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The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, Oregon and California by Brevet Col. J.C. Fremont

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misfortune, it would have been thought, at the least, an act of great
imprudence; and therefore, though reluctantly, I determined to leave them.
Randolph had been the life of the camp, and the "_petit garcon_" was
much regretted by the men, to whom his buoyant spirits had afforded great
amusement. They all, however, agreed in the propriety of leaving him at
the fort, because, as they said, he might cost the lives of some of the
men in a fight with the Indians.

21st.--A portion of our baggage, with our field-notes and observations,
and several instruments, were left at the fort. One of the gentlemen, Mr.
Galpin, took charge of a barometer, which he engaged to observe during my
absence; and I in trusted to Randolph, by way of occupation, the regular
winding up of two of my chronometers, which were among the instruments
left. Our observations showed that the chronometer which I retained for
the continuation of our voyage had preserved its rate in a most
satisfactory manner. As deduced from it, the longitude of Fort Laramie is
7h 01' 21", and from Lunar distance 7h 01' 29"; giving for the adopted
longitude 104 deg. 47' 43". Comparing the barometrical observations made
during our stay here, with those of Dr. G. Engleman at St. Louis, we find
for the elevation of the fort above the Gulf of Mexico 4,470 feet. The
winter climate here is remarkably mild for the latitude; but rainy weather
is frequent, and the place is celebrated for winds, of which the
prevailing one is the west. An east wind in summer, and a south wind in
winter, are said to be always accompanied with rain.

We were ready to depart; the tents were struck, the mules geared up, and
our horses saddled, and we walked up to the fort to take the _stirrup
cup_ with our friends in an excellent home-brewed preparation. While
thus pleasantly engaged, seated in one of the little cool chambers, at the
door of which a man had been stationed to prevent all intrusion from the
Indians, a number of chiefs, several of them powerful, fine-looking men,
forced their way into the room in spite of all opposition. Handing me the
following letter, they took their seats in silence:--

"FORT PLATTE, Juillet 21, 1842.

"Mr. Fremont:--Les chefs s'etant assembles presentement me disent de vous
avertir de ne point vous mettre en route, avant que le parti de jeunes
gens, qui est en dehors, soient de retour. De plus, ils me disent qu'ils
sont tres-certains qu'ils feront feu a la premiere rencontre. Ils doivent
etre de retour dans sept a huit jours. Excusez si je vous fais ces
observations, mais il me semble qu'il est mon devoir de vous avertir du
danger. Meme de plus, les chefs sont les porteurs de ce billet, qui vous
defendent de partir avant le retour des guerriers.

"Je suis votre obeissant serviteur,

"_Les noms de quelques chefs_.--Le Chapeau de Loutre, le Casseur de
Fleches, la Nuit Noir, la Queue de Boeuf."


"FORT PLATTE, July 21, 1842.

"MR. FREMONT:--The chiefs having assembled in council, have just told me
to warn you not to set out before the party of young men which is now out
shall have returned. Furthermore, they tell me that they are very sure
they will fire upon you as soon as they meet you. They are expected back
in seven or eight days. Excuse me for making these observations, but it
seems my duty to warn you of danger. Moreover, the chiefs who prohibit
your setting out before the return of the warriors are the bearers of this

"I am your obedient servant,

"_Names of some of the chiefs_.--The Otter Hat, the Breaker of
Arrows, the Black Night, the Bull's Tail."

After reading this, I mentioned its purport to my companions; and, seeing
that all were fully possessed of its contents, one of the Indians rose up,
and, having first shaken hands with me, spoke as follows:

"You have come among us at a bad time. Some of our people have been
killed, and our young men, who are gone to the mountains, are eager to
avenge the blood of their relations, which has been shed by the whites.
Our young men are bad, and, if they meet you, they will believe that you
are carrying goods and ammunition to their enemies, and will fire upon
you. You have told us that this will make war. We know that our great
father has many soldiers and big guns, and we are anxious to have our
lives. We love the whites, and are desirous of peace. Thinking of all
these things, we have determined to keep you here until our warriors
return. We are glad to see you among us. Our father is rich, and we
expected that you would have brought presents to us--horses, guns, and
blankets. But we are glad to see you. We look upon your coming as the
light which goes before the sun; for you will tell our great father that
you have seen us, and that we are naked and poor, and have nothing to eat;
and he will send us all these things." He was followed by others to the
same effect.

The observations of the savage appeared reasonable; but I was aware that
they had in view only the present object of detaining me, and were
unwilling I should go further into the country. In reply, I asked them,
through the interpretation of Mr. Boudeau, to select two or three of their
number to accompany us until we should meet their people--they should
spread their robes in my tent, and eat at my table, and on their return I
would give them presents in reward of their services. They declined,
saying, that there were no young men left in the village, and that they
were too old to travel so many days on horseback, and preferred now to
smoke their pipes in the lodge, and let the warriors go on the war-path.
Besides, they had no power over the young men, and were afraid to
interfere with them. In my turn I addressed them.

"You say that you love the whites; why have you killed so many already
this spring? You say that you love the whites, and are full of many
expressions of friendship to us; but you are not willing to undergo the
fatigue of a few days' ride to save our lives. We do not believe what you
have said, and will not listen to you. Whatever a chief among us, tells
his soldiers to do, is done. We are the soldiers of the great chief, your
father. He has told us to come here and see this country, and all the
Indians, his children. Why should we not go? Before we came, we heard that
you had killed his people, and ceased to be his children; but we came
among you peaceably, holding out our hands. Now we find that the stories
we heard are not lies, and that you are no longer his friends and
children. We have thrown away our bodies, and will not turn back. When you
told us that your young men would kill us, you did not know that our
hearts were strong, and you did not see the rifles which my young men
carry in their hands. We are few, and you are many, and may kill us all;
but there will be much crying in your villages, for many of your young men
will stay behind, and forget to return with your warriors from the
mountains. Do you think that our great chief will let his soldiers die,
and forget to cover their graves? Before the snows melt again, his
warriors will sweep away your villages as the fire does the prairie in the
autumn. See! I have pulled down my _white houses_, and my people are
ready: when the sun is ten paces higher, we shall be on the march. If you
have any thing to tell us, you will say it soon."

I broke up the conference, as I could do nothing with these people; and,
being resolved to proceed, nothing was to be gained by delay. Accompanied
by our hospitable friends, we returned to the camp. We had mounted our
horses, and our parting salutations had been exchanged, when one of the
chiefs (the Bull's Tail) arrived to tell me that they had determined to
send a young man with us; and if I would point out the place of our
evening camp, he should join us there. "The young man is poor," said he;
"he has no horse, and expects you to give him one." I described to him the
place where I intended to encamp, and, shaking hands, in a few minutes we
were among the hills, and this last habitation of whites shut out from our

The road led over an interesting plateau between the North fork of the
Platte on the right, and Laramie river on the left. At the distance of ten
miles from the fort, we entered the sandy bed of a creek, a kind of
defile, shaded by precipitous rocks, down which we wound our way for
several hundred yards, to a place where, on the left bank, a very large
spring gushes with considerable noise and force out of the limestone rock.
It is called the "Warm Spring," and furnishes to the hitherto dry bed of
the creek a considerable rivulet. On the opposite side, a little below the
spring, is a lofty limestone escarpment, partially shaded by a grove of
large trees, whose green foliage, in contrast with the whiteness of the
rock, renders this a picturesque locality. The rock is fossiliferous, and,
so far as I was able to determine the character of the fossils, belongs to
the carboniferous limestone of the Missouri river, and is probably the
western limit of that formation. Beyond this point I met with no fossils
of any description.

I was desirous to visit the Platte near the point where it leaves the
Black hills, and therefore followed this stream, for two or three miles,
to its mouth, where I encamped on a spot which afforded good grass and
_prele (equisetum)_ for our animals. Our tents having been found too
thin to protect ourselves and the instruments from the rains, which in
this elevated country are attended with cold and unpleasant weather, I had
procured from the Indians at Laramie a tolerably large lodge, about
eighteen feet in diameter, and twenty feet in height. Such a lodge, when
properly pitched, is, from its conical form, almost perfectly secure
against the violent winds which are frequent in this region, and, with a
fire in the centre, is a dry and warm shelter in bad weather. By raising
the lower part, so as to permit the breeze to pass freely, it is converted
into a pleasant summer residence, with the extraordinary advantage of
being entirely free from musquitoes, one of which I never saw in an Indian
lodge. While we were engaged very unskilfully in erecting this, the
interpreter, Mr. Bissonette, arrived, accompanied by the Indian and his
wife. She laughed at our awkwardness, and offered her assistance, of which
we were frequently afterwards obliged to avail our selves, before the men
acquired sufficient expertness to pitch it without difficulty. From this
place we had a fine view of the gorge where the Platte issues from the
Black hills, changing its character abruptly from a mountain stream into a
river of the plains. Immediately around us the valley of the stream was
tolerably open; and at the distance of a few miles, where the river had
cut its way through the hills, was the narrow cleft, on one side of which
a lofty precipice of bright red rock rose vertically above the low hills
which lay between us.

22d.--In the morning, while breakfast was being prepared, I visited this
place with my favorite man, Basil Lajeunesse. Entering so far as there was
footing for the mules, we dismounted, and, tying our animals, continued
our way on foot. Like the whole country, the scenery of the river had
undergone an entire change, and was in this place the most beautiful I
have ever seen. The breadth of the stream, generally near that of its
valley, was from two to three hundred feet, with a swift current,
occasionally broken by rapids, and the water perfectly clear. On either
side rose the red precipices, and sometimes overhanging, two and four
hundred feet in height, crowned with green summits, on which were
scattered a few pines. At the foot of the rocks was the usual detritus,
formed of masses fallen from above. Among the pines that grew here, and on
the occasional banks, were the cherry, (_cerasus virginiana_,)
currants, and grains de boeuf, (_shepherdia argentea_.) Viewed in the
sunshine of a pleasant morning, the scenery was of a most striking and
romantic beauty, which arose from the picturesque disposition of the
objects, and the vivid contrast of colors. I thought with much pleasure of
our approaching descent in the canoe through such interesting places; and,
in the expectation of being able at that time to give to them a full
examination, did not now dwell so much as might have been desirable upon
the geological formations along the line of the river, where they are
developed with great clearness. The upper portion of the red strata
consists of very compact clay, in which are occasionally seen imbedded
large pebbles. Below was a stratum of compact red sandstone, changing a
little above the river into a very hard silicious limestone. There is a
small but handsome open prairie immediately below this place, on the left
bank of the river, which would be a good locality for a military post.
There are some open groves of cottonwood on the Platte. The small stream
which comes in at this place is well timbered with pine, and good building
rock is abundant.

If it is in contemplation to keep open the communication with Oregon
territory, a show of military force in this country is absolutely
necessary; and a combination of advantages renders the neighborhood of
Fort Laramie the most suitable place, on the line of the Platte, for the
establishment of a military post. It is connected with the mouth of the
Platte and the Upper Missouri by excellent roads, which are in frequent
use, and would not in any way interfere with the range of the buffalo, on
which the neighboring Indians mainly depend for support. It would render
any posts on the Lower Platte unnecessary; the ordinary communication
between it and the Missouri being sufficient to control the intermediate
Indians. It would operate effectually to prevent any such coalitions as
are now formed among the Gros Ventres, Sioux, Cheyennes, and other
Indians, and would keep the Oregon road through the valley of the Sweet
Water and the South Pass of the mountains constantly open. It lies at the
foot of a broken and mountainous region, along which, by the establishment
of small posts in the neighborhood of St. Vrain's fort, on the South fork
of the Platte, and Bent's fort, on the Arkansas, a line of communication
would be formed, by good wagon-roads, with our southern military posts,
which would entirely command the mountain passes, hold some of the most
troublesome tribes in check, and protect and facilitate our intercourse
with the neighboring Spanish settlements. The valleys of the rivers on
which they would be situated are fertile; the country, which supports
immense herds of buffalo, is admirably adapted to grazing; and herds of
cattle might be maintained by the posts, or obtained from the Spanish
country, which already supplies a portion of their provisions to the
trading posts mentioned above.

Just as we were leaving the camp this morning, our Indian came up, and
stated his intention of not proceeding any further until he had seen the
horse which I intended to give him. I felt strongly tempted to drive him
out of the camp; but his presence appeared to give confidence to my men,
and the interpreter thought it absolutely necessary. I was therefore
obliged to do what he requested, and pointed out the animal, with which he
seemed satisfied, and we continued our journey. I had imagined that Mr.
Bissonette's long residence had made him acquainted with the country; and,
according to his advice, proceeded directly forward, without attempting to
gain the usual road. He afterwards informed me that he had rarely ever
lost sight of the fort; but the effect of the mistake was to involve us
for a day or two among the hills, where, although we lost no time, we
encountered an exceedingly rough road.

