The observations made during our stay give for the rate of the chronometer 31.72", corresponding almost exactly with the rate obtained at St. Vrain's fort. Barometrical observations were made almost hourly during the day. This morning we breakfasted on yampah, and had only kamas for supper; but a cup of good coffee still distinguished us from our Digger acquaintances.
12th.—The morning was clear and calm, with a temperature at sunrise of 32 deg.. We resumed our journey late in the day, returning by nearly the same route which we had traveled in coming to the lake; and, avoiding the passage of Hawthorn creek, struck the hills a little below the hot salt- springs. The flat plain we had here passed over consisted alternately of tolerably good sandy soil and of saline plats. We encamped early on Clear creek, at the foot of the high ridge; one of the peaks of which we ascertained by measurement to be 4,210 feet above the lake, or about 8,400 feet above the sea. Behind these front peaks the ridge rises towards the Bear River mountains, which are probably as high as the Wind River chain. This creek is here unusually well timbered with a variety of trees. Among them were birch, (betula,) the narrow-leaved poplar, (populus angustifolia,) several kinds of willow, (solix,) hawthorn, (crataegus,) alder, (alnus viridis,) and cerasus, with an oak allied to quercus alba, but very distinct from that or any other species in the United States.
We had to-night a supper of sea-gulls, which Carson killed near the lake. Although cool, the thermometer standing at 47 deg., musquitoes were sufficiently numerous to be troublesome this evening.
13th.—Continuing up the river valley, we crossed several small streams; the mountains on the right appearing to consist of the blue limestone which we had observed in the same ridge to the northward, alternating here with a granular quartz already mentioned. One of these streams, which forms a smaller lake near the river, was broken up into several channels; and the irrigated bottom of fertile soil was covered with innumerable flowers, among which were purple fields of eupatorium purpureum, with helianthi, a handsome solidago, (S. canadensis,) and a variety of other plants in bloom. Continuing along the foot of the hills, in the afternoon we found five or six hot-springs gushing out together, beneath a conglomerate, consisting principally of fragments of a grayish-blue limestone, efflorescing a salt upon the surface. The temperature of these springs was 134 deg., and the rocks in the bed were colored with a red deposite, and there was common salt crystallized on the margin. There was also a white incrustation upon leaves and roots, consisting principally of carbonate of lime. There were rushes seen along the road this afternoon, and the soil under the hills was very black, and apparently very good; but at this time the grass is entirely dried up. We encamped on Bear river, immediately below a cut-off, the canon by which the river enters this valley bearing north by compass. The night was mild, with a very clear sky; and I obtained a very excellent observation of an occultation of Tau. Arietis, with other observations. Both immersion and emersion of the star were observed; but, as our observations have shown, the phase at the bright limb generally gives incorrect longitudes, and we have adopted the result obtained from the emersion at the dark limb, without allowing any weight to the immersion. According to these observations, the longitude is 112 deg. 05' 12", and the latitude 41 deg. 42' 43". All the longitudes on the line of our outward journey, between St. Vrain's fort and the Dalles of the Columbia, which were not directly determined by satellites, have been chronometrically referred to this place.
The people to-day were rather low-spirited, hunger making them very quiet and peaceable; and there was rarely an oath to be heard in the camp—not even a solitary enfant de garce. It was time for the men with an expected supply of provisions from Mr. Fitzpatrick to be in the neighborhood; and the gun was fired at evening, to give notice of our locality, but met with no response.
14th.—About four miles from this encampment, the trail led us down to the river, where we unexpectedly found an excellent ford—the stream being widened by an island, and not yet disengaged from the hills at the foot of the range. We encamped on a little creek where we had made a noon halt in descending the river. The night was very clear and pleasant, the sunset temperature being 67 deg..
The people this evening looked so forlorn, that I gave them permission to kill a fat young horse which I had purchased with goods from the Snake Indians, and they were very soon restored to gayety and good humor. Mr. Preuss and myself could not yet overcome some remains of civilized prejudices, and preferred to starve a little longer; feeling as much saddened as if a crime had been committed.
The next day we continued up the valley, the soil being sometimes very black and good, occasionally gravelly, and occasionally a kind of naked salt plains. We found on the way this morning a small encampment of two families of Snake Indians, from whom we purchased a small quantity of kooyah. They had piles of seeds, of three different kinds, spread out upon pieces of buffalo robe; and the squaws had just gathered about a bushel of the root of a thistle, (circium Virginianum.) They were about the ordinary size of carrots, and, as I have previously mentioned, are sweet and well flavored, requiring only a long preparation. They had a band of twelve or fifteen horses, and appeared to be growing in the sunshine with about as little labor as the plants they were eating.
Shortly afterwards we met an Indian on horseback who had killed an antelope, which we purchased of him for a little powder and some balls. We crossed the Roseaux, and encamped on the left bank; halting early for the pleasure of enjoying a wholesome and abundant supper, and were pleasantly engaged in protracting our unusual comfort, when Tabeau galloped into the camp with news that Mr. Fitzpatrick was encamped close by us, with a good supply of provisions—flour, rice, and dried meat, and even a little butter. Excitement to-night made us all wakeful; and after a breakfast before sunrise the next morning, we were again on the road, and, continuing up the valley, crossed some high points of hills, and halted to noon on the same stream, near several lodges of Snake Indians, from whom we purchased about a bushel of service-berries, partially dried. By the gift of a knife, I prevailed upon a little boy to show me the kooyah plant, which proved to be valeriana edulis. The root which constitutes the kooyah, is large, of a very bright yellow color, with the characteristic odor, but not so fully developed as in the prepared substance. It loves the rich moist soil of river bottoms, which was the locality in which I always afterwards found it. It was now entirely out of bloom; according to my observation, flowering in the months of May and June. In the afternoon we entered a long ravine leading to a pass in the dividing ridge between the waters of Bear river and the Snake river, or Lewis's fork of the Columbia; our way being very much impeded, and almost entirely blocked up, by compact fields of luxuriant artemisia. Taking leave at this point of the waters of Bear river, and of the geographical basin which encloses the system of rivers and creeks which belong to the Great Salt Lake, and which so richly deserves a future detailed and ample exploration, I can say of it, in general terms, that the bottoms of this river, (Bear,) and of some of the creeks which I saw, form a natural resting and recruiting station for travelers, now, and in all time to come. The bottoms are extensive; water excellent; timber sufficient; the soil good, and well adapted to grains and grasses suited to such an elevated region. A military post, and a civilized settlement, would be of great value here; grass and salt so much abound. The lake will furnish exhaustless supplies of salt. All the mountains here are covered with a valuable nutritious grass, called bunch-grass, from the form in which it grows, which has a second growth in the fall. The beasts of the Indians were fat upon it; our own found it a good subsistence; and its quantity will sustain any amount of cattle, and make this truly a bucolic region.
We met here an Indian family on horseback, which had been out to gather service-berries, and were returning loaded. This tree was scattered about on the hills; and the upper part of the pass was timbered with aspen, (populus trem.;) the common blue flowering-flax occurring among the plants. The approach to the pass was very steep, and the summit about 6,300 feet above the sea—probably only an uncertain approximation, as at the time of observation it was blowing a violent gale of wind from the northwest, with cumuli scattered in masses over the sky, the day otherwise bright and clear. We descended, by a steep slope, into a broad open valley—good soil—from four to five miles wide, coming down immediately upon one of the head-waters of the Pannack river, which here loses itself in swampy ground. The appearance of the country here is not very interesting. On either side is a regular range of mountains of the usual character, with a little timber, tolerably rocky on the right, and higher and more smooth on the left, with still higher peaks looking out above the range. The valley afforded a good level road, but it was late when it brought us to water, and we encamped at dark. The north-west wind had blown up very cold weather, and the artemisia, which was our firewood to-night, did not happen to be very abundant. This plant loves a dry, sandy soil, and cannot grow in the good bottoms where it is rich and moist, but on every little eminence, where water does not rest long, it maintains absolute possession. Elevation above the sea about 5,100 feet.
At night scattered fires glimmered along the mountains, pointing out camps of the Indians; and we contrasted the comparative security in which we traveled through this country with the guarded vigilance we were compelled to exert among the Sioux and other Indians on the eastern side of the Rocky mountains.
At sunset the thermometer was at 50 deg., and at midnight at 30 deg..
17th.—The morning sky was calm and clear, the temperature at daylight being 25 deg., and at sunrise 20 deg.. There is throughout this country a remarkable difference between the morning and mid-day temperatures, which at this season was very generally 40 deg. or 50 deg., and occasionally greater; and frequently, after a very frosty morning, the heat in a few hours would render the thinnest clothing agreeable. About noon we reached the main fork. The Pannack river was before us, the valley being here 11/2 miles wide, fertile, and bordered by smooth hills, not over 500 feet high, partly covered with cedar; a high ridge, in which there is a prominent peak, rising behind those on the left. We continued to descend this stream, and found on it at night a warm and comfortable camp. Flax occurred so frequently during the day as to be almost a characteristic, and the soil appeared excellent. The evening was gusty, with a temperature at sunset of 59 deg.. I obtained, about midnight, an observation of an emersion of the first satellite, the night being calm and very clear, the stars remarkably bright, and the thermometer at 30 deg.. Longitude, from mean of satellite and chronometer, 112 deg. 29' 52", and latitude, by observation, 42 deg. 44' 40".
