Three Forks Camp

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Three Forks Camp (1805, 1806) - A Lewis and Clark Expedition Camp established in July 1805 near present-day Three Forks, Gallatin County, Montana. Named Three Forks Camp after the three forks at the headwaters of the Missouri River. Abandoned later in July 1805 and briefly reoccupied on the return trip in July 1806. Also known as Camp Island Camp.

Approximate location of Fort Henry and Three Forks Camp of Lewis & Clark. This Photo was taken at the Confluence of the Jefferson and Madison Rivers, just above where they join the Gallatin and become the Missouri River.


On 25 Jul 1805 Captain William Clark with an advance party of four men arrived at the three forks of the Missouri River as the first recorded non-Indians to do so. His discovery of the three forks signaled the beginning of the end of river travel for the Corps of Discovery and made it imperative that they find and obtain horses from the Shoshone people for the overland part of their journey.

Clark was joined by the rest of the party on the 27th of July and after two days they continued up the newly named Jefferson River fork on 30 Jul 1805. Sacagawea, who was herself Shoshone, had earlier recognized the landscape as a part of her childhood home and they would soon find her Shoshone family and obtain the horses needed for the journey over the mountains.

River travel at this point had become very difficult because the river had narrowed and steep canyons made it difficult to pull the heavy dugout canoes from along the river banks. The men were often forced into the river to pull the canoes upstream and all along they were plagued by swarms of mosquitos. Several men were ill, including Captain Clark, so a rest stop was welcomed.

While at the Three Forks Camp the expedition rested and repaired worn equipment and clothing. Careful observations were taken to accurately establish the latitude and longitude of this most important landmark. A cache of equipment and supplies not needed for the overland journey was established to be retrieved on the return trip. The journey resumed on 30 Jul 1805.

The Return Trip

Captain Clark and his party briefly stopped here on 13 Jul 1806 during the return trip to recover the cached equipment and supplies.

Current Status

No visible remains. On private property near the Missouri Headwaters State Park. The site can be viewed from the park viewpoint at the junction of the Jefferson River and the Madison River.

Location: Near the Missouri Headwaters State Park, Three Forks, Gallatin County, Montana.

Maps & Images

Lat: 45.92660 Long: -111.51159

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 4,040'

GPS Locations:

See Also:



Fortification ID:

  • - Three Forks Camp

Visited: 19 Aug 2016

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