Volume 8 of this prize-winning new edition continues the return of the expeditionary party, from their base at Camp Chopunnish on the Clearwater River in present Idaho back to St. Louis. At the outset, they are hindered by deep snow; but after returning to obtain help from Nez Perce guides they make rapid progress, so much so that at their Travelers’ Rest Camp near the site of today’s Missoula, Montana, the captains divide the party for separate explorations. Lewis heads east to the Missouri River, then north along the Marias to examine the northern extent of the Louisiana Purchase; Clark goes southeast toward the Yellowstone to explore that river and to make contact with local Indians. Lewis’s party suffers various forms of ill luck—grizzlies, horse thieves, and a violent encounter with a party of Piegan Blackfeet (the only trouble of this kind on the expedition)—and Lewis is wounded by one of his own men in a hunting accident.
Clark’s group has its own troubles, although not as severe as those of Lewis and his men. The two parties eventually reunite on August 12 in present North Dakota and continue downriver. They revisit Indian tribes—Mandans, Hidatsas, Arikaras, and Yankton Sioux—they had met on the way out, and encounter traders and trappers going upriver. They arrive back in St. Louis to a triumphal welcome on September 23.