.
“July 31 travelled miles stream has more dwindled down to a width of 30 yds, little or no wood upon it. Found a dead cow with arrows sticking in her which were thought to be Pawnee. Sign of Buffalo abundant, animals all gone except for a few bulls.
“The hills begin to day to show less of naked sand than before. Valley of stream 1/2 mile wide.
“Afternoon very warm.”
Snowden: “Friday July 31st. Started at 6 1/2 o'clock. We made very good time although the road was sandy and heavy. The river became very crooked and narrows very rapidly not being more than twenty-five to thirty yards wide. Shortly after starting we saw a buffalo cow lying upon the river bank dead with two arrows sticking in her. The last few miles of our day march was over hard ground and free from sand. [Word not legible] to day [n.l.] & no wood upon the river. Two buffaloes & one antelope were killed, which supplied our camp with fresh meat. Made 19 1/4 miles.”
E. Warren: “July 31st
“This day we travelled up the Loup Fork River 19 1/2 our road was over low bottom land except in a few places where the river came close up to the sand hills we then had to go over the hills. The country around us was all sand hills, there was two buffalos killed to day and one deer, along the road we saw one dead buffalo cow which had an arrow in to her the day also was very hot, where we are camped grass generally is not very good and there is no wood around here we also passed one lake. Plenty of water a short distance from camp.”
Warren: “Saturday Aug 1. Laid by all day for the sick man May and he seemed much benefitted by it. Took occasion to put every thing in order. Cut the [word n.l.] out of the animals mouth. Weather very warm.”
Snowden: “Saturday Aug 1st Remained in camp on account of one of the teamsters who has been sick several days with a kind of billious typhoid fever which has been gradually getting worse and Dr. Moffett expressed his opposition that the man would die if he was not kept quiet until the crisis of his [word n.l.] had passed. Dr. Hayden who had been out to N of camp came in an reported having seen fresh Indian & horse tracks about one mile distant – which must have been made by a war party. Found here the variation of the compass to be N of E.”
E. Warren: “August 1st Sunday August 2nd
“Remain here still on the 2nd of August it rained and blowed very hard in the afternoon one of the tents was blown down.”
Birds collected and preserved as specimens by Dr. F.V. Hayden: Brown-headed Cowbird, Lark Bunting and Red-winged Blackbird.
Warren: “Sunday Aug 2. Still laid by for the sick man, and sent Mr. Snowden north about 15 miles to the head of the north branch. I went south to the Sandhill Fork about 17 miles found a stream about 15 yds wide with high sandy bluffs and in valley oak ash and some cherry growing on the bank. The water was whitish like White river and Dr. Hayden who was along soon described the tertiary formation cropping out near the water’s edge containing many shells & some bones and presenting a very chalky appearance. Sand hills between the two streams very different except along some of the old buffalo trails. Had a heavy rain come in from the north at 3 p.m. This same storm struck Mr. Snowden at 2 p.m. and reached the main camp at 2:30 p.m. showing that it travelled 30 miles in an hour.”
Snowden: “Sunday Aug 2 Party remained in camp while Mr. Warren & Dr. Hayden went off in a southerly direction to examine the country. Mr. Engel went up the river and I proceeded north from the camp. I travelled about 15 miles over sand ridges without seeing any water, when I came to a valley evidently the head of a creek. Here I found water in holes. I rode down the valley for about two miles the water holes increasing in number and size and I think I would have soon come to running water where at 2 o’c p.m. a violent thunder storm which had been threatening us for some time broke upon us putting an end to the survey and I returned. I think the valley which I found is the head of the north fork of the Loup River.
“Mr. Warren & Dr. Hayden found the fork of Loup River which we passed July 30, about 16 miles south of the camp, running between rocky hills of the mauvaisses terres formation, in which Dr. Hayden found some fossils, bones turtles, etc. Sandhills extend all the way between our camp and this stream. Mr. Engel found wood on Loup F. some 16 miles above. In the valley of the creek which I discovered. I found good grass but no wood. I also saw the carcasses of eight or ten buffalo cows, killed within the last few days some of them were butchered and others seemed not to have been touched. I saw a great many antelope in the sand hills.”
Warren: “Monday Aug 3.
“Rainy in the morning and clear about noon. Laid by more especially to give May all the charm I could.”
Snowden: “Monday Aug 3 Rained at intervals during the day quite hard. Nothing of importance occurred worth mentioning.”
