The Corps of Discovery passed this way on their westward trek across the continent. The following excerpt from Lewis' journal describes what they saw in the upper Missouri Valley, near what is now Townsend: 'We saw many beaver and some otter today; the former dam up the small channels of the river between the islands and compel the river in these parts to make other channels; which as soon as it has effected that which was stopped by the beaver becomes dry and is filled with mud, sand, gravel and driftwood. The beaver is then compelled to seek another spot for his habitation where he again erects his dam. Thus the river in many places among the clusters of islands is constantly changing the direction of such sluices as the beaver are capable of stopping or of 20 yards in width. This animal in that way I believe to be very instrumental in adding to the number of islands with which we find the river crowded.'
Lewis and Clark named these islands 'York's 8 Islands,' today known simply as 'York's Islands,' in honor of Captain William Clark's slave. The journals mention York on many occasions. During the expedition, he accompanied Clark everywhere, fished, hunted, observed various species of wildlife, and shared the misfortunes of the rest of the party such as illness, injury, frostbite, and hunger. He was the first black man to travel to the Pacific Ocean and return to tell the tale -- and eventually gain his freedom. As you can see, he was in every way a full member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
York's Islands Fishing Access Site is located on 22 acres along the Missouri River south of Townsend. A boat launch, picnic tables, fishing access, camping and toilets are available for a small fee. Access for camp trailers, 30ft in length. No water. Please limit your stay to 7 days.
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