USGS - science for a changing world

North Dakota Water Science Center

home home information/data information/data publications publications FAQs FAQs links links about us about us contact contact internal internal

USGS North Dakota Water Science Center

 

 What's New

 USGS WaterAlert

 Data Center

 Information Center

 USGS in Your State


USGS Water Science Centers are located in each state.

There is a USGS Water Science Center office in each State. Washington Oregon California Idaho Nevada Montana Wyoming Utah Colorado Arizona New Mexico North Dakota South Dakota Nebraska Kansas Oklahoma Texas Minnesota Iowa Missouri Arkansas Louisiana Wisconsin Illinois Mississippi Michigan Indiana Ohio Kentucky Tennessee Alabama Pennsylvania West Virginia Georgia Florida Caribbean Alaska Hawaii New York Vermont New Hampshire Maine Massachusetts South Carolina North Carolina Rhode Island Virginia Connecticut New Jersey Maryland-Delaware-D.C.


 Connect with USGS

Follow USGSND on Twitter
YouTube - USGSND

RSSPublications
RSSUSGS News Releases
RSSFAQs
What is RSS?


Little Missouri River

The Little Missouri River flows from south to northeast through the rugged badlands and rolling prairie of western North Dakota.  The river is the only river that the State has designated as a scenic river.  The Little Missouri River flows through the Little Missouri National Grasslands and Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Little Missouri River Little Missouri River Location Map


 Captain Lewis


Friday, April 12, 1805, on the Missouri River, near the entrance of the Little Missouri River

. . . We proceeded on six miles and came too on the lower side of the entrance of the little Missouri on the Lard shore in a fine plain where we determined to spend the day for the purpose of celestial observation.  we sent out 10 hunters to procure fresh meat.  at this place made the following observations.

     Point of Observation No 1.
  
     Observed sun's magnetic azimuth with Circumfertr S. 88 E.
  
     Time by Chronometer A.M. . . . . 8.h  20.m  25.s  
  
     Altitude by sextant 52. 20'. 45".  
  
     Sun's Magnetic Azimuth by Circumferenter S. 87 E.  
  
     Time by Chronometer. . . . . . . . 8. 25'.&  22".  
  
     Altitude by Sextant . . . . . . 53. 55'. 30".  
  
     Observed equal altitudes of the sun with Sextant.
  
   	       h       m      s  
               8.     30.    11.                       the P.M. observation   
     A.M.      ".     31.    52.5          P.M.        was lost in conse-
               ".     33.    31.                       quence of the Clouds.
               
     Altd. by Sextant at the time of observation 55. 28'. 45".
     Observed Meridian altitude of the . s U.L. with Octant by the back observation 81. 25'. 15".
     Latitude deduced from this observation. . . .

Plath sextant

Plath Sextant, 1890?, Historic Coast and Geodetic Survey Collection

Octant with simple artificial horizon in the form of a pendulum.

Octant with Artificial Horizon, Historic Coast and Geodetic Survey Collection

The little Missouri disembogues on the S. side of the Missouri 1693 miles from the  confluence of the latter with the Mississippi, it is 134 yards wide at it's mouth, and sets in with a bould current but it's greatest debth is not more than 2 1/2 feet.  it's navigation is extreemly difficult, owing to it's rapidity, shoals and sand bars  it may however be navigated with small canoes a considerable distance. . .


 Captain Clark


Friday, April 12, 1805, on the Missouri River, near the entrance of the Little Missouri River

Compare the weather conditions Lewis and Clark observed to current weather conditions.a fine morning  Set out verry early.  the murcury stood 56 above 0.  proceeded on to the mouth of the Little Missouri river and formed a camp in a butifull elivated plain on the lower side for the purpose of takeing Some observations to fix the Latitude & Longitude of this river.  this river falls in on the L. Side and is 134 yards wide and 2 feet 6 Inches deep at the mouth, it takes its rise in the N W extremity of the black mountains, and through a broken countrey in its whole course washing the N W base of the Turtle Mountain1 which is Situated about 6 Leagues S W of its mouth, one of our men Baptiest who came down this river in a canoe informs me that it is not navagable, he was 45 days descending. . . .

I walked out on the lower Side of this river and found the countrey hilley the soil composed of black mole & a small perportion of sand containing great quantity of Small peable some limestone, black flint, & sand Stone

. . . . The wind blew verry hard from the S. all the after part of the day, at 3 oClock PM. it became violent & blowey accompanied with thunder and a little rain. . . . the water of the little Missouri is of the same texture colour & quallity of that of the Big Missouri the after part of the day so cloudy that we lost the evening observation.

      Course & Distance of the 12th
  
      N. 80 W. 4 miles to the mouth of the Little Missouri River on the S.S.

 Captain Lewis


Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes Courtesy US Fish & Wildlife ServieSaturday, April 13, 1805, on the Missouri River, near the entrance of the Little Missouri River

. . . . just above the entrance of the little Missouri the great Missouri is upwards of a mile in width, tho' immediately at the entrance of the former it is not more than 200 yards wide and so shallow that the canoes passed it with seting poles. . . . we found a number of carcases of the Buffaloe lying along shore, which had been drowned by falling through the ice in winter and lodged on shore by the high water when the river broke up about the first of this month. . . . Oserved more bald eagles on this part of the Missouri than we have previously seen. saw the small hawk, frequently called the sparrow hawk, which is common to most parts of the U. States. great quantities of gees are seen feeding in the praries. saw a large flock of white brant or gees with black wings pass up the river; there were a number of gray brant with them; from their flight I presume they proceed much further still to the N.W.  we have never been enabled yet to shoot one of these birds, and cannot therefore determine whether the gray brant found with the white, are their brude of the last year or whether they are the same with the grey brant common to the Mississippi and lower part of the Missouri. . . .


