Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

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

Part 3 out of 9

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.1 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

One telescope, magnifying power 120.
One circle, by Gambey, Paris.
One sextant, by Gambey, Paris.
One sextant, by Troughton.
One box chronometer, No.7,810, by French.
One Brockbank pocket chronometer.
One small watch with a light chronometer balance, No.
4,632, by Arnold and Dent.

The rate of the chronometer, 7,810, is exhibited in the following statement:

"NEW YORK, May 5, 1842
"Chronometer No. 7,810, by French, is this day at noon--
"_Slow_ of Greenwich mean time, 11' 4"
"_Fast_ of New York mean time, 4_h._ 45' 1"
"Loses per day 2".7
"ARTHUR STEWART, 74 Merchants' Exchange."

An accident among some rough ground in the neighborhood of the Kansas
river, strained the balance of this chronometer, (No. 7,810) and rendered
it useless during the remainder of the campaign. From the 9th of June to
the 24th of August, inclusively, the longitudes depend upon the Brockbank
pocket chronometer; the rate of which, on leaving St. Louis, was fourteen
seconds. The rate obtained by observations at Fort Laramie, 14".05, has
been used in calculation.

From the 24th of August until the termination of the journey, No. 4,632
(of which the rate was 35".79) was used for the same purposes. The rate of
this watch was irregular, and I place little confidence in the few
longitudes which depend upon it, though, so far as we have any means of
judging, they appear tolerably correct.

_Table of Latitudes and Longitudes, deduced from Observations made
during the Journey._

Date Station Latitude. Longitude.

1842 Deg. min. sec. Deg. min. sec.

May 27 St. Louis, residence
of Colonel Brunt,.......38 37 34
June 8 Chouteau's lower
trading-post; Kansas
river,..................39 05 57 94 25 46
16 Left bank of Kansas
river. 7 miles above
the ford,...............39 06 40 95 38 05
18 Vermilion creek.........39 15 19 96 04 07
19 Cold springs, near
the road to Laramie,..39 30 40 96 14 49
20 Big Blue river, ........39 45 08 96 32 35
25 Little Blue river, .....40 26 50 98 22 12
26 Right bank of Platte
river,..................40 41 06 98 45 49
27 Right bank of Platte
river...................40 39 32 99 05 24
28 Right bank of Platte
river, .................40 39 51
30 Right bank of Platte
river...................40 39 55 100 05 47
July 2 Junction of north and
south forks of the
Nebraska or Platte
river,..................41 05 05 100 49 43
4 South fork of Platte
river, left bank,
6 South fork of Platte
river, island...........40 51 17 103 07
7 South fork of Platte
river, left bank........40 53 26 103 30 37
11 South fork of Platte
river, St. Vrain's
fort ,..................40 22 35 105 12 12
12 Crow creek,.............40 41 59 104 57 49
13 On a stream, name
unknown ................41 08 30 104 39 37
14 Horse creek. Goshen's
hole? ..................41 40 13 104 24 36
16 Fort Laramie, near
the mouth of Laramie's
fork, ..................42 12 10 104 47 43
23 North fork of Platte
river...................42 39 25 104 59 59
24 North fork of Platte
river...................42 47 40
25 North fork of Platte
river, Dried Meat camp..42 51 35 105 50 15
26 North fork of Platte
river, noon halt........42 50 08
26 North fork of Platte
river, mouth of Deer
creek,..................42 52 24 106 08 24
28 North fork of Platte
river, Cache camp,......42 50 53 106 38 26
29 North fork of Platte
river, left bank........42 38 01 106 54 32
30 North fork of Platte
river, Goat island......42 33 27 107 13 29
Aug. 1 Sweet Water river,
one mile below Rock
Independence,...........42 29 56 107 25 23
4 Sweet Water river.......42 32 31 108 30 13
7 Sweet Water river.......42 27 15 109 21 32
8 Little Sandy creek,
tributary to the
Colorado of the West,...42 27 34 109 37 59
9 New fork, tributary to
the Colorado,...........42 42 46 109 58 11
10 Mountain lake,... ......42 49 49 110 08 03
15 Highest peak of the
Wind River mountains,
19 Sweet Water, noon
halt,...................42 24 32
19 Sweet Water river,......42 22 22
20 Sweet Water river,......42 31 46
22 Sweet Water river,
noon halt,..............42 26 10
22 Sweet Water river,
Rock Independence,......42 29 36
23 North fork of Platte
river, mouth of Sweet
Water, .................42 27 18
30 Horse-shoe creek,
noon halt,..............42 24 24
Sept 3 North fork of Platte
river, right bank,......42 01 40
4 North fork of Platte
river, near Scott's
bluffs..................41 54 38
5 North fork of Platte
river, right bank,
six miles above
Chimney rock,...........41 43 36
8 North fork of Platte
river, mouth of Ash
creek,..................41 17 19
9 North fork of Platte
river, right bank.......41 14 30
10 North fork of Platte
river, Cedar bluff,.....41 10 16
16 Platte river, noon
halt....................40 54 31
16 Platte river, left
bank, ..................40 52 74
17 Platte river, left
bank,...................40 42 38
18 Platte river, left
bank, ..................40 40 21
19 Platte river, left
bank....................40 39 44
20 Platte river, noon
halt, left bank, .......40 48 19
20 Platte river, left
bank,...................40 54 02
21 Platte river, left
bank ...................41 05 37
23 Platte river, noon
halt, left bank.........41 20 20
23 Platte river, left
bank ...................41 22 52
25 Platte river, mouth
of Loup fork,...........41 22 11
28 Platte river, mouth
of Elk Horn river.......41 09 34
29 Platte river, left
bank,...................41 02 15
Oct. 2 Bellevue, at the post
of the American Fur
Company, right bank of
the Missouri river......41 08 24 95 20
4 Left bank of the
Missouri, opposite to
the right bank of the
mouth of the Platte.....41 02 11
5 Missouri river,.........40 34 08
6 Bertholet's island,
noon halt,..............40 27 08
6 Missouri river, mouth
of Nishnabatona river, .40 16 40
8 Missouri river, left
bank ...................39 36 02
10 Missouri river, mouth
of the Kansas river.....39 06 03

* * * * *





IN THE YEARS 1843-'44.

Washington City, March 1, 1845

To Colonel J.J. ABERT, _Chief of the Corps of Top. Engineers:_

SIR:--In pursuance of your instructions, to connect the reconnoisance of
1842, which I had the honor to conduct, with the surveys of Commander
Wilkes on the coast of the Pacific ocean, so as to give a connected survey
of the interior of our continent, I proceeded to the Great West early in
the spring of 1843, and arrived, on the 17th of May, at the little town of
Kansas, on the Missouri frontier, near the junction of the Kansas river
with the Missouri river, where I was detained near two weeks in completing
the necessary preparations for the extended explorations which my
instructions contemplated.

My party consisted principally of Creole and Canadian French, and
Americans, amounting in all to thirty-nine men; among whom you will
recognise several of those who were with me in my first expedition, and
who have been favorably brought to your notice in a former report. Mr.
Thomas Fitzpatrick, whom many years of hardship and exposure, in the
western territories, had rendered familiar with a portion of the country
it was designed to explore, had been selected as our guide; and Mr.
Charles Preuss, who had been my assistant in a previous journey, was again
associated with me in the same capacity on the present expedition.
Agreeably to your directions, Mr. Theodore Talbot, of Washington city, had
been attached to the party, with a view to advancement in his profession;
and at St. Louis had been joined by Mr. Frederick Dwight, a gentleman of
Springfield, Massachusetts, who availed himself of our overland journey to
visit the Sandwich Islands and China, by way of Fort Vancouver.

The men engaged for the service were: Alexis Ayot, Francis Badeau, Oliver
Beaulieu, Baptiste Bernier, John A. Campbell, John G. Campbell, Manuel
Chapman, Ransom Clark, Philibert Courteau, Michel Crelis, William Creuss,
Clinton Deforest, Baptiste Derosier, Basil Lajeunesse, Francois
Lajeunesse, Henry Lee, Louis Menard, Louis Montreuil, Samuel Neal, Alexis
Pera, Francois Pera, James Power, Raphael Proue, Oscar Sarpy, Baptiste
Tabeau, Charles Taplin, Baptiste Tesson, Auguste Vasquez, Joseph Verrot,
Patrick White, Tiery Wright, Louis Zindel, and Jacob Dodson, a free young
colored man of Washington city, who volunteered to accompany the
expedition, and performed his duty manfully throughout the voyage. Two
Delaware Indians--a fine-looking old man and his son--were engaged to
accompany the expedition as hunters, through the kindness of Major
Cummins, the excellent Indian agent. L. Maxwell, who had accompanied the
expedition as one of the hunters in 1842, being on his way to Taos, in New
Mexico, also joined us at this place.

The party was generally armed with Hall's carbines, which with a brass
twelve-pound howitzer, had been furnished to me from the United States
arsenal at St. Louis, agreeably to the orders of Colonel S.W. Kearney,
commanding the third military division. Three men were especially detailed
for the management of this piece, under the charge of Louis Zindel, a
native of Germany, who had been nineteen years a non-commissioned officer
of artillery in the Prussian army, and regularly instructed in the duties
of his profession. The camp equipage and provisions were transported in
twelve carts, drawn each by two mules; and a light covered wagon, mounted
on good springs, had been provided for the safer carriage of instruments.
These were:

One refracting telescope, by Frauenhofer.
One reflecting circle, by Gambey.
Two sextants, by Troughton.
One pocket chronometer, No. 837, by Goffe, Falmouth.
One pocket chronometer, No. 739, by Brockbank.
One syphon barometer, by Bunten, Paris.
One cistern barometer, by Frye and Shaw, New York.
Six thermometers, and a number of small compasses.

To make the exploration as useful as possible, I determined, in conformity
to your general instructions, to vary the route to the Rocky mountains
from that followed in 1842. The route was then up the valley of the Great
Platte river to the South Pass, in north latitude 42 deg.; the route now
determined on was up the valley of the Kansas river, and to the head of
the Arkansas river, and to some pass in the mountains, if any could be
found, at the sources of that river.

By making this deviation from the former route, the problem of a new road
to Oregon and California, in a climate more genial, might be solved; and a
better knowledge obtained of an important river, and the country it
drained, while the great object of the expedition would find its point of
commencement at the termination of the former, which was at that great
gate in the ridge of the Rocky mountains called the South Pass, and on the
lofty peak of the mountain which overlooks it, deemed the highest peak in
the ridge, and from the opposite side of which four great rivers take
their rise, and flow to the Pacific or the Mississippi.

Various obstacles delayed our departure until the morning of the 29th,
when we commenced our long voyage; and at the close of a day, rendered
disagreeably cold by incessant rain, encamped about four miles beyond the
frontier, on the verge of the great prairies.

Resuming our journey on the 31st, after the delay of a day to complete our
equipment and furnish ourselves with some of the comforts of civilized
life, we encamped in the evening at Elm Grove, in company with several
emigrant wagons, constituting a party which was proceeding to Upper
California, under the direction of Mr. J.B. Childs, of Missouri. The
wagons were variously freighted with goods, furniture, and farming
utensils, containing among other things an entire set of machinery for a
mill which Mr. Childs designed erecting on the waters of the Sacramento
river, emptying into the bay of San Francisco.

We were joined here by Mr. Wm. Gilpin of Mo., who, intending this year to
visit the settlements in Oregon, had been invited to accompany us, and
proved a useful and agreeable addition to the party.


