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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":

Chapter 6:


-As transcribed from pages 59 - 60

Major Stephen H. Long led an expedition up the Mississippi in 1817.  The voyage was made in a six-oared skiff. The party camped near Trempealeau on the night of Friday, July 11. In his entry for July 10 Long says, "Passed the Black River on our right, coming in from the northeast. It is navigable for pirogues somewhat more than 100 miles, to where the navigation is obstructed by rapids. On this river is an abundance of pine timber of an excellent quality. Much of the pine timber used at St. Louis is cut here. This river, has three mouths, by which it discharges itself into the Mississippi, the lowermost of which is passable and communicates with the Mississippi twelve or fourteen miles below the junction of the valleys of the two rivers. The bluffs along the river today were unusually interesting. They were of an exceedingly wild and romantic character, being divided into numerous detached fragments, some of them of mountain size, while others in slender, conical peaks seemed to tower aloft till their elevation rendered them invisible. Here might the poet or bard indulge his fancy in the wildest extravagance, while the philosopher would find a rich repast in examining the numerous phenomena here presented to his view, and in tracing the wonderful operations of nature that have taken place since the first formation of the world. A little above the mouth of the Black River, both shores of the Mississippi may be seen at the same time, which is the only instance of the kind we have met with on our way from Prairie du Chien to this place. One mile further ahead the bluffs on both sides approach within 800 yards of each other, and the river, in consequence, is narrower here than at any other place this side of Prairie du Chien. Notwithstanding this contraction of its channel, the river here imbosoms an island of considerable size. Encamped at sunset on a small island.

"Saturday, July 12. Within a few yards of the island where we camped is another, considerably smaller, which, for the sake of brevity, I called the Bluff Island, as its former name is very long and difficult to pronounce. It has been accounted a great curiosity by travelers. It is remarkable for being the third island in the Mississippi from the Gulf of Mexico to this place that has a rocky formation similar to that of the neighboring bluffs, and nearly the same altitude. Pike, in his account of it, states the height of it to be about 200 feet. We lay by this morning for the purpose of ascertaining its altitude, which we found by a trigometrical calculation, which my instruments would not enable me to make with much accuracy, to be a little, more than 500 feet. It is a very handsome conical hill, but not sufficiently large to deserve the appellation of mountain, although it is called by the name of the Montaigne qui trompe de l'eau, or the mountain that is soaked in the water."39

Long also describes in glowing terms the scenery from Trempealeau to Winona.

The party again landed at Trempealeau on the journey down the river, Sunday, July 20. At their former camping place they found their axe which they had lost there. They ascended Trempealeau Mountain and from there viewed the Indian village at Winona.40  As before, Long waxed enthusiastic over the wonderful scenery. He discovered that the bluffs which he had previously supposed to be the main river bluffs were in fact a broken range of high bluff hills, separated, from the main bluffs by the wide expanse of Trempealeau prairie. He advances the theory that the Trempealeau bluffs are in reality the eastern point of a promontory originally extending from the Minnesota bluffs, and that,the natural course of the river was originally between the Trempealeau bluffs and the main Wisconsin bluffs, Trempealeau prairie being the river's natural bed. While on the top of Trempealeau Mountain, Long and his companion were summoned by three Indians, one of whom had been bitten in the leg by a rattlesnake. The Indians at once cut out a piece of flesh containing the wounded part and applied bandages above it. They refused, however, to allow Long to wash the wound. A short time later Long ascended Queen Bluff near Richmond. His observations there led him to believe that the Mississippi was originally a vast lake filling all the valley, to a height of many hundred feet above the present water level.

Resources for the above information:

39 - Stephen H. Long, Voyage in a Six Oar Skiff to the Falls of St. Anthony in 1817, Minn. Hist. Colls.; II, Part 1, 15-17, original edition.

40 - Ibid., 47-50.


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