E. Warren: “August 3d
“We remain here still.”
Birds collected: Brown-headed Cowbird, Common Yellowthroat, Dickcissel, Grasshopper Sparrow, Western Meadowlark as indicated in Baird report.
Warren: “Tuesday Aug 4.
“Travelled 19 3/4 miles. The river at camp in the morning was so close in the [word n.l.] bluffs trail we had to cross the hills, and [word n.l.] about 3 miles after this we kept along the narrow valley till about the last five miles where high abrupt banks forced us off on the [word n.l.] south of the stream. We camped down in the valley on the north side surrounded by high hills, considerable wood on the bank. Bluffs occasionally show high white precipices of soft but curious work. Wood oak ash cedar. Cedars abundant not quite ripe. Coffee & sugar gone.
“Observed for time and latitude.”
Snowden: “Tuesday Aug 4th Started from camp at 6 1/2 o.c. A jack ass rabbit stampeded the herd and the ambulance which contained the sick man, they ran down the steep hill and the carriage was in danger of being upset – several times, this fortunately did not happen, as it might have killed the sick man in his feeble condition. After travelling up the valley of the river about 14 miles we had to cross to the right bank the bluffs coming in so close as to prevent our following the opposite side. We travelled over hills for the rest of the day. Sand disappearing somewhat as we ascent we recrossed the river and camped in a small bottom sheltered by high hills, where we first crossed the stream wood begins ash oak etc. which now grows in considerable quantities along the valley and in the ravines. Grass in the valleys pretty good. River to day was tortuous in its course cutting first the bluffs on the right and then those on the left. It is about 35 to 40 yds wide, is about 2 1/2 to 3 feet deep in channel, with sand bottom & easy to ford. The valley here is about 600 to 700 yds wide.
“A great many plum & cherry bushes flourish around our camp. The latter being loaded with fruit. Made to day 19 6/10 miles.”
E. Warren: “August 4th
“We travelled 19 8/10 miles our road was mostly over low bottom land except in some places where our road was over sand hills we crossed the Loup Fork River and travelled a few miles and then crossed back again for to get a good place to camp here the grass and timber was good and water was close by.”
Birds collected: Blue Grosbeak, Burrowing Owl and Lark Sparrow.
Warren: “Wednesday Aug 5.
“Travelled among the sand hills north of the river 17 miles and camped on the high bluffs above the valley of the stream at a point where the river receives a small tributary from the south and another about 1 1/2 m. above. The river all along today’s route were hemmed in by high bluffs of the bad lands or tertiary. Dr. Hayden and the rest of us found many fossil teeth and bones. Stream at camp 12 ft wide 2 to 3 feet deep.
“The sandhills are generally covered with grass and quite firm but they are composed of immense hilly masses the surface of which are formed into small hills. Road [word n.l.] and [word n.l.]. Cedar and other wood at camp.”
Snowden: “Wednesday, Aug 5th Started at 6 1/2 o’clock a.m. Ascending the bluffs we wound around amongst the hills until within 7 miles of our camp where we struck a buffalo trail which led us very straight through a valley between the hills until we came upon the river where a branch comes in from the south. We camped upon the bluffs not being able to descent into the valley. The hills being very steep and broken of soft clay rock. Some cedar and oak grow in the ravines.
“The valley of the stream is very narrow, and the stream itself is not more than eight to 10 feet wide. Grass along the bank is good. The branch is a clear rapid stream of water six or seven feet wide inclosed between these high chalky hills through which it cuts its way to the main river another branch from the south enters it about one mile & half above our camp. We travelled most of the day through sandy hills and were not in sight of the river. Made 17 miles.”
E. Warren: “August 5th
“This day we travelled 17 miles our road was over sand hills the hunter killed two antelopes to day our camp to day was on a high bluff grass here was not very good and a little wood down in the valley there is water also down in the valley.”
Birds specimens: Black-billed Cuckoo, Blue Grosbeak, Common Yellowthroat (Smithsonian specimen from Hooker not Howard county), Lark Sparrow and Orchard Oriole.
Warren: “Thursday Aug 6. Road in every respect similar to yesterday and travelled 22 3/4 but some 5 miles were lost distance. The high white precipitous bluffs gave out in the morning about 5 miles from camp but the valley was still unfit for wagon travelling.
“River at camp about 8 ft. wide 1 to 3 deep. No wood at camp.”
