Schoolcraft's Ozark Journey


At or near this location in the fall of 1818, Henry Schoolcraft, an early Ozarks explorer, spent the night during his three month journey. Schoolcraft observed abundant wildlife as well as the Native American camps that were in evidence during his trip through the area.

Tuesday, November 24th, 1818

Got our horse packed at day-light, and travelled down the river's bank fourteen miles, and encamped. Lands chiefly poor; some bottoms of a second quality, but very narrow, and hemmed in by rocks and hills. The river has to-day, about seven miles below our encampment, received a tributary from the right bank; and, a little below, another from the left. A singular circumstance was noticed at the former. It enters the river in a direction contrary to that of the current of the water, and with such velocity that it maintains its course for many yards up stream, until the opposing current overpowers and turns it downward.

A little below the junction of these streams we passed several Indian camps, but all in a state of decay, and bearing the appearance of having been deserted three or four years. These are the first traces of savage life (save some hacks apparently made with hatchets in saplings, noticed yesterday and to-day,) which we have seen since leaving the Fourche à Courtois. Several causes have induced the Indians to relinquish hunting in this quarter, and principally their wars among themselves, which have kept them in mutual fear of each other. Lately, the Indian title has been extinguished by purchase by the United States, and this stream will no longer be included in their hunting-grounds. It was claimed by the Osages.

The inducements for hunting are, however, great; and large quantities of bear, deer, elk, and beaver skins, might be collected. I had an opportunity this day, while travelling across a very rocky bank of the river, to observe two large and beautiful beavers who were sporting in water. They afterwards came out and sat upon a rock, occasionally changing positions, and evincing great dexterity and quickness in their movements. They were within shooting distance, but I reserved my fire a few moments to observe their motions, when suddenly they darted into their holes. The wild turkey has also been very abundant to-day, and the ducks and geese upon the river. Distance fourteen 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.