may have been the first to record this species of snake that makes its
home on the Missouri River in Broadwater County.
of the Crimson Bluffs Chapter have eagerly taken on the project of
spreading interest in this rare reptile, the melanistic Wandering
Western Terrestrial Garter Snake, Thamnophis
|July 23, 1805:
saw a black snake today about two feet long the Belly of which was as
black as any other part or as jet itself. it had 128 scuta on the
belley 63 on the tail.
|Friday July 23, 1805.
ordered the canoes to hoist their small flags in order that should the
indians see us they might discover that we were not Indians, nor their
Map Spot “A”
is located just north of the Missouri River bridge. Turn west
at the Indian Creek Road turnoff. Map Spot A is
at the parking area in the short distance between the Indian Creek Road
turnoff and the railroad crossing. From Map Spot A,
cross the railroad tracks. At
that point, the road forks—keep left!
This is River Road. Very soon the road forks again: keep left
on River Road at the intersection with Old Womans Grave Road, and
proceed on .05 mile to Point B.
is a parking area here just off River Road, where the Crimson Bluffs
interpretive sign is located. Please don’t forget
to sign our guestbook! The Bluffs are a short walk from the
road. The best view, however, is from the river when the
bluffs are lighted by the early morning, mid-summer sunlight, as the
members of the Expedition saw them in 1805.
from top of the
View from across the river from the
Front Street, Townsend
Jeff Olson and Lillian
for the Self-Guided Auto Tour begins at the USDA Building,
located at 415 S. Front St. in Townsend. Set your odometer to
Travelers’ Guide to proceed on to
the sign post markers
not always top of the Map
This map may appear to have been drawn upside-down, as the North
direction is at the bottom of the map instead of North being oriented
at the top, as modern maps are printed. As it was not unusual
at the time, the Corps of Discovery drew their maps with the top
oriented towards the direction they were traveling.
Discovery Expedition of
2005 Reenactment at Yorks Islands
“Lewis and Clark Discovery Expedition of St. Charles,
Missouri” held a reenactment encampment in Townsend in July
2005 for two nights at Heritage Park. There were
Corps, Rotary members and Crimson Bluffs members present. The
Corps was in period costume and gave numerous demonstrations.
They placed their two dugout canoes in the Missouri River at Yorks
Islands Fishing Access Site and demonstrated how they would have been
hauled up the river 200 years earlier.
Discovery Expedition of St. Charles, Mo.
at Crimson Bluffs
Discovery Expedition of St. Charles, Mo.
at Yorks Islands
|Wednesday July 24th 1805.
Set out at sunrise; the current very strong; passed a remarkable bluff
of a crimson coloured earth on Stard. intermixed with Stratas of black
and brick red slate. the valley through which the river passed today is
much as that of yesterday nor is there any difference in the appearance
of the mountains, they still continue high and seem to rise in some
places like an amphatheater one rang above another as they receede from
the river untill the most distant and lofty have their tops clad with
snow. the adjacent mountains commonly rise so high as to conceal the
more distant and lofty mountains from our view. I fear every day that
we shall meet with some considerable falls or obstruction in the river
notwithstanding the information of the Indian woman to the contrary who
assures us that the river continues much as we see it.
Lewis and Clark Discovery
Expedition of St.
Bi-Centennial Expedition re-enactment Chapter Members
Yorks Islands Fishing
This is how the Townsend Valley may have appeared to the Corps of
Lewis and Clark Display
N. Walnut St.,
Interpreter, Huel Wills
the crowd at Yorks Islands Dedication
The Crimson Bluffs Chapter is pleased to announce that the U.S. Board
on Geographic Names has approved the name Yorks Islands for the group
of Missouri River islands in Broadwater County.
The name was also approved by the Montana Board on Geographic Names and
has been entered into the Nation’s official automated
geographic names repository. It has been published in the book Decision
. The area fittingly
bears the name Yorks Islands in keeping
with Clark’s intention to honor his servant and boyhood
companion, York. The islands are included on maps in the journals of
Lewis and Clark.
