Schoolcraft's Ozark Journey

Near Dora

Ozarks explorer Henry Schoolcraft and traveling companion Levi Pettibone camped near this site on their three-month journey through the Ozarks. At this location Schoolcraft made note of the extremely clear waters that were deceptively deep while appearing shallow. He also noted the vigorous and green cane that grew along the river, and the abundance of turkey, bear, deer, pigeon, duck and squirrel.

Saturday, November 21st, 1818

The bottom-lands continue to improve both in quality and extent, and growth of cane is more vigorous and green, and affords a nutritious food our horse. The bluffs on each side of the valley continue, and are covered by the yellow pine. At the distance of six miles below our last night's encampment, the river receives its first tributary from the left in a stream of a size nearly equal to itself, which enters at the foot of a very lofty bluff, nearly at right angles, and the river below their junction is visibly increased in size. The extreme limpidity of the water of this stream gives rise to a species deception of which we have this day had a serious proof. It is so clear, white and transparent, that the stones and pebbles in its bottom, at a depth of eight or ten feet, are reflected through it with the most perfect accuracy as to colour, size, and position, and at the same time appear as if within two or three feet of the surface of the water. Its depth cannot, therefore, be judged by the eye with any probability of that degree of exactness which can be had by looking into common clear streams. The explanation of this phenomenon is referable to the extreme degree of the purity of the water, which holds no fine particles of earth in suspension, and admits the rays of light to pass through it without being intercepted or refracted by those particles. In attempting to ford the river where the water appeared to be two at most three feet deep, the horse suddenly plunged in below his depth, and was compelled to swim across, by which our baggage got completely wetted. Our tea, meal, salt, sugar, etc. was either greatly damaged, or entirely spoiled; our skins, blankets, and clothing, were also soaked with water, and such part of our powder as was not bottled shared the same fate. This proved a serious misfortune, as our situation precluded the possibility of getting new supplies. It was near night when this accident happened, and we immediately encamped, and began to dry our effects, and save what was not wholly ruined, in which we consumed a considerable part of the night. The weather continues mild and pleasant. We have passed innumerable flocks of turkey in the course of this day; also bear, deer, pigeon, duck, and squirrel. General course, south-south-east. Distance twelve miles.

-Henry Schoolcraft

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Funding for the Schoolcraft Journey project on Unlock the Ozarks has been provided by the Missouri Humanities Council.