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A Sore Reunion

Lewis and Clark Reunion Bay is listed as one of North Dakota’s tourist attractions. In this park near New Town, you can camp, picnic, launch your boat, hike, or just relax. There is even a ferry called the Island Girl that makes trips into the bay for people enjoy the waters of Lake Sakakawea.  While the bay and the ferry might be great places for a reunion, the bay actually got its name because Lewis and Clark reunited there on this date in 1806 after separating for a month during the return east.

On July 3, the party had decided to split up at spot in Montana they had dubbed “Travelers’ Rest.” Clark headed up the Bitterroot River with 50 horses, 20 men, and Sacagawea and her baby.  They searched for the location where they met the Bitterroot Salish tribe a year earlier. Meanwhile, Lewis set out with nine men down the Bitterroot River to Clark Fork and began heading towards the plains.

Things went relatively smoothly for each party until Lewis was hunting for elk with Pierre Cruzatte on August 11th. Then, while Lewis was crawling through some bushes, someone shot him! The bullet went through his left thigh below the hip bone, leaving a 3-inch cut on his right buttock. He instantly assumed it was Cruzatte, who only had vision in one eye. He called out to him but heard no answer. Lewis returned the camp and alerted the men that there might be Indians in the area, but no Indians were found after 20 minutes of panic and searching.

Cruzatte, perhaps embarrassed, did not admit he did it, but said if he shot Lewis it was not his intention. In Lewis’s own writing, “I do not believe that the fellow did it intentionally, but after finding that he had shot me was anxious to conceal his knowledge of having done so.”

Lewis’s injury was not severe, but he was in some pain, and very grateful they found Clark’s party the next day, writing that he would desist from writing until he recovered, leaving it to Clark to continue his journal.

So, if you’re ever camping by Reunion Bay or taking the ferry, sit back, relax, and handle firearms with care!

Dakota Datebook written by Lucid Thomas








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