On July 28, 2001, efforts spearheaded by Crimson Bluffs Chapter member
John Stoner culminated in a commemoration ceremony officially re-naming
the previously known “Deep Dale Fishing Access” to
the “Yorks Islands Fishing Access.”
Yorks Islands photo
They were joined by historians, representatives of Montana Fish,
Wildlife and Parks, and Huel Willis of the Great Falls Lewis and Clark
Interpretive Center, portraying “Ben”
—York’s cousin. Ben’s character was so
convincing, it was a delight to attend. Mr. Willis’
presence was the highlight of the ceremony. Afterwards he was rewarded
with a hearty round of applause and presented by Troy Helmick with a
framed photo of Yorks Islands.
|Wednesday July 24th 1805.
… our trio of pests still invade and obstruct us on all
occasions, these are the Musquetoes eye knats and prickley pears, equal
to any three curses that ever poor Egypt laiboured under, except the
Mahometant yoke. the men complain of being much fortiegued, their
labour is excessively great. I occasionly encourage them by assisting
in the labour of navigating the canoes, and have learned to push a
tolerable good pole in their fraize. This morning Capt. Clark set out
early and pursued the Indian road whih took him up a creek some miles
abot 10 A.M. he discovered a horse about six miles distant on his left,
he changed his rout towards the horse, on approaching him he found the
horse in fine order but so wild he could not get within less than
several hundred paces of him. he still saw much indian sign but none of
recent date. from this horse he directed his course obliquely to the
river where on his arrival he killed a deer and dined. in this wide
valley where he met with the horse he passed five handsome streams, one
of which only had timber another some willows and much stoped by the
John Stoner - Troy Helmick
In August 2002 John Ragen provided a cottonwood tree to the Chapter for
the building of a dugout canoe. Gene Cook cut the tree down
and Maurice Ferrat loaned an “adz” to be used by
John, and others to build the canoe which was a replica of the canoes
Lewis and Clark Expedition used. It is just shy of 16 feet in
length and is caulked with native bee’s wax which was
used by the Corps of Discovery. It was completed on March 15,
2003 and moved to the Broadwater County Museum where it is on permanent
This newspaper article was writen to commorate the
construction of the canoe and other activites of Crimson Bluffs
Jan. 20, 2003
on Clark’s Footsteps
JASON MOHR, IR Staff Writer
resident John Stoner lives above a sweeping curve in the Missouri
River, just before the river breaks into myriad channels and then
balloons into Canyon Ferry Reservoir. The Lewis and Clark Expedition
passed through here, up the river in 1805 and down the next year.
enjoys his proximity to history. He thinks Clark could have walked
through his yard as he scouted in advance of the Corps of Discovery.
is the site that Clark walked up a day ahead of Lewis," he said,
motioning beyond a busy Highway 12 bridge that spans the river outside
Townsend. "We feel we are living on Clark's footsteps."
and pal Troy Helmick have studied and retraced the fabled expedition's
trail as they followed the meandering river between the Big Belt and
Elkhorn mountains. The two play an active part in the Crimson Bluffs
chapter of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation.
in anticipation of bicentennial visitors, the group has organized a
40-mile auto tour. The route starts and ends at the Townsend Ranger
District, looping along a gravel road on the river's west bank before
returning up U.S. 12. Brochures identifying the area's highlights and
interpretive signs marking the route will soon be ready.
Activities on Tap
commemorative events of local interest are planned, as well.
Helena's Trail Foundation Chapter hosts annual boat-and-dinner trips
through the Gates of the Mountains and Hauser Lake. The Gates
of the Mountains chapter
concentrates on education, said President Ann Tedesco.
Monthly lectures on various aspects of the
expedition are offered.
Next up is anthropologist Sara Scott, bicentennial heritage coordinator
for the Helena National Forest, who will give a slide talk
next month on the
landscapes the Corps of Discovery found as they approached
the Missouri River headwaters.
