On their expedition, explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark famously detailed their journey. Below are never-before-seen entries, as well as actual pages from their journals.
Some rain this morning. Wind along the northwest. Walked along shore with the Indian chief and interpreters. Saw buffalo, elk, and great numbers of goats. Our hunters and Captain Clark returned with bountiful kills.
Captain Lewis, 20 October 1804
Great numbers of buffalo, elk, deer, and goats. Our hunters killed 10 deer and a goat today, and I personally wounded a bear. I saw several fresh tracks of those animals, which are three times as large as a man’s track. The wind hard all day from the N.E. and E. The bear was wearing pants, by the way, which was peculiar.
Captain Clark, 20 October 1804.
Camped on the east side of the river with the Mandan village south two miles above. The hunters killed a buffalo bull. They say out of about 300 buffalo they did not see one cow. I asked the hunters if they remembered the bear wearing pants, and they did not recall. They told me they had never seen a bear wearing pants before, at least in that geographical area.
Captain Clark, 21 October 1804
A lot of rain. I thought I saw a bear wearing pants but did not. Was the whole encounter a dream?
Captain Clark, 12 November 1804
Yesterday as I was alone near a pasture, with rocky embankments to the south, I spotted a large bear wearing pants. Having recently mistaken a pantsless bear for a bear in pants, I wanted to ensure my eyes were not tricked by the light, and fired a shot from my rifle into the air. The bear in pants looked at me, seemed to provide a glance I can only describe as annoyed, and disappeared over the outcropping. My shot gathered the attention of other crewmembers, though by the time they reached my position the bear in pants had disappeared.
Captain Clark, 16 December 1804
Today we met with the chief. After trading blue beads for a fine sea otter pelt — the likes of which we had not yet encountered on our trip — I politely asked the chief, a wise man, if there were any stories of bears in pants. Communicating the phrase “bear in pants” proved to be considerably difficult, and I did not ever receive a clear answer from the chief, though we did end up exchanging pants as part of a trade. I do believe, however, that in describing our path in the days ahead, there was a brief mention of a bear, and I swear I saw the chief point at my pants.
Captain Clark, 15 February, 1805
This morning I witnessed before God two bears in pants pawing for fish in the river. They were upright, and would wipe their paws on their pants. Once again, however, I was alone. Confident in the existence of bears wearing pants, I immediately went to confide in Lewis.
Captain Clark, 13 March, 1805
Rain today. Creating shelter took considerable time and left us all feeling quite poorly, forced to spend much of the day in damp clothes with a sour demeanor. In the early morning, Captain Clark mentioned something to me about a bear in pants. I entertained his bizarre wonderments until he completed his tales, upon which time I told him not to bring it up anymore unless we see one.
Captain Lewis, 13 March, 1805
Rain continued through the night and next day. Moved camp further into forest, hoping to find drier conditions. Yesterday Lewis advised me on the bear-in-pants situation. I believe he’s interested in the find. He told me not to inform the rest of our crew, surely in that he and I may be solely credited for the discovery.
Captain Clark, 14 March, 1805
Woke up in middle of the night. Went outside my tent and immediately came upon a bear in pants doing some sort of jig and waving at me. I rushed to a nearby tent to wake someone up but the bear in pants ran away on two legs before anyone else could see it.
The next morning I brought the episode up to the entire crew. The bear in pants was met with laughter from some, concern from others. Lewis seemed irked at my outburst, no doubt because he wanted the bear in pants to be more “our thing.”
Captain Clark, 4 October 1805
Two members of our crew secured and shot down a bear with pants! Finally we may dissect the bear and hope to ascertain why this bear wears pants, how it comes to secure the pants, and where these bears may originate.
I have just been informed that the pants were actually put on the bear after its killing. Humorous prank, indeed. The crew continues to do impressions of my reaction and sprint to my journal.
Captain Clark, 10 October 1805
Tonight we dined on the meat of a bear. Crew spirits have never been so high.
Captain Lewis, 10 October 1805
It has been one month and three days since my last sighting of a bear in pants, though I remain hopeful that the entire crew shall see one before our return. Hope is a full meal that shall be my everlasting nourishment. Also we made it to the Pacific Ocean today.
Captain Clark, 7 November 1805
Great joy in camp. We are in view of the ocean, this great Pacific Ocean — which we have been so long anxious to see — and the roaring noise made by the waves breaking on the rocky shores (as I suppose) may be heard distinctly. I can’t believe Clark was not more excited to see the Pacific. He kept looking back at the woods and sighing.
Captain Lewis, 7 November 1805
Today I found a note. In crude writing it reads, “TeL No 1,” and was signed “Pantbearrs.” To me this was the surest proof of their existence and remarkable intelligence.
Out of fear and the desire to win over the faiths of my peer, I showed it to Lewis anyway, and he remarked that he is quite worried about me.
Captain Clark, Fort Clatsop, 15 January, 1806.
Clark is now fabricating notes from the bears in pants. He must miss home more than I can say.
Captain Lewis, Fort Clatsop, 15 January, 1806
Saw a regular bear with everyone this morning. I brought up the fact that it could have just taken its pants off earlier. A bear doesn’t need to be wearing pants all the time. This was met with silence and private whispers.
Captain Clark, 16 February, 1806.
Left some pants near a den of bears. Have proceeded to watch it for three days whilst we await improved weather. Bears have not gone for the pants yet. Also found another note reading ‘Pantbearrs luv ur SUFFURRING.’ I shall keep this note to myself.
Captain Clark, 21 February, 1806
Found Clark writing a note with his offhand, to look like the writings of a bear in pants no doubt. I’ve informed Captain Clark that he is on his last straw. If he does not desist with this bears and pants nonsense immediately he will not meet Jefferson.
Captain Lewis, 22 February, 1806
I’ve decided to drop the whole bear-in-pants thing. I must have let the stresses of the long and grueling journey get to me in a peculiar way. No more.
One more thing. I did spot this lovely crow today.