Part 3 out of 4
somewhat broken down near the foot, and discover a flock of mountain
sheep on the rocks more than a hundred feet above us. We land quickly in
a cove out of sight, and away go all the hunters with their guns, for
the sheep have not discovered us. Soon we hear firing, and those of us
who have remained in the boats climb up to see what success the hunters
have had. One sheep has been killed, and two of the men are still
pursuing them. In a few minutes we hear firing again, and the next
moment down come the flock clattering over the rocks within 20 yards of
us. One of the hunters seizes his gun and brings a second sheep down,
and the next minute the remainder of the flock is lost behind the rocks.
We all give chase; but it is impossible to follow their tracks over the
naked rock, and we see them no more. Where they went out of this
rock-walled canyon is a mystery, for we can see no way of escape.
Doubtless, if we could spare the time for the search, we should find a
gulch up which they ran.
We lash our prizes to the deck of one of the boats and go on for a short
distance; but fresh meat is too tempting for us, and we stop early to
have a feast. And a feast it is! Two fine young sheep! We care not for
bread or beans or dried apples to-night; coffee and mutton are all we
_July 28._--We make two portages this morning, one of them very long.
During the afternoon we run a chute more than half a mile in length,
narrow and rapid. This chute has a floor of marble; the rocks dip in the
direction in which we are going, and the fall of the stream conforms to
the inclination of the beds; so we float on water that is gliding down
an inclined plane. At the foot of the chute the river turns sharply to
the right and the water rolls up against a rock which from above seems
to stand directly athwart its course. As we approach it we pull with all
our power to the right, but it seems impossible to avoid being carried
headlong against the cliff; we are carried up high on the waves--but not
against the rock, for the rebounding water strikes us and we are beaten
back and pass on with safety, except that we get a good drenching.
After this the walls suddenly close in, so that the canyon is narrower
than we have ever known it. The water fills it from wall to wall, giving
us no landing-place at the foot of the cliff; the river is very swift
and the canyon very tortuous, so that we can see but a few hundred yards
ahead; the walls tower over us, often overhanging so as almost to shut
out the light. I stand on deck, watching with intense anxiety, lest this
may lead us into some danger; but we glide along, with no obstruction,
no falls, no rocks, and in a mile and a half emerge from the narrow
gorge into a more open and broken portion of the canyon. Now that it is
past, it seems a very simple thing indeed to run through such a place,
but the fear of what might be ahead made a deep impression on us.
At three o'clock we arrive at the foot of Cataract Canyon. Here a long
canyon valley comes down from the east, and the river turns sharply to
the west in a continuation of the line of the lateral valley. In the
bend on the right vast numbers of crags and pinnacles and tower-shaped
rocks are seen. We call it Mille Crag Bend.
And now we wheel into another canyon, on swift water unobstructed by
rocks. This new canyon is very narrow and very straight, with walls
vertical below and terraced above. Where we enter it the brink of the
cliff is 1,300 feet above the water, but the rocks dip to the west, and
as the course of the canyon is in that direction the walls are seen
slowly to decrease in altitude. Floating down this narrow channel and
looking out through the canyon crevice away in the distance, the river
is seen to turn again to the left, and beyond this point, away many
miles, a great mountain is seen. Still floating down, we see other
mountains, now on the right, now on the left, until a great mountain
range is unfolded to view. We name this Narrow Canyon, and it terminates
at the bend of the river below.
As we go down to this point we discover the mouth of a stream which
enters from the right. Into this our little boat is turned. The water is
exceedingly muddy and has an unpleasant odor. One of the men in the boat
following, seeing what we have done, shouts to 'Dunn and asks whether it
is a trout stream. Dunn replies, much disgusted, that it is "a dirty
devil," and by this name the river is to be known hereafter.
Some of us go out for half a mile and climb a butte to the north. The
course of the Dirty Devil River can be traced for many miles. It comes
down through a very narrow canyon, and beyond it, to the southwest,
there is a long line of cliffs, with a broad terrace, or bench, between
it and the brink of the canyon, and beyond these cliffs is situated the
range of mountains seen as we came down Narrow Canyon. Looking up the
Colorado, the chasm through which it runs can be seen, but we cannot see
down to its waters. The whole country is a region of naked rock of many
colors, with cliffs and buttes about us and towering mountains in the
_July 29._--We enter a canyon to-day, with low, red walls. A short
distance below its head we discover the ruins of an old building on the
left wall. There is a narrow plain between the river and the wall just
here, and on the brink of a rock 200 feet high stands this old house.
Its walls are of stone, laid in mortar with much regularity. It was
probably built three stories high; the lower story is yet almost intact;
the second is much broken down, and scarcely anything is left of the
third. Great quantities of flint chips are found on the rocks near by,
and many arrowheads, some perfect, others broken; and fragments of
pottery are strewn about in great profusion. On the face of the cliff,
under the building and along down the river for 200 or 300 yards, there
are many etchings. Two hours are given to the examination of these
interesting ruins; then we run down fifteen miles farther, and discover
another group. The principal building was situated on the summit of the
A part of the walls are standing, to the height of eight or ten feet,
and the mortar yet remains in some places. The house was in the shape of
an L, with five rooms on the ground floor,--one in the angle and two in
each extension. In the space in the angle there is a deep excavation.
From what we know of the people in the Province of Tusayan, who are,
doubtless, of the same race as the former inhabitants of these ruins, we
conclude that this was a _kiva,_ or underground chamber in which their
religious ceremonies were performed.
We leave these ruins and run down two or three miles and go into camp
about mid-afternoon. And now I climb the wall and go out into the back
country for a walk.
The sandstone through which the canyon is cut is red and homogeneous,
being the same as that through which Labyrinth Canyon runs. The smooth,
naked rock stretches out on either side of the river for many miles, but
curiously carved mounds and cones are scattered everywhere and deep
holes are worn out. Many of these pockets are filled with water. In one
of these holes or wells, 20 feet deep, I find a tree growing. The
excavation is so narrow that I can step from its brink to a limb on the
tree and descend to the bottom of the well down a growing ladder. Many
of these pockets are potholes, being found in the courses of little
rills or brooks that run during the rains which occasionally fall in
this region; and often a few harder rocks, which evidently assisted in
their excavation, can be found in their bottoms. Others, which are
shallower, are not so easily explained. Perhaps where they are found
softer spots existed in the sandstone, places that yielded more readily
to atmospheric degradation, the loose sands being carried away by the
Just before sundown I attempt to climb a rounded eminence, from which I
hope to obtain a good outlook on the surrounding country. It is formed
of smooth mounds, piled one above another. Up these I climb, winding
here and there to find a practicable way, until near the summit they
become too steep for me to proceed. I search about a few minutes for an
easier way, when I am surprised at finding a stairway, evidently cut in
the rock by hands. At one place, where there is a vertical wall of 10 or
12 feet, I find an old, rickety ladder. It may be that this was a
watchtower of that ancient people whose homes we have found in ruins. On
many of the tributaries of the Colorado, I have heretofore examined
their deserted dwellings. Those that show evidences of being built
during the latter part of their occupation of the country are usually
placed on the most inaccessible cliffs. Sometimes the mouths of caves
have been walled across, and there are many other evidences to show
their anxiety to secure defensible positions. Probably the nomadic
tribes were sweeping down upon them and they resorted to these cliffs
and canyons for safety. It is not unreasonable to suppose that this
orange mound was used as a watchtower. Here I stand, where these now
lost people stood centuries ago, and look over this strange country,
gazing off to great mountains in the northwest which are slowly
disappearing under cover of the night; and then I return to camp. It is
no easy task to find my way down the wall in the darkness, and I clamber
about until it is nearly midnight when camp is reached.
_July 30.--_We make good progress to-day, as the water, though smooth,
is swift. Sometimes the canyon walls are vertical to the top; sometimes
they are vertical below and have a mound-covered slope above; in other
places the slope, with its mounds, comes down to the water's edge.
Still proceeding on our way, we find that the orange sandstone is cut in
two by a group of firm, calcareous strata, and the lower bed is
underlaid by soft, gypsiferous shales. Sometimes the upper homogeneous
bed is a smooth, vertical wall, but usually it is carved with mounds,
with gently meandering valley lines. The lower bed, yielding to gravity,
as the softer shales below work, out into the river, breaks into angular
surfaces, often having a columnar appearance. One could almost imagine
that the walls had been carved with a purpose, to represent giant
architectural forms. In the deep recesses of the walls we find springs,
with mosses and ferns on the moistened sandstone.
_July 31.--_We have a cool, pleasant ride to-day through this part of
the canyon. The walls are steadily increasing in altitude, the curves
are gentle, and often the river sweeps by an arc of vertical wall,
smooth and unbroken, and then by a curve that is variegated by royal
arches, mossy alcoves, deep, beautiful glens, and painted grottoes. Soon
after dinner we discover the mouth of the San Juan, where we camp. The
remainder of the afternoon is given to hunting some way by which we can
climb out of the canyon; but it ends in failure.
_August 1.--_We drop down two miles this morning and go into camp again.
There is a low, willow-covered strip of land along the walls on the
east. Across this we walk, to explore an alcove which we see from the
river. On entering, we find a little grove of box-elder and cotton-wood
trees, and turning to the right, we find ourselves in a vast chamber,
carved out of the rock. At the upper end there is a clear, deep pool of
water, bordered with verdure. Standing by the side of this, we can see
the grove at the entrance. The chamber is more than 200 feet high, 500
feet long, and 200 feet wide. Through the ceiling, and on through the
rocks for a thousand feet above, there is a narrow, winding skylight;
and this is all carved out by a little stream which runs only during the
few showers that fall now and then in this arid country. The waters from
the bare rocks back of the canyon, gathering rapidly into a small
channel, have eroded a deep side canyon, through which they run until
they fall into the farther end of this chamber. The rock at the ceiling
is hard, the rock below, very soft and friable; and having cut through
the upper and harder portion down into the lower and softer, the stream
has washed out these friable sandstones; and thus the chamber has been
Here we bring our camp. When "Old Shady" sings us a song at night, we
are pleased to find that this hollow in the rock is filled with sweet
sounds. It was doubtless made for an academy of music by its storm-born
architect; so we name it Music Temple.
_August 2.--_We still keep our camp in Music Temple to-day. I wish to
obtain a view of the adjacent country, if possible; so, early in the
morning the men take me across the river, and I pass along by the foot
of the cliff half a mile up stream and then climb, first up broken
ledges, then 200 or 300 yards up a smooth, sloping rock, and then pass
out on a narrow ridge. Still, I find I have not attained an altitude
from which I can overlook the region outside of the canyon; and so I
descend into a little gulch and climb again to a higher ridge, all the
way along naked sandstone, and at last I reach a point of commanding
view. I can look several miles up the San Juan, and a long distance up
the Colorado; and away to the northwest I can see the Henry Mountains;
to the northeast, the Sierra La Sal; to the southeast, unknown
mountains; and to the southwest, the meandering of the canyon. Then I
return to the bank of the river. We sleep again in Music Temple.
_August 3.--_Start early this morning. The features of this canyon are
greatly diversified. Still vertical walls at times. These are usually
found to stand above great curves. The river, sweeping around these
bends, undermines the cliffs in places. Sometimes the rocks are
overhanging; in other curves, curious, narrow glens are found. Through
these we climb, by a rough stairway, perhaps several hundred feet, to
where a spring bursts out from under an overhanging cliff, and where
cottonwoods and willows stand, while along the curves of the brooklet
oaks grow, and other rich vegetation is seen, in marked contrast to the
general appearance of naked rock. We call these Oak Glens.
Other wonderful features are the many side canyons or gorges that we
pass. Sometimes we stop to explore these for a short distance. In some
places their walls are much nearer each other above than below, so that
they look somewhat like caves or chambers in the rocks. Usually, in
going up such a gorge, we find beautiful vegetation; but our way is
often cut off by deep basins, or "potholes," as they are called.