Thursday Aug 6thWe started at 6 a.m. and being unable to follow along the river we made a detour to the right around the hills, following a buffalo or Indian trail (I do not know which). This led us through valleys of ranges of sand and gravelly hills covered with course grass & weeds and all presenting the same appearance. We came into the river 15 miles from mornings camp. From this place we made an unnecessary circuit of 1 1/2 mile around a ridge of hills; when we again came upon the river, here confined between high ridge of hills. We camped on the slope of a bluff in good grass, but no wood. Bous de vache being the only substitute in such cases.
“The water in the river rapidly failing, not being more than four feet wide and one foot deep in this place. Made 22 2/3 miles.”
E. Warren: “To day we travelled 22 7/10 miles our road was over sand hills in some places where [consistently spelled as were] the road was between the hills was quite good our camp to day is in the valley here the grass is very good but no wood the Loup Fork is a short distance from camp.”
Birds specimens extant: Western Meadowlark, Common Yellowthroat, Brown Thrasher (two specimens at Smithsonian), Lark Bunting, Lark Sparrow and Western Kingbird.
The expedition route left the north branch of the Middle Loup and headed northward into the sandhills in an area which is currently within Cherry county westward of the Carrico lakes.
Warren: “Friday Aug 7. Travelled 7 1/4 miles and came to the head of the Loup Fork where we camped. The [word n.l.] is in an open valley about 1/2 mile wide. Sent ahead to examine the country, and found water in lakes among the sand hills about 10 miles off.
“We have now traversed the river from end to end and found its impracticability for almost any purpose so marked that it seems like a great waste of time to have made the exertions we have. Our greatest wish is to get away from it as soon as possible and never return.”
Snowden: “Friday Aug 7th Starting at 6 a.m. we travelled one mile up the valley of the river when we were forced to leave it and take to the sand hills on the right hand, through which we travelled for about seven miles when after crossing a ridge we came into the valley of the river where it turns to the north. Here we found the water had given out and we turned down the valley after proceeding a half mile in this direction we found water in holes. We camped in good grass but no wood. Mr. Engel and one of the men went ahead in a NW direction for nine miles to see what prospect there was of obtaining water. They found several lakes in the hills. Made 7 1/2 miles.”
E. Warren: “August 7th
“Today we travelled 7 1/2 our road was over sand hills were [=where] we camped grass was very good but there was no wood and the water was very bad our camp was in a valley.”
Warren: “Saturday Aug 8 travelled 29 miles. Left the head of Loup Fork and travelled N.W. passing several lakes of fresh water in the morning and watering the animals at a hole about noon. Saw a lodge trail fresh going south. In the afternoon we were forced by the hills to travel in the valleys running west and could find no water, finally crossing two ridges we found one with a lake of water and it being late were obliged to camp there but to our surprise and disgust found the water so salt and bitter that a mule would not drink it. Got enough potable water for the men by digging a hole. But the animals had none except what the dew furnished them along with poor grass. Dr. M. unwell to day. Sand Hills just north of us too bad for the wagons. Road to day not very bad. No wood.”
Snowden: “Saturday Aug 8 At 6 o’c we started and followed the valley for one & a half mile when it turns to the west and we struck through the sandhills. We travelled in a NW course following a valley between [word n.l.] of sandhills for 6 miles until we arrived at a small lake containing fresh water. Ascending a ridge we saw in front of us a valley with three lakes in sight. “We followed this valley running east & west for a mile & a half where we crossed several chains of hills, from the top of which we saw several small lakes scattered about in the valleys, these hills ran in a slightly NE & SW direction. About two o’clock having travelled 18 2/10 miles we came upon a very small pond of fresh water in the hills which make the divide between two valleys. Passing this we came into a broad opening between the hills following which for six or seven miles without finding water we crossed two ridges and our animals having given out we had to camp without water or wood. Grass here is pretty good. Some of the men reported seeing wood in the distance from the ridge N of our camp. They also discovered water in the valley above but is was salty and unfit for use.
“Made to day 29 miles.”
The expedition moved westward on August 8th through what is now the well known Survey Valley in western Cherry county.
E. Warren: “August 8th
“To day we travelled 29 miles our ride was over sand hills sometimes through the valley our camp was in a valley here the grass was very good but no wood and there had to be a hole dug in the ground to get water we passed several lakes.”
Birds collected: Black Tern and Solitary Sandpiper.
