Their search for an easy portage to the Columbia began as a gentle walk up Lemhi Pass and down to Sacajawea’s homeland in the Lehmi Valley. But it soon turned into a rocky climb over Lost Trail Pass and down into the Bitterroot Valley, and then a race with time through the rugged Bitterroot Mountains. Imagine the disappointment the Corps felt after they topped over Lolo Pass September 13, 1805, descended 3,000 feet back down to the Lochsa River, and found that the actual route lay even higher on the next ridge. The 11 days it took to reach the Nez Perce on the Camas prairie proved to be one of the most difficult of the entire 28-month journey.
"A VERY BITTER TASTE..."
Lewisia rediviva was named in honor of Captain Lewis, who first scientifically collected this most celebrated of all plants he brought back. It is the state flower of Montana, and its name has been given to the Bitterroot Valley and the national forest that surrounds it, as well as to the mountain range the Corps struggled through on their way west.
Lewis noticed these plants for the first time on August 22, 1805, when the Shoshone informed him that the roots “were always boiled for use. I made the exprement, found that they became perfectly soft by boiling but had a very bitter taste,which was naucious to my pallate, and I transferred them to the Indian who had eat them heartily.” On the return journey, when the Corps was camped at Traveler’s Rest (near Lolo, Montana), he collected several specimens that were later examined and found to have sprouted. Hence the species Latin name—rediviva!