To the south, along our line of march to-day, the main chain of the Black
or Laramie hills rises precipitously. Time did not permit me to visit
them; but, from comparative information, the ridge is composed of the
coarse sandstone or conglomerate hereafter described. It appears to enter
the region of clouds, which are arrested in their course, and lie in
masses along the summits. An inverted cone of black cloud (cumulus) rested
during all the forenoon on the lofty peak of Laramie mountain, which I
estimated to be about two thousand feet above the fort, or six thousand
five hundred above the sea. We halted to noon on the _Fourche Amere_,
so called from being timbered principally with the _liard amere_, (a
species of poplar,) with which the valley of the little stream is
tolerably well wooded, and which, with large expansive summits, grows to
the height of sixty or seventy feet.

The bed of the creek is sand and gravel, the water dispersed over the
broad bed in several shallow streams. We found here, on the right bank, in
the shade of the trees, a fine spring of very cold water. It will be
remarked that I do not mention, in this portion of the journey, the
temperature of the air, sand, springs, &c.--an omission which will be
explained in the course of the narrative. In my search for plants, I was
well rewarded at this place.

With the change in the geological formation on leaving Fort Laramie, the
whole face of the country has entirely altered its appearance. Eastward of
that meridian, the principal objects which strike the eye of a traveler
are the absence of timber, and the immense expanse of prairie, covered
with the verdure of rich grasses, and highly adapted for pasturage.
Wherever they are not disturbed by the vicinity of man, large herds of
buffalo give animation to this country. Westward of Laramie river, the
region is sandy, and apparently sterile; and the place of the grass is
usurped by the _artemisia_ and other odoriferous plants, to whose
growth the sandy soil and dry air of this elevated region seem highly

One of the prominent characteristics in the face of the country is the
extraordinary abundance of the _artemisias_. They grow everywhere--on
the hills, and over the river bottoms, in tough, twisted, wiry clumps;
and, wherever the beaten track was left, they rendered the progress of the
carts rough and slow. As the country increased in elevation on our advance
to the west, they increased in size; and the whole air is strongly
impregnated and saturated with the odor of camphor and spirits of
turpentine which belongs to this plant. This climate has been found very
favorable to the restoration of health, particularly in cases of
consumption; and possibly the respiration of air so highly impregnated
with aromatic plants may have some influence.

Our dried meat had given out, and we began to be in want of food; but one
of the hunters killed an antelope this evening, which afforded some
relief, although it did not go far among so many hungry men. At eight
o'clock at night, after a march of twenty-seven miles, we reached our
proposed encampment on the _Fer-a-Cheval_, or Horse-shoe creek. Here
we found good grass, with a great quantity of _prele_, which
furnished good food for our tired animals. This creek is well timbered,
principally with _liard amere_, and, with the exception of Deer
creek, which we had not yet reached, is the largest affluent of the right
bank between Laramie and the mouth of the Sweet Water.

23d.--The present year had been one of unparalleled drought, and
throughout the country the water had been almost dried up. By availing
themselves of the annual rise, the traders had invariably succeeded in
carrying their furs to the Missouri; but this season, as has already been
mentioned, on both forks of the Platte they had entirely failed. The
greater number of the springs, and many of the streams, which made halting
places for the _voyageurs_, had been dried up. Everywhere the soil
looked parched and burnt, the scanty yellow grass crisped under the foot,
and even the hardest plants were destroyed by want of moisture. I think it
necessary to mention this fact, because to the rapid evaporation in such
an elevated region, nearly five thousand feet above the sea, almost wholly
unprotected by timber, should be attributed much of the sterile appearance
of the country, in the destruction of vegetation, and the numerous saline
efflorescences which covered the ground. Such I afterwards found to be the

I was informed that the roving villages of Indians and travelers had never
met with difficulty in finding abundance of grass for their horses; and
now it was after great search that we were able to find a scanty patch of
grass sufficient to keep them from sinking; and in the course of a day or
two they began to suffer very much. We found none to-day at noon; and, in
the course of our search on the Platte, came to a grove of cottonwood,
where some Indian village had recently encamped. Boughs of the cottonwood
yet green covered the ground, which the Indians had cut down to feed their
horses upon. It is only in the winter that recourse is had to this means
of sustaining them; and their resort to it at this time was a striking
evidence of the state of the country. We followed their example, and
turned our horses into a grove of young poplars. This began to present
itself as a very serious evil, for on our animals depended altogether the
further prosecution of our journey.

Shortly after we had left this place, the scouts came galloping in with
the alarm of Indians. We turned in immediately towards the river, which
here had a steep, high bank, where we formed with the carts a very close
barricade, resting on the river, within which the animals were strongly
hobbled and picketed. The guns were discharged and reloaded, and men
thrown forward under cover of the bank, in the direction by which the
Indians were expected. Our interpreter, who, with the Indian, had gone to
meet them, came in, in about ten minutes, accompanied by two Sioux. They
looked sulky, and we could obtain from them only some confused
information. We learned that they belonged to the party which had been on
the trail of the emigrants, whom they had overtaken at Rock Independence,
on the Sweet Water. Here the party had disagreed, and came nigh fighting
among themselves. One portion were desirous of attacking the whites, but
the others were opposed to it; and finally they had broken up into small
bands, and dispersed over the country. The greatest portion of them had
gone over into the territory of the Crows, and intended to return by way
of the Wind River valley, in the hope of being able to fall upon some
small parties of Crow Indians. The remainder were returning down the
Platte, in scattered parties of ten and twenty; and those whom we had
encountered belonged to those who had advocated an attack on the
emigrants. Several of the men suggested shooting them on the spot; but I
promptly discountenanced any such proceeding. They further informed me
that buffalo were very scarce, and little or no grass to be found. There
had been no rain, and innumerable quantities of grasshoppers had destroyed
the grass. The insects had been so numerous since leaving Fort Laramie,
that the ground seemed alive with them; and in walking, a little moving
cloud preceded our footsteps. This was bad news. No grass, no buffalo--
food for neither horse nor man. I gave them some plugs of tobacco, and
they went off, apparently well satisfied to be clear of us; for my men did
not look upon them very lovingly, and they glanced suspiciously at our
warlike preparations, and the little ring of rifles which surrounded them.
They were evidently in a bad humor, and shot one of their horses when they
had left us a short distance.

We continued our march; and after a journey of about twenty-one miles,
encamped on the Platte. During the day, I had occasionally remarked among
the hills the _psoralea esculenta_, the bread root of the Indians.
The Sioux use this root very extensively, and I have frequently met with
it among them, cut into thin slices and dried. In the course of the
evening we were visited by six Indians, who told us that a large party was
encamped a few miles above. Astronomical observations placed us in
longitude 104 deg. 59' 59", and latitude 42 deg. 29' 25".

We made the next day twenty-two miles, and encamped on the right bank of
the Platte, where a handsome meadow afforded tolerably good grass. There
were the remains of an old fort here, thrown up in some sudden emergency,
and on the opposite side was a picturesque bluff of ferruginous sandstone.
There was a handsome grove a little above, and scattered groups of trees
bordered the river. Buffalo made their appearance this afternoon, and the
hunters came in, shortly after we had encamped, with three fine cows. The
night was fine, and observations gave for the latitude of the camp, 42 deg.
47' 40".

25th.--We made but thirteen miles this day, and encamped about noon in a
pleasant grove on the right bank. Low scaffolds were erected, upon which
the meat was laid, cut up into thin strips, and small fires kindled below.
Our object was to profit by the vicinity of the buffalo, to lay in a stock
of provisions for ten or fifteen days. In the course of the afternoon the
hunters brought in five or six cows, and all hands were kept busily
employed in preparing the meat, to the drying of which the guard attended
during the night. Our people had recovered their gayety, and the busy
figures around the blazing fires gave a picturesque air to the camp. A
very serious accident occurred this morning, in the breaking of one of the
barometers. These had been the object of my constant solicitude, and, as I
had intended them principally for mountain service, I had used them as
seldom as possible, taking them always down at night, and on the
occurrence of storms, in order to lessen the chances of being broken. I
was reduced to one, a standard barometer of Troughton's construction. This
I determined to preserve, if possible. The latitude is 42 deg. 51' 35", and by
a mean of the results from chronometer and lunar distances, the adopted
longitude of this camp is 105 deg. 50' 45".

26th.--Early this morning we were again in motion. We had a stock of
provisions for fifteen days carefully stored away in the carts, and this I
resolved should only be encroached upon when our rifles should fail to
procure us present support. I determined to reach the mountains, if it
were in any way possible. In the mean time, buffalo were plenty. In six
miles from our encampment (which, by way of distinction, we shall call
Dried Meat camp) we crossed a handsome stream, called _La Fourche
Boisce_. It is well timbered, and, among the flowers in bloom on its
banks, I remarked several _asters_.

Five miles further, we made our noon halt on the banks of the Platte, in
the shade of some cottonwoods. There were here, as generally now along the
river, thickets of _hippophae_, the _grains de boeuf_ of the
country. They were of two kinds--one bearing a red berry, (the
_shepherdia argentea_ of Nuttall;) the other a yellow berry, of which
the Tartars are said to make a kind of rob.

By a meridian observation, the latitude of the place was 42 deg. 50' 08". It
was my daily practice to take observations of the sun's meridian altitude;
and why they are not given, will appear in the sequel. Eight miles further
we reached the mouth of Deer creek, where we encamped. Here was abundance
of rich grass, and our animals were compensated for past privations. This
stream was at this time twenty feet broad, and well timbered with
cottonwood of an uncommon size. It is the largest tributary of the Platte,
between the mouth of the Sweet Water and the Laramie. Our astronomical
observations gave for the mouth of the stream a longitude of 106 deg. 08' 24",
and latitude 42 deg. 52' 24".

27th.--Nothing worthy of mention occurred on this day; we traveled later
than usual, having spent some time searching for grass, crossing and
recrossing the river before we could find a sufficient quantity for our
animals. Towards dusk we encamped among some artemisia bushes, two and
three feet in height, where some scattered patches of short tough grass
afforded a scanty supply. In crossing, we had occasion to observe that the
river was frequently too deep to be forded, though we always succeeded in
finding a place where the water did not enter the carts. The stream
continued very clear, with two or three hundred feet breadth of water, and
the sandy bed and banks were frequently covered with large round pebbles.
We had traveled this day twenty-seven miles. The main chain of the Black
hills was here only about seven miles to the south, on the right bank of
the river, rising abruptly to the height of eight and twelve hundred feet.
Patches of green grass in the ravines on the steep sides marked the
presence of springs, and the summits were clad with pines.

28th.--In two miles from our encampment, we reached the place where the
regular road crosses the Platte. There was two hundred feet breadth of
water at this time in the bed, which has a variable width of eight to
fifteen hundred feet. The channels were generally three feet deep, and
there were large angular rocks on the bottom, which made the ford in some
places a little difficult. Even at its low stages, this river cannot be
crossed at random, and this has always been used as the best ford. The low
stage of the water the present year had made it fordable in almost any
part of its course, where access could be had to its bed.

For the satisfaction of travelers, I will endeavor to give some
description of the nature of the road from Laramie to this point. The
nature of the soil may be inferred from its geological formation. The
limestone at the eastern limit of this section is succeeded by limestone
without fossils, a great variety of sandstone, consisting principally of
red sandstone and fine conglomerates. The red sandstone is argillaceous,
with compact white gypsum or alabaster, very beautiful. The other
sandstones are gray, yellow, and ferruginous, sometimes very coarse. The
apparent sterility of the country must therefore be sought for in other
causes than the nature of the soil. The face of the country cannot with
propriety be called hilly. It is a succession of long ridges, made by the
numerous streams which come down from the neighboring mountain range. The
ridges have an undulating surface, with some such appearance as the ocean
presents in an ordinary breeze.

The road which is now generally followed through this region is therefore
a very good one, without any difficult ascents to overcome. The principal
obstructions are near the river, where the transient waters of heavy rains
have made deep ravines with steep banks, which renders frequent circuits
necessary. It will be remembered that wagons pass this road only once or
twice a year, which is by no means sufficient to break down the stubborn
roots of the innumerable artemisia bushes. A partial absence of these is
often the only indication of the track; and the roughness produced by
their roots in many places gives the road the character of one newly
opened in a wooded country. This is usually considered the worst part of
the road east of the mountains; and, as it passes through an open prairie
region, may be much improved, so as to avoid the greater part of the
inequalities it now presents.

From the mouth of the Kansas to the Green River valley west of the
mountains, there is no such thing as a mountain road on the line of

We continued our way, and four miles beyond the ford Indians were
discovered again; and I halted while a party were sent forward to
ascertain who they were. In a short time they returned, accompanied by a
number of Indians of the Oglallah band of Sioux. From them we received
some interesting information. They had formed part of the great village,
which they informed us had broken up, and was on its way home. The greater
part of the village, including the Arapahoes, Cheyennes, and Oglallahs,
had crossed the Platte eight or ten miles below the mouth of the Sweet
Water, and were now behind the mountains to the south of us, intending to
regain the Platte by way of Deer creek. They had taken this unusual route
in search of grass and game. They gave us a very discouraging picture of
the country. The great drought, and the plague of grasshoppers, had swept
it so that scarce a blade of grass was to be seen, and there was not a
buffalo to be found in the whole region. Their people, they further said,
had been nearly starved to death, and we would find their road marked by
lodges, which they had thrown away in order to move more rapidly, and by
the carcasses of the horses which they had eaten, or which had perished by
starvation. Such was the prospect before us.