Sunday, April 14th, 1805, on the Missouri River, north of the entrance of the Little Missouri River


. . . . the mineral appearances of salts, coal and sulphur, together with birnt hills & pumice stone still continue.  while we remained at the entrance of the little Missouri, we saw several pieces of pumice stone floating down that stream, a considerable quanty of which had lodged against a point of drift wood a little above it's entrance.  . . . 

. . . . the [Missouri] river continues wide, and not more rapid than the Ohio in an average state of it's current.  the bottoms are wide and low, the moister parts containing some timber; the upland is extreemly broken, chonsisting of high gaulded nobs as far as the eye can reach on ether side, and entirely destitute of timber.  on these hills many aromatic herbs are seen; resembling in taste, smel and appearance, the sage, hysop, wormwood, southernwood, and two other herbs which are strangers to me; . . . the dwarf cedar and juniper is also found in great abundance on the sides of these hills.  where the land is level, it is uniformly fertile consisting of a dark loam intermixed with a portion of fine sand. it is generally covered with a short grass resembling very much the blue grass. the miniral appearances still continue; considerable quantities of bitumenous water, about the colour of strong lye trickles down the sides of the hills; this water partakes of the taste of glauber salts and slightly of allumn. . . .


 Little Missouri River Entering the Missouri River


Little Missouri River flowing into Missouri River prior to Garrison Dam

The Little Missouri River, in the upper left of the picture, is entering the Missouri River in this USGS aerial photograph taken April 5, 1952.


 Little Missouri River Entering Lake Sakakawea on the Missouri River


Little Missouri River Entering Lake Sakakawea on the Missouri River

Due to the Garrison Dam, the Little Missouri River now enters a much wider body of water, Lake Sakakawea, than in the early 1800's.  The river itself also has widened where it flows into Lake Sakakawea.

USGS aerial photograph taken June 16, 1995.


 Current Streamflow Data


The USGS maintains gaging stations on the Little Missouri River.  To view current water-level and streamflow data, click on the links below.


 Water-Discharge and Water-Quality Records


To view water-discharge and water-quality records for stations on the Little Missouri River, click on the links below.


 Footnotes


1 Both Lewis and Clark refer to the Turtle Mountain, but it is assumed that they meant the Killdeer Mountains (Reid, 1947-48).  Both were geographically important landmarks for the Native Americans in the region.


 References


Anonymous, 1890?, Plath Sextant, [theb2176, Historic C&GS Collection], Coast and Geodetic Survey (C & GS) Historic Image Collection from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: accessed July 17, 2001, at URL http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/theb2176.htm.

Anonymous, n.d., Octant with simple artificial horizon in the form of a pendulum, [theb2175, Historic C&GS Collection], Coast and Geodetic Survey (C & GS) Historic Image Collection from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: accessed July 16, 2001, at URL http://usasearch.gov/search?v%3aproject=firstgov-noaa-images&v%3afile=viv_870%4026%3aKuDqBK&v%3aframe=viewimage&v%3astate=root%7croot-20-20%7c0&id=Ndoc25&rpaid=&.

DeVoto, Bernard, ed., 1953, The Journals of Lewis and Clark: New York, Mariner Books Houghton Mifflin Company, 504 p.

Reid, Russell, ed., 1947-48, Lewis and Clark in North Dakota: Reprinted from North Dakota History, published by the State Historical Society of North Dakota, vol. 14-15, 359 p.

Stolz, Gary M., n.d., Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes, WO8231-001, National Image Library of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: accessed October 9, 2002, at URL http://images.fws.gov.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, n.d., Banks of the Little Missouri: accessed July 2, 2001, at URL http://www.nps.gov/thro/slides/test1.htm.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, 1963, Little Missouri River Valley: accessed July 2, 2001, at URL http://www.nps.gov/thro/bw/index.htm.

Travel Montana, ed., n.d., The Journals of Lewis and Clark: accessed June 4, 2001, at URL http://lewisandclark.state.mt.us/Journals/toc.shtm.

U.S. Geological Survey, April 5, 1952, The Little Missouri River Entering the Missouri River, Photograph courtesy U.S. Geological Survey EROS Data Center. 

U.S. Geological Survey, 1995, The Little Missouri River Entering the Missouri River on Lake Sakakawea: accessed June 19, 2001, at URL http://terraserver.homeadvisor.msn.com/image.asp?S=16&T=1&X=54&Y=412&Z=13&W=2.


To Top of Page


Lewis & Clark Home


 

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo USA.gov logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: http://nd.water.usgs.gov/lewisandclark/little_missouri.html
Page Contact Information: Webmaster
Page Last Modified: Monday, 03-Jan-2011 16:44:39 EST
Reston, VA [vaww54]