From Elm Grove, our route until the third of June was nearly the same as
that described to you in 1842. Trains of wagons were almost constantly in
sight; giving to the road a populous and animated appearance, although the
greater portion of the emigrants were collected at the crossing, or
already on their march beyond the Kansas river. Leaving at the ford the
usual emigrant road to the mountains, we continued our route along the
southern side of the Kansas, where we found the country much more broken
than on the northern side of the river, and where our progress was much
delayed by the numerous small streams, which obliged us to make frequent
bridges. On the morning of the 4th we crossed a handsome stream, called by
the Indians Otter creek, about 130 feet wide, where a flat stratum of
limestone, which forms the bed, made an excellent ford. We met here a
small party of Kansas and Delaware Indians, the latter returning from a
hunting and trapping expedition on the upper waters of the river; and on
the heights above were five or six Kansas women, engaged in digging
prairie potatoes, (_psoralea esculenta_.) On the afternoon of the
6th, whilst busily engaged in crossing a wooded stream, we were thrown
into a little confusion by the sudden arrival of Maxwell, who entered the
camp at full speed at the head of a war party of Osage Indians, with gay
red blankets, and heads shaved to the scalp lock. They had run him a
distance of about nine miles, from a creek on which we had encamped the
day previous, and to which he had returned in search of a runaway horse
belonging to Mr. Dwight, which had taken the homeward road, carrying with
him saddle, bridle, and holster-pistols. The Osages were probably ignorant
of our strength, and, when they charged into the camp, drove off a number
of our best horses; but we were fortunately well mounted, and, after a
hard chase of seven or eight miles, succeeded in recovering them all. This
accident, which occasioned delay and trouble, and threatened danger and
loss, and broke down some good horses at the start, and actually
endangered the expedition, was a first fruit of having gentlemen in
company--very estimable, to be sure, but who are not trained to the care
and vigilance and self-dependence which such an expedition required, and
who are not subject to the orders which enforce attention and exertion. We
arrived on the 8th at the mouth of the Smoky-hill fork, which is the
principal southern branch of the Kansas; forming here, by its junction
with the Republican, or northern branch, the main Kansas river. Neither
stream was fordable, and the necessity of making a raft, together with bad
weather, detained us here until the morning of the 11th; when we resumed
our journey along the Republican fork. By our observations, the junction
of the streams is in lat. 39 deg. 30' 38", long. 96 deg. 24' 36", and at an
elevation of 926 feet above the Gulf of Mexico. For several days we
continued to travel along the Republican, through a country beautifully
watered with numerous streams, and handsomely timbered; and rarely an
incident occurred to vary the monotonous resemblance which one day on the
prairies here bears to another, and which scarcely require a particular
description. Now and then, we caught a glimpse of a small herd of elk; and
occasionally a band of antelopes, whose curiosity sometimes brought them
within rifle range, would circle round us and then scour off into the
prairies. As we advanced on our road, these became more frequent; but as
we journeyed on the line usually followed by the trapping and hunting
parties of the Kansas and Delaware Indians, game of every kind continued
very shy and wild. The bottoms which form the immediate valley of the main
river were generally about three miles wide; having a rich soil of black
vegetable mould, and, for a prairie country, well interspersed with wood.
The country was everywhere covered with a considerable variety of grasses,
occasionally poor and thin, but far more frequently luxuriant and rich. We
had been gradually and regularly ascending in our progress westward, and
on the evening of the 14th, when we encamped on a little creek in the
valley of the Republican, 265 miles by our traveling road from the mouth
of the Kansas, we were at an elevation of 1,520 feet. That part of the
river where we were now encamped is called by the Indians the _Big
Timber_. Hitherto our route had been laborious and extremely slow, the
unusually wet spring and constant rain having so saturated the whole
country that it was necessary to bridge every water-course, and, for days
together, our usual march averaged only five or six miles. Finding that at
such a rate of travel it would be impossible to comply with your
instructions, I determined at this place to divide the party, and, leaving
Mr. Fitzpatrick with twenty-five men in charge of the provisions and
heavier baggage of the camp, to proceed myself in advance, with a light
party of fifteen men, taking with me the howitzer and the light wagon
which carried the instruments.

Accordingly, on the morning of the 16th, the parties separated; and,
bearing a little out from the river, with a view of heading some of the
numerous affluents, after a few hours' travel over somewhat broken ground,
we entered upon an extensive and high level prairie, on which we encamped
towards evening at a little stream, where a single dry cottonwood afforded
the necessary fuel for preparing supper. Among a variety of grasses which
to-day made their first appearance, I noticed bunch-grass,
(_festuca_,) and buffalo-grass, (_sesleria dactlyloides_.)
Amorpha canescens (_lead plant_) continued the characteristic plant
of the country, and a narrow-leaved _lathyrus_ occurred during the
morning, in beautiful patches. _Sida coccinea_ occurred frequently,
with a _psoralea_ near _psoralea floribunda_, and a number of
plants not hitherto met, just verging into bloom. The water on which we
had encamped belonged to Solomon's fort of the Smoky-hill river, along
whose tributaries we continued to travel for several days.

The country afforded us an excellent road, the route being generally over
high and very level prairies; and we met with no other delay than being
frequently obliged to bridge one of the numerous streams, which were well
timbered with ash, elm, cottonwood, and a very large oak--the latter being
occasionally five and six feet in diameter, with a spreading summit.
_Sida coccinea_ is very frequent in vermilion-colored patches on the
high and low prairie; and I remarked that it has a very pleasant perfume.

The wild sensitive plant (_schrankia angustata_) occurs frequently,
generally on the dry prairies, in valleys of streams, and frequently on
the broken prairie bank. I remark that the leaflets close instantly to a
very light touch. _Amorpha_, with the same _psoralea_, and a
dwarf species of _lupinus_, are the characteristic plants.

On the 19th, in the afternoon, we crossed the Pawnee road to the Arkansas,
and traveling a few miles onward, the monotony of the prairies was
suddenly dispelled by the appearance of five or six buffalo bulls, forming
a vanguard of immense herds, among which we were traveling a few days
afterwards. Prairie dogs were seen for the first time during the day; and
we had the good fortune to obtain an antelope for supper. Our elevation
had now increased to 1,900 feet. _Sida coccinea_ was the
characteristic on the creek bottoms, and buffalo grass is becoming
abundant on the higher parts of the ridges.

21st.--During the forenoon we traveled up a branch of the creek on which
we had encamped, in a broken country, where, however, the dividing ridges
always afforded a good road. Plants were few; and with the short sward of
the buffalo-grass, which now prevailed everywhere, giving to the prairies
a smooth and mossy appearance, were mingled frequent patches of a
beautiful red grass, (_aristida pallens_,) which had made its
appearance only within the last few days.

We halted to noon at a solitary cottonwood in a hollow, near which was
killed the first buffalo, a large old bull.

Antelope appeared in bands during the day. Crossing here to the affluents
of the Republican, we encamped on a fork, about forty feet wide and one
foot deep, flowing with a swift current over a sandy bed, and well wooded
with ash-leaved maple, (_negundo fraxinifolium_,) elm, cottonwood,
and a few white oaks. We were visited in the evening by a very violent
storm, accompanied by wind, lightning, and thunder; a cold rain falling in
torrents. According to the barometer, our elevation was 2,130 feet above
the gulf.

At noon, on the 23d, we descended into the valley of a principal fork of
the Republican, a beautiful stream with a dense border of wood, consisting
principally of varieties of ash, forty feet wide and four deep. It was
musical with the notes of many birds, which, from the vast expanse of
silent prairie around, seemed all to have collected here. We continued
during the afternoon our route along the river, which was populous with
prairie dogs, (the bottoms being entirely occupied with their villages,)
and late in the evening encamped on its banks. The prevailing timber is a
blue-foliaged ash, (_fraxinus_, near _F. Americana_,) and ash-
leaved maple. With these were _fraxinus Americana_, cottonwood, and
long-leaved willow. We gave to this stream the name of Prairie Dog river.
Elevation 2,350 feet. Our road on the 25th lay over high smooth ridges,
3,100 feet above the sea; buffalo in great numbers, absolutely covering
the face of the country. At evening we encamped within a few miles of the
main Republican, on a little creek, where the air was fragrant with the
perfume of _artemisia filifolia_, which we here saw for the first
time, and which was now in bloom. Shortly after leaving our encampment on
the 26th, we found suddenly that the nature of the country had entirely
changed. Bare sand-hills everywhere surrounded us in the undulating ground
along which we were moving, and the plants peculiar to a sandy soil made
their appearance in abundance. A few miles further we entered the valley
of a large stream, afterwards known to be the Republican fork of the
Kansas, whose shallow waters, with a depth of only a few inches, were
spread out over a bed of yellowish white sand 600 yards wide. With the
exception of one or two distant and detached groves, no timber of any kind
was to be seen; and the features of the country assumed a desert
character, with which the broad river, struggling for existence among the
quicksands along the treeless banks, was strikingly in keeping. On the
opposite side, the broken ridges assumed almost a mountainous appearance;
and fording the stream, we continued on our course among these ridges, and
encamped late in the evening at a little pond of very bad water, from
which we drove away a herd of buffalo that were standing in and about it.
Our encampment this evening was 3,500 feet above the sea. We traveled now
for several days through a broken and dry sandy region, about 4,000 feet
above the sea, where there were no running streams; and some anxiety was
constantly felt on account of the uncertainty of water, which was only to
be found in small lakes that occurred occasionally among the hills. The
discovery of these always brought pleasure to the camp, as around them
were generally green flats, which afforded abundant pasturage for our
animals; and here we usually collected herds of the buffalo, which now
were scattered over all the country in countless numbers.

The soil of bare and hot sands supported a varied and exuberant growth of
plants, which were much farther advanced than we had previously found
them, and whose showy bloom somewhat relieved the appearance of general
sterility. Crossing the summit of an elevated and continuous range of
rolling hills, on the afternoon of the 30th of June, we found ourselves
overlooking a broad and misty valley, where, about ten miles distant, and
1,000 feet below us, the South fork of the Platte was rolling
magnificently along, swollen with the waters of the melting snows. It was
in strong and refreshing contrast with the parched country from which we
had just issued; and when, at night, the broad expanse of water grew
indistinct, it almost seemed that we had pitched our tents on the shore of
the sea.


Traveling along up the valley of the river, here 4,000 feet above the sea,
in the afternoon of July 1, we caught a far and uncertain view of a faint
blue mass in the west, as the sun sank behind it; and from our camp in the
morning, at the mouth of Bijou, Long's peak and the neighboring mountains
stood out into the sky, grand and luminously white, covered to their bases
with glittering snow.

On the evening of the 3d, as we were journeying along the partially
overflowed bottoms of the Platte, where our passage stirred up swarms of
musquitoes, we came unexpectedly on an Indian, who was perched upon a
bluff, curiously watching the movements of our caravan. He belonged to a
village of Oglallah Sioux, who had lost all their animals in the severity
of the preceding winter, and were now on their way up the Bijou fork to
beg horses from the Arapahoes, who were hunting buffalo at the head of
that river. Several came into our camp at noon; and, as they were hungry,
as usual, they were provided with buffalo-meat, of which the hunters had
brought in an abundant supply.

About noon, on the 4th of July, we arrived at the fort, where Mr. St.
Vrain received us with his customary kindness, and invited us to join him
in a feast which had been prepared in honor of the day.

Our animals were very much worn out, and our stock of provisions entirely
exhausted, when we arrived at the fort; but I was disappointed in my hope
of obtaining relief, as I found it in a very impoverished condition; and
we were able to procure only a little unbolted Mexican flour, and some
salt, with a few pounds of powder and lead.

As regarded provisions, it did not much matter in a country where rarely
the day passed without seeing some kind of game, and where it was
frequently abundant. It was a rare thing to lie down hungry, and we had
already learned to think bread a luxury; but we could not proceed without
animals, and our own were not capable of prosecuting the journey beyond
the mountains without relief.

I had been informed that a large number of mules had recently arrived at
Taos, from Upper California; and as our friend, Mr. Maxwell, was about to
continue his journey to that place, where a portion of his family resided,
I engaged him to purchase for me ten or twelve mules, with the
understanding that he should pack them with provisions and other
necessaries, and meet me at the mouth of the _Fontaine-qui-bouit_, on
the Arkansas river, to which point I would be led in the course of the

Agreeably to his own request, and in the conviction that his habits of
life and education had not qualified him to endure the hard life of a
voyageur, I discharged here one of my party, Mr. Oscar Sarpy, having
furnished him with arms and means of transportation to Fort Laramie, where
he would be in the line of caravans returning to the States.

At daybreak, on the 6th of July, Maxwell was on his way to Taos; and a few
hours after we also had recommenced our journey up the Platte, which was
continuously timbered with cottonwood and willow, on a generally sandy
soil. Passing on the way the remains of two abandoned forts, (one of
which, however, was still in good condition,) we reached, in ten miles,
Fort Lancaster, the trading establishment of Mr. Lupton.

His post was beginning to assume the appearance of a comfortable farm:
stock, hogs, and cattle, were ranging about on the prairie--there were
different kinds of poultry; and there was a wreck of a promising garden,
in which a considerable variety of vegetables had been in a flourishing
condition; but it had been almost entirely ruined by the recent high
waters. I remained to spend with him an agreeable hour, and set off in a
cold storm of rain, which was accompanied with violent thunder and
lightning. We encamped immediately on the river, sixteen miles from St.
Vrain's. Several Arapahoes, on their way to the village which was encamped
a few miles above us, passed by the camp in the course of the afternoon.
Night set in stormy and cold, with heavy and continuous rain, which lasted
until morning.