When he had finished the interpretation of these things, Mr. Bissonette
immediately rode up to me, and urgently advised that I should entirely
abandon the further prosecution of my exploration. "_Le meilleure avis
que je pourrais vous donner c'est de virer de suite_." "The best advice
I can give you, is to turn back at once." It was his own intention to
return, as we had now reached the point to which he had engaged to attend
me. In reply, I called up my men, and communicated to them fully the
information I had just received. I then expressed to them my fixed
determination to proceed to the end of the enterprise on which I had been
sent; but as the situation of the country gave me some reason to apprehend
that it might be attended with an unfortunate result to some of us, I
would leave it optional with them to continue with me or to return.

Among them were some five or six who I knew would remain. We had still ten
days' provisions; and should no game be found, when this stock was
expended, we had our horses and mules, which we could eat when other means
of subsistence failed. But not a man flinched from the undertaking. "We'll
eat the mules," said Basil Lajeunesse; and thereupon we shook hands with
our interpreter and his Indians, and parted. With them I sent back one of
my men, Dumes, whom the effects of an old wound in the leg rendered
incapable of continuing the journey on foot, and his horse seemed on the
point of giving out. Having resolved to disencumber ourselves immediately
of every thing not absolutely necessary to our future operations, I turned
directly in towards the river, and encamped on the left bank, a little
above the place where our council had been held, and where a thick grove
of willows offered a suitable spot for the object I had in view.

The carts having been discharged, the covers and wheels were taken off,
and, with the frames, carried into some low places, among the willows, and
concealed in the dense foliage in such a manner that the glitter of the
iron-work might not attract the observation of some straggling Indian. In
the sand, which had been blown up into waves among the willows, a large
hole was then dug, ten feet square and six feet deep. In the mean time,
all our effects had been spread out upon the ground, and whatever was
designed to be carried along with us separated and laid aside, and the
remaining part carried to the hole and carefully covered up. As much as
possible, all traces of our proceedings were obliterated, and it wanted
but a rain to render our _cache_ safe beyond discovery. All the men
were now set at work to arrange the pack-saddles and make up the packs.

The day was very warm and calm, and the sky entirely clear, except where,
as usual along the summits of the mountainous ridge opposite, the clouds
had congregated in masses. Our lodge had been planted, and, on account of
the heat, the ground-pins had been taken out, and the lower part slightly
raised. Near to it was standing the barometer, which swung in a tripod
frame; and within the lodge, where a small fire had been built, Mr. Preuss
was occupied in observing temperature of boiling water. At this instant,
and without any warning until it was within fifty yards, a violent gust of
wind dashed down the lodge, burying under it Mr. Preuss and about a dozen
men, who had attempted to keep it from being carried away. I succeeded in
saving the barometer, which the lodge was carrying off with itself, but
the thermometer was broken. We had no others of a high graduation, none of
those which remained going higher than 135 deg. Fahrenheit. Our astronomical
observations gave to this place, which we named _Cache_ camp, a
longitude of 106 deg. 38' 26", latitude 42 deg. 50' 53".

29th.--All our arrangements having been completed, we left the encampment
at 7 o'clock this morning. In this vicinity the ordinary road leaves the
Platte, and crosses over to the Sweet Water river, which it strikes near
Rock Independence. Instead of following this road, I had determined to
keep the immediate valley of the Platte so far as the mouth of the Sweet
Water, in the expectation of finding better grass. To this I was further
prompted by the nature of my instructions. To Mr. Carson was assigned the
office of guide, as we had now reached a part of the country with which,
or a great part of which, long residence had made him familiar. In a few
miles we reached the Red Buttes, a famous landmark in this country, whose
geological composition is red sandstone, limestone, and calcareous
sandstone and pudding-stone.

The river here cuts its way through a ridge; on the eastern side of it are
the lofty escarpments of red argillaceous sandstone, which are called the
Red Buttes. In this passage the stream is not much compressed or pent up,
there being a bank of considerable though variable breadth on either side.
Immediately on entering, we discovered a band of buffalo. The hunters
failed to kill any of them; the leading hunter being thrown into a ravine,
which occasioned some delay, and in the mean time the herd clambered up
the steep face of the ridge. It is sometimes wonderful to see these
apparently clumsy animals make their way up and down the most broken
precipices. We halted to noon before we had cleared this passage, at a
spot twelve miles distant from _Cache_ camp, where we found an
abundance of grass. So far, the account of the Indians was found to be
false. On the banks were willow and cherry trees. The cherries were not
yet ripe, but in the thickets were numerous fresh tracks of the grizzly
bear, which are very fond of this fruit. The soil here is red, the
composition being derived from the red sandstone. About seven miles
brought us through the ridge, in which the course of the river is north
and south. Here the valley opens out broadly, and high walls of the red
formation present themselves among the hills to the east. We crossed here
a pretty little creek, an affluent of the right bank. It is well timbered
with cottonwood in this vicinity, and the absinthe has lost its shrub-like
character, and becomes small trees six and eight feet in height, and
sometimes eight inches in diameter. Two or three miles above this creek we
made our encampment, having traveled to-day twenty-five miles. Our animals
fared well here, as there is an abundance of grass. The river bed is made
up of pebbles, and in the bank, at the level of the water, is a
conglomerate of coarse pebbles, about the size of ostrich eggs, and which
I remarked in the banks of the Laramie fork. It is overlaid by a soil of
mixed clay and sand, six feet thick. By astronomical observations, our
position is in longitude 106 deg. 54' 32", and latitude 42 deg. 38'.

30th.--After traveling about twelve miles this morning, we reached a place
where the Indian village had crossed the river. Here were the poles of
discarded lodges and skeletons of horses lying about. Mr. Carson, who had
never been higher up than this point on the river, which has the character
of being exceedingly rugged, and walled in by precipices above, thought it
advisable to encamp near this place, where we were certain of obtaining
grass, and to-morrow make our crossing among the rugged hills to the Sweet
Water river. Accordingly we turned back and descended the river to an
island near by, which was about twenty acres in size, covered with a
luxuriant growth of grass. The formation here I found highly interesting.
Immediately at this island the river is again shut up in the rugged hills,
which come down to it from the main ridge in a succession of spurs three
or four hundred feet high, and alternated with green level
_prairillons_ or meadows, bordered on the river banks with thickets
of willow, and having many plants to interest the traveler. The island
lies between two of these ridges, three or four hundred yards apart, of
which that on the right bank is composed entirely of red argillaceous
sandstone, with thin layers of fibrous gypsum. On the left bank, the ridge
is composed entirely of silicious pudding-stone, the pebbles in the
numerous strata increasing in size from the top to the bottom, where they
are as large as a man's head. So far as I was able to determine, these
strata incline to the northeast, with a dip of about 15 deg.. This pudding-
stone, or conglomerate formation, I was enabled to trace through an
extended range of country, from a few miles east of the meridian of Fort
Laramie to where I found it superposed on the granite of the Rocky
mountains, in longitude 109 deg. 00'. From its appearance, the main chain of
the Laramie mountain is composed of this rock; and in a number of places I
found isolated hills, which served to mark a former level which had been
probably swept away.

These conglomerates are very friable, and easily decomposed; and I am
inclined to think this formation is the source from which was derived the
great deposite of sand and gravel which forms the surface rock of the
prairie country west of the Mississippi.

Crossing the ridge of red sandstone, and traversing the little prairie
which lies to the southward of it, we made in the afternoon an excursion
to a place which we called the Hot Spring Gate. This place has much the
appearance of a gate, by which the Platte passes through a ridge composed
of a white and calcareous sandstone. The length of the passage is about
four hundred yards, with a smooth green prairie on either side. Through
this place, the stream flows with a quiet current, unbroken by any rapid,
and is about seventy yards wide between the walls, which rise
perpendicularly from the water. To that on the right bank, which is the
lower, the barometer gave a height of three hundred and sixty feet. This
place will be more particularly described hereafter, as we passed through
it on our return.

We saw here numerous herds of mountain sheep, and frequently heard the
volley of rattling stones which accompanied their rapid descent down the
steep hills. This was the first place at which we had killed any of these
animals; and, in consequence of this circumstance, and of the abundance of
these sheep or goats, (for they are called by each name,) we gave our
encampment the name of Goat Island. Their flesh is much esteemed by the
hunters, and has very much the flavor of Alleghany mountain sheep. I have
frequently seen the horns of this animal three feet long and seventeen
inches in circumference at the base, weighing eleven pounds. But two or
three of these were killed by our party at this place, and of these the
horns were small. The use of these horns seems to be to protect the
animal's head in pitching down precipices to avoid pursuing wolves--their
only safety being in places where they cannot be followed. The bones are
very strong and solid, the marrow occupying but a very small portion of
the bone in the leg, about the thickness of a rye straw. The hair is
short, resembling the winter color of our common deer, which it nearly
approaches in size and appearance. Except in the horns, it has no
resemblance whatever to the goat. The longitude of this place, resulting
from chronometer and lunar distances, and an occultation of Arietis, is
107 deg. 13' 29", and the latitude 42 deg. 33' 27". One of our horses, which had
given out, we left to receive strength on the island, intending to take
her, perhaps, on our return.

31st.--This morning we left the course of the Platte, to cross over to the
Sweet Water. Our way, for a few miles, lay up the sandy bed of a dry
creek, in which I found several interesting plants. Leaving this, we
wended our way to the summit of the hills, of which the peaks are here
eight hundred feet above the Platte, bare and rocky. A long and gradual
slope led from these hills to the Sweet Water, which we reached in fifteen
miles from Goat Island. I made an early encampment here, in order to give
the hunters an opportunity to procure a supply from several bands of
buffalo, which made their appearance in the valley near by. The stream is
about sixty feet wide, and at this time twelve to eighteen inches deep,
with a very moderate current.

The adjoining prairies are sandy, but the immediate river bottom is a good
soil, which afforded an abundance of soft green grass to our horses, and
where I found a variety of interesting plants, which made their appearance
for the first time. A rain to-night made it unpleasantly cold; and there
was no tree here, to enable us to pitch our single tent, the poles of
which had been left at our _Cache camp_. We had, therefore, no
shelter except what was to be found under cover of the _absinthe_
bushes, which grew in many thick patches, one or two and sometimes three
feet high.


1st.--The hunters went ahead this morning, as buffalo appeared tolerably
abundant, and I was desirous to secure a small stock of provisions; and we
moved about seven mules up the valley, and encamped one mile below Rock
Independence. This is an isolated granite rock, about six hundred and
fifty yards long, and forty in height. Except in a depression of the
summit, where a little soil supports a scanty growth of shrubs, with a
solitary dwarf pine, it is entirely bare. Everywhere within six or eight
feet of the ground, where the surface is sufficiently smooth, and in some
places sixty or eighty feet above, the rock is inscribed with the names of
travelers. Many a name famous in the history of this country, and some
well known to science, are to be found mixed among those of the traders
and travelers for pleasure and curiosity, and of missionaries among the
savages. Some of these have been washed away by the rain, but the greater
number are still very legible. The position of this rock is in longitude
107 deg. 56', latitude 42 deg. 29' 36". We remained at our camp of August 1st
until noon of the next day, occupied in drying meat. By observation, the
longitude of the place is 107 deg. 25' 23", latitude 42 deg. 29' 56".

2d.--Five miles above Rock Independence we came to a place called the
Devil's Gate, where the Sweet Water cuts through the point of a granite
ridge. The length of the passage is about three hundred yards, and the
width thirty-five yards. The walls of rock are vertical, and about four
hundred feet in height; and the stream in the gate is almost entirely
choked up by masses which have fallen from above. In the wall, on the
right bank, is a dike of trap-rock, cutting through a fine-grained gray
granite. Near the point of this ridge crop out some strata of the valley
formation, consisting of a grayish micaceous sandstone, and fine-grained
conglomerate, and marl. We encamped eight miles above the Devil's Gate.
There was no timber of any kind on the river, but good fires were made of
drift wood, aided by the _bois de vache_.

We had to-night no shelter from the rain, which commenced with squalls of
wind about sunset. The country here is exceedingly picturesque. On either
side of the valley, which is five miles broad, the mountains rise to the
height of twelve and fifteen hundred or two thousand feet. On the south
side, the range appears to be timbered, and to-night is luminous with
fires--probably the work of the Indians, who have just passed through the
valley. On the north, broken and granite masses rise abruptly from the
green sward of the river, terminating in a line of broken summits. Except
in the crevices of the rock, and here and there on a ledge or bench of the
mountain, where a few hardy pines have clustered together, these are
perfectly bare and destitute of vegetation.

Among these masses, where there are sometimes isolated hills and ridges,
green valleys open in upon the river, which sweeps the base of these
mountains for thirty-six miles. Everywhere its deep verdure and profusion
of beautiful flowers is in pleasing contrast with the sterile grandeur of
the rock and the barrenness of the sandy plain, which, from the right bank
of the river, sweeps up to the mountain range that forms its southern
boundary. The great evaporation on the sandy soil of this elevated plain,
and the saline efflorescences which whiten the ground, and shine like
lakes reflecting in the sun, make a soil wholly unfit for cultivation.

