Major Stephen H. Long began his second expedition in 1819 for the purpose of completing the aborted expedition of Captain Richard Sparks, determined to locate the source of the Red River. Due to receiving orders from the War Department concerning the Arkansas River also, Major Long divided his party at the headwaters of the Rocky Mountains in July of 1820. Captain John R. Bell and his men followed the Arkansas, and Major Long and his men set out to find and follow the Red River. After four days' journey, the Long party discovered a creek thought to be a tributary to the Red River. Much hardship was experienced due to food and supply shortages, and one time even a water shortage. Wild fruits and good hunting sustained the men through many tribulations. Even more so, certain members of the party, disillusioned by the hardship, stole most of the party's horses and saddlebags including the bags containing the records of the trip. The three deserters were never found, even after an extensive search. To add insult to injury, Long eventually discovered that the river he and his men had followed from the Rocky Mountains, through the present-day Texas panhandle and central Oklahoma, was not the river they had been assigned to survey. Tired and exhausted, it was discovered three days' journey out from Ft. Smith, Arkansas, that they had actually traveled down the South Canadian River. Apparently, Major Long's records reflected the same opinions that were expressed by Lewis and Clark and by Pike. Each of these explorers reached the same conclusions independent of one another. They stated that the huge, treeless plains between Missouri and the Rockies were totally worthless, and unfit for habitation by any except the Indians. The Plains of Oklahoma and the panhandle of Texas were compared to the Sahara Desert and thereby received the designation, "The Great American Desert".



Submitted by William "Bill" S. Platt
Found on page 30 of NCOHA's award winning book