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Lewis and Clark
(1804-1806)

Battling the Bitterroots: Mountain Battle



Battling the Bitterroots: Mountain Battle
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 5 to 7
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.63

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    covering, burning, crossing, difficulty, timber, extremely, downed, grueling, starvation, camps, travelers, rugged, spans, afterward, snowfall, traveled
     content words:    President Jefferson, Northwest Passage, North America, Missouri River, Rocky Mountains, New Mexico, Bitterroot Mountains, Rocky Mountain, Captains Lewis, Lemhi Pass


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Battling the Bitterroots: Mountain Battle
By Toni Lee Robinson
  

1     Have you ever thought of a mountain as an enemy? Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery battled some challenging mountains as they traveled west. President Jefferson had instructed the Corps to explore the new land west of the Mississippi. They were to search for the Northwest Passage, a water route across North America.
 
2     The explorers had followed the Missouri River from St. Louis, Missouri. Shortly after reaching the end of the Missouri, the travelers were surprised by the Rocky Mountains. They had not expected to find this huge wall of jagged rock lying across their path to the Pacific.
 
3     The Rockies are 300 miles wide in some places. Several ranges of mountains make up this huge spiky belt that spans North America from Alaska to New Mexico. The Clearwater, Bighorn, Beartooth, Teton, and Bitterroot Mountains are only a few of the Rocky Mountain ranges. The height of the peaks in these chains is often 10,000 to over 14,000 feet. Much of the area is still wild and sparsely populated.
 
4     In 1804 only a few people had seen much of the region. Maps of the area were more fairy tale than fact. Other travelers had talked of mountains that had to be crossed to reach the ocean. But in their stories, the hills seemed more like the Appalachians in the eastern U.S. The eastern mountains averaged 3500 feet high. The slopes were forested, but the terrain wasn't overly rugged. People had been crossing Appalachian trails for many years.
 
5     To get ready for the mountain crossing, Captains Lewis and Clark had bought horses from the Shoshone people. The captains were eager to reach their goal before winter. The horses would easily carry them and their gear over the mountain pass, they thought. Then they would continue on their way to the ocean.

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