On the walls, and back many miles into the country, numbers of
monument-shaped buttes are observed. So we have a curious _ensemble_ of
wonderful features--carved walls, royal arches, glens, alcove gulches,
mounds, and monuments. From which of these features shall we select a
name? We decide to call it Glen Canyon.
Past these towering monuments, past these mounded billows of orange
sandstone, past these oak-set glens, past these fern-decked alcoves,
past these mural curves, we glide hour after hour, stopping now and
then, as our attention is arrested by some new wonder, until we reach a
point which is historic.
In the year 1776, Father Escalante, a Spanish priest, made an expedition
from Santa Fe to the northwest, crossing the Grand and Green, and then
passing down along the Wasatch Mountains and the southern plateaus until
he reached the Rio Virgen. His intention was to cross to the Mission of
Monterey; but, from information received from the Indians, he decided
that the route was impracticable. Not wishing to return to Santa Fe over
the circuitous route by which he had just traveled, he attempted to go
by one more direct, which led him across the Colorado at a point known
as El Vado de los Padres. From the description which we have read, we
are enabled to determine the place. A little stream comes down through a
very narrow side canyon from the west. It was down this that he came,
and our boats are lying at the point where the ford crosses. A
well-beaten Indian trail is seen here yet. Between the cliff and the
river there is a little meadow. The ashes of many camp fires are seen,
and the bones of numbers of cattle are bleaching on the grass. For
several years the Navajos have raided on the Mormons that dwell in the
valleys to the west, and they doubtless cross frequently at this ford
with their stolen cattle.
_August 4.--_To-day the walls grow higher and the canyon much narrower.
Monuments are still seen on either side; beautiful glens and alcoves and
gorges and side canyons are yet found. After dinner we find the river
making a sudden turn to the northwest and the whole character of the
canyon changed. The walls are many hundreds of feet higher, and the
rocks are chiefly variegated shales of beautiful colors--creamy orange
above, then bright vermilion, and below, purple and chocolate beds, with
green and yellow sands. We run four miles through this, in a direction a
little to the west of north, wheel again to the west, and pass into a
portion of the canyon where the characteristics are more like those
above the bend. At night we stop at the mouth of a creek coming in from
the right, and suppose it to be the Paria, which was described to me
last year by a Mormon missionary. Here the canyon terminates abruptly in
a line of cliffs, which stretches from either side across the river.
_August 5.--_With some feeling of anxiety we enter a new canyon this
morning. We have learned to observe closely the texture of the rock. In
softer strata we have a quiet river, in harder we find rapids and falls.
Below us are the limestones and hard sandstones which we found in
Cataract Canyon. This bodes toil and danger. Besides the texture of the
rocks, there is another condition which affects the character of the
channel, as we have found by experience. Where the strata are horizontal
the river is often quiet, and, even though it may be very swift in
places, no great obstacles are found. Where the rocks incline in the
direction traveled, the river usually sweeps with great velocity, but
still has few rapids and falls. But where the rocks dip up stream and
the river cuts obliquely across the upturned formations, harder strata
above and softer below, we have rapids and falls. Into hard rocks and
into rocks dipping up stream we pass this morning and start on a long,
rocky, mad rapid. On the left there is a vertical rock, and down by this
cliff and around to the left we glide, tossed just enough by the waves
to appreciate the rate at which we are traveling.
The canyon is narrow, with vertical walls, which gradually grow higher.
More rapids and falls are found. We come to one with a drop of sixteen
feet, around which we make a portage, and then stop for dinner. Then a
run of two miles, and another portage, long and difficult; then we camp
for the night on a bank of sand.
_August 6.--_Canyon walls, still higher and higher, as we go down
through strata. There is a steep talus at the foot of the cliff, and in
some places the upper parts of the walls are terraced.
About ten o'clock we come to a place where the river occupies the entire
channel and the walls are vertical from the water's edge. We see a fall
below and row up against the cliff. There is a little shelf, or rather a
horizontal crevice, a few feet over our heads. One man stands on the
deck of the boat, another climbs on his shoulders, and then into the
crevice. Then we pass him a line, and two or three others, with myself,
follow; then we pass along the crevice until it becomes a shelf, as the
upper part, or roof, is broken off. On this we walk for a short
distance, slowly climbing all the way, until we reach a point where the
shelf is broken off, and we can pass no farther. So we go back to the
boat, cross the stream, and get some logs that have lodged in the rocks,
bring them to our side, pass them along the crevice and shelf, and
bridge over the broken place. Then we go on to a point over the falls,
but do not obtain a satisfactory view. So we climb out to the top of the
wall and walk along to find a point below the fall from which it can be
seen. From this point it seems possible to let down our boats with lines
to the head of the rapids, and then make a portage; so we return, row
down by the side of the cliff as far as we dare, and fasten one of the
boats to a rock. Then we let down another boat to the end of its line
beyond the first, and the third boat to the end of its line below the
second, which brings it to the head of the fall and under an overhanging
rock. Then the upper boat, in obedience to a signal, lets go; we pull in
the line and catch the nearest boat as it comes, and then the last. The
We go into camp early this afternoon at a place where it seems possible
to climb out, and the evening is spent in "making observations for
_August 7.--_The almanac tells us that we are to have an eclipse of the
sun to-day; so Captain Powell and myself start early, taking our
instruments with us for the purpose of making observations on the
eclipse to determine our longitude. Arriving at the summit, after four
hours' hard climbing to attain 2,300 feet in height, we hurriedly
build a platform of rocks on which to place our instruments, and quietly
wait for the eclipse; but clouds come on and rain falls, and sun and
moon are obscured.
Much disappointed, we start on our return to camp, but it is late and
the clouds make the night very dark. We feel our way down among the
rocks with great care for two or three hours, making slow progress
indeed. At last we lose our way and dare proceed no farther. The rain
comes down in torrents and we can find no shelter. We can neither climb
up nor go down, and in the darkness dare not move about; so we sit and
"weather out" the night.
_August 8._--Daylight comes after a long, oh, how long! a night, and we
soon reach camp. After breakfast we start again, and make two portages
during the forenoon.
The limestone of this canyon is often polished, and makes a beautiful
marble. Sometimes the rocks are of many colors--white, gray, pink, and
purple, with saffron tints. It is with very great labor that we make
progress, meeting with many obstructions, running rapids, letting down
our boats with lines from rock to rock, and sometimes carrying boats and
cargoes around bad places. We camp at night, just after a hard portage,
under an overhanging wall, glad to find shelter from the rain. We have
to search for some time to find a few sticks of driftwood, just
sufficient to boil a cup of coffee.
The water sweeps rapidly in this elbow of river, and has cut its way
under the rock, excavating a vast half-circular chamber, which, if
utilized for a theater, would give sitting to 50,000 people. Objection
might be raised against it, however, for at high water the floor is
covered with a raging flood.
_August 9.--_And now the scenery is on a grand scale. The walls of the
canyon, 2,500 feet high, are of marble, of many beautiful colors, often
polished below by the waves, and sometimes far up the sides, where
showers have washed the sands over the cliffs. At one place I have a
walk for more than a mile on a marble pavement, all polished and fretted
with strange devices and embossed in a thousand fantastic patterns.
Through a cleft in the wall the sun shines on this pavement and it
gleams in iridescent beauty.
I pass up into the cleft. It is very narrow, with a succession of pools
standing at higher levels as I go back. The water in these pools is
clear and cool, coming down from springs. Then I return to the pavement,
which is but a terrace or bench, over which the river runs at its flood,
but left bare at present. Along the pavement in many places are basins
of clear water, in strange contrast to the red mud of the river. At
length I come to the end of this marble terrace and take again to the
Riding down a short distance, a beautiful view is presented. The river
turns sharply to the east and seems inclosed by a wall set with a
million brilliant gems. What can it mean? Every eye is engaged, every
one wonders. On coming nearer we find fountains bursting from the rock
high overhead, and the spray in the sunshine forms the gems which bedeck
the wall. The rocks below the fountain are covered with mosses and ferns
and many beautiful flowering plants. We name it Vasey's Paradise, in
honor of the botanist who traveled with us last year.
We pass many side canyons to-day that are dark, gloomy passages back
into the heart of the rocks that form the plateau through which this
canyon is cut. It rains again this afternoon. Scarcely do the first
drops fall when little rills run down the walls. As the storm comes on,
the little rills increase in size, until great streams are formed.
Although the walls of the canyon are chiefly limestone, the adjacent
country is of red sandstone; and now the waters, loaded with these
sands, come down in rivers of bright red mud, leaping over the walls in
innumerable cascades. It is plain now how these walls are polished in
At last the storm ceases and we go on. We have cut through the
sandstones and limestones met in the upper part of the canyon, and
through one great bed of marble a thousand feet in thickness. In this,
great numbers of caves are hollowed out, and carvings are seen which
suggest architectural forms, though on a scale so grand that
architectural terms belittle them. As this great bed forms a distinctive
feature of the canyon, we call it Marble Canyon.
It is a peculiar feature of these walls that many projections are set
out into the river, as if the wall was buttressed for support. The walls
themselves are half a mile high, and these buttresses are on a
corresponding scale, jutting into the river scores of feet. In the
recesses between these projections there are quiet bays, except at the
foot of a rapid, when there are dancing eddies or whirlpools. Sometimes
these alcoves have caves at the back, giving them the appearance of
great depth. Then other caves are seen above, forming vast dome-shaped
chambers. The walls and buttresses and chambers are all of marble.
The river is now quiet; the canyon wider. Above, when the river is at
its flood, the waters gorge up, so that the difference between high and
low water mark is often 50 or even 70 feet, but here high-water mark is
not more than 20 feet above the present stage of the river. Sometimes
there is a narrow flood plain between the water and the wall. Here we
first discover mesquite shrubs,--small trees with finely divided leaves
and pods, somewhat like the locust.
_August 10.--_Walls still higher; water swift again. We pass several
broad, ragged canyons on our right, and up through these we catch
glimpses of a forest-clad plateau, miles away to the west.
At two o'clock we reach the mouth of the Colorado Chiquito. This stream
enters through a canyon on a scale quite as grand as that of the
Colorado itself. It is a very small river and exceedingly muddy and
saline. I walk up the stream three or four miles this afternoon,
crossing and recrossing where I can easily wade it. Then I climb several
hundred feet at one place, and can see for several miles up the chasm
through which the river runs. On my way back I kill two rattlesnakes,
and find on my arrival that another has been killed just at camp.
_August 11.--_We remain at this point to-day for the purpose of
determining the latitude and longitude, measuring the height of the
walls, drying our rations, and repairing our boats.
Captain Powell early in the morning takes a barometer and goes out to
climb a point between the two rivers. I walk down the gorge to the left
at the foot of the cliff, climb to a bench, and discover a trail, deeply
worn in the rock. Where it crosses the side gulches in some places steps
have been cut. I can see no evidence of its having been traveled for a
long time. It was doubtless a path used by the people who inhabited this
country anterior to the present Indian races--the people who built the
communal houses of which mention has been made.
I return to camp about three o'clock and find that some of the men have
discovered ruins and many fragments of pottery; also etchings and
hieroglyphics on the rocks.
We find to-night, on comparing the readings of the barometers, that the
walls are about 3,000 feet high--more than half a mile--an altitude
difficult to appreciate from a mere statement of feet. The slope by
which the ascent is made is not such a slope as is usually found in
climbing a mountain, but one much more abrupt--often vertical for many
hundreds of feet,--so that the impression is given that we are at great
depths, and we look up to see but a little patch of sky.
Between the two streams, above the Colorado Chiquito, in some places the
rocks are broken and shelving for 600 Or 700 feet; then there is a
sloping terrace, which can be climbed only by finding some way up a
gulch; then another terrace, and back, still another cliff. The summit
of the cliff is 3,000 feet above the river, as our barometers attest.