7th.--We made this morning an early start, continuing to travel up the
Platte; and in a few miles frequent bands of horses and mules, scattered
for several miles round about, indicated our approach to the Arapaho
village, which we found encamped in a beautiful bottom, and consisting of
about one hundred and sixty lodges. It appeared extremely populous, with a
great number of children--a circumstance which indicated a regular supply
of the means of subsistence. The chiefs, who were gathered together at the
farther end of the village, received us (as probably strangers are always
received to whom they desire to show respect or regard) by throwing their
arms around our necks and embracing us.

It required some skill in horsemanship to keep the saddle during the
performance of this ceremony, as our American horses exhibited for them
the same fear they have for a bear, or any other wild animal. Having very
few goods with me, I was only able to make them a meager present,
accounting for the poverty of the gift by explaining that my goods had
been left with the wagons in charge of Mr. Fitzpatrick, who was well known
to them as the White Head, or the Broken Hand. I saw here, as I had
remarked in an Arapaho village the preceding year, near the lodges of the
chiefs; tall tripods of white poles supporting their spears and shields,
which showed it to be a regular custom.

Though disappointed in obtaining the presents which had been evidently
expected, they behaved very courteously; and, after a little conversation,
I left them, and, continuing on up the river, halted to noon on the bluff,
as the bottoms are almost inundated; continuing in the afternoon our route
along the mountains, which were dark, misty, and shrouded--threatening a
storm; the snow peaks sometimes glittering through the clouds beyond the
first ridge.

We surprised a grizzly bear sauntering along the river, which, raising
himself upon his hind legs, took a deliberate survey of us, that did not
appear very satisfactory to him, and he scrambled into the river and swam
to the opposite side. We halted for the night a little above Cherry creek;
the evening cloudy, with many musquitoes. Some indifferent observations
placed the camp in lat. 39 deg. 43' 53", and chronometric long. 105 deg. 24' 34".

8th.--We continued to-day to travel up the Platte: the morning pleasant,
with a prospect of fairer weather. During the forenoon our way lay over a
more broken country, with a gravelly and sandy surface; although the
immediate bottom of the river was a good soil, of a dark and sandy mould,
resting upon a stratum of large pebbles, or rolled stones, as at Laramie
fork. On our right, and apparently very near, but probably 8 or 10 miles
distant, and two or three thousand feet above us, ran the first range of
the mountains, like a dark corniced line, in clear contrast with the great
snowy chain which, immediately beyond, rose glittering five thousand feet
above them. We caught this morning a view of Pike's peak; but it appeared
for a moment only, as clouds rose early over the mountains, and shrouded
them in mist and rain all the day. In the first range were visible, as at
the Red Buttes on the North fork, very lofty escarpments of red rock.
While traveling through this region, I remarked that always in the morning
the lofty peaks were visible and bright, but very soon small white clouds
began to settle around them--brewing thicker and thicker as the day
advanced, until the afternoon, when the thunder began to roll; and
invariably at evening we had more or less of a thunder storm. At 11
o'clock, and 21 miles from St. Vrain's fort, we reached a point in this
southern fork of the Platte, where the stream is divided into three forks;
two of these (one of them being much the largest) issuing directly from
the mountains on the west, and forming, with the eastern-most branch, a
river of the plains. The elevation of this point is about 5,500 feet above
the sea; this river falling 2,800 feet in a distance of 316 miles, to its
junction with the North fork of the Platte. In this estimate, the
elevation of the junction is assumed as given by our barometrical
observations in 1842. On the easternmost branch, up which we took our way,
we first came among the pines growing on the top of a very high bank, and
where we halted on it to noon; quaking asp (_populus tremuloides_)
was mixed with the cottonwood, and there were excellent grass and rushes
for the animals.

During the morning there occurred many beautiful flowers, which we had not
hitherto met. Among them, the common blue flowering flax made its first
appearance; and a tall and handsome species of _gilia_, with slender
scarlet flowers, which appeared yesterday for the first time, was very
frequent to-day.

We had found very little game since leaving the fort, and provisions began
to get unpleasantly scant, as we had had no meat for several days; but
towards sundown, when we had already made up our minds to sleep another
night without supper, Lajeunesse had the good fortune to kill a fine deer,
which he found feeding in a hollow near by; and as the rain began to fall,
threatening an unpleasant night, we hurried to secure a comfortable camp
in the timber.

To-night the camp fires, girdled with _appolas_ of fine venison,
looked cheerful in spite of the stormy weather.

9th.--On account of the low state of our provisions and the scarcity of
game, I determined to vary our route, and proceed several camps to the
eastward, in the hope of falling in with the buffalo. This route along the
dividing grounds between the South fork of the Platte and the Arkansas,
would also afford some additional geographical information. This morning,
therefore, we turned to the eastward, along the upper waters of the stream
on which we had encamped, entering a country of picturesque and varied
scenery; broken into rocky hills of singular shapes; little valleys, with
pure crystal water, here leaping swiftly along, and there losing itself in
the sands; green spots of luxuriant grass, flowers of all colors, and
timber of different kinds--every thing to give it a varied beauty, except
game. To one of these remarkably shaped hills, having on the summit a
circular flat rock two or three hundred yards in circumference, some one
gave the name of Poundcake, which it has been permitted to retain, as our
hungry people seemed to think it a very agreeable comparison. In the
afternoon a buffalo bull was killed, and we encamped on a small stream,
near the road which runs from St. Vrain's fort to the Arkansas.

10th:--Snow fell heavily on the mountains during the night, and Pike's
peak this morning is luminous and grand, covered from the summit, as low
down as we can see, with glittering white. Leaving the encampment at 6
o'clock, we continued our easterly course over a rolling country, near to
the high ridges, which are generally rough and rocky, with a coarse
conglomerate displayed in masses, and covered with pines. The rock is very
friable, and it is undoubtedly from its decomposition that the prairies
derive their sandy and gravelly formation. In six miles we crossed a head-
water of the Kioway river, on which we found a strong fort and
_coral_ that had been built in the spring, and halted to noon on the
principal branch of the river. During the morning our route led over a
dark and vegetable mould, mixed with sand and gravel, the characteristic
plant being _esparcette_, (_onobrychis sativa_,) a species of
clover which is much used in certain parts of Germany for pasturage of
stock--principally hogs. It is sown on rocky waste ground, which would
otherwise be useless, and grows very luxuriantly, requiring only a renewal
of the seed about once in fifteen years. Its abundance here greatly adds
to the pastoral value of this region. A species of antennaria in flower
was very common along the line of road, and the creeks were timbered with
willow and pine. We encamped on Bijou's fork, the water of which, unlike
the clear streams we had previously crossed, is of a whitish color, and
the soil of the bottom a very hard, tough clay. There was a prairie dog
village on the bottom, and, in the endeavor to unearth one of the little
animals, we labored ineffectually in the tough clay until dark. After
descending, with a slight inclination, until it had gone the depth of two
feet, the hole suddenly turned at a sharp angle in another direction for
one more foot in depth, when it again turned, taking an ascending
direction to the next nearest hole. I have no doubt that all their little
habitations communicate with each other. The greater part of the people
were sick to-day, and I was inclined to attribute their indisposition to
the meat of the bull which had been killed the previous day.

11th.--There were no indications of buffalo having been recently in the
neighborhood; and, unwilling to travel farther eastward, I turned this
morning to the southward, up the valley of Bijou. _Esparcette_
occurred universally, and among the plants on the river I noticed, for the
first time during this journey, a few small bushes of the _absinthe_
of the voyageurs, which is commonly used for firewood, (_artemesia
tridentata_.) Yesterday and to-day the road has been ornamented with
the showy bloom of a beautiful lupinus, a characteristic in many parts of
the mountain region, on which were generally great numbers of an insect
with very bright colors, (_litta vesicatoria_.)

As we were riding quietly along, eagerly searching every hollow in search
of game, we discovered, at a little distance in the prairie, a large
grizzly bear, so busily engaged in digging roots that he did not perceive
us until we were galloping down a little hill fifty yards from him, when
he charged upon us with such sudden energy that several of us came near
losing our saddles. Being wounded, he commenced retreating to a rocky piny
ridge near by, from which we were not able to cut him off, and we entered
the timber with him. The way was very much blocked up with fallen timber;
and we kept up a running fight for some time, animated by the bear
charging among the horses. He did not fall until after he had received six
rifle balls. He was miserably poor, and added nothing to our stock of

We followed the stream to its head in a broken ridge, which, according to
the barometer, was about 7,500 feet above the sea. This is a piny
elevation, into which the prairies are gathered, and from which the waters
flow, in almost every direction, to the Arkansas, Platte, and Kansas
rivers; the latter stream having here its remotest sources. Although
somewhat rocky and broken, and covered with pines, in comparison with the
neighboring mountains, it scarcely forms an interruption to the great
prairie plains which sweep up to their bases.

We had an excellent view of Pike's peak from this camp, at the distance of
forty miles. This mountain barrier presents itself to travelers on the
plains, which sweep almost directly to its bases--an immense and
comparatively smooth and grassy prairie, in very strong contrast with the
black masses of timber, and the glittering snow above them. With
occasional exceptions, comparatively so very small as not to require
mention, these prairies are everywhere covered with a close and vigorous
growth of a great variety of grasses, among which the most abundant is the
buffalo grass, (_sesleria dactyloides_.) Between the Platte and
Arkansas rivers, that part of this region which forms the basin drained by
the waters of the Kansas, with which our operations made us more
particularly acquainted, is based upon a formation of calcareous rocks.
The soil of all this country is excellent, admirably adapted to
agricultural purposes, and would support a large agricultural and pastoral
population. A glance at the map, along our several lines of travel, will
show you that this plain is watered by many streams. Throughout the
western half of the plain, these are shallow, with sandy beds, becoming
deeper as they reach the richer lands approaching the Missouri river; they
generally have bottom lands, bordered by bluffs varying from fifty to five
hundred feet in height. In all this region the timber is entirely confined
to the streams. In the eastern half, where the soil is a deep, rich,
vegetable mould, retentive of rain and moisture, it is of vigorous growth,
and of many different kinds; and throughout the western half it consists
entirely of various species of cottonwood, which deserves to be called the
tree of the desert--growing in sandy soils, where no other tree will grow
--pointing out the existence of water, and furnishing to the traveler fuel,
and food for his animals. Add to this that the western border of the plain
is occupied by the Sioux, Arapaho, and Cheyenne nations, with the Pawnees
and other half-civilized tribes in its eastern limits, for whom the
intermediate country is a war-ground, and you will have a tolerably
correct idea of the appearance and condition of the country. Descending a
somewhat precipitous and rocky hillside among the pines, which rarely
appear elsewhere than on the ridge, we encamped at its foot, where there
were several springs, which you will find laid down upon the map as one of
the extreme sources of the Smoky Hill fork of the Kansas. From this place
the view extended over the Arkansas valley, and the Spanish peaks in the
south beyond. As the greater part of the men continued sick, I encamped
here for the day, and ascertained conclusively, from experiments on
myself, that their illness was caused by the meat of the buffalo bull.

On the summit of the ridge, near the camp, were several rock-built forts,
which in front were very difficult of approach, and in the rear were
protected by a precipice entirely beyond the reach of a rifle-ball. The
evening was tolerably clear, with a temperature at sunset of 63 deg..
Elevation of the camp seven thousand and three hundred feet.

Turning the next day to the southwest, we reached, in the course of the
morning, the wagon-road to the settlements on the Arkansas river, and
encamped in the afternoon on the _Fontaine-qui-bouit_ (or Boiling
Spring) river, where it was fifty feet wide, with a swift current. I
afterwards found that the spring and river owe their names to the bubbling
of the effervescing gas in the former, and not to the temperature of the
water, which is cold. During the morning a tall species of _gilia_,
with a slender white flower, was characteristic; and, in the latter part
of the day, another variety of _esparcette_, (wild clover,) having
the flower white, was equally so. We had a fine sunset of golden brown;
and in the evening, a very bright moon, with the near mountains, made a
beautiful scene. Thermometer, at sunset, was 69 deg., and our elevation above
the sea 5,800 feet.