Warren: “Sunday Aug 9 travelled 7 miles where we came upon some lakes one being very salt, and the other very brackish probably sulphates of soda. Animals drank it but as they were very dry though is not safe. Camped there, the lake being 1/2 m in distance, and shallow. Sent all the animals and strong force and one empty wagon with 10 mules attached to a fresh water lake 3 m off whence they returned about sunset. We travelled all day in good open valley leading west, country to north of us impassable from sand hills. Hills south of us sandy but lakes all around our camp mostly salt.
“We seem to be just on the southern limit of the impenetrable sand hills. Fresh Indian sign around us. One buffalo seen to day being the first since the 20 inst.
“Antelope yesterday and today numerous for a 1st time.”
Snowden: “Sunday Aug 9th We started at 7 o c, travelling up the valley in hope of finding water. After proceeding some distance we discovered ahead of us quite a large lake of water. We hastened forward but on arriving at the lake found the water so impregnated with salts as to be unfit for use. One of the men came in here and reported having discovered a lake of fresh water two & half miles to the north. We camped and sent all the animals over to the fresh water lake and one wagon to bring water back for the camp. These salt water lakes are entirely destitute of vegetation on their banks except a salt rush. The water presents a slimy appearance and the shore for several yards from the waters edge are encrusted with a white deposit of salt. The hills in the vicinity of our camp are sandy sustaining a growth of scattered course grass and many sand cherry bushes, which grow to the height of about one foot and laden with fruit now ripe. The grass in the valley is good, but there is no wood. The party that took the herd over to the fresh lake returned in the evening, bringing over 60 gallons of water and some ash wood which they found on the borders of the lake. Many flies & mosquitoes infest these lakes, and they annoy both men & animals a great deal. Made today 7 miles.”
E. Warren: “Sunday August 9th.
“To day we travelled 7 miles our road was mostly in the valley except in some places were [=where] we crossed over sand hills were [=where] we camped grass was not very good and no wood here our camp was by a lake the water in it was not very good all the animals except a few were taken to a lake about 2 miles off far to get water and one wagon went along for to fetch some water back and some wood.”
Bird specimen collected: Sandhill Crane.
On August 10th, the expedition was travelling through the eastern extent of modern-day Sheridan county. The route went along the valley near Big Hill – with the Osborne lakes in a valley to the north – and then into western Survey Valley. Eventually the party reached the flats in the vicinity of the currently designated Twin Lakes. Their route then went northward near the eastern extent of Cravath Lake and then continuing along Pine Creek to the Niobrara River.
Warren: “Monday Aug 10. Travelled 22 miles over a pretty good sand hill road for the first 5 or 6 miles there were some lakes one of which was fresh.
“A good idea of the saltiness of these can be had at a distance from the amount of vegetation in them. Those quite salty being well defined, and no grass or rushes and the fresh ones being nearly covered with grass rushes flags and their margins badly defined. The general trend of the valleys was S.W. and as they were flanked on the north side by [word n.l.] sand hills. We were forced to continue travelling SW for about 19 miles we found no water but after some search and much fatigue to animals, we camped on a small fresh water lake. Dr. Moffett quite sick from bilious fever.”
Snowden: “Monday Aug 10th Started at 7 o'clock. We travelled up the valley for a short distance crossed a ridge of hills. Came into a valley where there was a salt lake, with many rushes growing around the edges and fine grass upon the banks. Crossing another ridge we came into a valley where there were two fresh lakes, a luxuriant growth of grass rushes & weed around them and a few stunted ash trees. Gooseberry & cherry bushes on the sides of the hills. A little above these we passed a salt lake and crossing a bad ridge of sand hills we came into a valley which led to the south west. Following this direction, occasionally crossing ridges and passing dry beds of lakes. We reached about 3 o’clock PM a small valley where there was a brackish lake near which we found amidst some rushes, by digging, a little fresh water, not enough however for camping. I went ahead in a South W direction 2 miles and from top of a ridge saw two lakes about one mile ahead. We camped on the first one of these finding pretty good water and grass. The road to day was very sandy, and hard on the animals, especially when crossing the ridges between the valleys where the winds cut the sand out of the sides of the hills, and blows away all the vegetation. In the valleys the road is better more even and here the grass is much better. Made 21 1/3 miles.”
E. Warren: “To day we travelled 21 9/10 miles for the first part of the day our road was in the valley but the latter part was over sand hills were [=where, with multiple additional occurrences] our camp is grass not very good grass and no wood but there is a lake of water a short distance from camp.”