Our camp is below the Colorado Chiquito and on the eastern side of the
_August 12.--_The rocks above camp are rust-colored sandstones and
conglomerates. Some are very hard; others quite soft. They all lie
nearly horizontal, and the beds of softer material have been washed out,
leaving the harder forming a series of shelves. Long lines of these are
seen, of varying thickness, from one or two to twenty or thirty feet,
and the spaces between have the same variability. This morning I spend
two or three hours in climbing among these shelves, and then I pass
above them and go up a long slope to the foot of the cliff and try to
discover some way by which I can reach the top of the wall; but I find
my progress cut off by an amphitheater. Then I wander away around to the
left, up a little gulch and along benches, climbing from time to time,
until I reach an altitude of nearly 2,000 feet and can get no higher.
From this point I can look off to the west, up side canyons of the
Colorado, and see the edge of a great plateau, from which streams run
down into the Colorado, and deep gulches in the escarpment which faces
us, continued by canyons, ragged and flaring and set with cliffs and
towering crags, down to the river. I can see far up Marble Canyon to
long lines of chocolate-colored cliffs, and above these the Vermilion
Cliffs. I can see, also, up the Colorado Chiquito, through a very ragged
and broken canyon, with sharp salients set out from the walls on either
side, their points overlapping, so that a huge tooth of marble on one
side seems to be set between two teeth on the opposite; and I can also
get glimpses of walls standing away back from the river, while over my
head are mural escarpments not possible to be scaled.
Cataract Canyon is 41 miles long. The walls are 1,300 feet high at its
head, and they gradually increase in altitude to a point about halfway
down, where they are 2,700 feet, and then decrease to 1,300 feet at the
foot. Narrow Canyon is 9 1/2 miles long, with walls 1,300 feet in height
at the head and coming down to the water at the foot.
There is very little vegetation in this canyon or in the adjacent
country. Just at the junction of the Grand and Green there are a number
of hackberry trees; and along the entire length of Cataract Canyon the
high-water line is marked by scattered trees of the same species. A few
nut pines and cedars are found, and occasionally a redbud or Judas tree;
but the general aspect of the canyons and of the adjacent country is
that of naked rock.
The distance through Glen Canyon is 149 miles. Its walls vary in height
from 200 or 300 to 1,600 feet. Marble Canyon is 65 1/2 miles long. At
its head it is 200 feet deep, and it steadily increases in depth to its
foot, where its walls are 3,500 feet high.
FROM THE LITTLE COLORADO TO THE FOOT OF THE GRAND CANYON.
_August 13_.--We are now ready to start on our way down the Great Unknown.
Our boats, tied to a common, stake, chafe each other as they are tossed
by the fretful river. They ride high and buoyant, for their loads are
lighter than we could desire. We have but a month's rations remaining.
The flour has been resifted through the mosquito-net sieve; the spoiled
bacon has been dried and the worst of it boiled; the few pounds of dried
apples have been spread in the sun and reshrunken to their normal bulk.
The sugar has all melted and gone on its way down the river. But we have
a large sack of coffee. The lightening of the boats has this advantage:
they will ride the waves better and we shall have but little to carry
when we make a portage.
We are three quarters of a mile in the depths of the earth, and the
great river shrinks into insignificance as it dashes its angry waves
against the walls and cliffs that rise to the world above; the waves are
but puny ripples, and we but pigmies, running up and down the sands or
lost among the boulders.
We have an unknown distance yet to run, an unknown river to explore.
What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know
not; what walls rise over the river, we know not. Ah, well! we may
conjecture many things. The men talk as cheerfully as ever; jests are
bandied about freely this morning; but to me the cheer is somber and the
jests are ghastly.
With some eagerness and some anxiety and some misgiving we enter the
canyon below and are carried along by the swift water through walls
which rise from its very edge. They have the same structure that we
noticed yesterday--tiers of irregular shelves below, and, above these,
steep slopes to the foot of marble cliffs. We run six miles in a little
more than half an hour and emerge into a more open portion of the
canyon, where high hills and ledges of rock intervene between the river
and the distant walls. Just at the head of this open place the river
runs across a dike; that is, a fissure in the rocks, open to depths
below, was filled with eruptive matter, and this on cooling was harder
than the rocks through which the crevice was made, and when these were
washed away the harder volcanic matter remained as a wall, and the river
has cut a gateway through it several hundred feet high and as many wide.
As it crosses the wall, there is a fall below and a bad rapid, filled
with boulders of trap; so we stop to make a portage. Then on we go,
gliding by hills and ledges, with distant walls in view; sweeping past
sharp angles of rock; stopping at a few points to examine rapids, which
we find can be run, until we have made another five miles, when we land
Then we let down with lines over a long rapid and start again. Once more
the walls close in, and we find ourselves in a narrow gorge, the water
again filling the channel and being very swift. With great care and
constant watchfulness we proceed, making about four miles this
afternoon, and camp in a cave.
_August 14-_--At daybreak we walk down the bank of the river, on a
little sandy beach, to take a view of a new feature in the canyon.
Heretofore hard rocks have given us bad river; soft rocks, smooth water;
and a series of rocks harder than any we have experienced sets in. The
river enters the gneiss! We can see but a little way into the granite
gorge, but it looks threatening.
After breakfast we enter on the waves. At the very introduction it
inspires awe. The cauyon is narrower than we have ever before seen it;
the water is swifter; there are but few broken rocks in the channel; but
the walls are set, on either side, with pinnacles and crags; and sharp,
angular buttresses, bristling with wind- and wave-polished spires,
extend far out into the river.
Ledges of rock jut into the stream, their tops sometimes just below the
surface, sometimes rising a few or many feet above; and island ledges
and island pinnacles and island towers break the swift course of the
stream into chutes and eddies and whirlpools. We soon reach a place
where a creek comes in from the left, and, just below, the channel is
choked with boulders, which have washed down this lateral canyon and
formed a dam, over which there is a fall of 30 or 40 feet; but on the
boulders foothold can be had, and we make a portage. Three more such
dams are found. Over one we make a portage; at the other two are chutes
through which we can run.
As we proceed the granite rises higher, until nearly a thousand feet of
the lower part of the walls are composed of this rock.
About eleven o'clock we hear a great roar ahead, and approach it very
cautiously. The sound grows louder and louder as we run, and at last we
find ourselves above a long, broken fall, with ledges and pinnacles of
rock obstructing the river. There is a descent of perhaps 75 or 80 feet
in a third of a mile, and the rushing waters break into great waves
on the rocks, and lash themselves into a mad, white foam. We can land
just above, but there is no foothold on either side by which we can make
a portage. It is nearly a thousand feet to the top of the granite;
so it will be impossible to carry our boats around, though we can climb
to the summit up a side gulch and, passing along a mile or two, descend
to the river. This we find on examination; but such a portage would be
impracticable for us, and we must run the rapid or abandon the river.
There is no hesitation. We step into our boats, push off, and away we
go, first on smooth but swift water, then we strike a glassy wave and
ride to its top, down again into the trough, up again on a higher wave,
and down and up on waves higher and still higher until we strike one
just as it curls back, and a breaker rolls over our little boat. Still
on we speed, shooting past projecting rocks, till the little boat is
caught in a whirlpool and spun round several times. At last we pull out
again into the stream. And now the other boats have passed us. The open
compartment of the "Emma Dean" is filled with water and every breaker
rolls over us. Hurled back from a rock, now on this side, now on that,
we are carried into an eddy, in which we struggle for a few minutes, and
are then out again, the breakers still rolling over us. Our boat is
unmanageable, but she cannot sink, and we drift down another hundred
yards through breakers--how, we scarcely know. We find the other boats
have turned into an eddy at the foot of the fall and are waiting to
catch us as we come, for the men have seen that our boat is swamped.
They push out as we come near and pull us in against the wall. Our boat
bailed, on we go again.
The walls now are more than a mile in height--a vertical distance
difficult to appreciate. Stand on the south steps of the Treasury
building in Washington and look down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol;
measure this distance overhead, and imagine cliffs to extend to that
altitude, and you will understand what is meant; or stand at Canal
Street in New York and look up Broadway to Grace Church, and you have
about the distance; or stand at Lake Street bridge in Chicago and look
down to the Central Depot, and you have it again.
A thousand feet of this is up through granite crags; then steep slopes
and perpendicular cliffs rise one above another to the summit. The gorge
is black and narrow below, red and gray and flaring above, with crags
and angular projections on the walls, which, cut in many places by side
canyons, seem to be a vast wilderness of rocks. Down in these grand,
gloomy depths we glide, ever listening, for the mad waters keep
up their roar; ever watching, ever peering ahead, for the narrow canyon
is winding and the river is closed in so that we can see but a few
hundred yards, and what there may be below we know not; so we listen for
falls and watch for rocks, stopping now and then in the bay of a recess
to admire the gigantic scenery; and ever as we go there is some new
pinnacle or tower, some crag or peak, some distant view of the upper
plateau, some strangely shaped rock, or some deep, narrow side canyon.
Then we come to another broken fall, which appears more difficult than
the one we ran this morning. A small creek comes in on the right, and
the first fall of the water is over boulders, which have been carried
down by this lateral stream. We land at its mouth and stop for an hour
or two to examine the fall. It seems possible to let down with lines, at
least a part of the way, from point to point, along the right-hand wall.
So we make a portage over the first rocks and find footing on some
boulders below. Then we let down one of the boats to the end of her
line, when she reaches a corner of the projecting rock, to which one of
the men clings and steadies her while I examine an eddy below. I think
we can pass the other boats down by us and catch them in the eddy. This
is soon done, and the men in the boats in the eddy pull us to their
side. On the shore of this little eddy there is about two feet of gravel
beach above the water. Standing on this beach, some of the men take the
line of the little boat and let it drift down against another projecting
angle. Here is a little shelf, on which a man from my boat climbs, and a
shorter line is passed to him, and he fastens the boat to the side of
the cliff; then the second one is let down, bringing the line of the
third. When the second boat is tied up, the two men standing on the
beach above spring into the last boat, which is pulled up alongside of
ours; then we let down the boats for 25 or 30 yards by walking along the
shelf, landing them again in the mouth of a side canyon. Just below this
there is another pile of boulders, over which we make another portage.
From the foot of these rocks we can climb to another shelf, 40 or 50
feet above the water.
On this bench we camp for the night. It is raining hard, and we have no
shelter, but find a few sticks which have lodged in the rocks, and
kindle a fire and have supper. We sit on the rocks all night, wrapped in
our _ponchos,_ getting what sleep we can.
_August 15.--_This morning we find we can let down for 300 or 400 yards,
and it is managed in this way: we pass along the wall by climbing from
projecting point to point, sometimes near the water's edge, at other
places 50 or 60 feet above, and hold the boat with a line while two men
remain aboard and prevent her from being dashed against the rocks and
keep the line from getting caught on the wall. In two hours we have
brought them all down, as far as it is possible, in this way. A few
yards below, the river strikes with great violence against a projecting
rock and our boats are pulled up in a little bay above. We must now
manage to pull out of this and clear the point below. The little boat is
held by the bow obliquely up the stream. We jump in and pull out only a
few strokes, and sweep clear of the dangerous rock. The other boats
follow in the same manner and the rapid is passed.
It is not easy to describe the labor of such navigation. We must prevent
the waves from dashing the boats against the cliffs. Sometimes, where
the river is swift, we must put a bight of rope about a rock, to prevent
the boat from being snatched from us by a wave; but where the plunge is
too great or the chute too swift, we must let her leap and catch her
below or the undertow will drag her under the falling water and sink
her. Where we wish to run her out a little way from shore through a
channel between rocks, we first throw in little sticks of driftwood and
watch their course, to see where we must steer so that she will pass the
channel in safety. And so we hold, and let go, and pull, and lift, and
ward--among rocks, around rocks, and over rocks.
And now we go on through this solemn, mysterious way. The river is very
deep, the canyon very narrow, and still obstructed, so that there is no
steady flow of the stream; but the waters reel and roll and boil, and we
are scarcely able to determine where we can go. Now the boat is carried
to the right, perhaps close to the wall; again, she is shot into the
stream, and perhaps is dragged over to the other side, where, caught in
a whirlpool, she spins about. We can neither land nor run as we please.
