On their return in May of 1806, the Corps of Discovery entered the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Nearby was a road known as the Nez Perce Trail, which extended from the Walla Walla River in South Central Washington to the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers in Idaho. In late spring and early summer the trail provided access to salmon fishing spots on the rivers. In early fall it became a route to the highlands for deer and elk hunting.
Many traveling along the trail would use a travois. A travois used two long poles, one on either side of a dog or horse, and attached in front with a makeshift collar. The poles were held together behind the animal with hides supported by short cross poles, forming a hammock or pocket on which possessions were carried. They were dragged over the trail, causing deep, parallel tracks to mark the earth. This accounts for the ruts visible on some of the eastern portions of the Travois Road today.
On May 3rd, the explorers set up camp along the Trail. Earlier that day they were surprised to meet 11 Nez Perce men led by We-ark-koomt, known as Big Horn Chief. Both Lewis and Clark specifically mention the surviving trail and campsite in their journals. Clark, for instance, wrote:
"after meeting this Chief we Continued Still up the Creek bottoms N.75° E. 2 m. to the place at which the roade leaves the Creek and assends the hill up to the high plains: here we Encamped in a Small grove of Cotton trees which in some measure broke the violence of the wind. . .it rained, hailed, Snowed & blowed with Great Violence the greater portion of the day. . .the air was very cold. we divided the last of our dried meat at dinner when it was Consumed as well as the ballance of our Dogs nearly we made but a Scant Supper, and had not any thing for tomorrow."