Birds collected: Red-winged Blackbird and Solitary Sandpiper.
Warren: Tuesday Aug 11. Train dead and no travel on account of Dr. Moffett’s health. Mr. Snowden went back 18 1/2 miles looking for his watch which he lost the day before. I went with a hunter N.W. in search of Rapid river, which we found distant about 17 miles. About 7 miles from camp we found a small stream running N.W. from a large fresh water lake and here we struck a lodge trail which too us to the object sought. We started back about 4 PM and had almost reached camp when a storm brought darkness on us unexpectedly. Soon we could not make our way through the sand hills so we had to stay out all night. A small shower of rain relieved us from thirst but did not [word n.l.] away the mosquitoes who tormented us all night so we could not rest at all. In going on to camp in the morning we found a fresh large trail had just passed and found that they had been to our camp, in among there.”
Snowden: “Tuesday Aug 11th We remained in camp all day on account Dr. Moffett, who has been sick for several days with a kind of bilious fever. Mr. Warren accompanied by the hunter went off to the NW in order to find out what kind of country there was ahead of us.
“Brule Indian discovered by one of the men who was out hunting one of whom was induced by him to come into our camp as well as well as the men in camp could understand he reported that there were 60 lodges of his tribe encamped within ten miles of us. He said that the U.S. troops have had a fight with the Shyennes [Cheyenne] and killed a good many also taken many prisoners. That the Shyennes were now in the black hills & that buffalo were plenty on L’eau qui court. He seemed frightened when he saw soldiers in our camp, and would not have come into our camp but he was assured by the men who brought him in there were none with us. He evidently still retained now recollections of the Blue Water.”
E. Warren: “August 11
“We remain here still an Indian came in to camp to day.”
Bird specimen: American Bittern.
“Aug 12. Still laid by for Dr. Moffett. Weather very warm. 3 Indians visited camp and I made them some presents, on coming in the day before with one of our herders not knowing our intentions. Heard it was probably his lodge that had gone by us last night. They told us there were a good many of them but this was a mistake of the interpreter or a lie on their part for the next day where we passed the lake on our way to Rapid R. we found they were only two lodges and they had moved thru since the evening of the 11th.
“Rained nearly all night on the 11th.”
Snowden: “Wednesday Aug 12 We remained in camp all day. Early in the morning Mr. Warren and the hunter returned they found yesterday L eau qui court R about twenty miles to the NW. They slept near our camp in the hills and in the night a travois & several Indians passed in a very few yards of them evidently frightened by our presence in their country and were making their escape. The Indians who was in our camp yesterday came in again bringing two others. We had no good interpreter and could not elicit much information from them. Besides they seemed uneasy at our appearance in the country and were reserved. Mr. Warren gave them each a shirt and a knife, when they went upon their way rejoicing.”
E. Warren: “August 12th
“We remain here still four Indians came in to camp to day.”
Birds collected: Lark Sparrow and Marsh Wren (specimen in collection of the University of Michigan).
The Wasi W. experienced on the 13th is now called Pine creek.
Warren: “Thursday Aug 13. Travelled 21 1/4. Started early. Had to go considerable SW to get out of the sand hills. Our course was [word n.l.] north to where we crossed the small lake another which the inclines called Wasi W. running to Rapid R. Distance from camp 13 miles.
“Rapid R. is here about 110 yds wide nearly 3/4 of the bed dry water about 6 in in deepest places. Bluffs of which bad lands 50 ft. high come frequently to the river destroying the continuous bottom. Back from this the high bluffs distant 1 to 2 miles on that side and 7 or 8 in the N. are about 300 ft. high could not observe for clouds.
Snowden: “Thursday Aug 13th Started a little before 6 am. After travelling around a ridge of sand hills about four & half miles we came into a valley of a large lake 2 [word n.l.] 3 miles long. Wet sandy bottom surrounds this lake with fine grass, after travelling eight miles we passed three lodges belonging to the Indians who were in our camp. The 60 lodges they spoke of having dwindled down to these three, passing along the [word n.l.] of the hills. Bordering the bottom we followed down a small creek flowing from this lake called Pine Cr., called probably from the fact there is no pine upon it. Leaving this we followed a Indian lodge trail which brought us to L eau qui court River. The country here assumes quite a different appearance from that through which we have been travelling along the river – being composed of soft white rock cut perpendicular many places by the river which her winds its way between [two words n.l.] valley except occasionally at the mouth of ravines there is sometimes a small level bottom of a few rods in extent sufficient for a few wagons to encamp upon. A few cottonwood trees fringe the river. The last two miles of our road to this point was over high level plain along which parallel to the river is a well worn Indian trail, thence down terraces to our camp. No sand for these last two miles. Grass here is pretty good. Made to day 12 1/3 miles.”