The boats are entirely unmanageable; no order in their running can be
preserved; now one, now another, is ahead, each crew laboring for its
own preservation. In such a place we come to another rapid. Two of the
boats run it perforce. One succeeds in landing, but there is no foothold
by which to make a portage and she is pushed out again into the stream.
The next minute a great reflex wave fills the open compartment; she is
water-logged, and drifts unmanageable. Breaker after breaker rolls over
her and one capsizes her. The men are thrown out; but they cling to the
boat, and she drifts down some distance alongside of us and we are able
to catch her. She is soon bailed out and the men are aboard once more;
but the oars are lost, and so a pair from the "Emma Dean" is spared.
Then for two miles we find smooth water.
Clouds are playing in the canyon to-day. Sometimes they roll down in
great masses, filling the gorge with gloom; sometimes they hang aloft
from wall to wall and cover the canyon with a roof of impending storm,
and we can peer long distances up and down this canyon corridor, with
its cloud-roof overhead, its walls of black granite, and its river
bright with the sheen of broken waters. Then a gust of wind sweeps down
a side gulch and, making a rift in the clouds, reveals the blue heavens,
and a stream of sunlight pours in. Then the clouds drift away into the
distance, and hang around crags and peaks and pinnacles and towers and
walls, and cover them with a mantle that lifts from time to time and
sets them all in sharp relief. Then baby clouds creep out of side
canyons, glide around points, and creep back again into more distant
gorges. Then clouds arrange in strata across the canyon, with
intervening vista views to cliffs and rocks beyond. The clouds are
children of the heavens, and when they play among the rocks they lift
them to the region above.
It rains! Rapidly little rills are formed above, and these soon grow
into brooks, and the brooks grow into creeks and tumble over the walls
in innumerable cascades, adding their wild music to the roar of the
river. When the rain ceases the rills, brooks, and creeks run dry. The
waters that fall during a rain on these steep rocks are gathered at once
into the river; they could scarcely be poured in more suddenly if some
vast spout ran from the clouds to the stream itself. When a storm bursts
over the canyon a side gulch is dangerous, for a sudden flood may come,
and the inpouring waters will raise the river so as to hide the rocks.
Early in the afternoon we discover a stream entering from the north--a
clear, beautiful creek, coming down through a gorgeous red canyon. We
land and camp on a sand beach above its mouth, under a great,
overspreading tree with willow-shaped leaves.
_August 16.--_We must dry our rations again to-day and make oars.
The Colorado is never a clear stream, but for the past three or four
days it has been raining much of the time, and the floods poured over
the walls have brought down great quantities of mud, making it
exceedingly turbid now. The little affluent which we have discovered
here is a clear, beautiful creek, or river, as it would be termed in
this western country, where streams are not abundant. We have named one
stream, away above, in honor of the great chief of the "Bad Angels," and
as this is in beautiful contrast to that, we conclude to name it "Bright
Early in the morning the whole party starts _up_ to explore the Bright
Angel River, with the special purpose of seeking timber from which to
make oars. A couple of miles above we find a large pine log, which has
been floated down from the plateau, probably from an altitude of more
than 6,000 feet, but not many miles back. On its way it must have passed
over many cataracts and falls, for it bears scars in evidence of the
rough usage which it has received. The men roll it on skids, and the
work of sawing oars is commenced.
This stream heads away back under a line of abrupt cliffs that
terminates the plateau, and tumbles down more than 4,000 feet in the
first mile or two of its course; then runs through a deep, narrow canyon
until it reaches the river.
Late in the afternoon I return and go up a little gulch just above this
creek, about 200 yards from camp, and discover the ruins of two or three
old houses, which were originally of stone laid in mortar. Only the
foundations are left, but irregular blocks, of which the houses were
constructed, lie scattered about. In one room I find an old
mealing-stone, deeply worn, as if it had been much used. A great deal of
pottery is strewn around, and old trails, which in some places are
deeply worn into the rocks, are seen.
It is ever a source of wonder to us why these ancient people sought such
inaccessible places for their homes. They were, doubtless, an
agricultural race, but there are no lands here of any considerable
extent that they could have cultivated. To the west of Oraibi, one of
the towns in the Province of Tusayan, in northern Arizona, the
inhabitants have actually built little terraces along the face of the
cliff where a spring gushes out, and thus made their sites for gardens.
It is possible that the ancient inhabitants of this place made their
agricultural lands in the same way. But why should they seek such
spots'? Surely the country was not so crowded with people as to demand
the utilization of so barren a region. The only solution suggested of
the problem is this: We know that for a century or two after the
settlement of Mexico many expeditious were sent into the country now
comprising Arizona and New Mexico, for the purpose of bringing the
town-building people under the dominion of the Spanish government. Many
of their villages were destroyed, and the inhabitants fled to regions at
that time unknown; and there are traditions among the people who inhabit
the pueblos that still remain that the canyons were these unknown lauds.
It may be these buildings were erected at that time; sure it is that
they have a much more modern appearance than the ruins scattered over
Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. Those old Spanish
conquerors had a monstrous greed for gold and a wonderful lust for
saving souls. Treasures they must have, if not on earth, why, then, in
heaven; and when they failed to find heathen temples bedecked with
silver, they propitiated Heaven by seizing the heathen themselves. There
is yet extant a copy of a record made by a heathen artist to express his
conception of the demands of the conquerors. In one part of the picture
we have a lake, and near by stands a priest pouring water on the head of
a native. On the other side, a poor Indian has a cord about his throat.
Lines run from these two groups to a central figure, a man with beard
and full Spanish panoply. The interpretation of the picture-writing is
this: "Be baptized as this saved heathen, or be hanged as that damned
heathen." Doubtless, some of these people preferred another alternative,
and rather than be baptized or hanged they chose to imprison themselves
within these canyon walls.
_August 17.--_Our rations are still spoiling; the bacon is so badly
injured that we are compelled to throw it away. By an accident, this
morning, the saleratus was lost overboard. We have now only musty flour
sufficient for ten days and a few dried apples, but plenty of coifee. We
must make all haste possible. If we meet with difficulties such as we
have encountered in the canyon above, we may be compelled to give up the
expedition and try to reach the Mormon settlements to the north.
Our hopes are that the worst places are passed, but our barometers are
all so much injured as to be useless, and so we have lost our reckoning
in altitude, and know not how much descent the river has yet to make.
The stream is still wild and rapid and rolls through a narrow channel.
We make but slow progress, often landing against a wall and climbing
around some point to see the river below. Although very anxious to
advance, we are determined to run with great caution, lest by another
accident we lose our remaining supplies. How precious that little flour
has become! We divide it among the boats and carefully store it away, so
that it can be lost only by the loss of the boat itself.
We make ten miles and a half, and camp among the rocks on the right. We
have had rain from time to time all day, and have been thoroughly
drenched and chilled; but between showers the sun shines with great
power and the mercury in our thermometers stands at 115 degrees, so that
we have rapid changes from great extremes, which are very disagreeable.
It is especially cold in the rain to-night. The little canvas we have is
rotten and useless; the rubber _ponchos_ with which we started from
Green River City have all been lost; more than half the party are
without hats, not one of us has an entire suit of clothes, and we have
not a blanket apiece. So we gather driftwood and build a fire; but after
supper the rain, coming down in torrents, extinguishes it, and we sit up
all night on the rocks, shivering, and are more exhausted by the night's
discomfort than by the day's toil.
_August 18._--The day is employed in making portages and we advance but
two miles on our journey. Still it rains.
While the men are at work making portages I climb up the granite to its
summit and go away back over the rust-colored sandstones and
greenish-yellow shales to the foot of the marble wall. I climb so high
that the men and boats are lost in the black depths below and the
dashing river is a rippling brook, and still there is more canyon above
than below. All about me are interesting geologic records. The book is
open and I can read as I run. All about me are grand views, too, for the
clouds are playing again in the gorges. But somehow I think of the nine
days' rations and the bad river, and the lesson of the rocks and the
glory of the scene are but half conceived. I push on to an angle, where
I hope to get a view of the country beyond, to see if possible what the
prospect may be of our soon running through this plateau, or at least of
meeting with some geologic change that will let us out of the granite;
but, arriving at the point, I can see below only a labyrinth of black
_August 19.--_Rain again this morning. We are in our granite prison
still, and the time until noon is occupied in making a long; bad
After dinner, in running a rapid the pioneer boat is upset by a wave. We
are some distance in advance of the larger boats. The river is rough and
swift and we are unable to land, but cling to the boat and are carried
down stream over another rapid. The men in the boats above see our
trouble, but they are caught in whirlpools and are spinning about in
eddies, and it seems a long time before they come to our relief. At last
they do come; our boat is turned right side up and bailed out; the oars,
which fortunately have floated along in company with us, are gathered
up, and on we go, without even landing. The clouds break away and we
have sunshine again.
Soon we find a little beach with just room enough to land. Here we camp,
but there is no wood. Across the river and a little way above, we see
some driftwood lodged in the rocks. So we bring two boat loads over,
build a huge fire, and spread everything to dry. It is the first
cheerful night we have had for a week--a warm, drying fire in the midst
of the camp, and a few bright stars in our patch of heavens overhead.
_August 20.--_The characteristics of the canyon change this morning. The
river is broader, the walls more sloping, and composed of black slates
that stand on edge. These nearly vertical slates are washed out in
places--that is, the softer beds are washed out between the harder,
which are left standing. In this way curious little alcoves are formed,
in which are quiet bays of water, but on a much smaller scale than the
great bays and buttresses of Marble Canyon.
The river is still rapid and we stop to let down with lines several
times, but make greater progress, as we run ten miles. We camp on the
right bank. Here, on a terrace of trap, we discover another group of
ruins. There was evidently quite a village on this rock. Again we find
mealing-stones and much broken pottery, and up on a little natural shelf
in the rock back of the ruins we find a globular basket that would hold
perhaps a third of a bushel. It is badly broken, and as I attempt to
take it up it falls to pieces. There are many beautiful flint chips,
also, as if this had been the home of an old arrow-maker.
_August 21.--_We start early this morning, cheered by the prospect of a
fine day and encouraged also by the good run made yesterday. A quarter
of a mile below camp the river turns abruptly to the left, and between
camp and that point is very swift, running down in a long, broken chute
and piling up against the foot of the cliff, where it turns to the left.
We try to pull across, so as to go down on the other side, but the
waters are swift and it seems impossible for us to escape the rock
below; but, in pulling across, the bow of the boat is turned to the
farther shore, so that we are swept broadside down and are prevented by
the rebounding waters from striking against the wall. We toss about for
a few seconds in these billows and are then carried past the danger.
Below, the river turns again to the right, the canyon is very narrow,
and we see in advance but a short distance. The water, too, is very
swift, and there is no landing-place. From around this curve there comes
a mad roar, and down we are carried with a dizzying velocity to the head
of another rapid. On either side high over our heads there are
overhanging granite walls, and the sharp bends cut off our view, so that
a few minutes will carry us into unknown waters. Away we go on one long,
winding chute. I stand on deck, supporting myself with a strap fastened
on either side of the gunwale. The boat glides rapidly where the water
is smooth, then, striking a wave, she leaps and bounds like a thing of
life, and we have a wild, exhilarating ride for ten miles, which we make
in less than an hour. The excitement is so great that we forget the
danger until we hear the roar of a great fall below; then we back on our
oars and are carried slowly toward its head and succeed in landing just
above and find that we have to make another portage. At this we are
engaged until some time after dinner.
Just here we run out of the granite. Ten miles in less than half a day,
and limestone walls below. Good cheer returns; we forget the storms and
the gloom and the cloud-covered canyons and the black granite and the
raging river, and push our boats from shore in great glee.
Though we are out of the granite, the river is still swift, and we wheel
about a point again to the right, and turn, so as to head back in the
direction from which we came; this brings the granite in sight again,
with its narrow gorge and black crags; but we meet with no more great
falls or rapids. Still, we run cautiously and stop from time to time to
examine some places which look bad. Yet we make ten miles this
afternoon; twenty miles in all to-day.