3d.--We were early on the road the next morning, traveling along the upper
part of the valley, which is overgrown with _artemisia_. Scattered
about on the plain are occasional small isolated hills. One of these which
I have examined, about fifty feet high, consisted of white clay and marl,
in nearly horizontal strata. Several bands of buffalo made their
appearance to-day, with herds of antelope; and a grizzly bear--the only
one we encountered during the journey--was seen scrambling up among the
rocks. As we passed over a slight rise near the river, we caught the first
view of the Wind River mountains, appearing, at this distance of about
seventy miles, to be a low and dark mountainous ridge. The view dissipated
in a moment the pictures which had been created in our minds, by many
descriptions of travelers, who have compared these mountains to the Alps
in Switzerland, and speak of the glittering peaks which rise in icy
majesty amidst the eternal glaciers nine or ten thousand feet into the
region of eternal snows. The nakedness of the river was relieved by groves
of willows, where we encamped at night, after a march of twenty-six miles;
and numerous bright-colored flowers had made the river bottom look gay as
a garden. We found here a horse, which had been abandoned by the Indians,
because his hoofs had been so much worn that he was unable to travel; and
during the night a dog came into the camp.

4th.--Our camp was at the foot of the granite mountains, which we climbed
this morning to take some barometrical heights; and here among the rocks
was seen the first magpie. On our return, we saw one at the mouth of the
Platte river. We left here one of our horses, which was unable to proceed
farther. A few miles from the encampment we left the river, which makes a
bend to the south, and traversing an undulating country, consisting of a
grayish micaceous sandstone and fine-grained conglomerates, struck it
again, and encamped after a journey of twenty-five miles. Astronomical
observations placed us in latitude 42 deg. 32' 30", and longitude 108 deg. 30'

5th.--The morning was dark, with a driving rain, and disagreeably cold. We
continued our route as usual and the weather became so bad, that we were
glad to avail ourselves of the shelter offered by a small island, about
ten miles above our last encampment, which was covered with a dense growth
of willows. There was fine grass for our animals, and the timber afforded
us comfortable protection and good fires. In the afternoon, the sun broke
through the clouds for a short time, and the barometer at 5 P.M. was
23.713, the thermometer 60 deg., with the wind strong from the northwest. We
availed ourselves of the fine weather to make excursions in the
neighborhood. The river, at this place, is bordered by hills of the valley
formation. They are of moderate height; one of the highest peaks on the
right bank being, according to the barometer, one hundred and eighty feet
above the river. On the left bank they are higher. They consist of a fine
white clayey sandstone, a white calcareous sandstone, and coarse sandstone
or pudding-stone.

6th.--It continued steadily raining all day; but, notwithstanding, we left
our encampment in the afternoon. Our animals had been much refreshed by
their repose, and an abundance of rich, soft grass, which had been much
improved by the rains. In about three miles, we reached the entrance of a
_kanyon_, where the Sweet Water issues upon the more open valley we
had passed over. Immediately at the entrance, and superimposed directly
upon the granite, are strata of compact calcareous sandstone and chert,
alternating with fine white and reddish-white, and fine gray and red
sandstones. These strata dip to the eastward at an angle of about 18 deg., and
form the western limit of the sandstone and limestone formations on the
line of our route. Here we entered among the primitive rocks. The usual
road passes to the right of this place; but we wound, or rather scrambled,
our way up the narrow valley for several hours. Wildness and disorder were
the character of this scenery. The river had been swollen by the late
rains, and came rushing through with an impetuous current, three or four
feet deep, and generally twenty yards broad. The valley was sometimes the
breadth of the stream, and sometimes opened into little green meadows,
sixty yards wide, with open groves of aspen. The stream was bordered
throughout with aspen, beech, and willow; and tall pines grow on the sides
and summits of the crags. On both sides the granite rocks rose
precipitously to the height of three hundred and five hundred feet,
terminating in jagged and broken pointed peaks; and fragments of fallen
rock lay piled up at the foot of the precipices. Gneiss, mica slate, and a
white granite, were among the varieties I noticed. Here were many old
traces of beaver on the stream; remnants of dams, near which were lying
trees, which they had cut down, one and two feet in diameter. The hills
entirely shut up the river at the end of about five miles, and we turned
up a ravine that led to a high prairie, which seemed to be the general
level of the country. Hence, to the summit of the ridge, there is a
regular and very gradual rise. Blocks of granite were piled up at the
heads of the ravines, and small bare knolls of mica slate and milky quartz
protruded at frequent intervals on the prairie, which was whitened in
occasional spots with small salt lakes, where the water had evaporated,
and left the bed covered with a shining incrustation of salt. The evening
was very cold, a northwest wind driving a fine rain in our faces; and at
nightfall we descended to a little stream, on which we encamped, about two
miles from the Sweet Water. Here had recently been a very large camp of
the Snake and Crow Indians; and some large poles lying about afforded the
means of pitching a tent, and making other places of shelter. Our fires
to-night were made principally of the dry branches of the artemisia, which
covered the slopes. It burns quickly, and with a clear oily flame, and
makes a hot fire. The hills here are composed of hard, compact mica slate,
with veins of quartz.

7th.--We left our encampment with the rising sun. As we rose from the bed
of the creek, the _snow_ line of the mountains stretched gradually
before us, the white peaks glittering in the sun. They had been hidden in
the dark weather of the last few days, and it had been _snowing_ on
them, while it _rained_ in the plains. We crossed a ridge, and again
struck the Sweet Water--here a beautiful, swift stream, with a more open
valley, timbered with beech and cottonwood. It now began to lose itself in
the many small forks which make its head; and we continued up the main
stream until near noon, when we left it a few miles, to make our noon halt
on a small creek among the hills, from which the stream issues by a small
opening. Within was a beautiful grassy spot, covered with an open grove of
large beech-trees, among which I found several plants that I had not
previously seen.

The afternoon was cloudy, with squalls of rain; but the weather became
fine at sunset, when we again encamped on the Sweet Water, within a few
miles of the SOUTH PASS. The country over which we have passed to-day
consists principally of the compact mica slate, which crops out on all
ridges, making the uplands very rocky and slaty. In the escarpments which
border the creeks, it is seen alternating with a light-colored granite, at
an inclination of 45 deg.; the beds varying in thickness from two or three
feet to six or eight hundred. At a distance, the granite frequently has
the appearance of irregular lumps of clay, hardened by exposure. A variety
of _asters_ may how be numbered among the characteristic plants, and
the artemisia continues in full glory; but _cacti_ have become rare,
and mosses begin to dispute the hills with them. The evening was damp and
unpleasant--the thermometer, at ten o'clock, being at 36 deg., and the grass
wet with a heavy dew. Our astronomical observations placed this encampment
in longitude 109 deg. 21' 32", and latitude 42 deg. 27' 15".

Early in the morning we resumed our journey, the weather, still cloudy,
with occasional rain. Our general course was west, as I had determined to
cross the dividing ridge by a bridle-path among the country more
immediately at the foot of the mountains, and return by the wagon road,
two and a half miles to the south of the point where the trail crosses.

About six miles from our encampment brought us to the summit. The ascent
had been so gradual, that, with all the intimate knowledge possessed by
Carson, who had made the country his home for seventeen years, we were
obliged to watch very closely to find the place at which we had reached
the culminating point. This was between two low hills, rising on either
hand fifty or sixty feet. When I looked back at them, from the foot of the
immediate slope on the western plain, their summits appeared to be about
one hundred and twenty feet above. From the impression on my mind at this
time, and subsequently on our return, I should compare the elevation which
we surmounted immediately at the Pass, to the ascent of the Capitol hill
from the avenue, at Washington. It is difficult for me to fix positively
the breadth of this Pass. From the broken ground where it commences, at
the foot of the Wind River chain, the view to the southeast is over a
champaign country, broken, at the distance of nineteen miles, by the Table
rock; which, with the other isolated hills in its vicinity, seem to stand
on a comparative plain. This I judged to be its termination, the ridge
recovering its rugged character with the Table rock. It will be seen that
it in no manner resembles the places to which the term is commonly
applied--nothing of the gorge-like character and winding ascents of the
Alleghany passes in America; nothing of the Great St. Bernard and Simplon
passes in Europe. Approaching it from the mouth of the Sweet Water, a
sandy plain, one hundred and twenty miles long, conducts, by a gradual and
regular ascent, to the summit, about seven thousand feet above the sea;
and the traveler, without being reminded of any change by toilsome
ascents, suddenly finds himself on the waters which flow to the Pacific
ocean. By the route we had traveled, the distance from Fort Laramie is
three hundred and twenty miles, or nine hundred and fifty from the mouth
of the Kansas.

Continuing our march, we reached, in eight miles from the Pass, the Little
Sandy, one of the tributaries of the Colorado, or Green river of the Gulf
of California. The weather had grown fine during the morning, and we
remained here the rest of the day, to dry our baggage and take some
astronomical observations. The stream was about forty feet wide, and two
or three deep, with clear water and a full swift current, over a sandy
bed. It was timbered with a growth of low bushy and dense willows, among
which were little verdant spots, which gave our animals fine grass, and
where I found a number of interesting plants. Among the neighboring hills
I noticed fragments of granite containing magnetic iron. Longitude of the
camp was 109 deg. 37' 59", and latitude 42 deg. 27' 34".

9th.--We made our noon halt on Big Sandy, another tributary of Green
river. The face of the country traversed was of a brown sand of granite
materials, the _detritus_ of the neighboring mountain. Strata of the
milky quartz cropped out, and blocks of granite were scattered about,
containing magnetic iron. On Sandy creek the formation was of parti-
colored sand, exhibited in escarpments fifty to eighty feet high. In the
afternoon we had a severe storm of hail, and encamped at sunset on the
first New Fork. Within the space of a few miles, the Wind mountains supply
a number of tributaries to Green river, which are called the New Forks.
Near our camp were two remarkable isolated hills, one of them sufficiently
large to merit the name of mountain. They are called the Two Buttes, and
will serve to identify the place of our encampment, which the observations
of the evening placed in longitude 109 deg. 58' 11", and latitude 42 deg. 42' 46".
On the right bank of the stream, opposite to the large hill, the strata
which are displayed consist of decomposing granite, which supplies the
brown sand of which the face of the country is composed to a considerable

10th.--The air at sunrise is clear and pure, and the morning extremely
cold, but beautiful. A lofty snowy peak of the mountain is glittering in
the first rays of the sun, which have not yet reached us. The long
mountain wall to the east, rising two thousand feet abruptly from the
plain, behind which we see the peaks, is still dark, and cuts clear
against the glowing sky. A fog, just risen from the river, lies along the
base of the mountain. A little before sunrise, the thermometer was at 35 deg.,
and at sunrise 33 deg.. Water froze last night, and fires are very
comfortable. The scenery becomes hourly more interesting and grand, and
the view here is truly magnificent; but, indeed, it needs something to
repay the long prairie journey of a thousand miles. The sun has shot above
the wall, and makes a magical change. The whole valley is glowing and
bright, and all the mountain peaks are gleaming like silver. Though these
snow mountains are not the Alps, they have their own character of grandeur
and magnificence, and doubtless will find pens and pencils to do them
justice. In the scene before us, we feel how much wood improves a view.
The pines on the mountain seemed to give it much additional beauty. I was
agreeably disappointed in the character of the streams on this side of the
ridge. Instead of the creeks, which description had led me to expect, I
find bold, broad streams, with three or four feet water, and a rapid
current. The fork on which we are encamped is upwards of a hundred feet
wide, timbered with groves or thickets of the low willow. We were now
approaching the loftiest part of the Wind River chain; and I left the
valley a few miles from our encampment, intending to penetrate the
mountains as far as possible with the whole party. We were soon involved
in very broken ground, among long ridges covered with fragments of
granite. Winding our way up a long ravine, we came unexpectedly in view of
a most beautiful lake, set like a gem in the mountains. The sheet of water
lay transversely across the direction we had been pursuing; and,
descending the steep, rocky ridge, where it was necessary to lead our
horses, we followed its banks to the southern extremity. Here a view of
the utmost magnificence and grandeur burst upon our eyes. With nothing
between us and their feet to lessen the effect of the whole height, a
grand bed of snow-capped mountains rose before us, pile upon pile, glowing
in the bright light of an August day. Immediately below them lay the lake,
between two ridges, covered with dark pines, which swept down from the
main chain to the spot where we stood. Here, where the lake glittered in
the open sunlight, its banks of yellow sand and the light foliage of aspen
groves contrasted well with the gloomy pines. "Never before," said Mr.
Preuss, "in this country or in Europe, have I seen such grand, magnificent
rocks." I was so much pleased with the beauty of the place, that I
determined to make the main camp here, where our animals would find good
pasturage, and explore the mountains with a small party of men. Proceeding
a little further, we came suddenly upon the outlet of the lake, where it
found its way through a narrow passage between low hills. Dark pines which
overhung the stream, and masses of rock, where the water foamed along,
gave it much romantic beauty. Where we crossed, which was immediately at
the outlet, it is two hundred and fifty feet wide, and so deep that with
difficulty we were able to ford it. Its bed was an accumulation of rocks,
boulders, and broad slabs, and large angular fragments, among which the
animals fell repeatedly.

The current was very swift, and the water cold, and of a crystal purity.
In crossing this stream, I met with a great misfortune in having my
barometer broken. It was the only one. A great part of the interest of the
journey for me was in the exploration of these mountains, of which so much
had been said that was doubtful and contradictory; and now their snowy
peaks rose majestically before me, and the only means of giving them
authentically to science, the object of my anxious solicitude by night and
day, was destroyed. We had brought this barometer in safety a thousand
miles, and broke it almost among the snow of the mountains. The loss was
felt by the whole camp--all had seen my anxiety, and aided me in
preserving it. The height of these mountains, considered by many hunters
and traders the highest in the whole range, had been a theme of constant
discussion among them; and all had looked forward with pleasure to the
moment when the instrument, which they believed to be as true as the sun,
should stand upon the summits, and decide their disputes. Their grief was
only inferior to my own.

The lake is about three miles long, and of very irregular width, and
apparently great depth, and is the head-water of the third New Fork, a
tributary to Green river, the Colorado of the west. In the narrative I
have called it Mountain lake. I encamped on the north side, about three
hundred and fifty yards from the outlet. This was the most western point
at which I obtained astronomical observations, by which this place, called
Bernier's encampment, is made in 110 deg. 08' 03" west longitude from
Greenwich, and latitude 43 deg. 49' 49". The mountain peaks, as laid down,
were fixed by bearings from this and other astronomical points. We had no
other compass than the small ones used in sketching the country; but from
an azimuth, in which one of them was used, the variation of the compass is
18 deg. east. The correction made in our field-work by the astronomical
observations indicates that this is a very correct observation.

As soon as the camp was formed, I set about endeavoring to repair my
barometer. As I have already said, this was a standard cistern barometer,
of Troughton's construction. The glass cistern had been broken about
midway; but as the instrument had been kept in a proper position, no air
had found its way into the tube, the end of which had always remained
covered. I had with me a number of vials of tolerably thick glass, some of
which were of the same diameter as the cistern, end I spent the day in
slowly working on these, endeavoring to cut them of the requisite length;
but, as my instrument was a very rough file, I invariably broke them. A
groove was cut in one of the trees, where the barometer was placed during
the night, to be out of the way of any possible danger, and in the morning
I commenced again. Among the powder-horns in the camp, I found one which
was very transparent, so that its contents could be almost as plainly seen
as through glass. This I boiled and stretched on a piece of wood to the
requisite diameter, and scraped it very thin, in order to increase to the
utmost its transparency. I then secured it firmly in its place on the
instrument, with strong glue made from a buffalo, and filled it with
mercury, properly heated. A piece of skin, which had covered one of the
vials, furnished a good pocket, which was well secured with strong thread
and glue, and then the brass cover was screwed to its place. The
instrument was left some time to dry; and when I reversed it, a few hours
after, I had the satisfaction to find it in perfect order; its indications
being about the same as on the other side of the lake before it had been
broken. Our success in this little incident diffused pleasure throughout
the camp; and we immediately set about our preparations for ascending the

As will be seen on reference to a map, on this short mountain chain are
the head-waters of four great rivers on the continent, namely: the
Colorado, Columbia, Missouri, and Platte rivers. It had been my design,
after ascending the mountains, to continue our route on the western side
of the range, and crossing through a pass at the northwestern end of the
chain, about thirty miles from our present camp, return along the eastern
slope, across the heads of the Yellowstone river, and join on the line to
our station of August 7, immediately at the foot of the ridge. In this
way, I should be enabled to include the whole chain, and its numerous
waters, in my survey; but various considerations induced me, very
reluctantly, to abandon this plan.

I was desirous to keep strictly within the scope of my instructions, and
it would have required ten or fifteen additional days for the
accomplishment of this object; our animals had become very much worn out
with the length of the journey; game was very scarce; and, though it does
not appear in the course of the narrative, (as I have avoided dwelling
upon trifling incidents not connected with the objects of the expedition,)
the spirits of the men had been much exhausted by the hardships and
privations to which they had been subjected. Our provisions had wellnigh
all disappeared. Bread had been long out of the question; and of all our
stock, we had remaining two or three pounds of coffee, and a small
quantity of macaroni, which had been husbanded with great care for the
mountain expedition we were about to undertake. Our daily meal consisted
of dry buffalo meat, cooked in tallow; and, as we had not dried this with
Indian skill, part of it was spoiled; and what remained of good, was as
hard as wood, having much the taste and appearance of so many pieces of
bark. Even of this, our stock was rapidly diminishing in a camp which was
capable of consuming two buffaloes in every twenty-four hours. These
animals had entirely disappeared; and it was not probable that we should
fall in with them again until we returned to the Sweet Water.

Our arrangements for the ascent were rapidly completed. We were in a
hostile country, which rendered the greatest vigilance and circumspection
necessary. The pass at the north end of the mountain was greatly infested
by Blackfeet, and immediately opposite was one of their forts, on the edge
of a little thicket, two or three hundred feet from our encampment. We
were posted in a grove of beech, on the margin of the lake, and a few
hundred feet long, with a narrow _prairillon_ on the inner side,
bordered by the rocky ridge. In the upper end of this grove we cleared a
circular space about forty feet in diameter, and, with the felled timber,
and interwoven branches, surrounded it with a breastwork five feet in
height. A gap was left for a gate on the inner side, by which the animals
were to be driven in and secured, while the men slept around the little
work. It was half hidden by the foliage, and garrisoned by twelve resolute
men, would have set at defiance any band of savages which might chance to
discover them in the interval of our absence. Fifteen of the best mules,
with fourteen men, were selected for the mountain party. Our provisions
consisted of dried meat for two days, with our little stock of coffee and
some macaroni. In addition to the barometer and thermometer, I took with
me a sextant and spyglass, and we had of course our compasses. In charge
of the camp I left Bernier, one of my most trustworthy men, who possessed
the most determined courage.

12th.--Early in the morning we left the camp, fifteen in number, well
armed, of course, and mounted on our best mules. A pack-animal carried our
provisions, with a coffeepot and kettle, and three or four tin cups. Every
man had a blanket strapped over his saddle, to serve for his bed, and the
instruments were carried by turns on their backs. We entered directly on
rough and rocky ground; and, just after crossing the ridge, had the good
fortune to shoot an antelope. We heard the roar, and had a glimpse of a
waterfall as we rode along, and, crossing in our way two fine streams,
tributary to the Colorado, in about two hours' ride we reached the top of
the first row or range of the mountains. Here, again, a view of the most
romantic beauty met our eyes. It seemed as if, from the vast expanse of
uninteresting prairie we had passed over, Nature had collected all her
beauties together in one chosen place. We were overlooking a deep valley,
which was entirely occupied by three lakes, and from the brink to the
surrounding ridges rose precipitously five hundred and a thousand feet,
covered with the dark green of the balsam pine, relieved on the border of
the lake with the light foliage of the aspen. They all communicated with
each other, and the green of the waters, common to mountain lakes of great
depth, showed that it would be impossible to cross them. The surprise
manifested by our guides when these impassable obstacles suddenly barred
our progress, proved that they were among the hidden treasures of the
place, unknown even to the wandering trappers of the region. Descending
the hill, we proceeded to make our way along the margin to the southern
extremity. A narrow strip of angular fragments of rock sometimes afforded
a rough pathway for our mules, but generally we rode along the shelving
side, occasionally scrambling up, at a considerable risk of tumbling back
into the lake.

The slope was frequently 60 deg.; the pines grew densely together and the
ground was covered with the branches and trunks of trees. The air was
fragrant with the odor of the pines; and I realized this delightful
morning the pleasure of breathing that mountain air which makes a constant
theme of the hunter's praise, and which now made us feel as if we had all
been drinking some exhilarating gas. The depths of this unexplored forest
were a place to delight the heart of a botanist. There was a rich
undergrowth of plants, and numerous gay-colored flowers in brilliant
bloom. We reached the outlet at length, where some freshly-barked willows
that lay in the water showed that beaver had been recently at work.

There were some small brown squirrels jumping about in the pines, and a
couple of large mallard ducks swimming about in the stream.

The hills on this southern end were low, and the lake looked like a mimic
sea, as the waves broke on the sandy beach in the force of a strong
breeze. There was a pretty open spot, with fine grass for our mules; and
we made our noon halt on the beach, under the shade of some large
hemlocks. We resumed our journey after a halt of about an hour, making our
way up the ridge on the western side of the lake. In search of smoother
ground, we rode a little inland; and, passing through groves of aspen,
soon found ourselves again among the pines. Emerging from these, we struck
the summit of the ridge above the upper end of the lake.

We had reached a very elevated point, and in the valley below, and among
the hills, were a number of lakes of different levels; some two or three
hundred feet above others, with which they communicated by foaming
torrents. Even to our great height the roar of the cataracts came up, and
we could see them leaping down in lines of snowy foam. From this scene of
busy waters, we turned abruptly into the stillness of a forest, where we
rode among the open bolls of the pines, over a lawn of verdant grass,
having strikingly the air of cultivated grounds. This led us, after a
time, among masses of rock which had no vegetable earth but in hollows and
crevices though still the pine forest continued. Towards evening we
reached a defile, or rather a hole in the mountains, entirely shut in by
dark pine-covered rocks.

A small stream, with scarcely perceptible current, flowed through a level
bottom of perhaps eighty yards width, where the grass was saturated with
water. Into this the mules were turned, and were neither hobbled nor
picketed during the night, as the fine pasturage took away all temptation
to stray; and we made our bivouac in the pines. The surrounding masses
were all of granite. While supper was being prepared, I set out on an
excursion in the neighborhood, accompanied by one of my men. We wandered
about among the crags and ravines until dark, richly repaid for our walk
by a fine collection of plants, many of them in full bloom. Ascending a
peak to find the place of our camp, we saw that the little defile in which
we lay communicated with the long green valley of some stream, which, here
locked up in the mountains, far away to the south, found its way in a
dense forest to the plains.

Looking along its upward course, it seemed to conduct, by a smooth gradual
slope, directly towards the peak, which, from long consultation as we
approached the mountain, we had decided to be the highest of the range.
Pleased with the discovery of so fine a road for the next day, we hastened
down to the camp, where we arrived just in time for supper. Our table-
service was rather scant; and we held the meat in our hands, and clean
rocks made good plates, on which we spread our macaroni. Among all the
strange places on which we had occasion to encamp during our long journey,
none have left so vivid an impression on my mind as the camp of this
evening. The disorder of the masses which surrounded us--the little hole
through which we saw the stars over head--the dark pines where we slept--
and the rocks lit up with the glow of our fires, made a night-picture of
very wild beauty.

13th.--The morning was bright and pleasant, just cool enough to make
exercise agreeable, and we soon entered the defile I had seen the
preceding day. It was smoothly carpeted with soft grass, and scattered
over with groups of flowers, of which yellow was the predominant color.
Sometimes we were forced, by an occasional difficult pass, to pick our way
on a narrow ledge along the side of the defile, and the mules were
frequently on their knees; but these obstructions were rare, and we
journeyed on in the sweet morning air, delighted at our good fortune in
having found such a beautiful entrance to the mountains. This road
continued for about three miles, when we suddenly reached its termination
in one of the grand views which, at every turn, meet the traveler in this
magnificent region. Here the defile up which we had traveled opened out
into a small lawn, where, in a little lake, the stream had its source.

There were some fine _asters_ in bloom, but all the flowering plants
appeared to seek the shelter of the rocks, and to be of lower growth than
below, as if they loved the warmth of the soil, and kept out of the way of
the winds. Immediately at our feet, a precipitous descent led to a
confusion of defiles, and before us rose the mountains, as we have
represented them in the annexed view. It is not by the splendor of far-off
views, which have lent such a glory to the Alps, that these impress the
mind; but by a gigantic disorder of enormous masses, and a savage
sublimity of naked rock, in wonderful contrast with innumerable green
spots of a rich floral beauty, shut up in their stern recesses. Their
wildness seems well suited to the character of the people who inhabit the

I determined to leave our animals here, and make the rest of our way on
foot. The peak appeared so near, that there was no doubt of our returning
before night; and a few men were left in charge of the mules, with our
provisions and blankets. We took with us nothing but our arms and
instruments, and, as the day had become warm, the greater part left our
coats. Having made an early dinner, we started again. We were soon
involved in the most ragged precipices, nearing the central chain very
slowly, and rising but little. The first ridge hid a succession of others;
and when, with great fatigue and difficulty, we had climbed up five
hundred feet, it was but to make an equal descent on the other side; all
these intervening places were filled with small deep lakes, which met the
eye in every direction, descending from one level to another, sometimes
under bridges formed by huge fragments of granite, beneath which was heard
the roar of the water. These constantly obstructed our path, forcing us to
make long _detours_; frequently obliged to retrace our steps, and
frequently falling among the rocks. Maxwell was precipitated towards the
face of a precipice, and saved himself from going over by throwing himself
flat on the ground. We clambered on, always expecting, with every ridge
that we crossed, to reach the foot of the peaks, and always disappointed,
until about four o'clock, when, pretty well worn out, we reached the shore
of a little lake, in which was a rocky island. We remained here a short
time to rest, and continued on around the lake, which had in some places a
beach of white sand, and in others was bound with rocks, over which the
way was difficult and dangerous, as the water from innumerable springs
made them very slippery.

By the time we had reached the further side of the lake, we found
ourselves all exceedingly fatigued, and, much to the satisfaction of the
whole party, we encamped. The spot we had chosen was a broad flat rock, in
some measure protected from the winds by the surrounding crags, and the
trunks of fallen pines afforded us bright fires. Near by was a foaming
torrent, which tumbled into the little lake about one hundred and fifty
feet below us, and which, by way of distinction, we have called Island
lake. We had reached the upper limit of the piney region; as, above this
point, no tree was to be seen, and patches of snow lay everywhere around
us, on the cold sides of the rocks. The flora of the region we had
traversed since leaving our mules was extremely rich, and, among the
characteristic plants, the scarlet flowers of the _dodecatheon
dentatum_ everywhere met the eye, in great abundance. A small green
ravine, on the edge of which we were encamped, was filled with a profusion
of alpine plants, in brilliant bloom. From barometrical observations, made
during our three days' sojourn at this place, its elevation above the Gulf
of Mexico is 10,000 feet. During the day, we had seen no sign of animal
life; but among the rocks here, we heard what was supposed to be the bleat
of a young goat, which we searched for with hungry activity, and found to
proceed from a small animal of a gray color, with short ears and no tail--
probably the Siberian squirrel. We saw a considerable number of them, and,
with the exception of a small bird like a sparrow, it is the only
inhabitant of this elevated part of the mountains. On our return, we saw,
below this lake, large flocks of the mountain-goat. We had nothing to eat
to-night. Lajeunesse, with several others, took their guns, and sallied
out in search of a goat; but returned unsuccessful. At sunset, the
barometer stood at 20.522; the attached thermometer 50 deg.. Here we had the
misfortune to break our thermometer, having now only that attached to the
barometer. I was taken ill shortly after we had encamped, and continued so
until late in the night, with violent headache and vomiting. This was
probably caused by the excessive fatigue I had undergone, and want of
food, and perhaps, also, in some measure, by the rarity of the air. The
night was cold, as a violent gale from the north had sprung up at sunset,
which entirely blew away the heat of the fires. The cold, and our granite
beds, had not been favorable to sleep, and we were glad to see the face of
the sun in the morning. Not being delayed by any preparation for
breakfast, we set out immediately.

On every side, as we advanced, was heard the roar of waters, and of a
torrent, which we followed up a short distance, until it expanded into a
lake about one mile in length. On the northern side of the lake was a bank
of ice, or rather of snow covered with a crust of ice. Carson had been our
guide into the mountains, and, agreeably to his advice, we left this
little valley, and took to the ridges again, which we found extremely
broken, and where we were again involved among precipices. Here were ice-
fields; among which we were all dispersed, seeking each the best path to
ascend the peak. Mr. Preuss attempted to walk along the upper edge of one
of these fields, which sloped away at an angle of about twenty degrees;
but his feet slipped from under him, and he went plunging down the plain.
A few hundred feet below, at the bottom, were some fragments of sharp
rock, on which he landed; and, though he turned a couple of somersets,
fortunately received no injury beyond a few bruises. Two of the men,
Clement Lambert and Descoteaux, had been taken ill, and lay down on the
rocks, a short distance below; and at this point I was attacked with
headache and giddiness, accompanied by vomiting, as on the day before.
Finding myself unable to proceed, I sent the barometer over to Mr. Preuss,
who was in a gap two or three hundred yards distant, desiring him to reach
the peak if possible, and take an observation there. He found himself
unable to proceed further in that direction, and took an observation,
where the barometer stood at 19.401; attached thermometer 50 deg., in the gap.
Carson, who had gone over to him, succeeded in reaching one of the snowy
summits of the main ridge, whence he saw the peak towards which all our
efforts had been directed, towering eight or ten hundred feet into the air
above him. In the mean time, finding myself grow rather worse than better,
and doubtful how far my strength would carry me, I sent Basil Lajeunesse,
with four men, back to the place where the mules had been left.

We were now better acquainted with the topography of the country, and I
directed him to bring back with him, if it were in any way possible, four
or five mules, with provisions and blankets. With me were Maxwell and
Ayer; and after we had remained nearly an hour on the rock, it became so
unpleasantly cold, though the day was bright, that we set out on our
return to the camp, at which we all arrived safely, straggling in one
after the other. I continued ill during the afternoon, but became better
towards sundown, when my recovery was completed by the appearance of Basil
and four men, all mounted. The men who had gone with him had been too much
fatigued to return, and were relieved by those in charge of the horses;
but in his powers of endurance Basil resembled more a mountain-goat than a
man. They brought blankets and provisions, and we enjoyed well our dried
meat and a cup of good coffee. We rolled ourselves up in our blankets,
and, with our feet turned to a blazing fire, slept soundly until morning.

15th.--It had been supposed that we had finished with the mountains; and
the evening before it had been arranged that Carson should set out at
daylight, and return to breakfast at the Camp of the Mules, taking with
him all but four or five men, who were to stay with me and bring back the
mules and instruments. Accordingly, at the break of day they set out. With
Mr. Preuss and myself remained Basil Lajeunesse, Clement Lambert, Janisse,
and Descoteaux. When we had secured strength for the day by a hearty
breakfast, we covered what remained, which was enough for one meal, with
rocks, in order that it might be safe from any marauding bird, and,
saddling our mules, turned our faces once more towards the peaks. This
time we determined to proceed quietly and cautiously, deliberately
resolved to accomplish our object if it were within the compass of human
means. We were of opinion that a long defile which lay to the left of
yesterday's route would lead us to the foot of the main peak. Our mules
had been refreshed by the fine grass in the little ravine at the Island
camp, and we intended to ride up the defile as far as possible, in order
to husband our strength for the main ascent. Though this was a fine
passage, still it was a defile of the most rugged mountains known, and we
had many a rough and steep slippery place to cross before reaching the
end. In this place the sun rarely shone; snow lay along the border of the
small stream which flowed through it, and occasional icy passages made the
footing of the mules very insecure, and the rocks and ground were moist
with the trickling waters in this spring of mighty rivers. We soon had the
satisfaction to find ourselves riding along the huge wall which forms the
central summits of the chain. There at last it rose by our sides, a nearly
perpendicular wall of granite, terminating 2,000 to 3,000 feet above our
heads in a serrated line of broken, jagged cones. We rode on until we came
almost immediately below the main peak, which I denominated the Snow peak,
as it exhibited more snow to the eye than any of the neighboring summits.
Here were three small lakes of a green color, each, perhaps, of a thousand
yards in diameter, and apparently very deep. These lay in a kind of chasm;
and, according to the barometer, we had attained but a few hundred feet
above the Island lake. The barometer here stood at 20.450, attached
thermometer 70 deg..

We managed to get our mules up to a little bench about a hundred feet
above the lakes, where there was a patch of good grass, and turned them
loose to graze. During our rough ride to this place, they had exhibited a
wonderful surefootedness. Parts of the defile were filled with angular,
sharp fragments of rock, three or four and eight or ten feet cube; and
among these they had worked their way, leaping from one narrow point to
another, rarely making a false step, and giving us no occasion to
dismount. Having divested ourselves of every unnecessary encumbrance, we
commenced the ascent. This time, like experienced travelers, we did not
press ourselves, but climbed leisurely, sitting down so soon as we found
breath beginning to fail. At intervals we reached places where a number of
springs gushed from the rocks, and about 1800 feet above the lakes came to
the snow line. From this point our progress was uninterrupted climbing.
Hitherto I had worn a pair of thick moccasins, with soles of
_parfleche_, but here I put on a light, thin pair, which I had
brought for the purpose, as now the use of our toes became necessary to a
further advance. I availed myself of a sort of comb of the mountain, which
stood against the wall like a buttress, and which the wind and the solar
radiation, joined to the steepness of the smooth rock, had kept almost
entirely free from snow. Up this I made my way rapidly. Our cautious
method of advancing at the outset had spared my strength; and, with the
exception of a slight disposition to headache, I felt no remains of
yesterday's illness. In a few minutes we reached a point where the
buttress was overhanging, and there was no other way of surmounting the
difficulty than by passing around one side of it, which was the face of a
vertical precipice of several hundred feet.

Putting hands and feet in the crevices between the blocks, I succeeded in
getting over it, and, when I reached the top, found my companions in a
small valley below. Descending to them, we continued climbing, and in a
short time reached the crest. I sprang upon the summit, and another step
would have precipitated me into an immense snow-field five hundred feet
below. To the edge of this field was a sheer icy precipice; and then, with
a gradual fall, the field sloped off for about a mile, until it struck the
foot of another lower ridge. I stood on a narrow crest, about three feet
in width, with an inclination of about 20 deg.N. 51 deg.E. As soon as I had
gratified the first feelings of curiosity, I descended, and each man
ascended in his turn; for I would only allow one at a time to mount the
unstable and precarious slab, which it seemed a breath would hurl into the
abyss below. We mounted the barometer in the snow of the summit, and,
fixing a ramrod in a crevice, unfurled the national flag to wave in the
breeze where never flag waved before. During our morning's ascent, we had
met no sign of animal life, except the small sparrow-like bird already
mentioned. A stillness the most profound and a terrible solitude forced
themselves constantly on the mind as the great features of the place.
Here, on the summit, where the stillness was absolute, unbroken by any
sound, and solitude complete, we thought ourselves beyond the region of
animated life; but while we were sitting on the rock, a solitary bee
(_bromus, the humble-bee_) came winging his flight from the eastern
valley, and lit on the knee of one of the men.

It was a strange place, the icy rock and the highest peak of the Rocky
mountains, for a lover of warm sunshine and flowers; and we pleased
ourselves with the idea that he was the first of his species to cross the
mountain barrier--a solitary pioneer to foretell the advance of
civilization. I believe that a moment's thought would have made us let him
continue his way unharmed; but we carried out the law of this country,
where all animated nature seems at war; and, seizing him immediately, put
him in at least a fit place--in the leaves of a large book, among the
flowers we had collected on our way. The barometer stood at 18.293, the
attached thermometer at 44 deg.; giving for the elevation of this summit
13,570 feet above the Gulf of Mexico, which may be called the highest
flight of the bee. It is certainly the highest known flight of that
insect. From the description given by Mackenzie of the mountains where he
crossed them, with that of a French officer still farther to the north,
and Colonel Long's measurements to the south, joined to the opinion of the
oldest traders of the country, it is presumed that this is the highest
peak of the Rocky mountains. The day was sunny and bright, but a slight
shining mist hung over the lower plains, which interfered with our view of
the surrounding country. On one side we overlooked innumerable lakes and
streams, the spring of the Colorado of the Gulf of California; and on the
other was the Wind River valley, where were the heads of the Yellowstone
branch of the Missouri; far to the north, we could just discover the snowy
heads of the _Trois Tetons_, where were the sources of the Missouri
and Columbia rivers; and at the southern extremity of the ridge, the peaks
were plainly visible, among which were some of the springs of the Nebraska
or Platte river. Around us, the whole scene had one main, striking
feature, which was that of terrible convulsion. Parallel to its length,
the ridge was split into chasms and fissures; between which rose the thin
lofty walls, terminated with slender minarets and columns. According to
the barometer, the little crest of the wall on which we stood was three
thousand five hundred and seventy feet above that place, and two thousand
seven hundred and eighty above the little lakes at the bottom, immediately
at our feet. Our camp at the Two Hills (an astronomical station) bore
south 3 deg. east, which, with a bearing afterwards obtained from a fixed
position, enabled us to locate the peak. The bearing of the _Trois
Tetons_ was north 50 deg. west, and the direction of the central ridge of
the Wind River mountains south 39 deg. east. The summit rock was gneiss,
succeeded by sienitic gneiss. Sienite and feldspar succeeded in our
descent to the snow line, where we found a feldspathic granite. I had
remarked that the noise produced by the explosion of our pistols had the
usual degree of loudness, but was not in the least prolonged, expiring
almost instantaneously.

Having now made what observations our means afforded, we proceeded to
descend. We had accomplished an object of laudable ambition, and beyond
the strict order of our instructions. We had climbed the loftiest peak of
the Rocky mountains, and looked down upon the snow a thousand feet below;
and, standing where never human foot had stood before, felt the exultation
of first explorers. It was about two o'clock when we left the summit, and
when we reached the bottom, the sun had already sunk behind the wall, and
the day was drawing to a close. It would have been pleasant to have
lingered here and on the summit longer; but we hurried away as rapidly as
the ground would permit, for it was an object to regain our party as soon
as possible, not knowing what accident the next hour might bring forth.

We reached our deposite of provisions at nightfall. Here was not the inn
which awaits the tired traveler on his return from Mont Blanc, or the
orange groves of South America, with their refreshing juices and soft
fragrant air; but we found our little _cache_ of dried meat and
coffee undisturbed. Though the moon was bright, the road was full of
precipices, and the fatigue of the day had been great. We therefore
abandoned the idea of rejoining our friends, and lay down on the rock,
and, in spite of the cold, slept soundly.

16th.--We left our encampment with the daylight. We saw on our way large
flocks of the mountain-goat looking down on us from the cliffs. At the
crack of the rifle, they would bound off among the rocks, and in a few
minutes make their appearance on some lofty peak, some hundred or a
thousand feet above. It is needless to attempt any further description of
the country; the portion over which we traveled this morning was rough as
imagination could picture it, and to us seemed equally beautiful. A
concourse of lakes and rushing waters--mountains of rocks naked and
destitute of vegetable earth--dells and ravines of the most exquisite
beauty, all kept green and fresh by the great moisture in the air, and
sown with brilliant flowers, and everywhere thrown around all the glory of
most magnificent scenes,--these constitute the features of the place, and
impress themselves vividly on the mind of the traveler. It was not until
11 o'clock that we reached the place where our animals had been left, when
we first attempted the mountains on foot. Near one of the still burning
fires we found a piece of meat, which our friends had thrown away, and
which furnished us a mouthful--a very scanty breakfast. We continued
directly on, and reached our camp on the mountain lake at dusk. We found
all well. Nothing had occurred to interrupt the quiet since our departure,
and the fine grass and good cool water had done much to re-establish our
animals. All heard with great delight the order to turn our faces
homeward; and towards sundown of the 17th, we encamped again at the Two

In the course of this afternoon's march, the barometer was broken past
remedy. I regretted it, as I was desirous to compare it again with Dr.
Engleman's barometers at St. Louis, to which mine were referred; but it
had done its part well, and my objects were mainly fulfilled.

19th.--We left our camp on Little Sandy river about seven in the morning,
and traversed the same sandy, undulating country. The air was filled with
the turpentine scent of the various _artemisias_, which are now in
bloom, and, numerous as they are, give much gayety to the landscape of the
plains. At ten o'clock, we stood exactly on the divide in the pass, where
the wagon-road crosses; and, descending immediately upon the Sweet Water,
halted to take a meridian observation of the sun. The latitude was 42 deg. 24'

In the course of the afternoon we saw buffalo again, and at our evening
halt on the Sweet Water the roasted ribs again made their appearance
around the fires; and, with them, good humor, and laughter and song, were
restored to the camp. Our coffee had been expended, but we now made a kind
of tea from the roots of the wild-cherry tree.

23d.--Yesterday evening we reached our encampment at Rock Independence,
where I took some astronomical observations. Here, not unmindful of the
custom of early travelers and explorers in our country, I engraved on this
rock of the Far West a symbol of the Christian faith. Among the thickly
inscribed names, I made on the hard granite the impression of a large
cross, which I covered with a black preparation of India-rubber, well
calculated to resist the influence of wind and rain. It stands amidst the
names of many who have long since found their way to the grave, and for
whom the huge rock is a giant gravestone.

One George Weymouth was sent out to Maine by the Earl of Southampton, Lord
Arundel, and others; and in the narrative of their discoveries, he says:
"The next day we ascended in our pinnace that part of the river which lies
more to the westward, carrying with us a cross--a thing never omitted by
any Christian traveler--which we erected at the ultimate end of our
route." This was in the year 1605; and in 1842 I obeyed the feeling of
early travelers, and left the impression of the cross deeply engraved on
the vast rock one thousand miles beyond the Mississippi, to which
discoverers have given the national name of _Rock Independence_.

In obedience to my instructions to survey the river Platte, if possible, I
had determined to make an attempt at this place. The India-rubber boat was
filled with air, placed in the water, and loaded with what was necessary
for our operations; and I embarked with Mr. Preuss and a party of men.
When we had dragged our boat a mile or two over the sands, I abandoned the
impossible undertaking, and waited for the arrival of the party, when we
packed up our boat and equipage, and at nine o'clock were again moving
along on our land journey. We continued along the valley on the right bank
of the Sweet Water, where the formation, as already described, consists of
a grayish micaceous sandstone, and fine-grained conglomerate, and marl. We
passed over a ridge which borders or constitutes the river hills of the
Platte, consisting of huge blocks, sixty or eighty feet cube, of
decomposing granite. The cement which united them was probably of easier
decomposition, and has disappeared and left them isolate, and separated by
small spaces. Numerous horns of the mountain-goat were lying among the
rocks; and in the ravines were cedars, whose trunks were of extraordinary
size. From this ridge we descended to a small open plain, at the mouth of
the Sweet Water, which rushed with a rapid current into the Platte, here
flowing along in a broad and apparently deep stream, which seemed, from
its turbid appearance, to be considerably swollen. I obtained here some
astronomical observations, and the afternoon was spent in getting our boat
ready for navigation the next day.

24th.--We started before sunrise, intending to breakfast at Goat island. I
had directed the land party, in charge of Bernier, to proceed to this
place, where they were to remain, should they find no note to apprize them
of our having passed. In the event of receiving this information, they
were to continue their route, passing by certain places which had been
designated. Mr. Preuss accompanied me, and with us were five of my best
men, viz.: C. Lambert, Basil Lajeunesse, Honore Ayot, Benoist, and
Descoteaux. Here appeared no scarcity of water, and we took on board, with
various instruments and baggage, provisions for ten or twelve days. We
paddled down the river rapidly, for our little craft was light as a duck
on the water; and the sun had been some time risen, when we heard before
us a hollow roar, which we supposed to be that of a fall, of which we had
heard a vague rumor, but whose exact locality no one had been able to
describe to us. We were approaching a ridge, through which the river
passes by a place called "canon," (pronounced _kanyon_,)--a Spanish
word, signifying a piece of artillery, the barrel of a gun, or any kind of
tube; and which, in this country, has been adopted to describe the passage
of a river between perpendicular rocks of great height, which frequently
approach each other so closely overhead as to form a kind of tunnel over
the stream, which foams along below, half choked up by fallen fragments.
Between the mouth of the Sweet Water and Goat island, there is probably a
fall of three hundred feet, and that was principally made in the canons
before us; as, without them, the water was comparatively smooth. As we
neared the ridge, the river made a sudden turn, and swept squarely down
against one of the walls of the canon, with great velocity, and so steep a
descent that it had, to the eye, the appearance of an inclined plane. When
we launched into this, the men jumped overboard, to check the velocity of
the boat; but were soon in water up to their necks, and our boat ran on.
But we succeeded in bringing her to a small point of rocks on the right,
at the mouth of the canon. Here was a kind of elevated sand-beach, not
many yards square, backed by the rocks; and around the point the river
swept at a right angle. Trunks of trees deposited on jutting points,
twenty or thirty feet above, and other marks, showed that the water here
frequently rose to a considerable height. The ridge was of the same
decomposing granite already mentioned, and the water had worked the
surface, in many places, into a wavy surface of ridges and holes. We
ascended the rocks to reconnoitre the ground, and from the summit the
passage appeared to be a continued cataract, foaming over many
obstructions, and broken by a number of small falls. We saw nowhere a fall
answering to that which had been described to us as having twenty or
twenty-five feet; but still concluded this to be the place in question,
as, in the season of floods, the rush of the river against the wall would
produce a great rise; and the waters, reflected squarely off, would
descend through the passage in a sheet of foam, having every appearance of
a large fall. Eighteen years previous to this time, as I have subsequently
learned from himself, Mr. Fitzpatrick, somewhere above on this river, had
embarked with a valuable cargo of beaver. Unacquainted with the stream,
which he believed would conduct him safely to the Missouri, he came
unexpectedly into this canon, where he was wrecked, with the total loss of
his furs. It would have been a work of great time and labor to pack our
baggage across the ridge, and I determined to run the canon. We all again
embarked, and at first attempted to check the way of the boat; but the
water swept through with so much violence that we narrowly escaped being
swamped, and were obliged to let her go in the full force of the current,
and trust to the skill of the boatmen. The dangerous places in this canon
were where huge rocks had fallen from above, and hemmed in the already
narrow pass of the river to an open space of three or four and five feet.
These obstructions raised the water considerably above, which was
sometimes precipitated over in a fall; and at other places, where this dam
was too high, rushed through the contracted opening with tremendous
violence. Had our boat been made of wood, in passing the narrows she would
have been staved; but her elasticity preserved her unhurt from every
shock, and she seemed fairly to leap over the falls.

In this way we passed three cataracts in succession, where perhaps 100
feet of smooth water intervened; and, finally, with a shout of pleasure at
our success, issued from our tunnel into the open day beyond. We were so
delighted with the performance of our boat, and so confident in her
powers, that we would not have hesitated to leap a fall of ten feet with
her. We put to shore for breakfast at some willows on the right bank,
immediately below the mouth of the canon; for it was now eight o'clock,
and we had been working since daylight, and were all wet, fatigued, and
hungry. While the men were preparing breakfast, I went out to reconnoitre.
The view was very limited. The course of the river was smooth, so far as I
could see; on both sides were broken hills; and but a mile or two below
was another high ridge. The rock at the mouth of the canon was still the
decomposing granite, with great quantities of mica, which made a very
glittering sand.

We re-embarked at nine o'clock, and in about twenty minutes reached the
next canon. Landing on a rocky shore at its commencement, we ascended the
ridge to reconnoitre. Portage was out of the question. So far as we could
see, the jagged rocks pointed out the course of the canon, on a winding
line of seven or eight miles. It was simply a narrow, dark chasm in the
rock; and here the perpendicular faces were much higher than in the
previous pass, being at this end two to three hundred, and further down,
as we afterwards ascertained, five hundred feet in vertical height. Our
previous success had made us bold, and we determined again to run the
canon. Every thing was secured as firmly as possible; and having divested
ourselves of the greater part of our clothing, we pushed into the stream.
To save our chronometer from accident, Mr. Preuss took it, and attempted
to proceed along the shore on the masses of rock, which in places were
piled up on either side; but, after he had walked about five minutes,
every thing like shore disappeared, and the vertical wall came squarely
down into the water. He therefore waited until we came up. An ugly pass
lay before us. We had made fast to the stern of the boat a strong rope
about fifty feet long; and three of the men clambered along among the
rocks, and with this rope let her slowly through the pass. In several
places high rocks lay scattered about in the channel; and in the narrows
it required all our strength and skill to avoid staving the boat on the
sharp points. In one of these, the boat proved a little too broad, and
stuck fast for an instant, while the water flew over us; fortunately, it
was but for an instant, as our united strength forced her immediately
through. The water swept overboard only a sextant and a pair of saddle-
bags. I caught the sextant as it passed by me; but the saddle-bags became
the prey of the whirlpools. We reached the place where Mr. Preuss was
standing, took him on board, and, with the aid of the boat, put the men
with the rope on the succeeding pile of rocks. We found this passage much
worse than the previous one, and our position was rather a bad one. To go
back was impossible; before us, the cataract was a sheet of foam; and shut
up in the chasm by the rocks, which, in some places, seemed almost to meet
overhead, the roar of the water was deafening. We pushed off again; but,
after making a little distance, the force of the current became too great
for the men on shore, and two of them let go the rope. Lajeunesse, the
third man, hung on, and was jerked headforemost into the river from a rock
about twelve feet high; and down the boat shot like an arrow, Basil
following us in the rapid current, and exerting all his strength to keep
in mid channel--his head only seen occasionally like a black spot in the
white foam. How far we went, I do not exactly know; but we succeeded in
turning the boat into an eddy below. "'_Cre Dieu_," said Basil
Lajeunesse, as he arrived immediately after us, "_Je crois bien que j'ai
nage un demi mile_." He had owed his life to his skill as a swimmer,
and I determined to take him and the two others on board, and trust to
skill and fortune to reach the other end in safety. We placed ourselves on
our knees with the short paddles in our hands, the most skilful boatman
being at the bow; and again we commenced our rapid descent. We cleared
rock after rock, and shot past fall after fall, our little boat seeming to
play with the cataract. We became flushed with success, and familiar with
the danger; and, yielding to the excitement of the occasion, broke forth
into a Canadian boat-song. Singing, or rather shouting; we dashed along,
and were, I believe, in the midst of the chorus, when the boat struck a
concealed rock immediately at the foot of a fall, which whirled her over
in an instant. Three of my men could not swim, and my first feeling was to
assist them, and save some of our effects; but a sharp concussion or two
convinced me that I had not yet saved myself. A few strokes brought me
into an eddy, and I landed on a pile of rocks on the left side. Looking
around, I saw that Mr. Preuss had gained the shore on the same side, about
twenty yards below; and a little climbing and swimming soon brought him to
my side. On the opposite side, against the wall, lay the boat bottom up;
and Lambert was in the act of saving Descoteaux, whom he had grasped by
the hair, and who could not swim; "_Lache pas_," said he, as I
afterwards learned, "_lache pas, cher frere_." "_Crains pas_,"
was the reply: "_je m'en vais mourir avant que de te lacher_." Such
was the reply of courage and generosity in this danger. For a hundred
yards below the current was covered with floating books and boxes, bales
and blankets, and scattered articles of clothing; and so strong and
boiling was the stream, that even our heavy instruments, which were all in
cases, kept on the surface, and the sextant, circle, and the long black
box of the telescope, were in view at once. For a moment, I felt somewhat
disheartened. All our books--almost every record of the journey--our
journals and registers of astronomical and barometrical observations--had
been lost in a moment. But it was no time to indulge in regrets; and I
immediately set about endeavoring to save something from the wreck. Making
ourselves understood as well as possible by signs, (for nothing could be
heard in the roar of the waters,) we commenced our operations. Of every
thing on board, the only article that had been saved was my double-
barreled gun, which Descoteaux had caught and clung to with drowning
tenacity. The men continued down the river on the left bank. Mr. Preuss
and myself descended on the side we were on; and Lajeunesse, with a paddle
in his hand, jumped on the boat alone, and continued down the canon. She
was now light, and cleared every bad place with much less difficulty. In a
short time he was joined by Lambert, and the search was continued for
about a mile and a half, which was as far as the boat could proceed in the

Here the walls were about five hundred feet high, and the fragments of
rocks from above had choked the river into a hollow pass, but one or two
feet above the surface. Through this and the interstices of the rock, the
water found its way. Favored beyond our expectations, all of our registers
had been recovered, with the exception of one of my journals, which
contained the notes and incidents of travel, and topographical
descriptions, a number of scattered astronomical observations, principally
meridian altitudes of the sun, and our barometrical register west of
Laramie. Fortunately, our other journals contained duplicates of the most
important barometrical observations which had been taken in the mountains.
These, with a few scattered notes, were all that had been preserved of our
meteorological observations. In addition to these, we saved the circle;
and these, with a few blankets, constituted every thing that had been
rescued from the waters.

The day was running rapidly away, and it was necessary to reach Goat
island, whither the party had preceded us, before night. In this uncertain
country, the traveler is so much in the power of chance, that we became
somewhat uneasy in regard to them. Should any thing have occurred, in the
brief interval of our separation, to prevent our rejoining them, our
situation would be rather a desperate one. We had not a morsel of
provisions--our arms and ammunition were gone--and we were entirely at the
mercy of any straggling party of savages, and not a little in danger of
starvation. We therefore set out at once in two parties, Mr. Preuss and
myself on the left, and the men on the opposite side of the river.
Climbing out of the canon, we found ourselves in a very broken country,
where we were not yet able to recognise any locality. In the course of our
descent through the canon, the rocks, which at the upper end was of the
decomposing granite, changed into a varied sandstone formation. The hills
and points of the ridges were covered with fragments of a yellow
sandstone, of which the strata were sometimes displayed in the broken
ravines which interrupted our course, and made our walk extremely
fatiguing. At one point of the canon the red argillaceous sandstone rose
in a wall of five hundred feet, surmounted by a stratum of white
sandstone; and in an opposite ravine a column of red sandstone rose, in
form like a steeple, about one hundred and fifty feet high. The scenery
was extremely picturesque, and notwithstanding our forlorn condition, we
were frequently obliged to stop and admire it. Our progress was not very
rapid. We had emerged from the water half naked, and, on arriving at the
top of the precipice, I found myself with only one moccasin. The fragments
of rock made walking painful, and I was frequently obliged to stop and
pull out the thorns of the _cactus_, here the prevailing plant, and
with which a few minutes' walk covered the bottoms of my feet. From this
ridge the river emerged into a smiling prairie, and, descending to the
bank for water, we were joined by Benoist. The rest of the party were out
of sight, having taken a more inland route. We crossed the river
repeatedly--sometimes able to ford it, and sometimes swimming--climbed
over the ridges of two more canons, and towards evening reached the cut,
which we here named the Hot Spring gate. On our previous visit in July, we
had not entered this pass, reserving it for our descent in the boat; and
when we entered it this evening, Mr. Preuss was a few hundred feet in
advance. Heated with the long march, he came suddenly upon a fine bold
spring gushing from the rock, about ten feet above the river. Eager to
enjoy the crystal water, he threw himself down for a hasty draught, and
took a mouthful of water almost boiling hot. He said nothing to Benoist,
who laid himself down to drink; but the steam from the water arrested his
eagerness, and he escaped the hot draught. We had no thermometer to
ascertain the temperature, but I could hold my hand in the water just long
enough to count two seconds. There are eight or ten of these springs
discharging themselves by streams large enough to be called runs. A loud
hollow noise was heard from the rock, which I supposed to be produced by
the fall of water. The strata immediately where they issue is a fine white
and calcareous sandstone, covered with an incrustation of common salt.
Leaving this Thermopylae of the west, in a short walk we reached the red
ridge which has been described as lying just above Goat island. Ascending
this, we found some fresh tracks and a button, which showed that the other
men had already arrived. A shout from the man who first reached the top of
the ridge, responded to from below, informed us that our friends were all
on the island; and we were soon among them. We found some pieces of
buffalo standing around the fire for us, and managed to get some dry
clothes among the people. A sudden storm of rain drove us into the best
shelter we could find, where we slept soundly, after one of the most
fatiguing days I have ever experienced.

25th.--Early this morning Lajeunesse was sent to the wreck for the
articles which had been saved, and about noon we left the island. The mare
which we had left here in July had much improved in condition, and she
served us well again for some time, but was finally abandoned at a
subsequent part of the journey. At 10 in the morning of the 26th we
reached Cache camp, where we found every thing undisturbed. We disinterred
our deposite, arranged our carts which had been left here on the way out;
and, traveling a few miles in the afternoon, encamped for the night at the
ford of the Platte.

27th.--At mid-day we halted at the place where we had taken dinner on the
27th of July. The country which, when we passed up, looked as if the hard
winter frosts had passed over it, had now assumed a new face, so much of
vernal freshness had been given to it by the rains. The Platte was
exceedingly low--a mere line of water among the sandbars. We reached
Laramie fort on the last day of August, after an absence of forty-two
days, and had the pleasure to find our friends all well. The fortieth day
had been fixed for our return; and the quick eyes of the Indians, who were
on the lookout for us, discovered our flag as we wound among the hills.
The fort saluted us with repeated discharges of its single piece, which we
returned with scattered volleys of our small-arms, and felt the joy of a
home reception in getting back to this remote station, which seemed so far
off as we went out.


On the morning of the 3d September we bade adieu to our kind friends at
the fort, and continued our homeward journey down the Platte, which was
glorious with the autumnal splendor of innumerable flowers in full and
brilliant bloom. On the warm sands, among the _helianthi_, one of the
characteristic plants, we saw great numbers of rattlesnakes, of which five
or six were killed in the morning's ride. We occupied ourselves in
improving our previous survey of the river; and, as the weather was fine,
astronomical observations were generally made at night and at noon.

We halted for a short time on the afternoon of the 5th with a village of
Sioux Indians, some of whose chiefs we had met at Laramie. The water in
the Platte was exceedingly low; in many places, the large expanse of
sands, with some occasional stunted tree on its banks, gave it the air of
the seacoast; the bed of the river being merely a succession of sandbars,
among which the channel was divided into rivulets of a few inches deep. We
crossed and recrossed with our carts repeatedly and at our pleasure; and,
whenever an obstruction barred our way in the shape of precipitous bluffs
that came down upon the river, we turned directly into it, and made our
way along the sandy bed, with no other inconvenience than the frequent
quicksands, which greatly fatigued our animals. Disinterring on the way
the _cache_ which had been made by our party when they ascended the
river, we reached without accident, on the evening of the 12th of
September, our old encampment of the 2d of July, at the junction of the
forks. Our _cache_ of the barrel of pork was found undisturbed, and
proved a seasonable addition to our stock of provisions. At this place I
had determined to make another attempt to descend the Platte by water, and
accordingly spent two days in the construction of a bull boat. Men were
sent out on the evening of our arrival, the necessary number of bulls
killed, and their skins brought to the camp. Four of the best of them were
strongly sewed together with buffalo sinew, and stretched over a basket
frame of willow. The seams were then covered with ashes and tallow, and
the boat left exposed to the sun for the greater part of one day, which
was sufficient to dry and contract the skin, and make the whole work solid
and strong. It had a rounded bow, was eight feet long and five broad, and
drew with four men about four inches water. On the morning of the 15th we
embarked in our hide boat, Mr. Preuss and myself, with two men. We dragged
her over the sands for three or four miles, and then left her on a bar,
and abandoned entirely all further attempts to navigate this river. The
names given by the Indians are always remarkably appropriate; and
certainly none was ever more so than that which they have given to this
stream--"The Nebraska, or Shallow river." Walking steadily the remainder
of the day, a little before dark we overtook our people at their remaining
camp, about twenty-one miles below the junction. The next morning we
crossed the Platte, and continued our way down the river bottom on the
left bank, where we found an excellent, plainly-beaten road.

On the 18th we reached Grand Island, which is fifty-two miles long, with
an average breadth of one mile and three-quarters. It has on it some small
eminences, and is sufficiently elevated to be secure from the annual
floods of the river. As has been already remarked, it is well timbered;
with an excellent soil, and recommends itself to notice as the best point
for a military position on the Lower Platte.

On the 22d we arrived at the village of the Grand Pawnees, on the right
bank of the river, about thirty miles above the mouth of the Loup fork.
They were gathering in their corn, and we obtained from them a very
welcome supply of vegetables.

The morning of the 24th we reached the Loup fork of the Platte. At the
place where we forded it, this stream was four hundred and thirty yards
broad, with a swift current of _clear_ water; in this respect,
differing from the Platte, which has a yellow muddy color, derived from
the limestone and marl formation, of which we have previously spoken. The
ford was difficult, as the water was so deep that it came into the body of
the carts, and we reached the opposite bank after repeated attempts,
ascending and descending the bed of the river, in order to avail ourselves
of the bars. We encamped on the left bank of the fork, in the point of
land at its junction with the Platte. During the two days that we remained
here for astronomical observations, the bad weather permitted us to obtain
but one good observation for the latitude--a meridian altitude of the sun,
which gave for the latitude of the mouth of the Loup fork, 41 deg. 22' 11".

Five or six days previously, I had sent forward C. Lambert, with two men,
to Bellevue, with directions to ask from Mr. P. Sarpy, the gentleman in
charge of the American Company's establishment at that place, the aid of
his carpenters in constructing a boat, in which I proposed to descend the
Missouri. On the afternoon of the 27th we met one of the men, who had been
dispatched by Mr. Sarpy with a welcome supply of provisions and a very
kind note, which gave us the very gratifying intelligence that our boat
was in rapid progress. On the evening of the 30th we encamped in an almost
impenetrable undergrowth on the left bank of the Platte, in the point of
land at its confluence with the Missouri--315 miles, according to our
reckoning, from the junction of the forks, and 520 from Fort Laramie. From
the junction we had found the bed of the Platte occupied with numerous
islands, many of them very large, and all well timbered; possessing, as
well as the bottom lands of the river, a very excellent soil. With the
exception of some scattered groves on the banks, the bottoms are generally
without timber. A portion of these consist of low grounds, covered with a
profusion of fine grasses, and are probably inundated in the spring; the
remaining part is high river prairie, entirely beyond the influence of the
floods. The breadth of the river is usually three-quarters of a mile,
except where it is enlarged by islands. That portion of its course which
is occupied by Grand island has an average breadth, from shore to shore,
of two and a half miles.


1st.--I rose this morning long before daylight, and heard with a feeling
of pleasure the tinkling of cow-bells at the settlements on the opposite
side of the Missouri. Early in the day we reached Mr. Sarpy's residence;
and, in the security and comfort of his hospitable mansion, felt the
pleasure of being within the pale of civilization. We found our boat on
the stocks; a few days sufficed to complete her; and, in the afternoon of
the 4th, we embarked on the Missouri. All our equipage--horses, carts, and
the _materiel_ of the camp--had been sold at public auction at
Bellevue. The strength of my party enabled me to man the boat with ten
oars, relieved every hour; and we descended rapidly. Early on the morning
of the 10th, we halted to make some astronomical observations at the mouth
of the Kansas, exactly four months since we had left the trading-post of
Mr. Cyprian Chouteau, on the same river, ten miles above. On our descent
to this place, we had employed ourselves in surveying and sketching the
Missouri, making astronomical observations regularly at night and at mid-
day, whenever the weather permitted. These operations on the river were
continued until our arrival at the city of St. Louis, Missouri, on the
17th. At St. Louis, the sale of our remaining effects was made; and,
leaving that city by steamboat on the 18th, I had the honor to report to
you at the city of Washington on the 29th of October.

Very respectfully, sir,
Your obedient servant,
_2d Lieutenant Corps of Topographical Engineers._

* * * * *


_The Longitudes given in the subjoined Table are referred to the
meridian of Greenwich._

For the determination of astronomical positions, we were provided with the
following instruments:

Book of the day: