Across the Rockies to the Columbia
by John Kirk Townsend
When Nathaniel Wyeth led his second expedition to the Rocky
Mountains and the
Columbia in 1834, he was accompanied by a young ornithologist,
Townsend. Townsend, and his companion Thomas Nuttall, a
botanist, were among
the first naturalists to study these regions. Specimens taken by
Townsend were an
important contribution to the work of Audubon.
Their journey took the naturalists to Independence, MO, where
they joined Wyeth's
party. From there, they proceeded west over what was to become
the Oregon Trail,
to the trapper's Rendezvous on Ham's Fork of the Green River.
Continuing west, the
party established Fort Hall, near what is now Pocatello, ID.
Thence onward to Fort
Vancouver, on the Columbia.
Townsend published this narrative of his journey in 1839
(Philadelphia: H. Perkins) as
Narrative of a Journey across the Rocky Mountains to the
Columbia River. It
was reprinted in Volume 8 of Early Western Travels, Ruben
Gold Thwaites, ed.
(Cleveland: Authur H. Clark, 1905). Thwaites omitted a
scientific appendix and an
account of Townsend's trip to the Sandwich Islands as being
irrelevant to Western
history; they are omitted in this electronic edition, as well.
Thwaites' edition has been
recently reprinted by University of Nebraska Press (Bison Books)
in 1978, with an
introduction by Donald Jackson.
Links to the Text