18th.—The day clear and calm, with a temperature of 25 deg. at sunrise. After traveling seven or eight miles, we emerged on the plains of the Columbia, in sight of the famous "Three Buttes," a well-known landmark in the country, distant about 45 miles. The French word butte, which so often occurs in this narrative, is retained from the familiar language of the country, and identifies the objects to which it refers. It is naturalized in the region of the Rocky mountains, and, even if desirable to render it in English, I know of no word which would be its precise equivalent. It is applied to the detached hills and ridges which rise rapidly, and reach too high to be called hills or ridges, and not high enough to be called mountains. Knob, as applied in the western states, is their descriptive term in English. Cerro is the Spanish term; but no translation, or periphrasis, would preserve the identity of these picturesque landmarks, familiar to the traveler, and often seen at a great distance. Covered as far as could be seen with artemisia, the dark and ugly appearance of this plain obtained for it the name of Sage Desert; and we were agreeably surprised, on reaching the Portneuf river, to see a beautiful green valley with scattered timber spread out beneath us, on which, about four miles distant, were glistening the white walls of the fort. The Portneuf runs along the upland plain nearly to its mouth, and an abrupt descent of perhaps two hundred feet brought us down immediately upon the stream, which at the ford is one hundred yards wide, and three feet deep, with clear water, a swift current, and gravelly bed; but a little higher up the breadth was only about thirty-five yards, with apparently deep water.
In the bottom I remarked a very great number of springs and sloughs, with remarkably clear water and gravel beds. At sunset we encamped with Mr. Talbot and our friends, who came on to Fort Hall when we went to the lake, and whom we had the satisfaction to find all well, neither party having met with any mischance in the interval of our separation. They, too, had had their share of fatigue and scanty provisions, as there had been very little game left on the trail of the populous emigration; and Mr. Fitzpatrick had rigidly husbanded our stock of flour and light provisions, in view of the approaching winter and the long journey before us.
19th.—This morning the sky was very dark and gloomy, and at daylight it began snowing thickly, and continued all day, with cold, disagreeable weather. At sunrise the temperature was 43 deg.. I rode up to the fort, and purchased from Mr. Grant (the officer in charge of the post) several very indifferent horses, and five oxen, in very fine order, which were received at the camp with great satisfaction: and, one being killed at evening, the usual gayety and good humor were at once restored. Night came in stormy.
20th.—We had a night of snow and rain, and the thermometer at sunrise was at 34 deg.; the morning was dark, with a steady rain, and there was still an inch of snow on the ground, with an abundance on the neighboring hills and mountains. The sudden change in the weather was hard for our animals, who trembled and shivered in the cold—sometimes taking refuge in the timber, and now and then coming out and raking the snow off the ground for a little grass, or eating the young willows.
21st.—Ice made tolerably thick during this night, and in the morning the weather cleared up very bright, with a temperature at sunrise of 29 deg.; and I obtained a meridian observation for latitude at the fort, with observations for time. The sky was again covered in the afternoon, and the thermometer at sunset 48 deg..
22d.—The morning was cloudy and unpleasant, and at sunrise a cold rain commenced, with a temperature of 41 deg..
The early approach of winter, and the difficulty of supporting a large party, determined me to send back a number of the men who had become satisfied that they were not fitted for the laborious service and frequent privation to which they were necessarily exposed, and which there was reason to believe would become more severe in the further extension of the voyage. I accordingly called them together, and, informing them of my intention to continue our journey during the ensuing winter, in the course of which they would probably be exposed to considerable hardship, succeeded in prevailing on a number of them to return voluntarily. These were: Charles de Forrest, Henry Lee, J. Campbell, Wm. Creuss, A. Vasquez; A. Pera, Patrick White, B. Tesson, M. Creely, Francois Lajeunesse, Basil Lajeunesse. Among these I regretted very much to lose Basil Lajeunesse, one of the best men in my party, who was obliged, by the condition of his family, to be at home in the coming winter. Our preparations having been completed in the interval of our stay here, both parties were ready this morning to resume their respective routes.
Except that there is a greater quantity of wood used in its construction, Fort Hall very much resembles the other trading posts which have already been described to you, and would be another excellent post of relief for the emigration. It is in the low rich bottom of a valley, apparently 20 miles long, formed by the confluence of Portneuf river with Lewis's fork of the Columbia, which it enters about nine miles below the fort, and narrowing gradually to the mouth of the Pannack river, where it has a breadth of only two or three miles. Allowing 50 miles for the road from the Beer springs of Bear river to Fort Hall, its distance along the traveled road from the town of Westport, on the frontier of Missouri, by way of Fort Laramie and the great South Pass, is 1,323 miles. Beyond this place, on the line of road along the barren valley of the Upper Columbia, there does not occur, for a distance of nearly 300 miles to the westward, a fertile spot of ground sufficiently large to produce the necessary quantity of grain, or pasturage enough to allow even a temporary repose to the emigrants. On their recent passage, they had been able to obtain, at very high prices and in insufficient quantity, only such assistance as could be afforded by a small and remote trading- post—and that a foreign one—which, in the supply of its own wants, had necessarily drawn around it some of the resources of civilization, but which obtained nearly all its supplies from the distant depot of Vancouver, by a difficult water-carriage of 250 miles up the Columbia river, and a land-carriage by pack-horses of 600 miles. An American military post, sufficiently strong to give to their road a perfect security against the Indian tribes, who are unsettled in locality and very uncertain in their disposition, and which, with the necessary facilities for the repair of their equipage, would be able to afford them relief in stock and grain from the produce of the post, would be of extraordinary value to the emigration. Such a post (and all others which may be established on the line to Oregon) would naturally form the nucleus of a settlement, at which supplies and repose would be obtained by the emigrant, or trading caravans, which may hereafter traverse these elevated, and, in many places, desolate and inhospitable regions.
I subjoin an analysis of the soil in the river bottom near Fort Hall, which will be of assistance in enabling you to form some correct idea of its general character in the neighboring country. I characterize it as good land, but the analysis will show its precise properties.
Analysis of the Soil.
Silicina ————————- 68.55 Alumina —————————- 7.45 Carbonate of lime ————- 8.51 Carbonate of magnesia ——- 5.09 Oxide of iron ——————- 1.40 Organic vegetable matter — 4.74 Water and loss —————- 4.26 _
Our observations place this post in longitude 112 deg. 29' 54", latitude 43 deg. 01' 30", and the elevation above the sea, 4,500 feet.
Taking leave of the homeward party, we resumed our journey down the valley, the weather being very cold, and the rain coming in hard gusts, which the wind blew directly in our faces. We forded the Portneuf in a storm of rain, the water in the river being frequently up to the axles, and about 110 yards wide. After the gust, the weather improved a little, and we encamped about three miles below, at the mouth of the Pannack river, on Lewis's fork, which here has a breadth of about 120 yards. The temperature at sunset was 42 deg.; the sky partially covered with dark, rainy clouds.
23d.—The temperature at sunrise was 32 deg.; the morning dark, and snow falling steadily and thickly, with a light air from the southward. Profited of being obliged to remain in camp, to take hourly barometrical observations from sunrise to midnight. The wind at eleven o'clock set in from the north-ward in heavy gusts, and the snow changed into rain. In the afternoon, when the sky brightened, the rain had washed all the snow from the bottoms; but the neighboring mountains, from summit to foot, were luminously white—an inauspicious commencement of the autumn, of which this was the first day.
24th.—The thermometer at sunrise was 35 deg., and a blue sky in the west promised a fine day. The river bottoms here are narrow and swampy, with frequent sloughs; and after crossing the Pannack, the road continued along the uplands, rendered very slippery by the soil of wet clay, and entirely covered with artemisia bushes, among which occur frequent fragments of obsidian. At noon we encamped in a grove of willows, at the upper end of a group of islands about half a mile above the American falls of Snake river. Among the willows here, were some bushes of Lewis and Clarke's currant, (ribes aureum.) The river here enters between low mural banks, which consist of a fine vesicular trap-rock, the intermediate portions being compact and crystalline. Gradually becoming higher in its downward course, these banks of scoriated volcanic rock form, with occasional interruptions, its characteristic feature along the whole line to the Dalles of the Lower Columbia, resembling a chasm which had been rent through the country, and which the river had afterwards taken for its bed. The immediate valley of the river is a high plain covered with black rocks and artemisias. In the south is a bordering range of mountains, which, although not very high, are broken and covered with snow; and at a great distance to the north is seen the high, snowy line of the Salmon river mountains, in front of which stand out prominently in the plain the three isolated rugged-looking mountains commonly known as the Three Buttes. Between the river and the distant Salmon river range, the plain is represented by Mr. Fitzpatrick as so entirely broken up and rent into chasms as to be impracticable for a man even on foot. In the sketch annexed, the point of view is low, but it conveys very well some idea of the open character of the country, with the buttes rising out above the general line. By measurement, the river above is 870 feet wide, immediately contracted at the fall in the form of a lock, by jutting piles of scoriaceous basalt, over which the foaming river must present a grand appearance at the time of high water. The evening was clear and pleasant, with dew; and at sunset the temperature was 54 deg.. By observation, the latitude is 42 deg. 47' 05", and the longitude 112 deg. 40' 13". A few hundred yards below the falls, and on the left bank of the river is an escarpment from which we obtained some specimens.