_August 22.--_We come to rapids again this morning and are occupied
several hours in passing them, letting the boats down from rock to rock
with lines for nearly half a mile, and then have to make a long portage.
While the men are engaged in this I climb the wall on the northeast to
a height of about 2,500 feet, where I can obtain a good view of a long
stretch of canyon below. Its course is to the southwest. The walls seem
to rise very abruptly for 2,500 or 3,000 feet, and then there is a
gently sloping terrace on each side for two or three miles, when we
again find cliffs, 1,500 or 2,000 feet high. From the brink of these the
plateau stretches back to the north and south for a long distance. Away
down the canyon on the right wall I can see a group of mountains, some
of which appear to stand on the brink of the canyon. The effect of the
terrace is to give the appearance of a narrow winding valley with high
walls on either side and a deep, dark, meandering gorge down its middle.
It is impossible from this point of view to determine whether or not we
have granite at the bottom; but from geologic considerations, I conclude
that we shall have marble walls below.
After my return to the boats we run another mile and camp for the night.
We have made but little over seven miles to-day, and a part of our flour
has been soaked in the river again.
_August 23.--_Our way to-day is again through marble walls. Now and then
we pass for a short distance through patches of granite, like hills
thrust up into the limestone. At one of these places we have to make
another portage, and, taking advantage of the delay, I go up a little
stream to the north, wading it all the way, sometimes having to plunge
in to my neck, in other places being compelled to swim across little
basins that have been excavated at the foot of the falls. Along its
course are many cascades and springs, gushing out from the rocks on
either side. Sometimes a cottonwood tree grows over the water. I come to
one beautiful fall, of more than 150 feet, and climb around it to the
right on the broken rocks. Still going up, the canyon is found to narrow
very much, being but 15 or 20 feet wide; yet the walls rise on either
side many hundreds of feet, perhaps thousands; I can hardly tell.
In some places the stream has not excavated its channel down vertically
through the rocks, but has cut obliquely, so that one wall overhangs the
other. In other places it is cut vertically above and obliquely below,
or obliquely above and vertically below, so that it is impossible to see
out overhead. But I can go no farther; the time which I estimated it
would take to make the portage has almost expired, and I start back on a
round trot, wading in the creek where I must and plunging through
basins. The men are waiting for me, and away we go on the river.
Just after dinner we pass a stream on the right, which leaps into' the
Colorado by a direct fall of more than 100 feet, forming a beautiful
cascade. There is a bed of very hard rock above, 30 or 40 feet in
thickness, and there are much softer beds below. The hard beds above
project many yards beyond the softer, which are washed out, forming a
deep cave behind the fall, and the stream pours through a narrow crevice
above into a deep pool below. Around on the rocks in the cavelike
chamber are set beautiful ferns, with delicate fronds and enameled
stalks. The frondlets have their points turned down .to form spore
cases. It has very much the appearance of the maidenhair fern, but is
much larger. This delicate foliage covers the rocks all about the
fountain, and gives the chamber great beauty. But we have little time to
spend in admiration; so on we go.
We make fine progress this afternoon, carried along by a swift river,
shooting over the rapids and finding no serious obstructions. The canyon
walls for 2,500 or 3,000 feet are very regular, rising almost
perpendicularly, but here and there set with narrow steps, and
occasionally we can see away above the broad terrace to distant cliffs.
We camp to-night in a marble cave, and find on looking at our reckoning
that we have run 22 miles.
_August 24.--_The canyon is wider to-day. The walls rise to a vertical
height of nearly 3,000 feet. In many places the river runs under a cliff
in great curves, forming amphitheaters half-dome shaped.
Though the river is rapid, we meet with no serious obstructions and run
20 miles. How anxious we are to make up our reckoning every time we
stop, now that our diet is confined to plenty of coffee, a very little
spoiled flour, and very few dried apples! It has come to be a race for a
dinner. Still, we make such fine progress that all hands are in good
cheer, but not a moment of daylight is lost.
_August 25.--_We make 12 miles this morning, when we come to monuments
of lava standing in the river,--low rocks mostly, but some of them
shafts more than a hundred feet high. Going on down three or four miles,
we find them increasing in number. Great quantities of cooled lava and
many cinder cones are seen on either side; and then we come to an abrupt
cataract. Just over the fall on the right wall a cinder cone, or extinct
volcano, with a well-defined crater, stands on the very brink of the
canyon. This, doubtless, is the one we saw two or three days ago. From
this volcano vast floods of lava have been poured down into the river,
and a stream of molten rock has run up the canyon three or four miles
and down we know not how far. Just where it poured over the canyon wall
is the fall. The whole north side as far as we can see is lined with the
black basalt, and high up on the opposite wall are patches of the same
material, resting on the benches and filling old alcoves and caves,
giving the wall a spotted appearance.
The rocks are broken in two along a line which here crosses the river,
and the beds we have seen while coming down the canyon for the last 30
miles have dropped 800 feet on the lower side of the line, forming what
geologists call a "fault." The volcanic cone stands directly over the
fissure thus formed. On the left side of the river, opposite, mammoth
springs burst out of this crevice, 100 or 200 feet above the river,
pouring in a stream quite equal in volume to the Colorado Chiquito.
This stream seems to be loaded with carbonate of lime, and the water,
evaporating, leaves an incrustation on the rocks; and this process has
been continued for a long time, for extensive deposits are noticed in
which are basins with bubbling springs. The water is salty.
We have to make a portage here, which is completed in about three hours;
then on we go.
We have no difficulty as we float along, and I am able to observe the
wonderful phenomena connected with this flood of lava. The canyon was
doubtless filled to a height of 1,200 or 1,500 feet, perhaps by more
than one flood. This would dam the water back; and in cutting through
this great lava bed, a new channel has been formed, sometimes on one
side, sometimes on the other. The cooled lava, being of firmer texture
than the rocks of which the walls are composed, remains in some places;
in others a narrow channel has beea cut, leaving a line of basalt on
either side. It is possible that the lava cooled faster on the sides
against the walls and that the center ran out; but of this we can only
conjecture. There are other places where almost the whole of the lava is
gone, only patches of it being seen, where it has caught on the walls.
As we float down we can see that it ran out into side canyons. In some
places this basalt has a fine, columnar structure, often in concentric
prisms, and masses of these concentric columns have coalesced. In some
places, when the flow occurred the canyon was probably about the same
depth that it is now, for we can see where the basalt has rolled out on
the sands, and--what seems curious to me--the sands are not melted or
metamorphosed to any appreciable extent. In places the bed of the river
is of sandstone or limestone, in other places of lava, showing that it
has all been cut out again where the sandstones and limestones appear;
but there is a little yet left where the bed is of lava.
What a conflict of water and fire there must have been here! Just
imagine a river of molten rock running down into a river of melted snow.
What a seething and boiling of the waters; what clouds of steam rolled
into the heavens!
Thirty-five miles to-day. Hurrah!
_August 26.--_The canyon walls are steadily becoming higher as we
advance. They are still bold and nearly vertical up to the terrace. We
still see evidence of the eruption discovered yesterday, but the
thickness of the basalt is decreasiug as we go down stream; yet it has
been reinforced at points by streams that have come down from volcanoes
standing on the terrace above, but which we cannot see from the river
Since we left the Colorado Chiquito we have seen no evidences that the
tribe of Indians inhabiting the plateaus on either side ever come down
to the river; but about eleven o'clock to-day we discover an Indian
garden at the foot of the wall on the right, just where a little stream
with a narrow flood plain comes down through a side canyon. Along the
valley the Indians have planted corn, using for irrigation the water
which bursts out in springs at the foot of the cliff. The corn is
looking quite well, but it is not sufficiently advanced to give us
roasting ears; but there are some nice green squashes. We carry ten or a
dozen of these on board our boats and hurriedly leave, not willing to be
caught in the robbery, yet excusing ourselves by pleading our great
want. We run down a short distance to where we feel certain no Indian
can follow, and what a kettle of squash sauce we make! True, we have no
salt with which to season it, but it makes a fine addition to our
unleavened bread and coffee. Never was fruit so sweet as these stolen
After dinner we push on again and make fine time, finding many rapids,
but none so bad that we cannot run them with safety; and when we stop,
just at dusk, and foot up our reckoning, we find we have run 35 miles
again. A few days like this, and we are out of prison.
We have a royal supper--unleavened bread, green squash sauce, and strong
coffee. We have been for a few days on half rations, but now have no
stint of roast squash.
_August 27._--This morning the river takes a more southerly direction.
The dip of the rocks is to the north and we are running rapidly into
lower formations. Unless our course changes we shall very soon run again
into the granite. This gives some anxiety. Now and then the river turns
to the west and excites hopes that are soon destroyed by another turn to
the south. About nine o'clock we come to the dreaded rock. It is with no
little misgiving that we see the river enter these black, hard walls. At
its very entrance we have to make a portage; then let down with lines
past some ugly rocks. We run a mile or two farther, and then the rapids
below can be seen.
About eleven o'clock we come to a place in the river which seems much
worse than any we have yet met in all its course. A little creek comes
down from the left. We land first on the right and clamber up over the
granite pinnacles for a mile or two, but can see no way by which to let
down, and to run it would be sure destruction. After dinner we cross to
examine on the left. High above the river we can walk along on the top
of the granite, which is broken off at the edge and set with crags and
pinnacles, so that it is very difficult to get a view of the river at
all. In my eagerness to reach a point where I can see the roaring fall
below, I go too far on the wall, and can neither advance nor retreat. I
stand with one foot on a little projecting rock and cling with my hand
fixed in a little crevice. Finding I am caught here, suspended 400 feet
above the river, into which I must fall if my footing fails, I call for
help. The men come and pass me a line, but I cannot let go of the rock
long enough to take hold of it. Then they bring two or three of the
largest oars. All this takes time which seems very precious to me; but
at last they arrive. The blade of one of the oars is pushed into a
little crevice in the rock beyond me in such a manner that they can hold
me pressed against the wall. Then another is fixed in such a way that I
can step on it; and thus I am extricated.
Still another hour is spent in examining the river from this side, but
no good view of it is obtained; so now we return to the side that was
first examined, and the afternoon is spent in clambering among the crags
and pinnacles and carefully scanning the river again. We find that the
lateral streams have washed boulders into the river, so as to form a
dam, over which the water makes a broken fall of 18 or 20 feet; then
there is a rapid, beset with rocks, for 200 or 300 yards, while on the
other side, points of the wall project into the river. Below, there is a
second fall; how great, we cannot tell. Then there is a rapid, filled
with huge rocks, for 100 or 200 yards. At the bottom of it, from the
right wall, a great rock projects quite halfway across the river. It has
a sloping surface extending up stream, and the water, coming down with
all the momentum gained in the falls and rapids above, rolls up this
inclined plane many feet, and tumbles over to the left. I decide that it
is possible to let down over the first fall, then run near the right
cliff to a point just above the second, where we can pull out into a
little chute, and, having run over that in safety, if we pull with all
our power across the stream, we may avoid the great rock below. On my
return to the boat I announce to the men that we are to run it in the
morning. Then we cross the river and go into camp for the night on some
rocks in the mouth of the little side canyon.
After supper Captain Howland asks to have a talk with me. We walk up the
little creek a short distance, and I soon find that his object is to
remonstrate against my determination to proceed. He thinks that we had
better abandon the river here. Talking with him, I learn that he, his
brother, and William Dunn have determined to go no farther in the boats.
So we return to camp. Nothing is said to the other men.
For the last two days our course has not been plotted. I sit down and do
this now, for the purpose of finding where we are by dead reckoning. It
is a clear night, and I take out the sextant to make observation for
latitude, and I find that the astronomic determination agrees very
nearly with that of the plot--quite as closely as might be expected from
a meridian observation on a planet. In a direct line, we must be about
45 miles from the mouth of the Rio Virgen. If we can reach that point,
we know that there are settlements up that river about 20 miles. This 45
miles in a direct line will probably be 80 or 90 by the meandering line
of the river. But then we know that there is comparatively open country
for many miles above the mouth of the Virgen, which is our point of
As soon as I determine all this, I spread my plot on the sand and wake
Howland, who is sleeping down by the river, and show him where I suppose
we are, and where several Mormon settlements are situated.