13th.--The morning was clear, with a northwesterly breeze, and the
thermometer at sunrise at 46 deg.. There were no clouds along the mountains,
and the morning sun showed very clearly their rugged character.

We resumed our journey very early down the river, following an extremely
good lodge-trail, which issues by the head of this stream from the bayou
Salade, a high mountain valley behind Pike's peak. The soil along the road
was sandy and gravelly, and the river well timbered. We halted to noon
under the shade of some fine large cottonwoods, our animals luxuriating on
rushes, (_equisetum hyemale_,) which, along this river, were
remarkably abundant. A variety of cactus made its appearance, and among
several strange plants were numerous and beautiful clusters of a plant
resembling _mirabilis jalapa_, with a handsome convolvulus I had not
hitherto seen, (_calystegia_.) In the afternoon we passed near the
encampment of a hunter named Maurice, who had been out into the plains in
pursuit of buffalo calves, a number of which I saw among some domestic
cattle near his lodge. Shortly afterwards, a party of mountaineers
galloped up to us--fine-looking and hardy men, dressed in skins, and
mounted on good fat horses; among them were several Connecticut men, a
portion of Wyeth's party, whom I had seen the year before, and others were
men from the western states.

Continuing down the river, we encamped at noon on the 14th, at its mouth,
on the Arkansas river. A short distance above our encampment, on the left
bank of the Arkansas, is a _pueblo_, (as the Mexicans call their
civilized Indian villages,) where a number of mountaineers, who had
married Spanish women in the valley of Taos, had collected together and
occupied themselves in farming, carrying on at the same time a desultory
Indian trade. They were principally Americans, and treated us with all the
rude hospitality their situation admitted; but as all commercial
intercourse with New Mexico was now interrupted, in consequence of Mexican
decrees to that effect, there was nothing to be had in the way of
provisions. They had, however, a fine stock of cattle, and furnished us an
abundance of excellent milk. I learned here that Maxwell, in company with
two other men, had started for Taos on the morning of the 9th, but that he
would probably fall into the hands of the Utah Indians, commonly called
the _Spanish Yutes_. As Maxwell had no knowledge of their being in
the vicinity when he crossed the Arkansas, his chance of escape was very
doubtful; but I did not entertain much apprehension for his life, having
great confidence in his prudence and courage. I was further informed that
there had been a popular tumult among the _pueblos_, or civilized
Indians, residing near Taos, against the "_foreigners_" of that
place; in which they had plundered their houses and ill-treated their
families. Among those whose property had been destroyed, was Mr. Beaubien,
father-in-law of Maxwell, from whom I had expected to obtain supplies, and
who had been obliged to make his escape to Santa Fe.

By this position of affairs, our expectation of obtaining supplies from
Taos was cut off. I had here the satisfaction to meet our good buffalo-
hunter of 1842, Christopher Carson, whose services I considered myself
fortunate to secure again; and as a reinforcement of mules was absolutely
necessary, I dispatched him immediately, with an account of our
necessities, to Mr. Charles Bent, whose principal post is on the Arkansas
river, about seventy-five miles below _Fontaine-qui-bouit_. He was
directed to proceed from that post by the nearest route across the
country, and meet me, with what animals he should be able to obtain, at
St. Vrain's fort. I also admitted into the party Charles Towns, a native
of St. Louis, a serviceable man, with many of the qualities of a good
voyageur. According to our observations, the latitude of the mouth of the
river is 38 deg. 15' 23", its longitude 104 deg. 58' 30", and its elevation above
the sea 4,880 feet.

On the morning of the 16th, the time for Maxwell's arrival having expired,
we resumed our journey, leaving for him a note, in which it was stated
that I would wait for him at St. Vrain's fort, until the morning of the
26th, in the event that he should succeed in his commission. Our direction
was up the Boiling Spring river, it being my intention to visit the
celebrated springs from which the river takes its name, and which are on
its upper waters, at the foot of Pike's peak. Our animals fared well while
we were on this stream, there being everywhere a great abundance of
_prele_. _Ipomea leptophylla_ in bloom, was a characteristic
plant along the river, generally in large bunches, with two to five
flowers on each. Beautiful clusters of the plant resembling _mirabilis
jalapa_ were numerous, and _glycyrrhiza lepidota_ was a
characteristic of the bottoms. Currants nearly ripe were abundant, and
among the shrubs which covered the bottom was a very luxuriant growth of
chenopodiaceous shrubs, four to six feet high. On the afternoon of the
17th we entered among the broken ridges at the foot of the mountains,
where the river made several forks. Leaving the camp to follow slowly, I
rode ahead in the afternoon in search of the springs. In the meantime, the
clouds, which had been gathered all the afternoon over the mountains,
began to roll down their sides; and a storm so violent burst upon me, that
it appeared I had entered the storehouse of the thunder-storms. I
continued, however, to ride along up the river until about sunset, and was
beginning to be doubtful of finding the springs before the next day, when
I came suddenly upon a large smooth rock, about twenty yards in diameter,
where the water from several springs was bubbling and boiling up in the
midst of a white incrustation, with which it had covered a portion of the
rock. As this did not correspond with the description given the by the
hunters, I did not stop to taste the water, but dismounting, walked a
little way up the river, and, passing through a narrow thicket of
shrubbery bordering the stream, stepped directly upon a huge white rock,
at the foot of which the river, already become a torrent, foamed along,
broken by a small fall. A deer which had been drinking at the spring was
startled by my approach, and, springing across the river, bounded off up
the mountain. In the upper part of the rock, which had apparently been
formed by deposition, was a beautiful white basin, overhung by currant
bushes, in which the cold clear water bubbled up, kept in constant motion
by the escaping gas, and overflowing the rock, which it had almost
entirely covered with a smooth crust of glistening white. I had all day
refrained from drinking, reserving myself for the spring; and as I could
not well be more wet than the rain had already made me, I lay down by the
side of the basin, and drank heartily of the delightful water. The spring
is situated immediately at the foot of lofty mountains, beautifully
timbered, which sweep closely round, shutting up the little valley in a
kind of cove. As it was beginning to grow dark, I rode quickly down the
river, on which I found the camp a few miles below.

The morning of the 18th was beautiful and clear; and, all the people being
anxious to drink of these famous waters, we encamped immediately at the
springs, and spent there a very pleasant day. On the opposite side of the
river is another locality of springs, which are entirely of same nature.
The water has a very agreeable taste, which Mr. Preuss found very much to
resemble that of the famous Selter springs in the grand duchy of Nassau, a
country famous for wine and mineral waters; and it is almost entirely of
the same character, though still more agreeable than that of the famous
Bear springs, near Bear river of the Great Salt lake. The following is an
analysis of an incrustation with which the water had covered a piece of
wood lying on the rock:

Carbonate of lime, ----------92.25
Carbonate of magnesia, ------ 1.21

Sulphate of lime,------}
Chloride of calcium, }----- .23
Chloride of magnesia,--}

Silica, --------------------- 1.50
Vegetable matter, ----------- .20
Moisture and loss, ---------- 4.61

At eleven o'clock, when the temperature of the air was 73 deg., that of the
water in this was 60.5 deg.; and that of the upper spring, which issued from
the flat rock, more exposed to the sun, was 69 deg.. At sunset, when the
temperature of the air was 66 deg., that of the lower springs was 58 deg., and
that of the upper 61 deg..

19th.--A beautiful and clear morning, with a slight breeze from the
northwest; the temperature of the air at sunrise being 57.5 deg.. At this time
the temperature of the lower spring was 57.8 deg., springs was 58 deg., and that
of the upper 54.3 deg..

The trees in the neighborhood were birch, willow, pine, and an oak
resembling _quercus alba_. In the shrubbery along the river are
currant bushes, (_ribes_,) of which the fruit has a singular piny
flavor; and on the mountain side, in a red gravelly soil, is a remarkable
coniferous tree, (perhaps an _abies_,) having the leaves singularly
long, broad and scattered, with bushes of _spiraea ariaefolia_. By
our observations, this place is 6,350 feet above the sea, in latitude 38 deg.
52' 10", and longitude 105 deg. 22' 45".

Resuming our journey on this morning, we descended the river, in order to
reach the mouth of the eastern fork, which I proposed to ascend. The left
bank of the river here is very much broken. There is a handsome little
bottom on the right, and both banks are exceedingly picturesque--strata of
red rock, in nearly perpendicular walls, crossing the valley from north to
south. About three miles below the springs, on the right bank of the
river, is a nearly perpendicular limestone rock, presenting a uniformly
unbroken surface, twenty to forty feet high, containing very great numbers
of a large univalve shell; which appears to belong to the genus

In contact with this, to the westward, was another, stratum of limestone,
containing fossil shells of a different character; and still higher up on
the stream were parallel strata, consisting of a compact somewhat
crystalline limestone, and argillaceous bituminous limestone in thin
layers. During the morning, we traveled up the eastern fork of the
_Fontaine-qui-bouit_ river, our road being roughened by frequent deep
gullies timbered with pine, and halted to noon on a small branch of the
stream, timbered principally with the narrow-leaved cottonwood,
(_populus angustifolia_,) called by the Canadians _liard amere_.
On a hill near by, were two remarkable columns of a grayish-white
conglomerate rock, one of which was about twenty feet high, and two feet
in diameter. They are surmounted by slabs of a dark ferruginous
conglomerate, forming black caps, and adding very much to their columnar
effect at a distance. This rock is very destructible by the action of the
weather, and the hill, of which they formerly constituted a part, is
entirely abraded.

A shaft of the gun-carriage was broken in the afternoon; and we made an
early halt, the stream being from twelve to twenty feet wide, with clear
water. As usual, the clouds had gathered to a storm over the mountains,
and we had a showery evening. At sunset, the thermometer stood at 62 deg., and
our elevation above the sea was. 6,530 feet.

20th.--This morning (as we generally found the mornings under these
mountains) was very clear and beautiful, and the air cool and pleasant,
with the thermometer at 44 deg.. We continued our march up the stream, along a
green sloping bottom; between pine hills on the one hand; and the main
Black hills on the other; towards the ridge which separates the waters of
the Platte from those of the Arkansas. As we approached the diving ridge,
the whole valley was radiant with flowers; blue, yellow, pink, white,
scarlet; and purple, vie with each other in splendor. Esparcette was one
of the highly characteristic plants, and a bright-looking flower
(_gaillardia aristata_) was very frequent; but the most abundant
plant along our road today, was _geranium maculatum_, which is the
characteristic plant on this portion of the diving grounds. Crossing to
the waters of the Platte, fields of blue flax added to the magnificence of
this mountain garden; this was occasionally four feet in height, which was
a luxuriance of growth that I rarely saw this almost universal plant
attain throughout the journey. Continuing down a branch of the Platte,
among high and very steep timbered hills, covered with fragments of sock,
towards evening we issued from the piny region, and made a late encampment
near Poundcake rock, on that fork of the river which we had ascended on
the 8th of July. Our animals enjoyed the abundant rushes this evening, as
the flies were so bad among the pines that they had been much harassed. A
deer was killed here this evening; and again the evening was overcast, and
a collection of brilliant red clouds in the west was followed by the
customary squall of rain.

_Achillea millefolium_ (milfoil) was among the characteristic plants
of the river bottoms to-day. This was one of the most common plants during
the whole of our journey, occurring in almost every variety of situation.
I noticed it on the lowlands of the rivers, near the coast of the Pacific,
and near to the snow among the mountains of the _Sierra Nevada_.

During this excursion, we had surveyed to its head one of the two
principal branches of the upper Arkansas, 75 miles in length, and entirely
completed our survey of the South fork of the Platte, to the extreme
sources of that portion of the river which belongs to the plains, and
heads in the broken hills of the Arkansas dividing ridge, at the foot of
the mountains. That portion of its waters which were collected among these
mountains, it was hoped to explore on our homeward voyage.

Reaching St. Vrain's fort on the morning of the 23d, we found Mr.
Fitzpatrick and his party in good order and excellent health, and my true
and reliable friend, Kit Carson, who had brought with him ten good mules,
with the necessary pack-saddles. Mr. Fitzpatrick, who had often endured
every extremity of want during the course of his mountain life, and knew
well the value of provisions in this country, had watched over our stock
with jealous vigilance, and there was an abundance of flour, rice, sugar,
and coffee, in the camp; and again we fared luxuriously. Meat was,
however, very scarce; and two very small pigs, which we obtained at the
fort, did not go far among forty men. Mr. Fitzpatrick had been here a
week, during which time his men had been occupied in refitting the camp;
and the repose had been very beneficial to his animals, which were now in
tolerably good condition.

