Cut Bank Area Lewis and Clark Historical Sites
This is the northernmost camp established by the expedition. On July 17, 1806, Lewis and three members of the expedition (George Drewyer (Drouillard), Joseph Fields and Reuben Fields) split from the main group at the Great Falls to look for a water passage to the Pacific. They started out following the Missouri River for about one day and camped just above the Great Falls. On July 18, the four men continued on horseback. They crossed the Teton River and followed the Marias River to the point where the Two Medicine River and the Cut Bank Creek come together to form the Marias River.
Lewis followed the Cut Bank Creek for two days and finally reached a point on the bluff where he could see the river headed west toward the mountains. He wrote, "I thought it unnecessary to proceed further and therefore encamped resolving to rest ourselves and horses a couple of days at this place and take the necessary observations."
The party spent four days camped in a large clump of cottonwood trees under cold and rainy conditions. These conditions prevented Lewis from obtaining any astronomical observations to determine the longitude of the site. On July 25, 1806, Lewis, still not able to get the reading he wanted, broke camp with his men and set out, determined to return to the Missouri River.
Camp Cut Bank
Captain Meriwether Lewis followed the north branch of the Marias River, now known as the Cut Bank Creek and camped south and east of Cut Bank on Monday, July 21, 1806.
There wasn’t any timber to be found to build a fire so buffalo chips were used. The company was nearly out of provisions. They wounded a buffalo, but were unable to retrieve it. The following day, the group proceeded on to Camp Disappointment.
Meriwether Lewis Fight Site
On July 26, 1806, Captain Meriwether Lewis with George Drewyer (Drouillard), Joseph Fields and Reuben Fields camped with a party of eight young Blackfeet Indians. At first the meeting was cordial, but the encounter turned hostile when Lewis disclosed to the Blackfeet that the United States government had plans to supply all the Plains Indians with firearms for hunting. This was not good news for the Blackfeet, who until that point had controlled firearms through trade relations with the Hudson Bay Company.
The Blackfeet decided to make off with the party’s guns and horses leaving them on foot. At this point, this was the only armed encounter with Indians during the entire expedition. Two of the young Blackfeet were killed in this fight over horses and guns.
This actual site wasn’t discovered until 1964 by two Cut Bank Boy Scout leaders (Ben Epstein and Robert H. Anderson), who used the directions and descriptions contained in Lewis’ journal. The "three solitary trees" described by Lewis in his journal still stood in the place Lewis depicted. The site has been marked and fenced by the local Boy Scouts.
Historical information provided by the Cut Bank Pioneer Press archives. For more information on the Lewis and Clark Trail, visit:
Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation
Cut Bank Lewis and Clark Festival