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Narrative of a Journey across the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River

John Kirk Townsend

Introduction and annotation by George A. Jobanek.

Northwest Reprints

6 × 9 inches. Illustrations. 352 pages.

1999. ISBN 978-0-87071-525-9. Paperback, $17.95.

Selected by National Geographic Adventure magazine as one of the "100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time"

The Narrative chronicles a journey of discovery by the first trained naturalist to cross the American continent. As a member of Nathaniel Wyeth's 1834 expedition to the Oregon country, John Kirk Townsend journeyed west through a "rich and unexplored region" that offered scientists an "almost inexhaustible field of study." Townsend's account of his travels is an engaging, personal record of the first transcontinental trek along the route that would soon become the Oregon Trail.

The Wyeth expedition was a remarkable venture that united commerce, religion, and science. Among the company's seventy men was Jason Lee, the first American missionary to the Oregon Country, and Thomas Nuttall, the renowned English botanist. It was Nuttall who invited Townsend, a brillant young ornithologist, to join the expedition.

The Narrative documents the expedition's role in the opening of the West and records the author's scientific contributions. "Delight amounting to ecstasy," wrote Townsend, describing the joys of an encounter with a new species of bird. Townsend's natural history specimens, collected for the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, caused a sensation in the East and allowed John James Audubon to include far-western species in his monumental Birds of America.

This Northwest Reprints edition of the Narrative restores the original full text, including Townsend's account of his two years at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River and of his return home by way of the Hawaiian Islands and Chile. Also included is the original scientific appendix of bird and mammal life. George Jobanek's introduction provides a new appreciation of Townsend's accomplishments, and of his role as a scientific explorer in a new land.

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