E. Warren” “August 13th
“To day we travelled 21 1/3 miles our road was over sand hills but in some places the road was quite level. Last night it rained quite hard, we passed an Indian camp today we also passed on lake to day our camp is by the L Eau qui court river grass here is quite good and there is some wood a short distance from were [=where] we are encamped.”
A meadowlark specimen was collected during the day.
“Aug 14 travelled 18 1/2 miles over quite good level country along a lodge trail constantly increasing in size till at camp it made quite a good road. Camped at mouth of stream. River bed about 80 yards wide. No trees. Drift wood mostly pine. High bluffs distant some 6 or 8 miles. Low bluffs 50 to 60 ft narrow the valley down to 1 to 2 miles.
“Overcast all night so could not observe."
Snowden: “Friday Aug 14th Started at 6 1/2 o’clock. Crossing the river which was accomplished without difficulty we ascended the high mesa on the opposite side covered with short buffalo grass. Following an Indian ‘travois’ trail we came to the mouth of a small ravine creek where we camped in good grass but no wood. The bluffs on this side of the river (north) lie far back. The high mesa on which we travelled most of the day extending from them to near. The stream leaving a small bottom in which the grass is very fine mixed with many rushes. Bluffs on the south side are close to the stream. In the [word n.l.] along the bank of the L eau qui court I notice pine & ash & burs.”
“Made to day 18 1/2 miles.”
E. Warren: “August 14th
“To day we travelled 18 1/2 miles our road was sometimes in low bottom land and part of the time our road was over a level plateau we crossed several gulleys to day we crossed the L Eau qui court River to day when we first started our camp is by the L Eau qui court River grass here is quite good but there is no wood a growing here except a few bushes which are a short distance from camp but there was some drift wood got off out of sand bars for to cook with along this River there is what is called 1st, 2nd & 3rd terraces we travelled mostly on the third terrace.”
Warren: Saturday Aug 15. Travelled 23 1/4 miles along a lodge trail which made a fine road. The high bluffs of rock covered with scattering pines come during the day to within 2 to 3 miles of the river and it [two words not legible] down to 20 yds. Though the amount of water was probably not diminished crossing the dry bed of several creeks from the north one of which [word n.l.] swamp was wide and contained considerable drift wood. We found the fresh lodge trail of a small party going down the river soon after leaving camp. Rained in the evening and all night so we could not observe.”
Snowden: “Saturday Aug 15th Started at 6:20 a.m. following the lodge trail we soon saw tracks of Indian horses & travois going in the opposite direction. They must have turned off towards White R as we saw nothing of them yesterday. They were evidently made since the rain two days ago. We camped at 3 1/2 o’clock pm on edge of the mash [sic] near the river where there is good grass in the bottom, however no wood. [Two words not legible] to day not so good as yesterday crossing several ravines with steep banks. The lodge trail becomes more distinct as we ascent the valley. The well worn tracks of the ‘travois’ the poles marking old [word n.l.], pieces of glass, beads, fragments of weaving, apparel, scattered along all show this to be a road of considerable importance with the Indians. From the middle of the day until we camped we were passing bluffs about three miles to the north, covered with pines. No wood along the river. Cloudy yesterday making the travel easy on the animals. It rained shortly after we arrived in camp. A thunder shower coming up from the NW whilst we had quite a stiff breeze from the south and it rained at intervals during the evening, with wind NE & N and quite cold.
“Made to day 23 miles.”
Snowden: “Sunday Aug 16th Rained during the night with wind N & NE and cold. Starting at 7:20 am, we crossed a small creek in one mile where we saw fresh moccasin & horse tracks in the mud. In ten miles we came upon wagon track which turned off up a small ravine creek towards White R. Hills along our route to day present quite a singular appearance; the earth all being washed away from the tops leaving the naked rock standing up particularly of all kinds of fantastic forms. Some with sides cut perpendicular” ...
The expedition then went westward into eastern Wyoming including Laramie Peak where some distinctive species were collected.
The Snowden journal writings continue and some on his chronicles starting latter summer and into October convey travels along the Niobrara River in the days of the autumn season.