We have another short talk about the morrow, and he lies down again; but
for me there is no sleep. All night long I pace up and down a little
path, on a few yards of sand beach, along by the river. Is it wise to go
on? I go to the boats again to look at our rations. I feel satisfied
that we can get over the danger immediately before us; what there may be
below I know not. From our outlook yesterday on the cliffs, the canyon
seemed to make another great bend to the south, and this, from our
experience heretofore, means more and higher granite walls. I am not
sure that we can climb out of the canyon here, and, if at the top of the
wall, I know enough of the country to be certain that it is a desert of
rock and sand between this and the nearest Mormon town, which, on the
most direct line, must be 75 miles away. True, the late rains have been
favorable to us, should we go out, for the probabilities are that we
shall find water still standing in holes; and at one time I almost
conclude to leave the river. But for years I have been contemplating
this trip. To leave the exploration unfinished, to say that there is a
part of the canyon which I cannot explore, having already nearly
accomplished it, is more than I am willing to acknowledge, and I
determine to go on.
I wake my brother and tell him of Howland's determination, and he
promises to stay with me; then I call up Hawkins, the cook, and he makes
a like promise; then Sumner and Bradley and Hall, and they all agree to
_August 28._--At last daylight comes and we have breakfast without a
word being said about the future. The meal is as solemn as a funeral.
After breakfast I ask the three men if they still think it best to leave
us. The elder Howland thinks it is, and Dunn agrees with him. The
younger Howland tries to persuade them to go on with the party; failing
in which, he decides to go with his brother.
Then we cross the river. The small boat is very much disabled and
unseaworthy. With the loss of hands, consequent on the departure of the
three men, we shall not be able to run all of the boats; so I decide to
leave my "Emma Dean."
Two rifles and a shotgun are given to the men who are going out. I ask
them to help themselves to the rations and take what they think to be a
fair share. This they refuse to do, saying they have no fear but that
they can get something to eat; but Billy, the cook, has a pan of
biscuits prepared for dinner, and these he leaves on a rock.
Before starting, we take from the boat our barometers, fossils, the
minerals, and some ammunition and leave them on the rocks. We are going
over this place as light as possible. The three men help us lift our
boats over a rock 25 or 30 feet high and let them down again over the
first fall, and now we are all ready to start. The last thing before
leaving, I write a letter to my wife and give it to Howland. Sumner
gives him his watch, directing that it be sent to his sister should he
not be heard from again. The records of the expedition have been kept in
duplicate. One set of these is given to Howland; and now we are ready.
For the last time they entreat us not to go on, and tell us that it is
madness to set out in this place; that we can never get safely through
it; and, further, that the river turns again to the south into the
granite, and a few miles of such rapids and falls will exhaust our
entire stock of rations, and then it will be too late to climb out. Some
tears are shed; it is rather a solemn parting; each party thinks the
other is taking the dangerous course.
My old boat left, I go on board of the "Maid of the Canyon." The three
men climb a crag that overhangs the river to watch us off. The "Maid of
the Canyon" pushes out. We glide rapidly along the foot of the wall,
just grazing one great rock, then pull out a little into the chute of
the second fall and plunge over it. The open compartment is filled when
we strike the first wave below, but we cut through it, and then the men
pull with all their power toward the left wall and swing clear of the
dangerous rock below all right. We are scarcely a minute in running it,
and find that, although it looked bad from above, we have passed many
places that were worse. The other boat follows without more difficulty.
We land at the first practicable point below, and fire our guns, as a
signal to the men above that we have come over in safety. Here we remain
a couple of hours, hoping that they will take the smaller boat and
follow us. We are behind a curve in the canyon and cannot see up to
where we left them, and so we wait until their coming seems hopeless,
and then push on.
And now we have a succession of rapids and falls until noon, all of
which we run in safety. Just after dinner we come to another bad place.
A little stream comes in from the left, and below there is a fall, and
still below another fall. Above, the river tumbles down, over and among
the rocks, in whirlpools and great waves, and the waters are lashed into
mad, white foam. We run along the left, above this, and soon see that we
cannot get down on this side, but it seems possible to let down on the
other. We pull up stream again for 200 or 300 yards and cross. Now there
is a bed of basalt on this northern side of the canyon, with a bold
escarpment that seems to be a hundred feet high. We can climb it and
walk along its summit to a point where we are just at the head of the
fall. Here the basalt is broken down again, so it seems to us, and I
direct the men to take a line to the top of the cliff and let the boats
down along the wall. One man remains in the boat to keep her clear of
the rocks and prevent her line from being caught on the projecting
angles. I climb the cliff and pass along to a point just over the fall
and descend by broken rocks, and find that the break of the fall is
above the break of the wall, so that we cannot land, and that still
below the river is very bad, and that there is no possibility of a
portage. Without waiting further to examine and determine what shall be
done, I hasten back to the top of the cliff to stop the boats from
coming down. When I arrive _I_ find the men have let one of them down to
the head of the fall. She is in swift water and they are not able to
pull her back; nor are they able to go on with the line, as it is not
long enough to reach the higher part of the cliff which is just before
them; so they take a bight around a crag. I send two men back for the
other line. The boat is in very swift water, and Bradley is standing in
the open compartment, holding out his oar to prevent her from striking
against the foot of the cliff. Now she shoots out into the stream and up
as far as the line will permit, and then, wheeling, drives headlong
against the rock, and then out and back again, now straining on the
line, now striking against the rock. As soon as the second line is
brought, we pass it down to him; but his attention is all taken up with
his own situation, and he does not see that we are passing him the line.
I stand on a projecting rock, waving my hat to gain his attention, for
my voice is drowned by the roaring of the falls. Just at this moment I
see him take his knife from its sheath and step forward to cut the line.
He has evidently decided that it is better to go over with the boat as
it is than to wait for her to be broken to pieces. As he leans over, the
boat sheers again into the stream, the stem-post breaks away and she is
loose. With perfect composure Bradley seizes the great scull oar, places
it in the stern rowlock, and pulls with all his power (and he is an
athlete) to turn the bow of the boat down stream, for he wishes to go
bow down, rather than to drift broadside on. One, two strokes he makes,
and a third just as she goes over, and the boat is fairly turned, and
she goes down almost beyond our sight, though we are more than a hundred
feet above the river. Then she comes up again on a great wave, and down
and up, then around behind some great rocks, and is lost in the mad,
white foam below. We stand frozen with fear, for we see no boat.
Bradley is gone! so it seems. But now, away below, we see something
coming out of the waves. It is evidently a boat. A moment more, and we
see Bradley standing on deck, swinging his hat to show that he is all
right. But he is in a whirlpool. We have the stem-post of his boat
attached to the line. How badly she may be disabled we know not. I
direct Sumner and Powell to pass along the cliff and see if they can
reach him from below. Hawkins, Hall, and myself run to the other boat,
jump aboard, push out, and away we go over the falls. A wave rolls over
us and our boat is unmanageable. Another great wave strikes us, and the
boat rolls over, and tumbles and tosses, I know not how. All I know is
that Bradley is picking us up. We soon have all right again, and row to
the cliff and wait until Sumner and Powell can come. After a difficult
climb they reach us. We run two or three miles farther and turn again to
the northwest, continuing until night, when we have run out of the
granite once more.
_August 29.--_We start very early this morning. The river still
continues swift, but we have no serious difficulty, and at twelve
o'clock emerge from the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. We are in a valley
now, and low mountains are seen in the distance, coming to the river
below. We recognize this as the Grand Wash.
A few years ago a party of Mormons set out from St. George, Utah, taking
with them a boat, and came down to the Grand Wash, where they divided, a
portion of the party crossing the river to explore the San Francisco
Mountains. Three men--Hamblin, Miller, and Crosby--taking the boat, went
on down the river to Callville, landing a few miles below the mouth of
the Rio Virgen. We have their manuscript journal with us, and so the
stream is comparatively well known.
To-night we camp on the left bank, in a mesquite thicket.
The relief from danger and the joy of success are great. When he who has
been chained by wounds to a hospital cot until his canvas tent seems
like a dungeon cell, until the groans of those who lie about tortured
with probe and knife are piled up, a weight of horror on his ears that
he cannot throw off, cannot forget, and until the stench of festering
wounds and anaesthetic drugs has filled the air with its loathsome
burthen,--when he at last goes out into the open field, what a world he
sees! How beautiful the sky, how bright the sunshine, what "floods of
delirious music" pour from the throats of birds, how sweet the fragrance
of earth and tree and blossom! The first hour of convalescent freedom
seems rich recompense for all pain and gloom and terror.
Something like these are the feelings we experience to-night. Ever
before us has been an unknown danger, heavier than immediate peril.
Every waking hour passed in the Grand Canyon has been one of toil. We
have watched with deep solicitude the steady disappearance of our scant
supply of rations, and from time to time have seen the river snatch a
portion of the little left, while we were a-hungered. And danger and
toil were endured in those gloomy depths, where ofttimes clouds hid the
sky by day and but a narrow zone of stars could be seen at night. Only
during the few hours of deep sleep, consequent on hard labor, has the
roar of the waters been hushed. Now the danger is over, now the toil has
ceased, now the gloom has disappeared, now the firmament is bounded only
by the horizon, and what a vast expanse of constellations can be seen!
The river rolls by us in silent majesty; the quiet of the camp is sweet;
our joy is almost ecstasy. We sit till long after midnight talking of
the Grand Canyon, talking of home, but talking chiefly of the three men
who left us. Are they wandering in those depths, unable to find a way
out? Are they searching over the desert lands above for water? Or are
they nearing the settlements?
_August 30.--_We run in two or three short, low canyons to-day, and on
emerging from one we discover a band of Indians in the valley below.
They see us, and scamper away in eager haste to hide among the rocks.
Although we land and call for them to return, not an Indian can be seen.
Two or three miles farther down, in turning a short bend of the river,
we come upon another camp. So near are we before they can see us that I
can shout to them, and, being able to speak a little of their language,
I tell them we are friends; but they all flee to the rocks, except a
man, a woman, and two children. We land and talk with them. They are
without lodges, but have built little shelters of boughs, under which'
they wallow in the sand. The man is dressed in a hat; the woman, in a
string of beads only. At first they are evidently much terrified; but
when I talk to them in their own language and tell them we are friends,
and inquire after people in the Mormon towns, they are soon reassured
and beg for tobacco. Of this precious article we have none to spare.
Sumner looks around in the boat for something to give them, and finds a
little piece of colored soap, which they receive as a valuable
present,--rather as a thing of beauty than as a useful commodity,
however. They are either unwilling or unable to tell us anything about
the Indians or white people, and so we push off, for we must lose no
We camp at noon under the right bank. And now as we push out we are in
great expectancy, for we hope every minute to discover the mouth of the
Rio Virgen. Soon one of the men exclaims: "Yonder's an Indian in the
river." Looking for a few minutes, we certainly do see two or three
persons. The men bend to their oars and pull toward them. Approaching,
we see that there are three white men and an Indian hauling a seine, and
then we discover that it is just at the mouth of the long-sought river.
As we come near, the men seem far less surprised to see us than we do to
see them. They evidently know who we are, and on talking with them they
tell us that we have been reported lost long ago, and that some weeks
before a messenger had been sent from Salt Lake City with instructions
for them to watch for any fragments or relics of our party that might
drift down the stream.
Our new-found friends, Mr. Asa and his two sons, tell us that they are
pioneers of a town that is to be built on the bank. Eighteen or twenty
miles up the valley of the Rio Virgen there are two Mormon towns, St.
Joseph and St. Thomas. To-night we dispatch an Indian to the
last-mentioned place to bring any letters that may be there for us.