On Feb. 24, Scott will talk about how the corps was forced to drag
their boats through low water, making progress slow and tedious.
Chapter membership dues help
pay for such presentations, Tedesco said.
Montana Historical Society scholars George Oberst and Rich Aarstad will
host monthly book discussions about the expedition at the Townsend
library. The library
will loan books to participants; the first talk is Feb. 27.
remarkable bluff of a crimson coloured earth”
other Montana sites might attract more attention during the
bicentennial, Townsend shouldn't be overlooked, locals said.
would assume they took a bus from Gates of the Mountains to the
headwaters," Helmick said. The Missouri River south of Townsend keeps
pretty much the same channel it did 200 years ago, whereas the Great
Falls are no longer
visible and other sites lie submerged in Canyon
As he drove along the auto tour's hilly route, Helmick pointed out
other sights Lewis and Clark recorded — places he and Stoner
know well: Crimson Bluffs, a red-hued cliff; Yorks Islands, named in
honor of the expedition's sole black member; and the narrow entry into
the Second Gates of the Mountains.
Springs, campsites, and Clark's overland trail are easy to find or
imagine with the commanding view afforded on the west side of the
It's amazing to see today the natural details that were recorded on
expedition maps and in journal notes, Helmick said. For example, he
said, Clark refers to a single line of trees that run along only one of
five streams that drain into the river, presently called Crow Creek.
Today, trees still line only one
Development once threatened to overrun the club's namesake site,
Crimson Bluffs. But thanks to the efforts of public lands groups and
Montana's Congressional contingent, the site was set aside last year.
Fifty acres around the bluffs are now under the auspices of the Bureau
of Land Management and are
accessible to hikers.
Preserving the area's historical legacy is important to Helmick and
Stoner. It is similarly obvious that the two want to share their hard
work and enthusiasm for a piece of the Lewis and Clark Trail.
"From here to Three Forks the river is basically unchanged," Stoner
said. "You can take the journals and follow [the Corps]."
John Stoner, Gene Cook, Troy Helmick, Foxy
|Thursday July 25th 1805.
…the valley appeared to termineate and the river was again
hemned in on both sides with high caiggy and rocky clifts. soon after
entering these hills or low mountains we passed a number of fine bold
springs which burst out underneath the Lard. clifts near the edge of
the water; they wer very cold and freestone water. we passed a large
Crk. today in the plain country, 25 yds. wide, which
discharges itself on the Stard. side; it is composed of five streams
which unite in the plain at no great distance from the river and have
their souces in the Mts. this stream we called Gass's Creek. after
Sergt. Patric Gass one of our party.-
...two rapids near the large spring we passed this evening were the
worst we have seen since that we passed on entering the rocky Mountain;
they were obstructed with sharp pointed rocks, ranges of which extended
quite across the river. the clifts are formed of a lighter coloured
stone than those below I obseve some limestone also in the bed of the
river which seem to have been brought down by the current as they are
generally small and woarn smooth.- This morning Capt. Clark set out
early and at the distance of a few miles arrived at the three forks of
...I observed that the rocks which form the clifts on this part of the
river appear as if they had been undermined by the river and by their
weight had seperated from the parent hill and tumbled on their sides,
the stratas of rock of which they are composed lying with their edges
up; others not seperated seem obliquely depressed on the side next the
river as if they had sunk down to fill the cavity which had been formed
by the washing and wearing of the river.
| …the mountains
on either Side appear like the hills had fallen half down &
turned Side upwards the bottoms narrow and no timber a fiew bushes only.
Bluffs Chapter, Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation
created and maintains the Corps of Discovery display at the Broadwater
County Museum. The museum is located at 133 N. Walnut St.,
Townsend, Montana, and is open to the public from May 15 through Sept.