I had been able to obtain no certain information in regard to the
character of the passes in this portion of the Rocky Mountain range, which
had always been represented as impracticable for carriages, but the
exploration of which was incidentally contemplated by my instructions,
with the view of finding some convenient point of passage for the road of
emigration, which would enable it to reach, on a more direct line, the
usual ford of the Great Colorado--a place considered as determined by the
nature of the country beyond that river. It is singular, that immediately
at the foot of the mountains, I could find no one sufficiently acquainted
with them to guide us to the plains at their western base; but the race of
trappers, who formerly lived in their recesses, has almost entirely
disappeared--dwindled to a few scattered individuals--some one or two of
whom are regularly killed in the course of each year by the Indians. You
will remember, that in the previous year I brought with me to their
village near this post, and hospitably treated on the way, several
Cheyenne Indians, whom I met on the Lower Platte. Shortly after their
arrival here, these were out with a party of Indians, (themselves the
principal men,) which discovered a few trappers in the neighboring
mountains, whom they immediately murdered, although one of them had been
nearly thirty years in the country, and was perfectly well known, as he
had grown gray among them.

Through this portion of the mountains, also, are the customary roads of
the war parties going out against the Utah and Shoshonee Indians; and
occasionally parties from the Crow nation make their way down to the
southward along this chain, in the expectation of surprising some
straggling lodges of their enemies. Shortly before our arrival, one of
their parties had attacked an Arapaho village in the vicinity, which they
had found unexpectedly strong; and their assault was turned into a rapid
flight and a hot pursuit, in which they had been compelled to abandon the
animals they had rode and escape on their war-horses.

Into this uncertain and dangerous region, small parties of three or four
trappers, who now could collect together, rarely ventured; and
consequently it was seldom visited and little known. Having determined to
try the passage by a pass through a spur of the mountains made by the
_Cache-a-la-Poudre_ river, which rises in the high bed of mountains
around Long's peak, I thought it advisable to avoid any encumbrance which
would occasion detention, and accordingly again separated the party into
two divisions--one of which, under the command of Mr. Fitzpatrick, was
directed to cross the plains to the mouth of Laramie river, and,
continuing thence its route along the usual emigrant road, meet me at Fort
Hall, a post belonging to the Hudson Bay Company, and situated on Snake
river, as it is commonly called in the Oregon Territory, although better
known to us as Lewis's fork of the Columbia. The latter name is there
restricted to one of the upper forks of the river.

Our Delaware Indians having determined to return to their homes, it became
necessary to provide this party with a good hunter; and I accordingly
engaged in that capacity Alexander Godey, a young man about 25 years of
age, who had been in this country six or seven years, all of which time
had been actively employed in hunting for the support of the posts, or in
solitary trading expeditions among the Indians. In courage and
professional skill he was a formidable rival to Carson, and constantly
afterwards was among the best and most efficient of the party, and in
difficult situations was of incalculable value. Hiram Powers, one of the
men belonging to Mr. Fitzpatrick's party, was discharged at this place.

A French _engage_, at Lupton's fort, had been shot in the back on the
4th of July, and died during our absence to the Arkansas. The wife of the
murdered man, an Indian woman of the Snake nation, desirous, like Naomi of
old, to return to her people, requested and obtained permission to travel
with my party to the neighborhood of Bear river, where she expected to
meet with some of their villages. Happier than the Jewish widow, she
carried with her two children, pretty little half-breeds, who added much
to the liveliness of the camp. Her baggage was carried on five or six
pack-horses; and I gave her a small tent, for which I no longer had any
use, as I had procured a lodge at the fort.

For my own party I selected the following men, a number of whom old
associations had rendered agreeable to me:

Charles Preuss, Christopher Carson, Basil Lajeunesse, Francois Badeau,
J.B. Bernier, Louis Menard, Raphael Proue, Jacob Dodson, Louis Zindel,
Henry Lee, J.B. Derosier, Francois Lajeunesse, and Auguste Vasquez.

By observation, the latitude of the post is 40 deg. 16' 33", and its longitude
105 deg. 12' 23", depending, with all the other longitudes along this portion
of the line, upon a subsequent occultation of September 13, 1843, to which
they are referred by the chronometer. Its distance from Kansas landing, by
the road we traveled, (which, it will be remembered, was very winding
along the lower Kansas river,) was 750 miles. The rate of the chronometer,
determined by observations at this place for the interval of our absence,
during this month, was 33.72"; which you will hereafter see did not
sensibly change during the ensuing month, and remained nearly constant
during the remainder of our journey across the continent. This was the
rate used in referring to St. Vrain's fort, the longitude between that
place and the mouth of the _Fontaine-qui-bouit_.

Our various barometrical observations, which are better worthy of
confidence than the isolated determination of 1842, give, for the
elevation of the fort above the sea, 4,930 feet. The barometer here used
was also a better one, and less liable to derangement.

At the end of two days, which was allowed to my animals for necessary
repose, all the arrangements had been completed, and on the afternoon of
the 26th we resumed our respective routes. Some little trouble was
experienced in crossing the Platte, the waters of which were still kept up
by rains and melting snow; and having traveled only about four miles, we
encamped in the evening on Thompson's creek, where we were very much
disturbed by musquitoes.

The following days we continued our march westward over comparative
plains, and, fording the Cache-a-la-Poudre on the morning of the 28th,
entered the Black hills, and nooned on this stream in the mountains beyond
them. Passing over a fine large bottom in the afternoon, we reached a
place where the river was shut up in the hills; and, ascending a ravine,
made a laborious and very difficult passage around by a gap, striking the
river again about dusk. A little labor, however, would remove this
difficulty, and render the road to this point a very excellent one. The
evening closed in dark with rain, and the mountains looked gloomy.

29th.--Leaving our encampment about seven in the morning, we traveled
until three in the afternoon along the river, which, for the distance of
about six miles, runs directly through a spur of the main mountains.

We were compelled by the nature of the ground to cross the river eight or
nine times, at difficult, deep, and rocky fords, the stream running with
great force, swollen by the rains--a true mountain torrent, only forty or
fifty feet wide. It was a mountain valley of the narrowest kind--almost a
chasm--and the scenery very wild and beautiful. Towering mountains rose
round about; their sides sometimes dark with forests of pine, and
sometimes with lofty precipices, washed by the river; while below, as if
they indemnified themselves in luxuriance for the scanty space, the green
river-bottom was covered with a wilderness of flowers, their tall spikes
sometimes rising above our heads as we rode among them. A profusion of
blossoms on a white flowering vine, (_clematis lasianthi_) which was
abundant along the river, contrasted handsomely with the green foliage of
the trees. The mountains appeared to be composed of a greenish-gray and
red granite, which in some places appeared to be in a state of
decomposition, making a red soil.

The stream was wooded with cottonwood, box-elder, and cherry, with currant
and serviceberry bushes. After a somewhat laborious day, during which it
had rained incessantly, we encamped near the end of the pass at the mouth
of a small creek, in sight of the great Laramie plains. It continued to
rain heavily, and at evening the mountains were hid in mists; but there
was no lack of wood, and the large fires we made to dry our clothes were
very comfortable; and at night the hunters came in with a fine deer. Rough
and difficult as we found the pass to-day, an excellent road may be made
with a little labor. Elevation of the camp 5,540 feet, and distance from
St. Vrain's fort 56 miles.

30th.--The day was bright again; the thermometer at sunrise 52 deg.; and
leaving our encampment at eight o'clock, in about half a mile we crossed
the _Cache-a-la-Poudre_ river for the last time; and, entering a
smoother country, we traveled along a kind of _vallon_, bounded on
the right by red buttes and precipices; while to the left a high rolling
country extended to a range of the Black hills, beyond which rose the
great mountains around Long's peak.

By the great quantity of snow visible among them, it had probably snowed
heavily there the previous day, while it had rained on us in the valley.

We halted at noon on a small branch; and in the afternoon traveled over a
high country, gradually ascending towards a range of _buttes_, or
high hills covered with pines, which forms the dividing ridge between the
waters we had left and those of Laramie river.

Late in the evening we encamped at a spring of cold water, near the summit
of the ridge, having increased our elevation to 7,520 feet. During the day
we had traveled 24 miles. By some indifferent observations, our latitude
is 41 deg. 02' 19". A species of _hedeome_ was characteristic along the
whole day's route.

Emerging from the mountains, we entered a region of bright, fair weather.
In my experience in this country, I was forcibly impressed with the
different character of the climate on opposite sides of the Rocky Mountain
range. The vast prairie plain on the east is like the ocean; the rain and
clouds from the constantly evaporating snow of the mountains rushing down
into the heated air of the plains, on which you will have occasion to
remark the frequent storms of rain we encountered during our journey.

31st.--The morning was clear; temperature 48 deg.. A fine rolling road, among
piny and grassy hills, brought us this morning into a large trail where an
Indian village had recently passed. The weather was pleasant and cool; we
were disturbed by neither musquitoes nor flies; and the country was
certainly extremely beautiful. The slopes and broad ravines were
absolutely covered with fields of flowers of the most exquisitely
beautiful colors. Among those which had not hitherto made their
appearance, and which here were characteristic, was a new
_delphinium_, of a green and lustrous metallic blue color, mingled
with compact fields of several bright-colored varieties of
_astragalus_, which were crowded together in splendid profusion. This
trail conducted us, through a remarkable defile, to a little timbered
creek, up which we wound our way, passing by a singular and massive wall
of dark-red granite. The formation of the country is a red feldspathic
granite, overlaying a decomposing mass of the same rock, forming the soil
of all this region, which everywhere is red and gravelly, and appears to
be of a great floral fertility.

As we emerged on a small tributary of the Laramie river, coming in sight
of its principal stream, the flora became perfectly magnificent; and we
congratulated ourselves, as we rode along our pleasant road; that we had
substituted this for the uninteresting country between Laramie hills and
the Sweet Water valley. We had no meat for supper last night or breakfast
this morning, and were glad to see Carson come in at noon with a good

A meridian observation of the sun placed us in latitude 41 deg. 04' 06". In
the evening we encamped on the Laramie river, which is here very thinly
timbered with scattered groups of cottonwood at considerable intervals.
From our camp, we are able to distinguish the gorges, in which are the
sources of Cache-a-la-Poudre and Laramie rivers; and the Medicine Bow
mountain, towards the point of which we are directing our course this
afternoon, has been in sight the greater part of the day. By observation
the latitude was 41 deg. 15' 02", and longitude 106 deg. 16' 54". The same
beautiful flora continued till about four in the afternoon, when it
suddenly disappeared, with the red soil, which became sandy, and of a
whitish-gray color. The evening was tolerably clear; temperature at sunset
64 deg.. The day's journey was 30 miles.


1st.--The morning was calm and clear, with sunrise temperature at 42 deg.. We
traveled to-day over a plain, or open rolling country, at the foot of the
Medicine Bow mountain; the soil in the morning being sandy, with fragments
of rock abundant, and in the afternoon, when we approached closer to the
mountain, so stony that we made but little way. The beautiful plants of
yesterday reappeared occasionally; flax in bloom occurred during the
morning, and esparcette in luxuriant abundance was a characteristic of the
stony ground in the afternoon. The camp was roused into a little
excitement by a chase after a buffalo bull, and an encounter with a war
party of Sioux and Cheyenne Indians about 30 strong. Hares and antelope
were seen during the day, and one of the latter was killed. The Laramie
peak was in sight this afternoon. The evening was clear, with scattered
clouds; temperature 62 deg.. The day's journey was 26 miles.