25th.—Thermometer at sunrise 47 deg.. The day came in clear, with a strong gale from the south, which commenced at eleven of the last night. The road to-day led along the river which is full of rapids and small falls. Grass is very scanty and along the rugged banks are scattered cedars, with an abundance of rocks and sage. We traveled fourteen miles, and encamped in the afternoon near the river, on a rocky creek, the bed of which was entirely occupied with boulders of a very large size. For the last three or four miles the right bank of the river has a palisaded appearance. One of the oxen was killed here for food. The thermometer at evening was at 55 deg., the sky almost overcast, and the barometer indicated an elevation of 4,400 feet.
26th.—Rain during the night, and the temperature at sunrise 42 deg.. Traveling along the river, in about four miles we reached a picturesque stream, to which we gave the name of Fall creek. It is remarkable for the many falls which occur in a short distance; and its bed is composed of a calcareous tufa, or vegetable rock, composed principally of the remains of reeds and mosses, resembling that at the Basin spring, on Bear river.
The road along the river bluffs had been occasionally very bad; and imagining that some rough obstacles rendered such a detour necessary, we followed for several miles a plain wagon-road leading up this stream, until we reached a point whence it could be seen making directly towards a low place in the range on the south side of the valley, and we became immediately aware that we were on a trail formed by a party of wagons, in company with whom we had encamped at Elm grove, near the frontier of Missouri, and which you will remember were proceeding to Upper California under the direction of Mr. Jos. Chiles. At the time of their departure, no practicable passes were known in the southern Rocky mountains within the territory of the United States; and the probable apprehension of difficulty in attempting to pass near the settled frontier of New Mexico, together with the desert character of the unexplored region beyond, had induced them to take a more northern and circuitous route by way of the Sweet Water pass and Fort Hall. They had still between them and the valley of the Sacramento a great mass of mountains, forming the Sierra Nevada, here commonly known as the Great California mountain, and which were at this time considered as presenting an impracticable barrier to wheeled-carriages. Various considerations had suggested to them a division of the party; and a greater portion of the camp, including the wagons, with the mail and other stores, were now proceeding under the guidance of Mr. Joseph Walker, who had engaged to conduct them, by a long sweep to the southward, around what is called the point of the mountain; and, crossing through a pass known only to himself, gain the banks of the Sacramento by the valley of the San Joaquin. It was a long and a hazardous journey for a party in which there were women and children. Sixty days was the shortest period of time in which they could reach the point of the mountain, and their route lay through a country inhabited by wild and badly-disposed Indians, and very poor in game; but the leader was a man possessing great and intimate knowledge of the Indians, with an extraordinary firmness and decision of character. In the mean time, Mr. Chiles had passed down the Columbia with a party of ten or twelve men, with the intention of reaching the settlements on the Sacramento by a more direct course, which indefinite information from hunters had indicated in the direction of the head-waters of the Riviere aux Malheurs; and having obtained there a reinforcement of animals, and a supply of provisions, meet the wagons before they should have reached the point of the mountain, at a place which had been previously agreed upon. In the course of our narrative, we shall be able to give you some information of the fortunes which attended the movements of these adventurous travelers.
Having discovered our error, we immediately regained the line along the river, which the road quitted about noon, and encamped at five o'clock on the stream called Raft river, (Riviere aux Cajeux,) having traveled only 13 miles. In the north, the Salmon River mountains are visible at a very far distance; and on the left, the ridge in which Raft river heads is about 20 miles distant, rocky, and tolerably high. Thermometer at sunset 44 deg., with a partially clouded sky, and a sharp wind from the S.W.
27th.—It was now no longer possible, as in our previous journey, to travel regularly every day, and find at any moment a convenient place for repose at noon or a camp at night; but the halting-places were now generally fixed along the road, by the nature of the country, at places where, with water, there was a little scanty grass. Since leaving the American falls, the road had frequently been very bad; the many short, steep ascents, exhausting the strength of our worn-out animals, requiring always at such places the assistance of the men to get up each cart, one by one; and our progress with twelve or fourteen wheeled-carriages, though light and made for the purpose, in such a rocky country, was extremely slow; and I again determined to gain time by a division of the camp. Accordingly, to-day, the parties again separated, constituted very much as before—Mr. Fitzpatrick remaining in charge of the heavier baggage.
The morning was calm and clear, with a white frost, and the temperature at sunrise 24 deg..
To-day the country had a very forbidding appearance; and, after traveling 20 miles over a slightly undulating plain, we encamped at a considerable spring, called Swamp creek, rising in low grounds near the point of a spur from the mountain. Returning with a small party in a starving condition from the westward 12 or 14 years since, Carson had met here three or four buffalo bulls, two of which were killed. They were among the pioneers which had made the experiment of colonizing in the valley of the Columbia, and which had failed, as heretofore stated. At sunset the thermometer was at 46 deg., and the evening was overcast, with a cool wind from the S.E., and to-night we had only sage for firewood. Mingled with the artemisia was a shrubby and thorny chenopodiaceous plant.
28th.-Thermometer at sunrise 40 deg.. The wind rose early to a gale from the west, with a very cold driving rain; and, after an uncomfortable day's ride of 25 miles, we, were glad when at evening we found a sheltered camp, where there was an abundance of wood, at some elevated rocky islands covered with cedar, near the commencement of another long canon of the river. With the exception of a short detention at a deep little stream called Goose creek, and some occasional rocky places, we had to-day a very good road; but the country has a barren appearance, sandy, and densely covered with the artemisias from the banks of the river to the foot of the mountains. Here I remarked, among the sage bushes, green bunches of what is called the second growth of grass. The river to-day has had a smooth appearance, free from rapids, with a low sandy hill-slope bordering the bottoms, in which there is a little good soil. Thermometer at sunset 45 deg., blowing a gale, and disagreeably cold.
29th.—The thermometer at sunrise 36 deg., with a bright sun, and appearance of finer weather. The road for several miles was extremely rocky, and consequently bad; but, entering after this a sandy country, it became very good, with no other interruption than the sage bushes, which covered the river plain as far as the eye could reach, and, with their uniform tint of dark gray, gave to the country a gloomy and sombre appearance. All the day the course of the river has been between walls of the black volcanic rock, a dark line of the escarpment on the opposite side pointing out its course, and sweeping along in foam at places where the mountains which border the valley present always on the left two ranges, the lower one a spur of the higher; and, on the opposite side, the Salmon River mountains are visible at a great distance. Having made 24 miles, we encamped about five o'clock on Rock creek—a stream having considerable water, a swift current, and wooded with willow.
30th.—Thermometer at sunrise 28 deg.. In its progress towards the river, this creek soon enters a chasm of the volcanic rock, which in places along the wall presents a columnar appearance; and the road becomes extremely rocky whenever it passes near its banks. It is only about twenty feet wide where the road crosses it, with a deep bed, and steep banks, covered with rocky fragments, with willows and a little grass on its narrow bottom. The soil appears to be full of calcareous matter, with which the rocks are incrusted. The fragments of rock which had been removed by the emigrants in making a road, where we ascended from the bed of this creek, were whitened with lime; and during the afternoon's march I remarked in the soil a considerably quantity of calcareous concretions. Towards evening the sages became more sparse, and the clear spaces were occupied by tufts of green grass. The river still continued its course through a trough, or open canon; and towards sunset we followed the trail of several wagons which had turned in towards Snake river, and encamped, as they had done, on the top of the escarpment. There was no grass here, the soil among the sage being entirely naked; but there is occasionally a little bottom along the river, which a short ravine of rocks, at rare intervals, leaves accessible; and by one of these we drove our animals down, and found some tolerably good grass bordering the water.
Immediately opposite to us, a subterranean river bursts out directly from the face of the escarpment, and falls in white foam to the river below. The main river is enclosed with mural precipices, which form its characteristic feature along a great portion of its course. A melancholy and strange-looking country—one of fracture, and violence, and fire.
We had brought with us, when we separated from the camp, a large gaunt ox, in appearance very poor; but, being killed to-night, to the great joy of the people, he was found to be remarkably fat. As usual at such occurrences, the evening was devoted to gayety and feasting; abundant fare now made an epoch among us; and in this laborious life, in such a country as this, our men had but little else to enjoy. The temperature at sunset was 65 deg., with a clear sky and a very high wind. By the observation of the evening, the encampment was in longitude 114 deg. 25' 04", and in latitude 42 deg. 38' 44".
1st.—The morning clear, with wind from the west, and the thermometer at 55 deg.. We descended to the bottoms, taking with us the boat, for the purpose of visiting the fall in the opposite cliffs; and while it was being filled with air, we occupied ourselves in measuring the river, which is 1,786 feet in breadth, with banks 200 feet high. We were surprised, on our arrival at the opposite side, to find a beautiful basin of clear water, formed by the falling river, around which the rocks were whitened by some saline incrustation. Here the Indians had constructed wicker dams, although I was informed that the salmon do not ascend the river so far; and its character below would apparently render it impracticable.
The ascent of the steep hill-side was rendered a little difficult by a dense growth of shrubs and fields of cane; and there were frequent hidden crevices among the rocks, where the water was heard rushing below; but we succeeded in reaching the main stream, which, issuing from between strata of the trap-rock in two principal branches, produced almost immediately a torrent, 22 feet wide, and white with foam. It is a picturesque spot of singular beauty, overshadowed by bushes, from under which the torrent glances, tumbling into the white basin below, where the clear water contrasted beautifully with the muddy stream of the river. Its outlet was covered with a rank growth of canes, and a variety of unusual plants, and nettles, (urtica canabina,) which, before they were noticed, had set our hands and arms on fire. The temperature of the spring was 58 deg., while that of the river was 51 deg.. The perpendicular height of the place at which this stream issues is 45 feet above the river, and 162 feet below the summit of the precipice—making nearly 200 feet for the height of the wall. On the hill-side here was obtained a specimen consisting principally of fragments of the shells of small crustacea, and which was probably formed by deposition from these springs, proceeding from some lake or river in the highlands above.
We resumed our journey at noon, the day being hot and bright; and, after a march of 17 miles, encamped at sunset on the river, near several lodges of Snake Indians.
Our encampment was about one mile below the Fishing falls—a series of cataracts with very inclined planes, which are probably so named because they form a barrier to the ascent of the salmon; and the great fisheries, from which the inhabitants of this barren region almost entirely derive a subsistence, commence at this place. These appeared to be unusually gay savages, fond of loud laughter; and, in their apparent good nature and merry character, struck me as being entirely different from the Indians we had been accustomed to see. From several who visited our camp in the evening, we purchased, in exchange for goods, dried salmon. At this season they are not very fat, but we were easily pleased. The Indians made us comprehend, that when the salmon came up the river in the spring, they are so abundant that they merely throw in their spears at random, certain of bringing out a fish.
These poor people are but slightly provided with winter clothing; there is but little game to furnish skins for the purpose; and of a little animal which seemed to be the most numerous, it required 20 skins to make a covering to the knees. But they are still a joyous, talkative race, who grow fat and become poor with the salmon, which at least never fail them— the dried being used in the absence of the fresh. We are encamped immediately on the river bank, and with the salmon jumping up out of the water, and Indians paddling about in boats made of rushes, or laughing around the fires, the camp to-night has quite a lively appearance.
The river at this place is more open than for some distance above, and, for the time, the black precipices have disappeared, and no calcareous matter is visible in the soil. The thermometer at sunset 74 deg., clear and calm.
2d.—The sunrise temperature was 48 deg.; the weather clear and calm. Shortly after leaving the encampment, we crossed a stream of clear water, with a variable breadth of 10 to 25 yards, broken by rapids, and lightly wooded with willow, and having a little grass on its small bottom-land. The barrenness of the country is in fine contrast to-day with the mingled beauty and grandeur of the river, which is more open than hitherto, with a constant succession of falls and rapids. Over the edge of the black cliffs, and out from their faces, are falling numberless streams and springs; and all the line of the river is in motion with the play of the water. In about seven miles we reached the most beautiful and picturesque fall I had seen on the river.
On the opposite side, the vertical fall is perhaps 18 feet high; and nearer, the sheet of foaming water is divided and broken into cataracts, where several little islands on the brink and in the river above, give it much picturesque beauty, and make it one of those places the traveler turns again and again to fix in his memory. There were several lodges of Indians here, from whom we traded salmon. Below this place the river makes a remarkable bend; and the road, ascending the ridge, gave us a fine view of the river below, intersected at many places by numerous fish dams. In the north, about 50 miles distant, were some high snowy peaks of the Salmon River mountains; and in the northeast, the last peak of the range was visible at the distance of perhaps 100 miles or more. The river hills consist of very broken masses of sand, covered everywhere with the same interminable fields of sage, and occasionally the road is very heavy. We now frequently saw Indians, who were strung along the river at every little rapid where fish are to be caught, and the cry haggai, haggai, (fish,) was constantly heard whenever we passed near their huts, or met them in the road. Very many of them were oddly and partially dressed in overcoat, shirt, waistcoat, or pantaloons, or whatever article of clothing they had been able to procure in trade from the emigrants; for we had now entirely quitted the country where hawks' bells, beads, and vermilion were the current coin, and found that here only useful articles, and chiefly clothing, were in great request. These, however, are eagerly sought after; and for a few trifling pieces of clothing, travelers may procure food sufficient to carry them to the Columbia.
We made a long stretch across the upper plain, and encamped on the bluff, where the grass was very green and good, the soil of the upper plains containing a considerable proportion of calcareous matter. This green freshness of the grass was very remarkable for the season of the year. Again we heard the roar of the fall in the river below, where the water in an unbroken volume goes over a descent of several feet. The night is clear, and the weather continues very warm and pleasant, with a sunset temperature of 70 deg..
3d.—The morning was pleasant, with a temperature at sunrise of 42 deg.. The road was broken by ravines among the hills, and in one of these, which made the bed of a dry creek, I found a fragmentary stratum, or brecciated conglomerate, consisting of flinty slate pebbles, with fragments of limestone containing fossil shells.
On the left, the mountains are visible at the distance of 20 or 30 miles, appearing smooth and rather low; but at intervals higher peaks look out from beyond, and indicate that the main ridge, which we are leaving with the course of the river, and which forms the northern boundary of the Great Basin, still maintains its elevation. About two o'clock we arrived at the ford where the road crosses to the right bank of Snake river. An Indian was hired to conduct us through the ford, which proved impracticable for us, the water sweeping away the howitzer and nearly drowning the mules, which we were obliged to extricate by cutting them out of the harness. The river here is expanded into a little bay, in which there are two islands, across which is the road of the ford; and the emigrants had passed by placing two of their heavy wagons abreast of each other, so as to oppose a considerable mass against the body of water. The Indians informed us that one of the men, in attempting to turn some cattle which had taken a wrong direction, was carried off by the current and drowned. Since their passage, the water had risen considerably; but, fortunately, we had a resource in a boat, which was filled with air and launched; and at seven o'clock we were safely encamped on the opposite bank, the animals swimming across, and the carriage, howitzer, and baggage of the camp, being carried over in the boat. At the place where we crossed, above the islands, the river had narrowed to a breadth of 1,049 feet by measurement, the greater portion of which was from six to eight feet deep. We were obliged to make our camp where we landed, among the Indian lodges, which are semicircular huts made of willow, thatched over with straw, and open to the sunny south. By observation, the latitude of our encampment on the right bank of the river was 42 deg. 55' 58"; chronometric longitude 115 deg. 04' 46", and the traveled distance from Fort Hall 208 miles.
4th.—Calm, pleasant day, with the thermometer at sunrise at 47 deg.. Leaving the river at a considerable distance to the left, and following up the bed of a rocky creek, with occasional holes of water, in about six miles we ascended, by a long and rather steep hill, to a plain 600 feet above the river, over which we continued to travel during the day, having a broken ridge 2,000 or 3,000 feet high on the right. The plain terminates, where we ascended, in an escarpment of vesicular trap-rock, which supplies the fragments of the creek below. The sky clouded over with a strong wind from the northwest, with a few drops of rain and occasional sunlight, threatening a change.
Artemisia still covers the plain, but Purshia tridentata makes its appearance here on the hill-sides and on bottoms of the creeks—quite a tree in size, larger than the artemisia. We crossed several hollows with a little water in them, and improved grass; and, turning off from the road in the afternoon in search of water, traveled about three miles up the bed of a willow creek, towards the mountain, and found a good encampment, with wood and grass, and little ponds of water in the bed of the creek; which must be of more importance at other seasons, as we found there several old fixtures for fishing. There were many holes on the creek prairie, which had been made by the Diggers in search of roots.
Wind increased to a violent gale from the N.W., with a temperature at sunset of 57 deg..
5th..—The morning was calm and clear, and at sunrise the thermometer was at 32 deg.. The road to-day was occasionally extremely rocky, with hard volcanic fragments, and our traveling very slow. In about nine miles the road brought us to a group of smoking hot springs, with a temperature of 164 deg.. There were a few helianthi in bloom, with some other low plants, and the place was green round about; the ground warm and the air pleasant, with a summer atmosphere that was very grateful in a day of high and cold, searching wind. The rocks were covered with a white and red incrustation; and the water has on the tongue the same unpleasant effect as that of the Basin spring on Bear river. They form several branches, and bubble up with force enough to raise the small pebbles several inches. The following is an analysis of the deposite with which the rocks are incrusted:
Silica———————————— 72.55 Carbonate of lime——————- 14.60 Carbonate of magnesia ———— 1.20 Oxide of iron————————- 4.65 Alumina———————————- 0.70
Chloride of sodium, &c.— } Sulphate of soda————- }—— 1.10 Sulphate of lime, &c.—— }
Organic vegetable matter- }—— 5.20 Water and loss—————- } _ 100.00
These springs are near the foot of the ridge, (a dark and rugged-looking mountain,) in which some of the nearer rocks have a reddish appearance, and probably consist of a reddish-brown trap, fragments of which were scattered along the road after leaving the spring. The road was now about to cross the point of this mountain, which we judged to be a spur from the Salmon River range. We crossed a small creek, and encamped about sunset on a stream, which is probably Lake river. This is a small stream, some five or six feet broad, with a swift current, timbered principally with willows and some few cottonwoods. Along the banks were canes, rosebushes, and clematis, with Purshia tridentata and artemisias on the upper bottom. The sombre appearance of the country is somewhat relieved in coming unexpectedly from the dark rocks upon these green and wooded water- courses, sunk in chasms; and, in the spring, the contrasted effect must make them beautiful.
The thermometer at sunset 47 deg., and the night threatening snow.
6th.—The morning warm, the thermometer 46 deg. at sunrise, and sky entirely clouded. After traveling about three miles over an extremely rocky road, the volcanic fragments began to disappear; and, entering among the hills at the point of the mountain, we found ourselves suddenly in a granite country. Here, the character of the vegetation was very much changed; the artemisia disappeared almost entirely, showing only at intervals towards the close of the day, and was replaced by Purshia tridentata, with flowering shrubs, and small fields of dieteria divaricata, which gave bloom and gayety to the hills. These were everywhere covered with a fresh and green short grass, like that of the early spring. This is the fall or second growth, the dried grass having been burnt off by the Indians; and wherever the fire has passed, the bright, green color is universal. The soil among the hills is altogether different from that of the river plain, being in many places black, in others sandy and gravelly, but of a firm and good character, appearing to result from the decomposition of the granite rocks, which is proceeding rapidly.
In quitting for a time the artemisia (sage) through which we had been so long voyaging, and the sombre appearance of which is so discouraging, I have to remark, that I have been informed that in Mexico wheat is grown upon the ground which produces this shrub; which, if true, relieves the soil from the character of sterility imputed to it. Be this as it may, there is no dispute about the grass, which is almost universal on the hills and mountains, and always nutritious, even in its dry state. We passed on the way masses of granite on the slope of the spur, which was very much weathered and abraded. This is a white feldspathic granite, with small scales of black mica; smoky quartz and garnets appear to constitute this portion of the mountain.
The road at noon reached a broken ridge, on which were scattered many boulders or blocks of granite; and, passing very small streams, where, with a little more than the usual timber, was sometimes gathered a little wilderness of plants, we encamped on a small stream, after a march of 22 miles, in company with a few Indians. Temperature at sunset 51 deg.; and the night was partially clear, with a few stars visible through drifting white clouds. The Indians made an unsuccessful attempt to steal a few horses from us—a thing of course with them, and to prevent which the traveler is on perpetual watch.
7th.—The day was bright, clear, pleasant, with a temperature of 45 deg.; and we breakfasted at sunrise, the birds singing in the trees as merrily as if we were in the midst of summer. On the upper edge of the hills on the opposite side of the creek, the black volcanic rock appears; and ascending these, the road passed through a basin, around which the hills swept in such a manner as to give it the appearance of an old crater. Here were strata and broken beds of black scoriated rock, and hills composed of the same, on the summit of one of which there was an opening resembling a rent. We traveled to-day through a country resembling that of yesterday, where, although the surface was hilly, the road was good, being firm, and entirely free from rocks and artemisia. To our left, below, was the great sage plain; and on the right were the near mountains, which presented a smoothly-broken character, or rather a surface waved into numberless hills. The road was occasionally enlivened by meeting Indians, and the day was extremely beautiful and pleasant; and we were pleased to be free from the sage, even for a day. When we had traveled about eight miles, we were nearly opposite to the highest portion of the mountains on the left side of the Smoke River valley; and, continuing on a few miles beyond, we came suddenly in sight of the broad green line of the valley of the Riviere Boisee, (wooded river,) black near the gorge where it debouches into the plains, with high precipices of basalt, between walls of which it passes, on emerging from the mountains. Following with the eye its upward course, it appears to be shut in among lofty mountains, confining its valley in a very rugged country.
Descending the hills, after traveling a few miles along the high plain, the road brought us down upon the bottoms of the river, which is a beautiful, rapid stream, with clear mountain water; and, as the name indicates, well wooded with some varieties of timber—among which are handsome cottonwoods. Such a stream had become quite a novelty in this country, and we were delighted this afternoon to make a pleasant camp under fine old trees again. There were several Indian encampments scattered along the river; and a number of their inhabitants, in the course of the evening, came to the camp on horseback with dried and fresh fish, to trade. The evening was clear, and the temperature at sunset 57 deg..
At the time of the first occupation of this region by parties engaged in the fur-trade, a small party of men, under the command of ——- Reid, constituting all the garrison of a small fort on this river, were surprised and massacred by the Indians; and to this event the stream owes its occasional name of Reid's river. On the 8th we traveled about 26 miles, the ridge on the right having scattered pines on the upper parts; and, continuing the next day our road along the river bottom, after a day's travel of 24 miles, we encamped in the evening on the right bank of the river, a mile above the mouth, and early the next morning arrived at Fort Boise. This is a simple dwelling-house on the right bank of Snake river, about a mile below the mouth of Riviere Boisee; and on our arrival we were received with an agreeable hospitality by Mr. Payette, an officer of the Hudson's Bay Company, in charge of the fort, all of whose garrison consisted in a Canadian engage.
Here the road recrosses the river, which is broad and deep; but, with our good boat, aided by two canoes, which were found at the place, the camp was very soon transferred to the left bank. Here we found ourselves again surrounded by the sage; artemisia tridentata, and the different shrubs which during our voyage had always made their appearance abundantly on saline soils, being here the prevailing and almost the only plants. Among them the surface was covered with the usual saline efflorescences, which here consist almost entirely of carbonate of soda, with a small portion of chloride of sodium. Mr. Payette had made but slight attempts at cultivation, his efforts being limited to raising a few vegetables, in which he succeeded tolerably well; the post being principally supported by salmon. He was very hospitable and kind to us, and we made a sensible impression upon all his comestibles; but our principal inroad was into the dairy, which was abundantly supplied, stock appearing to thrive extremely well; and we had an unusual luxury in a present of fresh butter, which was, however, by no means equal to that of Fort Hall—probably from some accidental cause. During the day we remained here, there were considerable numbers of miserable, half-naked Indians around the fort, who had arrived from the neighboring mountains. During the summer, the only subsistence of these people is derived from the salmon, of which they are not provident enough to lay up a sufficient store for the winter, during which many of them die from absolute starvation.
Many little accounts and scattered histories, together with an acquaintance which I gradually acquired of their modes of life, had left the aboriginal inhabitants of this vast region pictured in my mind as a race of people whose great and constant occupation was the means of procuring a subsistence; and though want of space and other reasons will prevent me from detailing the many incidents which made this familiar to me, this great feature among the characteristics of the country will gradually be forced upon your mind.
Pointing to the group of Indians who had just arrived from the mountains on the left side of the valley, and who were regarding our usual appliances of civilization with an air of bewildered curiosity, Mr. Payette informed me that, every year since his arrival at this post, he had unsuccessfully endeavored to induce these people to lay up a store of salmon for their winter provision. While the summer weather and the salmon lasted, they lived contentedly and happily, scattered along the different streams where fish are to be found; and as soon as the winter snows began to, fall, little smokes would be seen rising among the mountains, where they would be found in miserable groups, starving out the winter; and sometimes, according to the general belief, reduced to the horror of cannibalism—the strong, of course, preying on the weak. Certain it is they are driven to any extremity for food, and eat every insect, and every creeping thing, however loathsome and repulsive. Snails, lizards, ants— all are devoured with the readiness and greediness of mere animals.
In common with all the other Indians we had encountered since reaching the Pacific waters, these people use the Shoshonee or Snake language, which you will have occasion to remark, in the course of the narrative, is the universal language over a very extensive region.
On the evening of the 10th, I obtained, with the usual observations, a very excellent emersion of the first satellite, agreeing very nearly with the chronometer. From these observations, the longitude of the fort is 116 deg. 47' 00", latitude 43 deg. 49' 22", and elevation above the sea 2,100 feet.
Sitting by the fire on the river bank, and waiting for the immersion of the satellite, which did not take place until after midnight, we heard the monotonous song of the Indians, with which they accompany a certain game of which they are very fond. Of the poetry we could not judge, but the music was miserable.
11th.—The morning was clear, with a light breeze from the east, and a temperature at sunrise of 33 deg.. A part of a bullock purchased at the fort, together with the boat, to assist him in crossing, was left here for Mr. Fitzpatrick, and at 11 o'clock we resumed our journey; and directly leaving the river, and crossing the artemisia plain, in several ascents we reached the foot of a ridge, where the road entered a dry sandy hollow, up which it continued to the head; and, crossing a dividing ridge, entered a similar one. We met here two poor emigrants, (Irishmen,) who had lost their horses two days since—probably stolen by the Indians; and were returning to the fort, in hopes to hear something of them there. They had recently had nothing to eat; and I halted to unpack an animal, and gave them meat for their dinner. In this hollow, the artemisia is partially displaced on the hill-sides by grass; and descending it — miles, about sunset we reached the Riviere aux Malheurs, (the unfortunate or unlucky river,)—a considerable stream, with an average breadth of 50 feet, and, at this time, 18 inches' depth of water.
The bottom lands were generally one and a half mile broad, covered principally with long dry grass; and we had difficulty to find sufficient good grass for the camp. With the exception of a bad place of a few hundred yards long, which occurred in rounding a point of hill to reach the ford of the river, the road during the day had been very good.