15 and from 1:00 – 5:00. The Corps of Discovery
exhibit includes a dugout canoe replica, maps, photographs of local
sites, enlargements of the Self-Guided Auto Tour, and the
Chapter’s archival documents.
|Corps of Discovery Display
Broadwater County Museum
and Clark Kiosks
informational kiosks commemorating the Lewis and Clark Expedition were
installed along Highway 12/287. The kiosks are located at Winston near
the Winston Bar; at the Indian Creek Campground, on the south bank of
the Missouri River bridge near Townsend; and at Three Forks, across the
street from the Sacagawea Hotel. Funding for the three kiosks came from
a Forest Service Rural Community Assistance grant, a National Park
Service grant, the Bureau of Reclamation, Broadwater County. Kiosk
research informational documents provided by Crimson Bluffs Chapter.
|Friday July 26th 1805.
high lands are thin meagre soil covered with dry low sedge and a
species of grass also dry the seeds of which are armed with a long
twisted hard beard at the upper extremity while the lower point is a
sharp subulate firm point beset at it's base with little stiff bristles
standing with their points in a contrary direction to the subulate
point to which they answer as a barb and serve also to pres it forward
when onece entered a small distance. these barbed seed penetrate our
mockersons and leather legings and give us great pain untill they are
removed. my poor dog suffers with them excessively, he is constantly
hinting and scratching himself as if in a rack of pain.
and Thread Grass
Lewis and Clark
dam on the Missouri
River, about 20 miles south of the Three Forks
Rose Oleson, Crimson Bluffs Chapter President 1998-2011
Star, Sept. 11, 2008:
Rose Oleson Award
Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation has honored Rose Oleson of
Townsend, Mont., with its 2008 Distinguished Service Award.
Oleson is a founding member of the Foundation’s Crimson
Bluffs Chapter in Townsend. She has served as the chapter
president for 10 years, and in that time, has enthusiastically led the
Crimson Bluffs Chapter to “tell the story and steward the
trail” along the Upper Missouri River in the Townsend Valley.
Oleson led the chapter’s efforts to identify Yorks Islands
and to ensure the islands’ place on maps. She also
directed the chapter’s efforts to identify the Crimson Bluffs
and to protect and preserve them for future generations.
During the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial years, she helped the chapter
set the standard for programs, hospitality and community outreach in
the Crimson Bluffs area. The family-oriented events brought
the story to hundreds of would-be explorers, children and educators.
Under Oleson’s leadership, the chapter created a 17-point
self-guided auto tour. Members carefully researched the Lewis
and Clark Expedition’s route through the Townsend Valley, and
developed 17 interpretive markers and a colorful informative
brochure. Over many years, Oleson has led the Crimson Bluffs
Chapter’s efforts to serve as keepers of the story and
stewards of the trail in the Townsend Valley.
This award is presented annually to a Foundation member who has made an
outstanding contribution toward furthering the purpose and objectives
of the Foundation.
Expedition of St. Charles, Mo.
|From Hal Stearns,
Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation
Dear Committee Members:
Ten years ago, the Crimson Bluffs Chapter of the LCTHF was organized in
a little Montana town, Townsend. It certainly was (and is)
one of the smallest of the 40+ chapters of the entire country.
But…what a chapter! I had the opportunity to speak
at a number of their events– whether a chapter meeting, new
signage gathering, dedication of the Yorks Islands, location of the
Crimson Bluffs. And, at the forefront over and over again,
What a fine leader: enthusiastic, thoughtful, diligent, always making
everyone feel empowered and important. Rose has been an
absolute breath of fresh air for the chapter.
I personally commend her because she represents the best of this
outstanding chapter and of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage
Foundation. I have witnessed and participated in the efforts
to have the Lewis & Clark story imprint firmly planted in the
area with all –school assemblies, classroom projects, great
signage, a marvelous brochure of the area, boat launch and park site,
recognition of the breathtaking bluffs and the magical Yorks
Islands. York–long deserving of more
recognition–and where does he get it in spades?
