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This page contains a description of the expedition's voyage across the Dakotas and their first encounter with a grizzly bear.

Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Country

The Fearsome White Bear

As Lewis and Clark continued west, they were dazzled by the wildlife they saw, including a herd of buffalo estimated to contain over 10,000 animals. The Mandan Sioux had warned them of an enormous animal they called the "white bear," whom they only dared to hunt in groups of six to ten warriors. The Corps was eager to encounter such an animal and fell such a formidable beast. On April 29, 1805, the Corps killed its first Grizzly Bear, an immature weighing only 300 pounds. Lewis, far from impressed by the kill, wrote in his journal that while such bears may be hard to kill with bows and arrows, they were no match for skilled riflemen.

The Encounter

On May 5, 1805, Meriwether Lewis came upon the largest bear he'd ever seen, somewhere near the border of modern-day North Dakota and Montana. Lewis estimated the Grizzly Bear to weigh at least 600 pounds and called it "a very large and turrible animal." According to his journal, it took at least ten gunshots to finally fell the bear. Lewis considered the Grizzly Bear the largest carnivorous animal he had ever seen.

Lewis and Clark meet the Teton Sioux

Did You Know?


The Grizzly Bear is no longer found in the areas in which Lewis and Clark originally observed them. In the continental United States, grizzlies are now only found in Yellowstone National Park and remote parts of Montana and Idaho.

Part 6: Great Falls of the Missouri River

Lewis and Clark Adventure:

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Into the Wild
Part 3: Teton Sioux Territory
Part 4: The Mandans
Part 5: Grizzly Country
Part 6: Great Falls of the Missouri River
Part 7: Shoshone Country
Part 8: The Bitterroots
Part 9: The Columbia River
Part 10: Fort Clatsop
Part 11: Return Trip


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