2d.--Temperature at sunrise 52 deg., and scenery and weather made our road to-
day delightful. The neighboring mountain is thickly studded with pines,
intermingled with the brighter foliage of aspens, and occasional spots
like lawns between the patches of snow among the pines, and here and there
on the heights. Our route below lay over a comparative plain, covered with
the same brilliant vegetation, and the day was clear and pleasantly cool.
During the morning, we crossed many streams, clear and rocky, and broad
grassy valleys, of a strong black soil, washed down from the mountains,
and producing excellent pasturage. These were timbered with the red willow
and long-leaved cottonwood, mingled with aspen, as we approached the
mountain more nearly towards noon. _Esparcette_ was a characteristic,
and flax occurred frequently in bloom. We halted at noon on the most
western fork of Laramie river--a handsome stream about sixty feet wide and
two feet deep, with clear water and a swift current, over a bed composed
entirely of boulders or roll-stones. There was a large open bottom here,
on which were many lodge poles lying about: and in the edge of the
surrounding timber were three strong forts, that appeared to have been
recently occupied. At this place I became first acquainted with the
_yampah_, (_anethum graveolens_,) which I found our Snake woman
engaged in digging in the low timbered bottom of the creek. Among the
Indians along the Rocky Mountains, and more particularly among the
Shoshonee or Snake Indians, in whose territory it is very abundant, this
is considered the best among the roots used for food. To us it was an
interesting plant--a little link between the savage and civilized life.
Here, among the Indians, its root is a common article of food, which they
take pleasure in offering to strangers; while with us, in a considerable
portion of America and Europe, the seeds are used to flavor soup. It grows
more abundantly, and in greater luxuriance, on one of the neighboring
tributaries of the Colorado, than in any other part of this region; and on
that stream, to which the Snakes are accustomed to resort every year to
procure a supply of their favorite plant, they have bestowed the name of
_Yampah_ river. Among the trappers it is generally known as Little
Snake river; but in this and other instances, where it illustrated the
history of the people inhabiting the country, I have preferred to retain
on the map the aboriginal name. By a meridional observation, the latitude
is 41 deg. 45' 59"

In the afternoon we took our way directly across the spurs from the point
of the mountain, where we had several ridges to cross; and, although the
road was not rendered bad by the nature of the ground, it was made
extremely rough by the stiff tough bushes of _artemisia tridentata_,
[Footnote: The greater portion of our subsequent journey was through a
region where this shrub constituted the tree of the country; and, as it
will often be mentioned in occasional descriptions, the word
_artemisia_ only will be used, without the specific name.] in this
country commonly called sage.

This shrub now began to make its appearance in compact fields; and we were
about to quit for a long time this country of excellent pasturage and
brilliant flowers. Ten or twelve buffalo bulls were seen during the
afternoon; and we were surprised by the appearance of a large red ox. We
gathered around him as if he had been an old acquaintance, with all our
domestic feelings as much awakened as if we had come in sight of an old
farm-house. He had probably made his escape from some party of emigrants
on Green river; and, with a vivid remembrance of some old green field, be
was pursuing the straightest course for the frontier that the country
admitted. We carried him along with us as a prize; and, when it was found
in the morning that he had wandered off, I would not let him be pursued,
for I would rather have gone through a starving time of three entire days,
than let him be killed after he had successfully run the gauntlet so far
among the Indians. I have been told by Mr. Bent's people of an ox born and
raised at St. Vrain's fort, which made his escape from them at Elm grove,
near the frontier, having come in that year with the wagons. They were on
their way out, and saw occasionally places where he had eaten and laid
down to rest; but did not see him for about 700 miles, when they overtook
him on the road, traveling along to the fort, having unaccountably escaped
Indians and every other mischance.

We encamped at evening on the principal fork of Medicine Bow river, near
to an isolated mountain called the Medicine _Butte_, which appeared
to be about 1,800 feet above the plain, from which it rises abruptly, and
was still white, nearly to its base, with a great quantity of snow. The
streams were timbered with the long-leaved, cottonwood and red willow; and
during the afternoon a species of onion was very abundant. I obtained here
an immersion of the first satellite of Jupiter, which, corresponding very
nearly with the chronometer, placed us in longitude 106 deg. 47' 25". The
latitude, by observation, was 41 deg. 37' 16"; elevation above the sea, 7,800
feet, and distance from St. Vrain's fort, 147 miles.

3d.--There was a white frost last night; the morning is clear and cool.
We were early on the road, having breakfasted before sunrise, and in a few
miles' travel entered the pass of the Medicine _Butte_, through which
led a broad trail, which had been recently traveled by a very large party.
Immediately in the pass, the road was broken by ravines, and we were
obliged to clear a way through groves of aspens, which generally made
their appearance when we reached elevated regions. According to the
barometer, this was 8,300 feet; and while we were detained in opening a
road, I obtained a meridional observation of the sun, which gave 41 deg. 35'
48" for the latitude of the pass. The Medicine _Butte_ is isolated by
a small tributary of the North fork of the Platte, but the mountains
approach each other very nearly; the stream running at their feet. On the
south they are smooth, with occasional streaks of pine; but the butte
itself is ragged, with escarpments of red feldspathic granite, and dark
with pines; the snow reaching from the summit to within a few hundred feet
of the trail. The granite here was more compact and durable than that in
the formation which we had passed through a few days before to the
eastward of Laramie. Continuing our way over a plain on the west side of
the pass, where the road was terribly rough with artemisia, we made our
evening encampment on the creek, where it took a northern direction,
unfavorably to the course we were pursuing. Bands of buffalo were
discovered as we came down upon the plain; and Carson brought into the
camp a cow which had the fat on the fleece two inches thick. Even in this
country of rich pasturage and abundant game, it is rare that a hunter
chances upon a finer animal. Our voyage had already been long, but this
was the first good buffalo meat we had obtained. We traveled to-day 26

4th.--The morning was clear and calm; and, leaving the creek, we traveled
towards the North fork of the Platte, over a plain which was rendered
rough and broken by ravines. With the exception of some thin grasses, the
sandy soil here was occupied almost exclusively by artemisia, with its
usual turpentine odor. We had expected to meet with some difficulty in
crossing the river, but happened to strike it where there was a very
excellent ford, and halted to noon on the left bank, two hundred miles
from St. Vrain's fort. The hunters brought in pack-animals loaded with
fine meat. According to our imperfect knowledge of the country, there
should have been a small affluent to this stream a few miles higher up;
and in the afternoon we continued our way among the river hills, in the
expectation of encamping upon it in the evening. The ground proved to be
so exceedingly difficult, broken up into hills, terminating in escarpments
and broad ravines, five hundred or six hundred feet deep, with sides so
precipitous that we could scarcely find a place to descend, that, towards
sunset, I turned directly in towards the river, and, after nightfall,
entered a sort of ravine. We were obliged to feel our way, and clear a
road in the darkness; the surface being much broken, and the progress of
the carriages being greatly obstructed by the artemisia, which had a
luxuriant growth of four to six feet in height. We had scrambled along
this gulley for several hours, during which we had knocked off the
carriage-lamps, broken a thermometer and several small articles, when,
fearing to lose something of more importance, I halted for the night at
ten o'clock. Our animals were turned down towards the river, that they
might pick up what little grass they could find; and after a little
search, some water was found in a small ravine, and improved by digging.
We lighted up the ravine with fires of artemisia, and about midnight sat
down to a supper which we were hungry enough to find delightful--although
the buffalo-meat was crusted with sand, and the coffee was bitter with the
wormwood taste of the artemisia leaves.

A successful day's hunt had kept our hunters occupied until late, and they
slept out, but rejoined us at daybreak, when, finding ourselves only about
a mile from the river, we followed the ravine down, and camped in a
cottonwood grove on a beautiful grassy bottom, where our animals
indemnified themselves for the scanty fare of the past night. It was quite
a pretty and pleasant place; a narrow strip of prairie, about five hundred
yards long, terminated at the ravine where we entered by high precipitous
hills closing in upon the river, and at the upper end by a ridge of low
rolling hills.

In the precipitous bluffs were displayed a succession of strata containing
fossil vegetable remains, and several beds of coal. In some of the beds
the coal did not appear to be perfectly mineralized, and in some of the
seams it was compact, and remarkably lustrous. In these latter places,
there were also thin layers of a very fine white salts, in powder. As we
had a large supply of meat in the camp, which it was necessary to dry, and
the surrounding country appeared to be well stocked with buffalo, which it
was probable, after a day or two, we would not see again until our return
to the Mississippi waters, I determined to make here a provision of dried
meat, which would be necessary for our subsistence in the region we were
about entering, which was said to be nearly destitute of game. Scaffolds
were accordingly soon erected, fires made, and the meat cut into thin
slices to be dried; and all were busily occupied, when the camp was thrown
into a sudden tumult, by a charge from about seventy mounted Indians, over
the low hills at the upper end of the little bottom. Fortunately, the
guard, who was between them and our animals, had caught a glimpse of an
Indian's head, as he raised himself in his stirrups to look over the hill,
a moment before he made the charge, and succeeded in turning the band into
the camp, as the Indians charged into the bottom with the usual yell.
Before they reached us, the grove on the verge of the little bottom was
occupied by our people, and the Indians brought to a sudden halt, which
they made in time to save themselves from a howitzer shot, which would
undoubtedly have been very effective in such a compact body; and further
proceedings were interrupted by their signs for peace. They proved to be a
war party of Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians, and informed us that they had
charged upon the camp under the belief that we were hostile Indians, and
had discovered their mistake only at the moment of the attack--an excuse
which policy required us to receive as true, though under the full
conviction that the display of our little howitzer, and our favorable
position in the grove, certainly saved our horses, and probably ourselves,
from their marauding intentions. They had been on a war party, and had
been defeated, and were consequently in the state of mind which aggravates
their innate thirst for plunder and blood. Their excuse, however, was
taken in good part, and the usual evidences of friendship interchanged.
The pipe went round, provisions were spread, and the tobacco and goods
furnished the customary presents, which they look for even from traders,
and much more from government authorities.

They were returning from an expedition against the Shoshonee Indians, one
of whose villages they had surprised, at Bridger's fort, on Ham's fork of
Green river, (in the absence of the men, who were engaged in an antelope
surround,) and succeeded in carrying off their horses, and taking several
scalps. News of the attack reached the Snakes immediately, who pursued and
overtook them, and recovered their horses; and, in the running fight which
ensued, the Arapahoes had lost several men killed, and a number wounded,
who were coming on more slowly with a party in the rear. Nearly all the
horses they had brought off were the property of the whites at the fort.
After remaining until nearly sunset, they took their departure; and the
excitement which their arrival had afforded subsided into our usual quiet,
a little enlivened by the vigilance rendered necessary by the neighborhood
of our uncertain visiters. At noon the thermometer was at 75 deg., at sunset
70 deg., and the evening clear. Elevation above the sea 6,820 feet; latitude
41 deg. 36' 00"; longitude 107 deg. 22' 27".

6th.--At sunrise the thermometer was 46 deg., the morning being clear and
calm. We traveled to-day over an extremely rugged country, barren and
uninteresting--nothing to be seen but artemisia bushes; and, in the
evening, found a grassy spot among the hills, kept green by several
springs, where we encamped late. Within a few hundred yards was a very
pretty little stream of clear cool water, whose green banks looked
refreshing among the dry, rocky hills. The hunters brought in a fat
mountain sheep, (_ovis montana_.)

Our road the next day was through a continued and dense field of
_artemisia_, which now entirely covered the country in such a
luxuriant growth that it was difficult and laborious for a man on foot to
force his way through, and nearly impracticable for our light carriages.
The region through which we were traveling was a high plateau,
constituting the dividing ridge between the waters of the Atlantic and
Pacific oceans, and extending to a considerable distance southward, from
the neighborhood of the Table rock, at the southern side of the South
Pass. Though broken up into rugged and rocky hills of a dry and barren
nature, it has nothing of a mountainous character; the small streams which
occasionally occur belonging neither to the Platte nor the Colorado, but
losing themselves either in the sand or in small lakes. From an eminence,
in the afternoon, a mountainous range became visible in the north, in
which were recognised some rocky peaks belonging to the range of the Sweet
Water valley; and, determining to abandon any further attempt to struggle
through this almost impracticable country, we turned our course directly
north, towards a pass in the valley of the Sweet Water river. A shaft of
the gun-carriage was broken during the afternoon, causing a considerable
delay; and it was late in an unpleasant evening before we succeeded in
finding a very poor encampment, where there was a little water in a deep
trench of a creek, and some scanty grass among the shrubs. All the game
here consisted of a few straggling buffalo bulls, and during the day there
had been but very little grass, except in some green spots where it had
collected around springs or shallow lakes. Within fifty miles of the Sweet
Water, the country changed into a vast saline plain, in many places
extremely level, occasionally resembling the flat sandy beds of shallow
lakes. Here the vegetation consisted of a shrubby growth, among which were
several varieties of _chenopodiaceous_ plants; but the characteristic
shrub was _Fremontia vermicularis_, with smaller saline shrubs
growing with singular luxuriance, and in many places holding exclusive
possession of the ground.

