The Yellowstone Expedition of 1819

Stephen Harriman Long

Born January 5, 1784, Hopkintown, New Hampshire.
Joined the United States Army in 1814 as a 2nd Lieutenant
after a career as a distinguished educator.

Died April 27, 1864, Alton, Illinois.

In 1819 Long led his most extensive expedition to the Rocky Mountains. The Yellowstone Expedition was the first well-equipped scientific look at the land between the Missouri River and the South Platte, Arkansas and Canadian Rivers in Colorado and New Mexico. It was on this trip, in 1820†, that he got his mountain, a big one. Long's Peak is 14,255 feet high.

The following text is from an Account of an Expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains, Performed in the Years 1819, 1820 by Order of the Hon. J.C. Calhoun, Secretary of War, under the Command of Maj. S.H. Long, of the U.S. Top. Engineers, by Edwin James, Botanist and Geologist to the Expedition (London, 1823). Compiled From the Notes of Major Long, Mr. T. Say, and Other Gentlemen of the Party.

“We next proceed to a consideration of the country west of the Mississippi, and shall begin with that situated between this river and the Missouri. This section contains no mountains, or indeed hills, of any considerable magnitude. The term rolling appears to be peculiarly applicable in conveying an idea of the surface of this region, although it is not entirely destitute of abrupt hills and precipices. The aspect of the whole is variegated with the broad valleys of rivers and creeks, and intervening tracts of undulating upland, united to the valleys by gentle slopes. Its surface is chequered with stripes of woodland situated upon the margins of the watercourse, and dividing the whole into extensive parterres. If we except those parts of the section that are contiguous to the Mississippi and Missouri, at last nineteen-twentieths of the country are completely destitute of a timber-growth.

“Within the valleys of these two rivers are extensive tracts of alluvial bottom possessed of a rich soil. The bottoms of the Missouri in particular are probably inferior to none within the limits of the United States in point of fertility. . . .

“The bottoms of the Missouri are for the most part clad in a deep and heavy growth of timber and underbrush, to the distance of about three hundred and fifty miles above its mouth. There are, however, prairies of considerable extent occasionally to be met with on this part of the river. Higher up, the prairies within the river valley become more numerous and extensive, till at length no woodlands appear, except tracts of small size, situated at the points formed by the meanders of the river.

The following is also from the Long journal, cited above:

Dr. Baldwin found here a plant, which he considered as forming a new genus, approaching astragalus; also the new species of rose, pointed out by Mr. Bradbury, and by him called Rosa mutabilis. This last is a very beautiful species, rising sometimes to the height of eight or ten feet. The linden tree attains great magnitude in the low grounds of the Missouri; its flowers were now full expanded.

We have seen at Bellefontain, as well as at several other points on this river, a pretty species of sparrow, which is altogether new to us; and several specimens of a serpent (Coluber obsoletus) have occurred, which has considerable affinity with the pine-snake of the southern states, or bull-snake of Bartram."

Lark Sparrow - Condestes grammacus by John James Audubon

The lark sparrow is found at Fort Belle Fontaine