Near Townsend, Montana. And, who leads the
campaign? Rose Oleson.
As a former board member and long-time LCTHF enthusiast, I have been
lucky enough to see the best efforts–nationally and locally.
She is a most deserving Distinguished Service Award Winner.
We Proceed On,
July 23rd Tuesday 1805
fair morning wind from the
South. I Set out by land at 6 miles
overtook G Drewyer who had killed a Deer. we killed in the Same bottom
& a antelope & left them on the river bank for the
Canoes proceeded on
an Indian roade through a wider Vallie which the Missouri Passes about
& Camped on the bank of the river, High mountains on either
Side of the
Vallie Containing Scattering Pine & Cedar Some Small Cotton
&c. on the Islands & bank of the river I Saw no fresh
Sign of Indians
to day Great number of
antelopes Some Deer & a large Gangue of
Hal Price, Crimson Bluffs Chapter Director
In August of 2003, Hal Price was awarded one of only four Distinguished
service Awards given nationally by the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage
Foundation. Due to his failing health, his son Marshall
the award for him in Philadelphia. Hal was one of the leading
locals who helped form the Crimson Bluffs Chapter of the Lewis and
Clark Trail Heritage Foundation in Townsend.
Distinguished Service Award Nomination
Dr. Ambrose talked to us about the historic sites along the Lewis and
Clark trail and encouraged us to be prepared for the invasion of
interested people when the Bi-Centennial of the Expedition
approaches. Being a very knowledgeable Lewis and Clark
historian, Hal knew of the crimson bluff that Capt. Lewis mentioned in
his journal on 24 July1805. He also knew of other features
along the trail and the group of islands between Townsend and Toston
that Capt. Clark named for his black servant, York.
Because of Hal’s love of history and in particular, the Corps
of Discovery, he invited his special friends and Lewis and Clark
enthusiasts, Troy Helmick and John Stoner, over for coffee and a
lengthy discussion of how best to inform the public about the Lewis and
Clark sites in the Townsend area while protecting and preserving the
sites. At Hal’s direction, the Townsend citizens
formed the Crimson Bluffs Chapter and on July 24, 1998 the chapter was
designated an official chapter of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage
With Hal’s guidance, the chapter members applied to the
United States Board on Geographic Names to officially name the group of
islands “Yorks Islands,” as Clark
intended. The application was approved and interpretive signs
are now in place. When it became evident that the Crimson
Bluffs were in danger of destruction by the rapidly advancing
subdivision, Hal again led the effort to protect the site and the
property was purchased and is now in public ownership.
Yorks Islands and the Crimson Bluffs are two of only a few Lewis and
Clark historic sites that can be documented and located in much the
same condition that members of the Expedition saw them 200 years
ago. It is because of Hal Price that the link for historians
and visitors is provided in retracing the footsteps of the Corps of
Discovery, and the Crimson Bluffs Chapter would like to recognize him
with the Distinguished Service Award.
and Hal Price
helping to deliver the canoe to the Museum, 2003
2008, the Highway Department removed this Lewis and Clark Map Spot
“S” sign, and the Chapter has not replaced it.
However, Yorks Islands is easy to find with this fine, bold
Fishing Access sign located 3.6 miles south of Townsend.
is the location of the missing Map Spot “S” sign
|Friday July 26th 1805.
...here the hills or reather mountains again recede from the river and
the valley again widens to the extent of several miles with wide and
fertile bottom lands. covered with grass and in many places a fine terf
All trail and campsite locations are
approximate. Some sites
private land. While traveling the route of this Self-Guided
please exercise reasonable and prudent caution. When parking or
driving slowly, be aware of traffic, especially on winding,
gravel roads. There are designated parking areas at the
interpretive sign; interpretive signs are also located at the
Diversion Dam and at Yorks
Islands Fishing Access.
map by Mike Castleberry.
Historical data provided by Troy Helmick, Hal Price, John