On the evening of the 8th we encamped on one of these fresh-water lakes,
which the traveler considers himself fortunate to find; and the next day,
in latitude, by observation, 42 deg. 20' 06", halted to noon immediately at
the foot of the southern side of the range which walls in the Sweet Water
valley, on the head of a small tributary to that river.

Continuing in the afternoon our course down the stream, which here cuts
directly through the ridge, forming a very practicable pass, we entered
the valley; and, after a march of about nine miles, encamped on our
familiar river, endeared to us by the acquaintance of the previous
expedition--the night having already closed in with a cold rain-storm. Our
camp was about twenty miles above the Devil's gate, which we had been able
to see in coming down the plain; and, in the course of the night, the
clouds broke away around Jupiter for a short time; during which we
obtained an emersion of the first satellite, the result of which agreed
very nearly with the chronometer, giving for the mean longitude 107 deg. 50'
07"; elevation above the sea 6,040 feet; and distance from St. Vrain's
fort, by the road we had Just traveled, 315 miles.

Here passes the road to Oregon; and the broad smooth highway, where the
numerous heavy wagons of the emigrants had entirely beaten and crushed the
artemisia, was a happy exchange to our poor animals, for the sharp rocks
and tough shrubs among which they had been toiling so long; and we moved
up the valley rapidly and pleasantly. With very little deviation from our
route of the preceding year, we continued up the valley; and on the
evening of the 12th encamped on the Sweet Water, at a point where the road
turns off to cross to the plains of Green river. The increased coolness of
the weather indicated that we had attained a greater elevation, which the
barometer here placed at 7,220 feet; and during the night water froze in
the lodge.

The morning of the 13th was clear and cold, there being a white-frost, and
the thermometer, a little before sunrise, standing at 26.5 deg.. Leaving this
encampment, (our last on the waters which flow towards the rising sun,) we
took our way along the upland, towards the dividing ridge which separates
the Atlantic from the Pacific waters, and crossed it by a road some miles
further south than the one we had followed on our return in 1842. We
crossed very near the Table mountain, at the southern extremity of the
South Pass, which is near twenty miles in width, and already traversed by
several different roads. Selecting, as well as I could, in the scarcely
distinguishable ascent, what might be considered the dividing ridge in
this remarkable depression in the mountain, I took a barometrical
observation, which gave 7,490 feet for the elevation above the Gulf of
Mexico. You will remember that, in my report of 1842, I estimated the
elevation of this pass at about 7,000 feet; a correct observation with a
good barometer enables me to give it with more precision. Its importance,
as the great gate through which commerce and traveling may hereafter pass
between the valley of the Mississippi and the North Pacific, justifies a
precise notice of its locality and distance from leading points, in
addition to this statement of its elevation. As stated in the report of
1842, its latitude, at the point where we crossed, is 42 deg. 24' 32"; its
longitude 109 deg. 26' 00"; its distance from the mouth of the Kansas, by the
common traveling route, 962 miles; from the mouth of the Great Platte,
along the valley of that river, according to our survey of 1842, 882
miles; and its distance from St. Louis about 400 miles more by the Kansas,
and about 700 by the Great Platte route; these additions being steamboat
conveyance in both instances. From this pass to the mouth of the Oregon is
about 1,400 miles by the common traveling route; so that under a general
point of view, it may be assumed to be about half-way between the
Mississippi and the Pacific ocean, on the common traveling route.
Following a hollow of slight and easy descent, in which was very soon
formed a little tributary to the Gulf of California, (for the waters which
flow west from the South Pass go to this gulf,) we made our usual halt
four miles from the pass, in latitude, by observation, 42 deg. 19' 53".
Entering here the valley of Green river--the great Colorado of the West--
and inclining very much to the southward along the streams which form the
Sandy river, the road led for several days over dry and level
uninteresting plains; to which a low scrubby growth of artemisia gave a
uniform dull grayish color; and on the evening of the 15th we encamped in
the Mexican territory, on the left bank of Green river, 69 miles from the
South Pass, in longitude 110 deg. 05' 05", and latitude 41 deg. 53' 54", distant
1,031 miles from the mouth of the Kansas. This is the emigrant road to
Oregon, which bears much to the southward, to avoid the mountains about
the western heads of Green river--the _Rio Verde_ of the Spaniards.

16th.--Crossing the river, here about 400 feet wide, by a very good ford,
we continued to descend for seven or eight miles on a pleasant road along
the right bank of the stream, of which the islands and shores are
handsomely timbered with cottonwood. The refreshing appearance of the
broad river, with its timbered shores and green wooded islands, in
contrast to its dry and sandy plains, probably obtained for it the name of
Green river, which was bestowed on it by the Spaniards who first came into
this country to trade some 25 years ago. It was then familiarly known as
the Seeds-ke-dee-agie, or Prairie Hen (_tetrao urophasianus_) river;
a name which it received from the Crows, to whom its upper waters belong,
and on which this bird is still very abundant. By the Shoshonee and Utah
Indians, to whom belongs, for a considerable distance below, the country
where we were now traveling, it was called the Bitter Root river, from a
great abundance in its valley of a plant which affords them one of their
favorite roots. Lower down, from Brown's hole to the southward, the river
runs through lofty chasms, walled in by precipices of _red_ rock; and
even among the wilder tribes which inhabit that portion of its course, I
have heard it called by Indian refugees from the California settlements
the Rio _Colorado_. We halted to noon at the upper end of a large
bottom, near some old houses, which had been a trading post, in lat. 41 deg.
46' 54". At this place the elevation of the river above the sea is 6,230
feet. That of Lewis's fork of the Columbia at Fort Hall is, according to
our subsequent observations, 4,500 feet. The descent of each stream is
rapid, but that of the Colorado is but little known, and that little
derived from vague report. Three hundred miles of its lower part, as it
approaches the Gulf of California, is reported to be smooth and tranquil;
but its upper part is manifestly broken into many falls and rapids. From
many descriptions of trappers, it is probable that in its foaming course
among its lofty precipices it presents many scenes of wild grandeur; and
though offering many temptations, and often discussed, no trappers have
been found bold enough to undertake a voyage which has so certain a
prospect of a fatal termination. The Indians have strange stories of
beautiful valleys abounding with beaver, shut up among inaccessible walls
of rock in the lower course of the river; and to which the neighboring
Indians, in their occasional wars with the Spaniards and among themselves,
drive their herds of cattle and flocks of sheep, leaving them to pasture
in perfect security.

The road here leaves the river, which bends considerably to the east; and
in the afternoon we resumed our westerly course, passing over a somewhat
high and broken country; and about sunset, after a day's travel of 26
miles, reached Black's fork of the Green river--a shallow stream, with a
somewhat sluggish current, about 120 feet wide, timbered principally with
willow, and here and there an occasional large tree. At three in the
morning I obtained an observation of an emersion of the first satellite of
Jupiter, with other observations. The heavy wagons have so completely
pulverized the soil, that clouds of fine light dust are raised by the
slightest wind, making the road sometimes very disagreeable.

17th.--Leaving our encampment at six in the morning, we traveled along the
bottom, which is about two miles wide, bordered by low hills, in which the
strata contained handsome and very distinct vegetable fossils. In a gully
a short distance farther up the river, and underlying these, was exposed a
stratum of an impure or argillaceous limestone. Crossing on the way
Black's fork, where it is one foot deep and forty wide, with clear water
and a pebbly bed, in nine miles we reached Ham's fork, a tributary to the
former stream, having now about sixty feet breadth, and a few inches depth
of water. It is wooded with thickets of red willow, and in the bottom is a
tolerably strong growth of grass. The road here makes a traverse of twelve
miles across a bend of the river. Passing in the way some remarkable
hills, two or three hundred feet high, with frequent and nearly vertical
escarpments of a green stone, consisting of an argillaceous carbonate of
lime, alternating with strata of an iron-brown limestone, and worked into
picturesque forms by wind and rain, at two in the afternoon we reached the
river again, having made to-day 21 miles. Since crossing the great
dividing ridge of the Rocky mountains, plants have been very few in
variety, the country being covered principally with artemisia.

18th.--We passed on the road, this morning, the grave of one of the
emigrants, being the second we had seen since falling into their trail;
and halted to noon on the river, a short distance above.

The Shoshonee woman took leave of us here, expecting to find some of her
relations at Bridger's fort, which is only a mile or two distant, on a
fork of this stream. In the evening we encamped on a salt creek, about
fifteen feet wide, having to-day traveled 32 miles.

I obtained an emersion of the first satellite under favorable
circumstances, the night being still and clear.

One of our mules died here, and in this portion of our journey we lost six
or seven of our animals. The grass which the country had lately afforded
was very poor and insufficient; and animals which have been accustomed to
grain become soon weak and unable to labor, when reduced to no other
nourishment than grass. The American horses (as those are usually called
which are brought to this country from the States) are not of any
serviceable value until after they have remained a winter in the country,
and become accustomed to live entirely on grass.

19th.--Desirous to avoid every delay not absolutely necessary, I sent on
Carson in advance to Fort Hall this morning, to make arrangements for a
small supply of provisions. A few miles from our encampment, the road
entered a high ridge, which the trappers called the "little mountain,"
connecting the Utah with the Wind River chain; and in one of the hills
near which we passed I remarked strata of a conglomerate formation,
fragments of which were scattered over the surface. We crossed a ridge of
this conglomerate, the road passing near a grove of low cedar, and
descending upon one of the heads of Ham's fork, called Muddy, where we
made our mid-day halt. In the river hills at this place, I discovered
strata of fossiliferous rock, having an _oolitic structure_, which,
in connection with the neighboring strata, authorize us to believe that
here, on the west side of the Rocky mountains, we find repeated the modern
formations of Great Britain and Europe, which have hitherto been wanting
to complete the system of North American geology.

In the afternoon we continued our road, and searching among the hills a
few miles up the stream, and on the same bank, I discovered, among the
alternate beds of coal and clay, a stratum of white indurated clay,
containing very clear and beautiful impressions of vegetable remains. This
was the most interesting fossil locality I had met in the country, and I
deeply regretted that time did not permit me to remain a day or two in the
vicinity; but I could not anticipate the delays to which I might be
exposed in the course of our journey--or, rather, I knew that they were
many and inevitable; and after remaining here only about an hour, I
hurried off, loaded with as many specimens as I could conveniently carry.

Coal made its appearance occasionally in the hills during the afternoon,
and was displayed in rabbit burrows in a kind of gap, through which we
passed over some high hills, and we descended to make our encampment on
the same stream, where we found but very poor grass. In the evening a fine
cow, with her calf, which had strayed off from some emigrant party, was
found several miles from the road, and brought into camp; and as she gave
an abundance of milk, we enjoyed to-night an excellent cup of coffee. We
traveled to-day 28 miles, and, as has been usual since crossing the Green
river, the road has been very dusty, and the weather smoky and
oppressively hot. Artemisia was characteristic among the few plants.

20th.--We continued to travel up the creek by a very gradual ascent and a
very excellent grassy road, passing on the way several small forks of the
stream. The hills here are higher, presenting escarpments of party-colored
and apparently clay rocks, purple, dark-red, and yellow, containing strata
of sandstone and limestone with shells, with a bed of cemented pebbles,
the whole overlaid by beds of limestone. The alternation of red and yellow
gives a bright appearance to the hills, one of which was called by our
people the Rainbow hill, and the character of the country became more
agreeable, and traveling far more pleasant, as now we found timber and
very good grass. Gradually ascending, we reached the lower level of a bed
of white limestone, lying upon a white clay, on the upper line of which
the whole road is abundantly supplied with beautiful cool springs, gushing
out a foot in breadth and several inches deep, directly from the hill-

At noon we halted at the last main fork of the creek, at an elevation of
7,200 feet, and in latitude, by observation, 41 deg. 39' 45"; and in the
afternoon continued on the same excellent road, up the left or northern
fork of the stream, towards its head, in a pass which the barometer placed
at 8,230 feet above the sea. This is a connecting ridge between the Utah
or Bear River mountains and the Wind River chain of the Rocky mountains,
separating the waters of the Gulf of California on the east, and those on
the west belonging more directly to the Pacific, from a vast interior
basin whose rivers are collected into numerous lakes having no outlet to
the ocean. From the summit of this pass, the highest which the road
crosses between the Mississippi and the Western ocean, our view was over a
very mountainous region, whose rugged appearance was greatly increased by
the smoky weather, through which the broken ridges were dark and dimly
seen. The ascent to the summit of the gap was occasionally steeper than
the national road in the Alleghanies; and the descent, by way of a spur on
the western side, is rather precipitous, but the pass may still be called
a good one. Some thickets of the willow in the hollows below deceived us
into the expectation of finding a camp at our usual hour at the foot of
the mountain; but we found them without water, and continued down a
ravine, and encamped about dark at a place where the springs began again
to make their appearance, but where our animals fared badly; the stock of
the emigrants having razed the grass as completely as if we were again in
the midst of the buffalo.