Our arrival here is very opportune. When we look over our store of
supplies, we find about 10 pounds of flour, 15 pounds of dried apples,
but 70 or 80 pounds of coffee.
_August 81.--_This afternoon the Indian returns with a letter informing
us that Bishop Leithhead of St. Thomas and two or three other Mormons
are coming down with a wagon, bringing us supplies. They arrive about
sundown. Mr. Asa treats us with great kindness to the extent of his
ability; but Bishop Leithhead brings in his wagon two or three dozen
melons and many other little luxuries, and we are comfortable once more.
_September 1.--_This morning Sumner, Bradley, Hawkins, and Hall, taking
on a small supply of rations, start down the Colorado with the boats. It
is their intention to go to Fort Mojave, and perhaps from there overland
to Los Angeles.
Captain Powell and myself return with Bishop Leithhead to St. Thomas.
From St. Thomas we go to Salt Lake City.
THE RIO VIRGEN AND THE UINKARET MOUNTAINS.
A year has passed, and we have determined to resume the exploration of
the canyons of the Colorado. Our last trip was so hurried, owing to the
loss of rations, and the scientific instruments were so badly injured,
that we are not satisfied with the results obtained; so we shall once
more attempt to pass through the canyons in boats, devoting two or three
years to the trip.
It will not be possible to carry in the boats sufficient supplies for
the party for that length of time; so it is thought best to establish
depots of supplies, at intervals of 100 or 200 miles along the river.
Between Gunnison's Crossing and the foot of the Grand Canyon, we know of
only two points where the river can be reached--one at the Crossing of
the Fathers, and another a few miles below, at the mouth of the Paria,
on a route which has been explored by Jacob Hamblin, a Mormon
missionary. These two points are so near each other that only one of
them can be selected for the purpose above mentioned, and others must be
found. We have been unable up to this time to obtain, either from
Indians or white men, any information which will give us a clue to any
other trail to the river.
At the headwaters of the Sevier, we are on the summit of a great
watershed. The Sevier itself flows north and then westward into the lake
of the same name. The Rio Virgen, heading near by, flows to the
southwest into the Colorado, 60 or 70 miles below the Grand Canyon. The
Kanab, also heading near by, runs directly south into the very heart of
the Grand Canyon. The Paria, likewise heading near by, runs a little
south of east and enters the river at the head of Marble Canyon. To the
northeast from this point, other streams which run into the Colorado
have their sources, until, 40 or 50 miles away, we reach the
southern branches of the Dirty Devil River, the mouth of which stream is
but a short distance below the junction of the Grand and Green.
The Paunsa'gunt Plateau terminates in a point, which is bounded by a
line of beautiful pink cliffs. At the foot of this plateau, on the west,
the Rio Virgen and Sevier River are dovetailed together, as their minute
upper branches interlock. The upper surface of the plateau inclines to
the northeast, so that its waters roll off into the Sevier; but from the
foot of the cliffs, quite around the sharp angle of the plateau, for a
dozen miles, we find numerous springs, whose waters unite to form the
Kanab. A little farther to the northeast the springs gather into streams
that feed the Paria. Here, by the upper springs of the Kanab, we make a
camp, and from this point we are to radiate on a series of trips,
southwest, south, and east.
Jacob Hamblin, who has been a missionary among the Indians for more than
twenty years, has collected a number of Kai'vavits, with
Chuar'-ruumpeak, their chief, and they are all camped with us. They
assure us that we cannot reach the river, that we cannot make our way
into the depths of the canyon, but promise to show us the springs and
water pockets, which are very scarce in all this region, and to give us
all the information in their power. Here we fit up a pack train, for our
bedding and instruments and supplies are to be carried on the backs of
mules and ponies.
_September 5, 1870.--_The several members of the party are engaged in
general preparation for our trip down to the Grand Canyon.
Taking with me a white man and an Indian, I start on a climb to the
summit of the Paunsa'gunt Plateau, which rises above us on the east. Our
way for a mile or more is over a great peat bog, which trembles under
our feet, and now and then a mule sinks through the broken turf and we
are compelled to pull it out with ropes. Passing the bog, our way is up
a gulch at the foot of the Pink Cliffs, which form the escarpment, or
wall, of the great plateau. Soon we leave the gulch and climb a long
ridge which winds around to the right toward the summit of the great
Two hours' riding, climbing, and clambering bring us near the top. We
look below and see clouds drifting up from the south and rolling
tumultuously toward the foot of the cliffs beneath us. Soon all the
country below is covered with a sea of vapor--a billowy, raging,
noiseless sea--and as the vapory flood still rolls up from the south,
great waves dash against the foot of the cliffs and roll back; another
tide comes in, is hurled back, and another and another, lashing the
cliffs until the fog rises to the summit and covers us all. There is a
heavy pine and fir forest above, beset with dead and fallen timber, and
we make our way through the undergrowth to the east.
It rains. The clouds discharge their moisture in torrents, and we make
for ourselves shelters of boughs, only to be soon abandoned, and we
stand shivering by a great fire of pine logs and boughs, which the
pelting storm half extinguishes.
One, two, three, four hours of the storm, and at last it partially
abates. During this time our animals, which we have turned loose, have
sought for themselves shelter under the trees, and two of them have
wandered away beyond our sight. I go out to follow their tracks, and
come near to the brink of a ledge of rocks, which, in the fog and mist,
I suppose to be a little ridge, and I look for a way by which I can go
down. Standing just here, there is a rift made in the fog below by some
current or blast of wind, which reveals an almost bottomless abyss. I
look from the brink of a great precipice of more than 2,000 feet; but
through the mist the forms are half obscured and all reckoning of
distance is lost, and it seems 10,000 feet, ten miles--any distance the
imagination desires to make it.
Catching our animals, we return to the camp. We find that the little
streams which come down from the plateau are greatly swollen, but at
camp they have had no rain. The clouds which drifted up from the south,
striking against the plateau, were lifted up into colder regions and
discharged their moisture on the summit and against the sides of the
plateau, but there was no rain in the valley below.
_September 9.--_We make a fair start this morning from the beautiful
meadow at the head of the Kanab, cross the line of little hills at the
headwaters of the Rio Virgen, and pass, to the south, a pretty valley.
At ten o'clock we come to the brink of a great geographic bench--a line
of cliffs. Behind us are cool springs, green meadows, and forest-clad
slopes; below us, stretching to the south until the world is lost in
blue haze, is a painted desert--not a desert plain, but a desert of
rocks cut by deep gorges and relieved by towering cliffs and pinnacled
rocks--naked rocks, brilliant in the sunlight.
By a difficult trail we make our way down the basaltic ledge, through
which innumerable streams here gather into a little river running in a
deep canyon. The river runs close to the foot of the cliffs on the
right-hand side and the trail passes along to the right. At noon we rest
and our animals feed on luxuriant grass.
Again we start and make slow progress along a stony way. At night we
camp under an overarching cliff.
_September 10._--Here the river turns to the west, and our way,
properly, is to the south; but we wish to explore the Rio Virgen as far
as possible. The Indians tell us that the canyon narrows gradually a few
miles below and that it will be impossible to take our animals much
farther down the river. Early in the morning I go down to examine the
head of this narrow part. After breakfast, having concluded to explore
the canyon for a i few miles on foot, we arrange that the main party
shall climb the cliff and go around to a point 18 or 20 _\_ miles below,
where, the Indians say, the animals can be taken down by the river, and
three of us set out on, foot.
The Indian name of the canyon is Paru'nuweap, or Roaring Water Canyon.
Between the little river and the foot of the walls is a dense growth of
willows, vines, and wild rosebushes, and with great difficulty we make
our way through this tangled mass. It is not a wide stream--only 20 or
30 feet across in most places; shallow, but very swift. After spending
some hours in breaking our way through the mass of vegetation and
climbing rocks here and there, it is determined to wade along the
stream. In some places this is an easy task, but here and there we come
to deep holes where we have to wade to our armpits. Soon we come to
places so narrow that the river fills the entire channel and we wade
perforce. In many places the bottom is a quicksand, into which we sink,
and it is with great difficulty that we make progress. In some places
the holes are so deep that we have to swim, and our little bundles of
blankets and rations are fixed to a raft made of driftwood and pushed
before us. Now and then there is a little flood-plain, on which we can
walk, and we cross and recross the stream and wade along the channel
where the water is so swift as almost to carry us off our feet and we
are in danger every moment of being swept down, until night comes on.
Finding a little patch of flood-plain, on which there is a huge pile of
driftwood and a clump of box-elders, and near by a mammoth stream
bursting from the rocks, we soon have a huge fire. Our clothes are
spread to dry; we make a cup of coffee, take out our bread and cheese
and dried beef, and enjoy a hearty supper. We estimate that we have
traveled eight miles to-day.
The canyon here is about 1,200 feet deep. It has been very narrow and
winding all the way down to this point.
_September 11.--_Wading again this morning; sinking in the quicksand,
swimming the deep waters, and making slow and painful progress where the
waters are swift and the bed of the stream rocky.
The canyon is steadily becoming deeper and in many places very
narrow--only 20 or 30 feet wide below, and in some places no wider, and
even narrower, for hundreds of feet overhead. There are places where the
river in sweeping by curves has cut far under the rocks, but still
preserves its narrow channel, so that there is an overhanging wall on
one side and an inclined wall on the other. In places a few hundred feet
above, it becomes vertical again, and thus the view to the sky is
entirely closed. Everywhere this deep passage is dark and gloomy and
resounds with the noise of rapid waters. At noon we are in a canyon
2,500 feet deep, and we come to a fall where the walls are broken down
and huge rocks beset the channel, on which we obtain a foothold to reach
a level 200 feet below. Here the canyon is again wider, and we find a
flood-plain along which we can walk, now on this, and now on that side
of the stream. Gradually the canyon widens; steep rapids, cascades, and
cataracts are found along the river, but we wade only when it is
necessary to cross. We make progress with very great labor, having to
climb over piles of broken rocks.
Late in the afternoon we come to a little clearing in the valley and see
other signs of civilization and by sundown arrive at the Mormon town
of Schunesburg; and here we meet the train, and feast on melons and
_September 12._--Our course for the last two days, through Paru'nuweap
Canyon, was directly to the west. Another stream comes down from the
north and unites just here at Schunesburg with the main branch of the
Rio Virgen. We determine to spend a day in the exploration of this
stream. The Indians call the canyon through which it runs,
Mukun'tu-weap, or Straight, Canyon. Entering this, we have to wade
upstream; often the water fills the entire channel and, although we
travel many miles, we find no flood-plain, talus, or broken piles of
rock at the foot of the cliff. The walls have smooth, plain faces and
are everywhere very regular and vertical for a thousand feet or more,
where they seem to break back in shelving slopes to higher altitudes;
and everywhere, as we go along, we find springs bursting out at the foot
of the walls, and passing these the river above becomes steadily
smaller. The great body of water which runs below bursts out from
beneath this great bed of red sandstone; as we go up the canyon, it
comes to be but a creek, and then a brook. On the western wall of the
canyon stand some buttes, towers, and high pinnacled rocks. Going up the
canyon, we gain glimpses of them, here and there. Last summer, after our
trip through the canyons of the Colorado, on our way from the mouth of
the Virgen to Salt Lake City, these were seen as conspicuous landmarks
from a distance away to the southwest of 60 or 70 miles. These tower
rocks are known as the Temples of the Virgen.
Having explored this canyon nearly to its head, we return to
Schunesburg, arriving quite late at night.
Sitting in camp this evening, Chuar'ruumpeak, the chief of the
Kai'vavits, who is one of our party, tells us there is a tradition among
the tribes of this country that many years ago a great light was seen
somewhere in this region by the Paru'shapats, who lived to the
southwest, and that they supposed it to be a signal kindled to warn them
of the approach of the Navajos, who lived beyond the Colorado River to
the east. Then other signal fires were kindled on the Pine Valley
Mountains, Santa Clara Mountains, and Uinkaret Mountains, so that all
the tribes of northern Arizona, southern Utah, southern Nevada, and
southern California were warned of the approaching danger; but when the
Paru'shapats came nearer, they discovered that it was a fire on one of
the great temples; and then they knew that the fire was not kindled by
men, for no human being could scale the rocks. The
_Tu'muurrugwait'sigaip,_ or Rock Rovers, had kindled a fire to deceive
the people. So, in the Indian language this is called
_Tu'muurruwait'sigaip Tuweap',_ or Rock Rovers' Land.
_September 13._--We start very early this morning, for we have a long
day's travel before us. Our way is across the Rio Virgen to the south.
Coming to the bank of the stream here, we find a strange metamorphosis.
The streams we have seen above, running in narrow channels, leaping and
plunging over the rocks, raging and roaring in their course, are here
united and spread in a thin sheet several hundred yards wide and only a
few inches deep, but running over a bed of quicksand. Crossing the
stream, our trail leads up a narrow canyon, not very deep, and then
among the hills of golden, red, and purple shales and marls. Climbing
out of the valley of the Rio Virgen, we pass through a forest of dwarf
cedars and come out at the foot of the Vermilion Cliffs. All day we
follow this Indian trail toward the east, and at night camp at a great
spring, known to the Indians as Yellow Rock Spring, but to the Mormons
as Pipe Spring; and near by there is a cabin in which some Mormon
herders find shelter. Pipe Spring is a point just across the Utah line
in Arizona, and we suppose it to be about 60 miles from the river. Here
the Mormons design to build a fort another year, as an outpost for
protection against the Indians. We now discharge a number of the
Indians, but take two with us for the purpose of showing us the springs,
for they are very scarce, very small, and not easily found. Half a dozen
are not known in a district of country large enough to make as many
good-sized counties in Illinois. There are no running streams, and
these springs and water pockets are our sole dependence.
Starting, we leave behind a long line of cliffs, many hundred feet high,
composed of orange and vermilion sandstones. I have named them
"Vermilion Cliffs." When we are out a few miles, I look back and see the
morning sun shining in splendor on their painted faces; the salient
angles are on fire, and the retreating angles are buried in shade, and I
gaze on them until my vision dreams and the cliffs appear a long bank of
purple clouds piled from the horizon high into the heavens. At noon we
pass along a ledge of chocolate cliffs, and, taking out our sandwiches,
we make a dinner as we ride along.
Yesterday our Indians discussed for hours the route which we should
take. There is one way, farther by 10 or 12 miles, with sure water;
another, shorter, where water is found sometimes; their conclusion was
that water would be found now; and this is the way we go, yet all day
long we are anxious about it. To be out two days with only the water
that can be carried in two small kegs is to have our animals suffer
greatly. At five o'clock we come to the spot, and there is a huge water
pocket containing several barrels. What a relief! Here we camp for the
_September 15.--_Up at daybreak, for it is a long day's march to the
next water. They say we must "run very hard" to reach it by dark.
Our course is to the south. From Pipe Spring we can see a mountain, and
I recognize it as the one seen last summer from a cliff overlooking the
Grand Canyon; and I wish to reach the river just behind the mountain.
There are Indians living in the group, of which it is the highest, whom
I wish to visit on the way. These mountains are of volcanic origin, and
we soon come to ground that is covered with fragments of lava. The way
becomes very difficult. We have to cross deep ravines, the heads of
canyons that run into the Grand Canyon. It is curious now to observe the
knowledge of our Indians. There is not a trail but what they know; every
gulch and every rock seems familiar. I have prided myself on being able
to grasp and retain in my mind the topography of a country; but these
Indians put me to shame. My knowledge is only general, embracing the
more important features of a region that remains as a map engraved on my
mind; but theirs is particular. They know every rock and every ledge,
every gulch and canyon, and just where to wind among these to find a
pass; and their knowledge is unerring. They cannot describe a country
to you, but they can tell you all the particulars of a route.
I have but one pony for the two, and they were to ride "turn about"; but
Chuar'ruumpeak, the chief, rides, and Shuts, the one-eyed, barelegged,
merry-faced pigmy, walks, and points the way with a slender cane; then
leaps and bounds by the shortest way, and sits down on a rock and waits
demurely until we come, always meeting us with a jest, his face a rich
mine of sunny smiles.
At dusk we reach the water pocket. It is in a deep gorge on the flank of
this great mountain. During the rainy season the water rolls down the
mountain side, plunging over precipices, and excavates a deep basin in
the solid rock below. This basin, hidden from the sun, holds water the
_September 16._--This morning, while the men are packing the animals, I
climb a little mountain near camp, to obtain a view of the country. It
is a huge pile of volcanic scoria, loose and light as cinders from a
forge, which give way under my feet, and I climb with great labor; but,
reaching the summit and looking to the southeast, I see once more the
labyrinth of deep gorges that flank the Grand Canyon; in the multitude,
I cannot determine whether it is itself in view or not. The memories of
grand and awful months spent in their deep, gloomy solitudes come up,
and I live that life over again for a time.
I supposed, before starting, that I could get a good view of the great
mountain from this point; but it is like climbing a chair to look at a
castle. I wish to discover some way by which it can be ascended, as it
is my intention to go to the summit before I return to the settlements.
There is a cliff near the summit and I do not see any way yet. Now down
I go, sliding on the cinders, making them rattle and clang.
The Indians say we are to have a short ride to-day and that we shall
reach an Indian village, situated by a good spring. Our way is across
the spurs that put out from the great mountain as we pass it to the
Up and down we go across deep ravines, and the fragments of lava clank
under our horses' feet; now among cedars, now among pines, and now
across mountain-side glades. At one o'clock we descend into a lovely
valley, with a carpet of waving grass; sometimes there is a little water
in the upper end of it, and during some seasons the Indians we wish to
find are encamped here. Chuar'ruumpeak rides on to find them, and to say
we are friends, otherwise they would run away or propose to fight us,
should we come without notice. Soon we see Chuar'ruumpeak riding at full
speed and hear him shouting at the top of his voice, and away in the
distance are two Indians scampering up the mountain side. One stops; the
other still goes on and is soon lost to view. We ride up and find
Chuar'ruumpeak talking with the one who had stopped. It is one of the
ladies resident in these mountain glades; she is evidently paying taxes,
Godiva-like. She tells us that her people are at the spring; that it is
only two hours' ride; that her good master has gone on to tell them we
are coming; and that she is harvesting seeds.
We sit down and eat our luncheon and share our biscuits with the woman
of the mountains; then on we go over a divide between two rounded peaks.
I send the party on to the village and climb the peak on the left,
riding my horse to the upper limit of trees and then tugging up afoot.
From this point I can see the Grand Canyon, and I know where I am. I can
see the Indian village, too, in a grassy valley, embosomed in the
mountains, the smoke curling up from their fires; my men are turning out
their horses and a group of natives stand around. Down the mountain I go
and reach camp at sunset. After supper we put some cedar boughs on the
fire; the dusky villagers sit around, and we have a smoke and a talk. I
explain the object of my visit, and assure them of my friendly
intentions. Then I ask them about a way down into the canyon. They tell
me that years ago a way was discovered by which parties could go down,
but that no one has attempted it for a long time; that it is a very
difficult and very dangerous undertaking to reach the "Big Water." Then
I inquire about the Shi'vwits, a tribe that lives about the springs on
the mountain sides and canyon cliffs to the southwest. They say that
their village is now about 30 miles away, and promise to send a
messenger for them to-morrow morning.
Having finished our business for the evening, I ask if there is a
_tugwi'nagunt_ in camp; that is, if there is any one present who is
skilled in relating their mythology. Chuar'ruumpeak says
Tomor'rountikai, the chief of these Indians, is a very noted man for his
skill in this matter; but they both object, by saying that the season
for _tugwi'nai_ has not yet arrived. But I had anticipated this, and
soon some members of the party come with pipes and tobacco, a large
kettle of coffee, and a tray of biscuits, and, after sundry ceremonies
of pipe lighting and smoking, we all feast, and, warmed up by this, to
them, unusually good living, it is decided that the night shall be spent
in relating mythology. I ask Tomor'rountikai to tell us about the So'kus
Wai'unats, or One-Two Boys, and to this he agrees.
The long winter evenings of an Indian camp are usually devoted to the
relation of mythologic stories, which purport to give a history of an
ancient race of animal gods. The stories are usually told by some old
man, assisted by others of the party, who take secondary parts, while
the members of the tribe gather about and make comments or receive
impressions from the morals which are enforced by the story-teller, or,
more properly, story-tellers; for the exercise partakes somewhat of the
nature of a theatrical performance.
THE SO'KUS WAI'UNATS.
Tumpwinai'rogwinump, He Who Had A Stone Shirt, killed Sikor', the Crane,
and stole his wife, and seeing that she had a child and thinking it
would be an incumbrance to them on their travels, he ordered her to kill
it. But the mother, loving the babe, hid it under her dress and carried
it away to its grandmother. And Stone Shirt carried his captured bride
to his own land.
In a few years the child grew to be a fine lad, under the care of his
grandmother, and was her companion wherever she went.
One day they were digging flag roots on the margin of the river and
putting them in a heap on the bank. When they had been at work a little
while, the boy perceived that the roots came up with greater ease than
was customary and he asked the old woman the cause of this, but she did
not know; and, as they continued their work, still the reeds came up
with less effort, at which their wonder increased, until the grandmother
"Surely, some strange thing is about to transpire."
Then the boy went to the heap where they had been placing the roots, and
found that some one had taken them away, and he ran back, exclaiming,
"Grandmother, did you take the roots away?"
And she answered,
"No, my child; perhaps some ghost has taken them off; let us dig no
more; come away."
But the boy was not satisfied, as he greatly desired to know what all
this meant; so he searched about for a time, and at length found a man
sitting under a tree, and taunted him with being a thief, and threw mud
and stones at him until he broke the stranger's leg. The man answered
not the boy nor resented the injuries he received, but remained silent
and sorrowful; and when his leg was broken he tied it up in sticks and
bathed it in the river and sat down again under the tree and beckoned
the boy to approach. When the lad came near, the stranger told him he
had something of great importance to reveal.
"My son," said he, "did that old woman ever tell you about your father
"No," answered the boy; "I have never heard of them."
"My son, do you see these bones scattered on the ground? Whose bones are
"How should I know?" answered the boy. "It may be that some elk or deer
has been killed here."
"No," said the old man.
"Perhaps they are the bones of a bear"; but the old man shook his head.
So the boy mentioned many other animals, but the stranger still shook
his head, and finally said,
"These are the bones of your father; Stone Shirt killed him and left him
to rot here on the ground like a wolf."
And the boy was filled with indignation against the slayer of his
Then the stranger asked,
"Is your mother in yonder lodge?"
"No," the boy replied.
"Does your mother live on the banks of this river?"
"I don't know my mother; I have never seen her; she is dead," answered
"My son," replied the stranger, "Stone Shirt, who killed your father,
stole your mother and took her away to the shore of a distant lake, and
there she is his wife to-day."
And the boy wept bitterly and, while the tears filled his eyes so that
he could not see, the stranger disappeared. Then the boy was filled with
wonder at what he had seen and heard, and malice grew in his heart
against his father's enemy. He returned to the old woman and said,
"Grandmother, why have you lied to me about my father and mother?"
But she answered not, for she knew that a ghost had told all to the boy.
And the boy fell upon the ground weeping and sobbing, until he fell into
a deep sleep, when strange things were told him.
His slumber continued three days and three nights and when he awoke he
said to his grandmother:
"I am going away to enlist all nations in my fight."
And straightway he departed.
(Here the boy's travels are related with many circumstances concerning
the way he was received by the people, all given in a series of
conversations, very lengthy; so they will be omitted.)
Finally he returned in advance of the people whom he had enlisted,
bringing with him Shinau'av, the Wolf, and Togo'av, the Rattlesnake.
When the three had eaten food, the boy said to the old woman:
"Grandmother, cut me in two!"