12th.—The morning was clear and calm, and the thermometer at sunrise 23 deg.. My attention was attracted by a smoke on the right side of the river, a little below the ford, where I found, on the low banks near the water, a considerable number of hot springs, in which the temperature of the water was 193 deg.. The ground, which was too hot for the naked foot, was covered above and below the springs with an incrustation of common salt, very white and good, and fine-grained.
Leading for five miles up a broad dry branch of the Malheurs river, the road entered a sandy hollow, where the surface was rendered firm by the admixture of other rock; being good and level until arriving near the head of the ravine, where it became a little rocky, and we met with a number of sharp ascents over an undulating surface. Crossing here a dividing ridge, it becomes an excellent road of gradual descent down a very marked hollow; in which, after ten miles, willows began to appear in the dry bed of a head of the Riviere aux Bouleaux, (Birch river;) and descending seven miles, we found, at its junction with another branch, a little water, not very good or abundant, but sufficient, in case of necessity, for a camp. Crossing Birch river, we continued for about four miles across a point of hill; the country on the left being entirely mountainous, with no level spot to be seen; whence we descended to Snake river—here a fine- looking stream, with a large body of water and a smooth current; although we hear the roar, and see below us the commencement of rapids, where it enters among the hills. It forms here a deep bay, with a low sand island in the midst; and its course among the mountains is agreeably exchanged for the black volcanic rock. The weather during the day had been very bright and extremely hot; but, as usual, so soon as the sun went down, it was necessary to put on overcoats.
I obtained this evening an observation of an emersion of the first satellite, and our observations of the evening place this encampment in latitude 44 deg. 17' 36", and longitude 116 deg. 56' 45", which is the mean of the results from the satellite and chronometer. The elevation above the sea is 1,880 feet. At this encampment, the grass is scanty and poor.
13th.—The morning was bright, with the temperature at sunrise 28 deg.. The horses had strayed off during the night, probably in search of grass; and, after a considerable delay, we had succeeded in finding all but two, when, about nine o'clock, we heard the sound of an Indian song and drum approaching; and shortly after, three Cayuse Indians appeared in sight, bringing with them the two animals. They belonged to a party which had been on a buffalo-hunt in the neighborhood of the Rocky mountains, and were hurrying home in advance. We presented them with some tobacco and other things, with which they appeared well satisfied, and, moderating their pace, traveled in company with us.
We were now about to leave the valley of the great southern branch of the Columbia river, to which the absence of timber, and the scarcity of water, give the appearance of a desert, to enter a mountainous region, where the soil is good, and in which the face of the country is covered with nutritious grasses and dense forest—land embracing many varieties of trees peculiar to the country, and on which the timber exhibits a luxuriance of growth unknown to the eastern part of the continent and to Europe. This mountainous region connects itself in the southward and westward with the elevated country belonging to the Cascade or California range; and, as will be remarked in the course of the narrative, forms the eastern limit of the fertile and timbered lands along the desert and mountainous region included within the Great Basin—a term which I apply to the intermediate region between the Rocky mountains and the next range, containing many lakes, with their own system of rivers and creeks, (of which the Great Salt is the principal,) and which have no connection with the ocean, or the great rivers which flow into it. This Great Basin is yet to be adequately explored. And here, on quitting the banks of a sterile river, to enter on arable mountains, the remark may be made, that, on this western slope of our continent, the usual order or distribution of good and bad soil is often reversed; the river and creek bottoms being often sterile, and darkened with the gloomy and barren artemisia; while the mountain is often fertile, and covered with rich grass, pleasant to the eye, and good for flocks and herds.
Leaving entirely the Snake river, which is said henceforth to pursue its way through canons, amidst rocky and impracticable mountains, where there is no possibility of traveling with animals, we ascended a long and steep hill; and crossing the dividing ridge, came down into the valley of Burnt river, which here looks like a hole among the hills. The average breadth of the stream here is thirty feet; it is well fringed with the usual small timber; and the soil in the bottoms is good, with better grass than we had lately been accustomed to see.
We now traveled through a very mountainous country; the stream running rather in a ravine than a valley, and the road is decidedly bad and dangerous for single wagons, frequently crossing the stream where the water is sometimes deep; and all the day the animals were fatigued in climbing up and descending a succession of steep ascents, to avoid the precipitous hill-sides; and the common trail, which leads along the mountain-side at places where the river strikes the base, is sometimes bad even for a horseman. The mountains along this day's journey were composed, near the river, of a slaty calcareous rock in a metamorphic condition. It appears originally to have been a slaty sedimentary limestone, but its present condition indicates that it has been altered, and has become partially crystalline—probably from the proximity of volcanic rocks. But though traveling was slow and fatiguing to the animals, we were delighted with the appearance of the country, which was green and refreshing after our tedious journey down the parched valley of Snake river. The mountains were covered with good bunch-grass, (festuca;) the water of the streams was cold and pure; their bottoms were handsomely wooded with various kinds of trees; and huge and lofty picturesque precipices where the river cut through the mountain.
We found in the evening some good grass and rushes; and encamped among large timber, principally birch, which had been recently burnt, and blackened, and almost destroyed by fire. The night was calm and tolerably clear, with the thermometer at sunset at 59 deg.. Our journey to-day was about twenty miles.
14th.—The day was clear and calm, with a temperature at sunrise of 46 deg.. After traveling about three miles up the valley, we found the river shut up by precipices in a kind of canon, and the road makes a circuit over the mountains. In the afternoon we reached the river again, by another little ravine; and, after traveling along it for a few miles, left it enclosed among rude mountains; and, ascending a smaller branch; encamped on it about five o'clock, very much elevated above the valley. The view was everywhere limited by mountains, on which were no longer seen the black and barren rocks, but a fertile soil, with excellent grass, and partly well covered with pine. I have never seen a wagon-road equally bad in the same space, as this of yesterday and to-day. I noticed where one wagon had been overturned twice, in a very short distance; and it was surprising to me that those wagons which were in the rear, and could not have had much assistance, got through at all. Still, there is no mud; and the road has one advantage, in being perfectly firm. The day had been warm and very pleasant, and the night was perfectly clear.
15th.—The thermometer at daylight was 42 deg., and at sunrise 40 deg.; clouds, which were scattered over all the sky, disappeared with the rising sun. The trail did not much improve until we had crossed the dividing-ground between the Brulee (Burnt) and Powder rivers. The rock displayed on the mountains, as we approached the summit, was a compact trap, decomposed on the exposed surfaces, and apparently an altered argillaceous sandstone, containing small crystalline nodules of anolcime, apparently filling cavities originally existing. From the summit here, the whole horizon shows high mountains; no high plain or level is to be seen; and on the left, from south around by the west to north, the mountains are black with pines; while, through the remaining space to the eastward, they are bald, with the exception of some scattered pines. You will remark that we are now entering a region where all the elevated parts are covered with dense and heavy forests. From the dividing grounds we descended by a mountain road to Powder river, on an old bed of which we encamped. Descending from the summit, we enjoyed a picturesque view of high rocky mountains on the right, illuminated by the setting sun.
From the heights we had looked in vain for a well known landmark on Powder river, which had been described to me by Mr. Payette as l'arbre seul, (the lone tree;) and, on arriving at the river, we found a fine tall pine stretched on the ground, which had been felled by some inconsiderate emigrant axe. It had been a beacon on the road for many years past. Our Cayuses had become impatient to reach their homes, and traveled on ahead to day; and this afternoon we were visited by several Indians who belonged to the tribes on the Columbia. They were on horseback, and were out on a hunting excursion, but had obtained no better game than a large gray hare, of which each had some six or seven hanging to his saddle. We were also visited by an Indian who had his lodge and family in the mountain to the left. He was in want of ammunition, and brought with him a beaver-skin to exchange, and which he valued at six charges of powder and ball. I learned from him that there are very few of these animals remaining in this part of the country.
The temperature at sunset was 61 deg., and the evening clear. I obtained, with other observations, an immersion and emersion of the third satellite. Elevation 3,100 feet.
16th.—For several weeks the weather in the daytime has been very beautiful, clear, and warm; but the nights, in comparison, are very cold. During the night there was ice a quarter of an inch thick in the lodge; and at daylight the thermometer was at 16 deg., and the same at sunrise, the weather being calm and clear. The annual vegetation now is nearly gone, almost all the plants being out of bloom.
Last night two of our horses had run off again, which delayed us until noon, and we made to-day but a short journey of 13 miles, the road being very good, and encamped in a fine bottom of Powder river.
The thermometer at sunset was at 61 deg., with an easterly wind, and partially clear sky; and the day has been quite pleasant and warm, though more cloudy than yesterday; and the sun was frequently faint, but it grew finer and clearer towards evening.
17th.—Thermometer at sunrise 25 deg.. The weather at daylight was fine, and the sky without a cloud; but these came up, or were formed by the sun, and at seven were thick over all the sky. Just now, this appears to be the regular course—clear and brilliant during the night, and cloudy during the day. There is snow yet visible in the neighboring mountains, which yesterday extended along our route to the left, in a lofty and dark-blue range, having much the appearance of the Wind River mountains. It is probable that they have received their name of the Blue mountains from the dark-blue appearance given to them by the pines. We traveled this morning across the affluents to Powder river, the road being good, firm, and level, and the country became constantly more pleasant and interesting. The soil appeared to be very deep, and is black and extremely good, as well among the hollows of the hills on the elevated plats, as on the river bottoms, the vegetation being such as is usually found in good ground. The following analytical result shows the precise qualities of this soil, and will justify to science the character of fertility which the eye attributes to it:
Analysis of Powder river soil.
Silica ————————- 72.30 Alumina ———————— 6.25 Carbonate of lime ——— 6.86 Carbonate of magnesia — 4.62 Oxide of iron ————— 1.20 Organic matter ————- 4.50 Water and loss ————- 4.27 _ 100.00
From the waters of this stream, the road ascended by a good and moderate ascent to a dividing ridge, but immediately entered upon ground covered with fragments of an altered silicious slate, which are in many places large, and render the road racking to a carriage. In this rock the planes of deposition are distinctly preserved, and the metamorphism is evidently due to the proximity of volcanic rocks. On either side, the mountains here are densely covered with tall and handsome trees; and, mingled with the green of a variety of pines, is the yellow of the European larch, (pinus larix,) which loses its leaves in the fall. From its present color, we were enabled to see that it forms a large proportion of the forests on the mountains, and is here a magnificent tree, attaining sometimes the height of 200 feet, which I believe is elsewhere unknown. About two in the afternoon we reached a high point of the dividing ridge, from which we obtained a good view of the Grand Rond—a beautiful level basin, or mountain valley, covered with good grass, on a rich soil, abundantly watered, and surrounded by high and well-timbered mountains— and its name descriptive of its form—the great circle. It is a place—one of the few we have seen on our journey so far—where a farmer would delight to establish himself, if he were content to live in the seclusion which it imposes. It is about 20 miles in diameter, and may, in time, form a superb county. Probably with the view of avoiding a circuit, the wagons had directly descended into the Rond by the face of a hill so very rocky and continuously steep as to be apparently impracticable, and, following down on their trail, we encamped on one of the branches of the Grand Rond river, immediately at the foot of the hill. I had remarked, in descending, some very white spots glistening on the plain, and, going out in that direction after we had encamped, I found them to be the bed of a dry salt lake, or marsh, very firm and bare, which was covered thickly with a fine white powder, containing a large quantity of carbonate of soda, (thirty-three in one hundred parts.)
The old grass had been lately burnt off from the surrounding hills, and, wherever the fire had passed, there was a recent growth of strong, green, and vigorous grass; and the soil of the level prairie, which sweeps directly up to the foot of the surrounding mountains, appears to be very rich, producing flax spontaneously and luxuriantly in various places.
Analysis of Grand Rond soil.
Silica,————————————————— 70.81 Alumina,————————————————- 10.97 Lime and magnesia,———————————- 1.38 Oxide of iron,—————————————- 2.21 Vegetable matter, partly decomposed,—— 8.16 Water and loss,————————————— 5.46 Phosphate of lime,———————————- 1.01 _ 100.00
The elevation of this encampment is 2,940 feet above the sea.
18th.—It began to rain an hour before sunrise, and continued until ten o'clock; the sky entirely overcast, and the temperature at sunrise 48 deg..
We resumed our journey somewhat later than usual, travelling in a nearly north direction across the beautiful valley; and about noon reached a place on one of the principal streams, where I had determined to leave the emigrant trail, in the expectation of finding a more direct and better road across the Blue mountains. At this place the emigrants appeared to have held some consultation as to their further route, and finally turned directly off to the left; reaching the foot of the mountain in about three miles, which they ascended by a hill as steep and difficult as that by which we had yesterday descended to the Rond. Quitting, therefore, this road, which, after a very rough crossing, issues from the mountains by the heads of the Umatilah river, we continued our northern course across the valley, following an Indian trail which had been indicated to me by Mr. Payette, and encamped at the northern extremity of the Grand Rond, on a slough-like stream of very deep water, without any apparent current. There are some pines here on the low hills at the creek; and in the northwest corner of the Rond is a very heavy body of timber, which descends into the plain. The clouds, which had rested very low along the mountain sides during the day, rose gradually up in the afternoon; and in the evening the sky was almost entirely clear, with a temperature at sunset of 47 deg.. Some indifferent observations placed the camp in longitude 117 deg. 28' 26", latitude 45 deg. 26' 47"; and the elevation was 2,600 feet above the sea.
19th.—This morning the mountains were hidden by fog; there was a heavy dew during the night, in which the exposed thermometer at daylight stood at 32 deg., and at sunrise the temperature was 35 deg..
We passed out of the Grand Rond by a fine road along the creek, which, for a short distance, runs in a kind of rocky chasm. Crossing a low point, which was a little rocky, the trail conducted into the open valley of the stream—a handsome place for farms; the soil, even of the hills, being rich and black. Passing through a point of pines, which bore evidences of being very much frequented by the Indians, and in which the trees were sometimes apparently 200 feet high, and three to seven feet in diameter, we halted for a few minutes in the afternoon at the foot of the Blue mountains, on a branch of the Grand Rond river, at an elevation of 2,700 feet. Resuming our journey, we commenced the ascent of the mountains through an open pine forest of large and stately trees, among which the balsam pine made its appearance; the road being good, with the exception of one steep ascent, with a corresponding descent, which might both have been easily avoided by opening the way for a short distance through the timber. It would have been well had we encamped on the stream where we had halted below, as the night overtook us on the mountain, and we were obliged to encamp without water, and tie up the animals to the trees for the night. We halted on a smooth open place of a narrow ridge, which descended very rapidly to a ravine or piny hollow, at a considerable distance below; and it was quite a pretty spot, had there been water near. But the fires at night look very cheerless after a day's march, when there is no preparation for supper going on; and, after sitting some time around the blazing logs, Mr. Preuss and Carson, with several others, volunteered to take the India-rubber buckets and go down into the ravine in search of water. It was a very difficult way in the darkness down the slippery side of the steep mountain, and harder still to climb about half a mile up again; but they found the water, and the cup of coffee (which it enabled us to make) and bread were only enjoyed with greater pleasure.
At sunset the temperature was 46 deg.; the evening remarkably clear; and I obtained an emersion of the first satellite, which does not give a good result, although the observation was a very good one. The chronometric longitude was 117 deg. 28' 34", latitude 45 deg. 38' 07", and we had ascended to an elevation of 3,830 feet. It appeared to have snowed yesterday on the mountains, their summits showing very white to-day.
20th.—There was a heavy white frost during the night, and at sunrise the temperature was 37 deg..
The animals had eaten nothing during the night; and we made an early start, continuing our route among the pines, which were more dense than yesterday, and still retained their magnificent size. The larches cluster together in masses on the side of the mountains, and their yellow foliage contrasts handsomely with the green of the balsam and other pines. After a few miles we ceased to see any pines, and the timber consisted of several varieties of spruce, larch, and balsam pine, which have a regularly conical figure. These trees appeared from 60 to nearly 200 feet in height; the usual circumference being 10 to 12 feet, and in the pines sometimes 21 feet. In open places near the summit, these trees became less high and more branching, the conical form having a greater base. The instrument carriage occasioned much delay, it being frequently necessary to fell trees and remove the fallen timber. The trail we were following led up a long spur, with a very gradual and gentle rise. At the end of three miles, we halted at an open place near the summit, from which we enjoyed a fine view over the mountainous country where we had lately traveled, to take a barometrical observation at the height of 4,460 feet.
After traveling occasionally through open places in the forest, we were obliged to cut a way through a dense body of timber, from which we emerged on an open mountain-side, where we found a number of small springs, and encamped after a day's journey of ten miles. Our elevation here was 5,000 feet.
21st.—There was a very heavy white frost during the night, and the thermometer at sunrise was 30 deg..
We continued to travel through the forest, in which the road was rendered difficult by fallen trunks, and obstructed by many small trees, which it was necessary to cut down. But these are only accidental difficulties, which could easily be removed, and a very excellent road may be had through this pass, with no other than very moderate ascents or declivities. A laborious day, which had advanced us only six miles on the road, brought us in the afternoon to an opening in the forest, in which there was a fine mountain meadow, with good grass, and a large clear-water stream—one of the head branches of the Umatilah river. During this day's journey, the barometer was broken; and the elevations above the sea, hereafter given, depend upon the temperature of boiling water. Some of the white spruces which I measured to-day were twelve feet in circumference, and one of the larches ten; but eight feet was the average circumference of those measured along the road. I held in my hand a tape line as I walked along, in order to form some correct idea of the size of the timber. Their height appeared to be from 100 to 180, and perhaps 200 feet, and the trunks of the larches were sometimes 100 feet without a limb; but the white spruces were generally covered with branches nearly to the root. All these trees have their branches, particularly the lower ones, declining.
22d.—The white frost this morning was like snow on the ground; the ice was a quarter of an inch thick on the creek, and the thermometer at sunrise was at 20 deg.. But, in a few hours, the day became warm and pleasant, and our road over the mountains was delightful and full of enjoyment.
The trail passed sometimes through very thick young timber, in which there was much cutting to be done; but, after traveling a few miles, the mountains became more bald, and we reached a point from which there was a very extensive view in the northwest. We were on the western verge of the Blue mountains, long spurs of which, very precipitous on either side extended down into the valley, the waters of the mountain roaring between them. On our right was a mountain plateau, covered with a dense forest; and to the westward, immediately below us, was the great Nez Perce (pierced nose) prairie, in which dark lines of timber indicated the course of many affluents to a considerable stream that was pursuing its way across the plain towards what appeared to be the Columbia river. This I knew to be the Walahwalah river, and occasional spots along its banks, which resembled clearings, were supposed to be the mission or Indian settlements; but the weather was smoky and unfavorable to far views with the glass. The rock displayed here in the escarpments is a compact amorphous trap, which appears to constitute the mass of the Blue mountains in this latitude; and all the region of country through which we have traveled since leaving the Snake river has been the seat of violent and extensive igneous action. Along the Burnt River valley, the strata are evidently sedimentary rocks, altered by the intrusion of volcanic products, which in some instances have penetrated and essentially changed their original condition. Along our line of route from this point to the California mountains, there seems but little essential change. All our specimens of sedimentary rocks show them much altered, and volcanic productions appear to prevail throughout the whole intervening distance.
The road now led along the mountain side, around heads of the precipitous ravines; and keeping men ahead to clear the road, we passed alternately through bodies of timber and small open prairies, and encamped in a large meadow, in view of the great prairie below.
At sunset the thermometer was at 40 deg., and the night was very clear and bright. Water was only to be had here by descending a bad ravine, into which we drove our animals, and had much trouble with them in a very close growth of small pines. Mr. Preuss had walked ahead and did not get into the camp this evening. The trees here maintained their size, and one of the black spruces measured 15 feet in circumference. In the neighborhood of the camp, pines have reappeared here among the timber.
23d.—The morning was very clear; there had been a heavy white frost during the night, and at sunrise the thermometer was at 31 deg..
After cutting through two thick bodies of timber, in which I noticed some small trees of hemlock spruce, (perusse) the forest became more open, and we had no longer any trouble to clear a way. The pines here were 11 or 12 feet in circumference, and about 110 feet high, and appeared to love the open grounds. The trail now led along one of the long spurs of the mountain, descending gradually towards the plain; and after a few miles traveling, we emerged finally from the forest, in full view of the plain below, and saw the snowy mass of Mount Hood, standing high out above the surrounding country at the distance of 180 miles. The road along the ridge was excellent, and the grass very green and good; the old grass having been burnt off early in the autumn. About 4 o'clock in the afternoon we reached a little bottom of the Walahwalah river, where we found Mr. Preuss, who yesterday had reached this place, and found himself too far in advance of the camp to return. The stream here has just issued from the narrow ravines, which are walled with precipices, in which the rock has a brown and more burnt appearance than above.
At sunset the thermometer was at 48 deg., and our position was in longitude 118 deg. 00' 39", and in latitude 45 deg. 53' 35".
The morning was clear, with a temperature at sunrise of 24 deg.. Crossing the river, we traveled over a hilly country with a good bunch-grass; the river bottom, which generally contains the best soil in other countries, being here a sterile level of rocks and pebbles. We had found the soil in the Blue mountains to be of excellent quality, and it appeared also to be good here among the lower hills. Reaching a little eminence over which the trail passed, we had an extensive view along the course of the river, which was divided and spread over its bottom in a network of water, receiving several other tributaries from the mountains. There was a band of several hundred horses grazing on the hills about two miles ahead; and as we advanced on the road we met other bands, which Indians were driving out to pasture also on the hills. True to its general character, the reverse of other countries, the hills and mountains here were rich in grass, the bottoms barren and sterile.
In six miles we crossed a principal fork, below which the scattered waters of the river were gathered into one channel; and, passing on the way several unfinished houses; and some cleared patches, where corn and potatoes were cultivated, we reached, in about eight miles further, the missionary establishment of Dr. Whitman, which consisted at this time of one adobe house—i.e., built of unburnt bricks as in Mexico.
I found Dr. Whitman absent on a visit to the Dalles of the Columbia; but had the pleasure to see a fine-looking family of emigrants, men, women, and children, in robust health, all indemnifying themselves for previous scanty fare, in a hearty consumption of potatoes, which are produced here of a remarkably good quality. We were disappointed in our expectation of obtaining corn-meal or flour at this station, the mill belonging to the mission having been lately burned down; but an abundant supply of excellent potatoes banished regrets, and furnished a grateful substitute for bread. A small town of Nez Perce Indians gave an inhabited and even a populous appearance to the station; and, after remaining about an hour, we continued our route and encamped on the river about four miles below, passing on the way an emigrant encampment.
Temperature at sunset, 49 deg..
25th..—The weather was pleasant, with a sunrise temperature of 36 deg.. Our road to-day had nothing in it of interest; and the country offered to the eye only a sandy, undulating plain, through which a scantily-timbered river takes its course. We halted about three miles above the mouth, on account of grass; and the next morning arrived at the Nez Perce fort, one of the trading establishments of the Hudson Bay Company, a few hundred yards above the junction of the Walahwalah with the Columbia river. Here we had the first view of this river, and found it about 1,200 yards wide, and presenting the appearance of a fine, navigable stream. We made our camp in a little grove of willows on the Walahwalah, which are the only trees to be seen in the neighborhood; but were obliged to send the animals back to the encampment we had left, as there was scarcely a blade of grass to be found. The post is on the bank of the Columbia, on a plain of bare sands, from which the air was literally filled with clouds of dust and sand, during one of the few days we remained here; this place being one of the several points on the river which are distinguished for prevailing high winds, that come from the sea. The appearance of the post and country was without interest, except that we here saw, for the first time, the great river on which the course of events for the last half century has been directing attention and conferring historical fame. The river is, indeed, a noble object, and has here attained its full magnitude. About nine miles above, and in sight from the heights about this post, is the junction of the two great forks which constitute the main stream—that on which we had been traveling from Fort Hall, and known by the names of Lewis's fork, Shoshonee, and Snake river; and the North fork, which has retained the name of Columbia, as being the main stream.
We did not go up to the junction, being pressed for time; but the union of two large streams, coming one from the southeast, and the other from the northeast, and meeting in what may be treated as the geographical centre of the Oregon valley, thence doubling the volume of water to the ocean, while opening two great lines of communication with the interior continent, constitutes a feature in the map of the country which cannot be overlooked; and it was probably in reference to this junction of waters, and these lines of communication, that this post was established. They are important lines, and, from the structure of the country, must forever remain so,—one of them leading to the South Pass and to the valley of the Mississippi, the other to the pass at the head of the Athabasca river, and to the countries drained by the waters of the Hudson Bay. The British fur companies now use both lines; the Americans, in their emigration to Oregon, have begun to follow the one which leads towards the United States. Bateaux from tide-water ascend to the junction, and thence high up the North fork, or Columbia. Land conveyance only is used upon the line of Lewis's fork. To the emigrants to Oregon, the Nez Perce is a point of great interest, as being, to those who choose it, the termination of their overland journey. The broad expanse of the river here invites them to embark on its bosom; and the lofty trees of the forest furnish the means of doing so.
From the South Pass to this place is about 1,000 miles; and as it is about the same distance from that pass to the Missouri river at the mouth of the Kansas, it may be assumed that 2,000 miles is the necessary land travel in crossing from the United States to the Pacific ocean on this line. From the mouth of the Great Platte it would be about 100 miles less.
Mr. McKinley, the commander of the post, received us with great civility; and both to myself, and the heads of the emigrants who were there at the time, extended the rights of hospitality in a comfortable dinner to which he invited us.
By a meridional altitude of the sun, the only observation that the weather permitted us to obtain, the mouth of the Walahwalah river is in latitude 46 deg. 03' 46"; and, by the road we had traveled, 612 miles from Fort Hall. At the time of our arrival, a considerable body of emigrants, under the direction of Mr. Applegate, a man of considerable resolution and energy, had nearly completed the building of a number of Mackinaw boats, in which they proposed to continue their further voyage down the Columbia. I had seen, in descending the Walahwalah river, a fine drove of several hundred cattle, which they had exchanged for California cattle, to be received at Vancouver, and which are considered a very inferior breed. The other portion of the emigration had preferred to complete their journey by land along the banks of the Columbia, taking their stock and wagons with them.
Having reinforced our animals with eight fresh horses, hired from the post, and increased our stock of provisions with dried salmon, potatoes, and a little beef, we resumed our journey down the left bank of the Columbia, being guided on our road by an intelligent Indian boy, whom I had engaged to accompany us as far as the Dalles.
From an elevated point over which the road led, we obtained another far view of Mount Hood, 150 miles distant. We obtained on the river bank an observation of the sun at noon, which gave for the latitude 45 deg. 58' 08". The country to-day was very unprepossessing, and our road bad; and as we toiled slowly along through deep loose sands, and over fragments of black volcanic rock, our laborious traveling was strongly contrasted with the rapid progress of Mr. Applegate's fleet of boats, which suddenly came gliding swiftly down the broad river, which here chanced to be tranquil and smooth. At evening we encamped on the river bank, where there was very little grass, and less timber. We frequently met Indians on the road, and they were collected at every favorable spot along the river.