21st.--An hour's travel this morning brought us into the fertile and
picturesque valley of Bear river, the principal tributary to the Great
Salt lake. The stream is here two hundred feet wide, fringed with willows
and occasional groups of hawthorns. We were now entering a region which,
for us, possessed a strange and extraordinary interest. We were upon the
waters of the famous lake which forms a salient point among the remarkable
geographical features of the country, and around which the vague and
superstitious accounts of the trappers had thrown a delightful obscurity,
which we anticipated pleasure in dispelling, but which, in the mean time,
left a crowded field for the exercise of our imagination.

In our occasional conversations with the few old hunters who had visited
the region, it had been a subject of frequent speculation; and the wonders
which they related were not the less agreeable because they were highly
exaggerated and impossible.

Hitherto this lake had been seen only by trappers who were wandering
through the country in search of new beaver-streams, caring very little
for geography; its islands had never been visited; and none were to be
found who had entirely made the circuit of its shores; and no instrumental
observations or geographical survey, of any description, had ever been
made anywhere in the neighboring region. It was generally supposed that it
had no visible outlet; but among the trappers, including those in my own
camp, were many who believed that somewhere on its surface was a terrible
whirlpool, through which its waters found their way to the ocean by some
subterranean communication. All these things had made a frequent subject
of discussion in our desultory conversations around the fires at night;
and my own mind had become tolerably well filled with their indefinite
pictures, and insensibly colored with their romantic descriptions, which,
in the pleasure of excitement, I was well disposed to believe, and half
expected to realize.

Where we descended into this beautiful valley, it is three to four miles
in breadth, perfectly level, and bounded by mountainous ridges, one above
another, rising suddenly from the plain.

We continued our road down the river, and at night encamped with a family
of emigrants--two men, women, and several children--who appeared to be
bringing up the rear of the great caravan. I was struck with the fine
appearance of their cattle, some six or eight yoke of oxen, which really
looked as well as if they had been all the summer at work on some good
farm. It was strange to see one small family traveling along through such
a country, so remote from civilization. Some nine years since, such a
security might have been a fatal one, but since their disastrous defeats
in the country a little north, the Blackfeet have ceased to visit these
waters. Indians however, are very uncertain in their localities; and the
friendly feelings, also, of those now inhabiting it may be changed.

According to barometrical observation at noon, the elevation Of the valley
was 6,400 feet above the sea; and our encampment at night in latitude 42 deg.
03' 47", and longitude 111 deg. 10' 53", by observation--the day's journey
having been 26 miles. This encampment was therefore within the territorial
limit of the United States; our traveling, from the time we entered the
valley of the Green river, on the 15th of August, having been south of the
42d degree of north latitude, and consequently on Mexican territory; and
this is the route all the emigrants now travel to Oregon.

The temperature at sunset was 65 deg.; and at evening there was a distant
thunder-storm, with a light breeze from the north.

Antelope and elk were seen during the day on the opposite prairie; and
there were ducks and geese in the river.

The next morning, in about three miles from our encampment, we reached
Smith's fork, a stream of clear water, about 50 feet in breadth. It is
timbered with cottonwood, willow, and aspen, and makes a beautiful
debouchement through a pass about 600 yards wide, between remarkable
mountain hills, rising abruptly on either side, and forming gigantic
columns to the gate by which it enters Bear River valley. The bottoms,
which below Smith's fork had been two miles wide, narrowed as we advanced
to a gap 500 yards wide, and during the greater part of the day we had a
winding route, the river making very sharp and sudden bends, the mountains
steep and rocky, and the valley occasionally so narrow as only to leave
space for a passage through.

We made our halt at noon in a fertile bottom, where the common blue flax
was growing abundantly, a few miles below the mouth of Thomas's fork, one
of the larger tributaries of the river.

Crossing, in the afternoon, the point of a narrow spur, we descended into
a beautiful bottom, formed by a lateral valley, which presented a picture
of home beauty that went directly to our hearts. The edge of the wood, for
several miles along the river, was dotted with the white covers of
emigrant wagons, collected in groups at different camps, where the smoke
was rising lazily from the fires, around which the women were occupied in
preparing the evening meal, and the children playing in the grass; and
herds of cattle, grazing about in the bottom, had an air of quiet
security, and civilized comfort, that made a rare sight for the traveler
in such a remote wilderness.

In common with all the emigration, they had been reposing for several days
in this delightful valley, in order to recruit their animals on its
luxuriant pasturage after their long journey, and prepare them for the
hard travel along the comparatively sterile banks of the Upper Columbia.
At the lower end of this extensive bottom, the river passes through an
open canon, where there were high vertical rocks to the water's edge, and
the road here turns up a broad valley to the right. It was already near
sunset; but, hoping to reach the river again before night, we continued
our march along the valley, finding the road tolerably good, until we
arrived at a point where it crosses the ridge by an ascent of a mile in
length, which was so very steep and difficult for the gun and carriage,
that we did not reach the summit until dark.

It was absolutely necessary to descend into the valley for water and
grass; and we were obliged to grope our way in the darkness down a very
steep, bad mountain, reaching the river at about ten o'clock. It was late
before our animals were gathered into the camp, several of those which
were very weak being necessarily left to pass the night on the ridge; and
we sat down again to a midnight supper. The road, in the morning,
presented an animated appearance. We found that we had encamped near a
large party of emigrants; and a few miles below, another party was already
in motion. Here the valley had resumed its usual breadth, and the river
swept off along the mountains on the western side, the road continuing
directly on.

In about an hour's travel we met several Shoshonee Indians, who informed
us that they belonged to a large village which had just come into the
valley from the mountain to the westward, where they had been hunting
antelope and gathering service-berries. Glad at the opportunity of seeing
one of their villages, and in the hope of purchasing from them a few
horses, I turned immediately off into the plain towards their encampment,
which was situated on a small stream near the river.

We had approached within something more than a mile of the village, when
suddenly a single horseman emerged from it at full speed, followed by
another and another in rapid succession; and then party after party poured
into the plain, until, when the foremost rider reached us, all the whole
intervening plain was occupied by a mass of horsemen, which came charging
down upon us with guns and naked swords, lances, and bows and arrows--
Indians entirely naked, and warriors fully dressed for war, with the long
red streamers of their war-bonnets reaching nearly to the ground, all
mingled together in the bravery of savage warfare. They had been thrown
into a sudden tumult by the appearance of our flag, which, among these
people, is regarded as an emblem of hostility--it being usually borne by
the Sioux and the neighboring mountain Indians, when they come here to
war; and we had, accordingly been mistaken for a body of their enemies. A
few words from the chief quieted the excitement; and the whole band,
increasing every moment in number, escorted us to their encampment, where
the chief pointed out a place for us to encamp, near his own lodge, and we
made known our purpose in visiting the village. In a very short time we
purchased eight horses, for which we gave in exchange blankets, red and
blue cloth, beads, knives, and tobacco, and the usual other articles of
Indian traffic. We obtained from them also a considerable quantity of
berries, of different kinds, among which service-berries were the most
abundant; and several kinds of roots and seeds, which we could eat with
pleasure, as any kind of vegetable food was gratifying to us. I ate here,
for the first time, the _kooyah_, or _tobacco-root_,
(_valeriana edulis_,)--the principal edible root among the Indians
who inhabit the upper waters of the streams on the western side of the
mountains. It has a very strong and remarkably peculiar taste and odor,
which I can compare to no other vegetable that I am acquainted with, and
which to some persons is extremely offensive. It was characterized by Mr.
Preuss as the most horrid food he had ever put in his mouth; and when, in
the evening, one of the chiefs sent his wife to me with a portion which
she had prepared as a delicacy to regale us, the odor immediately drove
him out of the lodge; and frequently afterwards he used to beg that when
those who liked it had taken what they desired, it might be sent away. To
others, however, the taste is rather an agreeable one; and I was
afterwards glad when it formed an addition to our scanty meals. It is full
of nutriment; and in its unprepared state is said by the Indians to have
very strong poisonous qualities, of which it is deprived by a peculiar
process, being baked in the ground for about two days.

The morning of the 24th was disagreeably cool, with an easterly wind, and
very smoky weather. We made a late start from the village, and, regaining
the road, (on which, during all the day, were scattered the emigrant
wagons,) we continued on down the valley of the river, bordered by high
and mountainous hills, on which fires are seen at the summit. The soil
appears generally good, although, with the grasses, many of the plants are
dried up, probably on account of the great heat and want of rain. The
common blue flax of cultivation, now almost entirely in seed--only a
scattered flower here and there remaining--is the most characteristic
plant of the Bear River valley. When we encamped at night, on the right
bank of the river, it was growing as in a sown field. We had traveled
during the day twenty-two miles, encamping in latitude (by observation)
42 deg. 36' 56", chronometric longitude 111 deg. 42' 05".

In our neighborhood the mountains appeared extremely rugged, giving still
greater value to this beautiful natural pass.

25th.--This was a cloudless but smoky autumn morning, with a cold wind
from the southeast, and a temperature of 45 deg. at sunrise. In a few miles I
noticed, where a little stream crossed the road, fragments of _scoriated
basalt_ scattered about--the first volcanic rock we had seen, and which
now became a characteristic rock along our future road. In about six
miles' travel from our encampment, we reached one of the points in our
journey to which we had always looked forward with great interest--the
famous _Beer springs_. The place in which they are situated is a
basin of mineral waters enclosed by the mountains, which sweep around a
circular bend of Bear river, here at its most northern point, and which,
from a northern, in the course of a few miles acquires a southern
direction towards the GREAT SALT LAKE. A pretty little stream of clear
water enters the upper part of the basin, from an open valley in the
mountains, and, passing through the bottom, discharges into Bear river.
Crossing this stream, we descended a mile below, and made our encampment
in a grove of cedar immediately at the Beer springs, which, on account of
the effervescing gas and acid taste, have received their name from the
voyageurs and trappers of the country, who, in the midst of their rude and
hard lives, are fond of finding some fancied resemblance to the luxuries
they rarely have the fortune to enjoy.

Although somewhat disappointed in the expectations which various
descriptions had led me to form of unusual beauty of situation and
scenery, I found it altogether a place of very great interest; and a
traveler for the first time in a volcanic region remains in a constant
excitement, and at every step is arrested by something remarkable and new.
There is a confusion of interesting objects gathered together in a small
space. Around the place of encampment the Beer springs were numerous; but,
as far as we could ascertain, were confined entirely to that locality in
the bottom. In the bed of the river, in front, for a space of several
hundred yards, they were very abundant; the effervescing gas rising up and
agitating the water in countless bubbling columns. In the vicinity round
about were numerous springs of an entirely different and equally marked
mineral character. In a rather picturesque spot about 1,300 yards below
our encampment, and immediately on the river bank, is the most remarkable
spring of the place. In an opening on the rock, a white column of
scattered water is thrown up, in form like a _jet-d'eau_, to a
variable height of about three feet, and, though it is maintained in a
constant supply, its greatest height is only attained at regular
intervals, according to the action of the force below. It is accompanied
by a subterranean noise, which, together with the motion of the water,
makes very much the impression of a steamboat in motion; and, without
knowing that it had been already previously so called, we gave to it the
name of the _Steamboat spring_. The rock through which it is forced
is slightly raised in a convex manner, and gathered at the opening into an
urn-mouthed form, and is evidently formed by continued deposition from the
water, and colored bright red by oxide of iron. An analysis of this
deposited rock, which I subjoin, will give you some idea of the properties
of the water, which, with the exception of the Beer springs, is the
mineral water of the place.
Carbonate of lime - - - 92.55
Carbonate of magnesia - 0.42
Oxide of iron - - - - - 1.05

Silica- - - - - -}
Alumina - - - - -}- - - 5.98
Water and loss- -} _______
It is a hot spring, and the water has a pungent and disagreeable metallic
taste, leaving a burning effect on the tongue. Within perhaps two yards of
the _jet-d'eau_ is a small hole of about an inch in diameter, through
which, at regular intervals, escapes a blast of hot air, with a light

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest