The Legacies of the Explorers
"The Return Home"
Following bad weather and steady temperature drops, the explorers decided to return home on January 8, 1805. The team would meet a group of Quapaw Indians, or as Hunter called them, “Indians who had come from the river Arkansa.” The Indian party was led by a man named Jean LeFevre. LeFevre, who accompanied the group to Fort Miro, provided Dunbar and Hunter with additional information concerning the region, which included place names and the name origins, river sources, adjacent regions, and European and Indian relations. After a brief stop at the Fort to retrieve Hunter’s boat, the expedition finally arrived in Natchez on January 27, 1805.
During the following weeks, Dunbar and Hunter began to work on their reports to Jefferson. Dunbar’s journals were given to the president more than a year before Lewis and Clark returned from their trip to the northwest. The Dunbar-Hunter journals provided Jefferson with his first look at the new territory from any exploration team. Jefferson then included Dunbar’s and Hunter’s accounts of the Ouachita River expedition in his message to Congress, and in 1806, the details of the journey were published and entitled Message from the President of the United States Communicating Discoveries Made in Exploring the Missouri, Red River and Washita.
Dunbar and Hunter were not the first to travel the Ouachita River nor were they the first to describe the region in journals or publications. However, they did succeed in the first scientific mapping and description of the Ouachita River valley. Their journals depict an active European presence in the region as well as several small settlements and individuals such as homesteaders, trappers, and traders who had been using the natural resources in the region for decades.