David Thompson - OBServations

Saleesh River Country

Over 100 Years After David Thompson Was Here

In his introduction to a book published in 1931, Stewart Edward White defined well the gradual intrusion of what we now call "urban legend" into history.

"Ordinary history conveys information; extraordinary history conveys understanding.
Unfortunately the capacity to understand is none too common. Its place is too often taken by personal prejudice, for or against. The result then is what we might call an historical legend. We are not particular enough in our examination of sources to distinguish between those that are genuinely such, and those that but repeat an error merely because it is to be found in early print. Thus one quotes from the other in long succession, each repetition lending to its strength, until at last the legend has taken the solidarity of indisputable fact."

Sites Along Today's Saleesh River

Saleesh House

The Thompson Falls Brigade standing on "a small bay of the river"
L–R, Author-Carl Haywood, Linda Haywood, Ted Hoglund, Norm "Rawhide" Allen,
Jennifer Fielder and Paul Fielder
Photo by Jason Shueh

A SMALL BAY of the RIVER: In the Narrative, p. 542, Thompson's states: "The House was situated in a small bay of the river..." On p. 541 of the Narrative, T. C. Elliot states: "Saleesh House was situated near the south-eastern end of Thompson's Prairie..." Using these references and Thompson's coordinates, Haywood concluded that the pictured site was the likely bar used by Thompson to land his canoes from 1809–1812. A trail up the bank led to Saleesh House.

Pictured with their 25 foot replica of a North Canoe are the charter members of the Thompson Falls Brigade—Author-Carl Haywood, Linda Haywood, Ted Hoglund, Norm "Rawhide" Allen, Jennifer Fielder and Paul Fielder. The moccasin tracks left there by brigade members were likely the first on the landing site in more than 100 years!

Thompson's Prairie

Thompson's Prairie—looking southeast or up river
Photo by Dave Bennett

THOMPSON'S PRAIRIE: A southeast view up the Saleesh River, today's Clark Fork. Once known as the Clark's Fork of the Columbia. Somewhere near the south-eastern end of this grassy prairie, Thompson built Saleesh House in 1809. The traditional location of Saleesh House is in the stand of scattered pine on the left bank of the river near where the road enters the stand. The House Rivulet (Thompson River) flows from the steep canyon near the upper left of the above photo just under the "point" of Koo-Koo-Sint Ridge. The Road to the Buffalo crossed Thompson's Prairie on the left (north) side of the river.

Buffalo Road

Actual tread of the Road to the Buffalo
Photo by Linda Haywood

ROAD TO THE BUFFALO: This is a photo of the actual tread of a surviving segment of the Road to the Buffalo. It is located a short distance west of Thompson Falls, MT. This was the main Indian road along the Saleesh River. The tread has a "u-shaped" appearance due to the 100's of years of use from foot and horse traffic.


Koo-Koo-Sint Ridge
Photo by Ray Miller

KOO-KOO-SINT RIDGE: Koo-Koo-Sint means the Stargazer (the man who looks at stars), the name given to David Thompson by his Salish companions because of his nightly observations of the Moons of Jupiter for calibration of his chronometer. This ridge is part of the Belt Supergroup, some of the oldest rock on Earth dating back about 1.4 billion years.


Koo-Koo-Sint Ridge
Photo by Dave Bennett
BIGHORN SHEEP ON THE KOO-KOO-SINT PLATEAU: In his journals, Thompson described what we now recognize as Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. This ram and his harem can often be observed grazing along Highway 200 on the east side of the Thompson River bridge. This area known as the Koo-Koo-Sint Plateau and Koo-Koo-Sint Ridge is located at the foot of the mountains on the north side of the Saleesh River. Both derive their name from the name given to Thompson by the Indians after observing him studying the heavens as a part of his surveying work. The name means "the man who looks at the stars"

The buttons below will take you to pages related to several different aspects of Thompson's time in this region. Most is supplemental to what is in the book. If so, we will provide you with a chapter reference so you can compare the two. We are always interested in feedback. There are so many variables involved when attempting to track Thompson that ignoring or even simply misinterpreting one can change everything. If we have, we're always ready to take another look at the journal and, if necessary, head for the field yet again.