The Water Has A Peculiar Whiteness,
Such As Might Be Produced By A Tablespoonful Of Milk In A Dish Of Tea,
And This Circumstance Induced Us To Call It Milk River."
Modern geography shows that the surmise of Captain Lewis was correct.
Some of the tributaries of Milk River (the Indian name of which signifies
"The River that Scolds at all Others") have their rise near St. Mary's River,
which is one of the tributaries of the Saskatchewan, in British America.
The explorers were surprised to find the bed of a dry river,
as deep and as wide as the Missouri itself, about fifteen
miles above Milk River. Although it had every appearance
of a water-course, it did not discharge a drop of water.
Their journal says: -
"It passes through a wide valley without timber; the surrounding country
consists of waving low hills, interspersed with some handsome level plains;
the banks are abrupt, and consist of a black or yellow clay, or of a rich
sandy loam; though they do not rise more than six or eight feet above the bed,
they exhibit no appearance of being overflowed; the bed is entirely
composed of a light brown sand, the particles of which, like those of
the Missouri, are extremely fine. Like the dry rivers we passed before,
this seemed to have discharged its waters recently, but the watermark
indicated that its greatest depth had not been more than two feet.
This stream, if it deserve the name, we called Bigdry [Big Dry] River."
And Big Dry it remains on the maps unto this day.
In this region the party recorded this observation:
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