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 7 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.

deer, but had not the necessary time for hunting. At one of these orchard-
grounds, we encamped about noon to make an effort for Mr. Preuss. One man
took his way along a spur leading into the river, in hope to cross his
trail; and another took our own back. Both were volunteers; and to the
successful man was promised a pair of pistols--not as a reward, but as a
token of gratitude for a service which would free us all from much

We had among our few animals a horse which was so much reduced, that, with
traveling, even the good grass could nor save him; and, having nothing to
eat, he was killed this afternoon. He was a good animal, and had made the
journey round from Fort Hall.

_Dodecatheon dentatum_ continued the characteristic plant in flower;
and the naked-looking shrub already mentioned continued characteristic,
beginning to put forth a small white blossom. At evening the men returned,
having seen or heard nothing of Mr. Preuss; and I determined to make a
hard push down the river the next morning and get ahead of him.

4th.--We continued rapidly along on a broad plainly-beaten trail, the mere
traveling and breathing the delightful air being a positive enjoyment. Our
road led along a ridge inclining to the river, and the air and the open
grounds were fragrant with flowering shrubs; and in the course of the
morning we issued on an open spur, by which we descended directly to the
stream. Here the river issues suddenly from the mountains, which hitherto
had hemmed it closely in; these now become softer, and change sensibly
their character; and at this point commences the most beautiful valley in
which we had ever traveled. We hurried to the river, on which we noticed a
small sand beach, to which Mr. Preuss would naturally have gone. We found
no trace of him, but, instead, were recent tracks of bare-footed Indians,
and little piles of muscle-shells, and old fires where they had roasted
the fish. We traveled on over the river grounds, which were undulating,
and covered with grass to the river brink. We halted to noon a few miles
beyond, always under the shade of the evergreen oaks, which formed open
groves on the bottoms.

Continuing our road in the afternoon, we ascended to the uplands, where
the river passes round a point of great beauty, and goes through very
remarkable dalles, in character resembling those of the Columbia. Beyond,
we again descended to the bottoms, where we found an Indian village,
consisting of two or three huts; we had come upon them suddenly, and the
people had evidently just run off. The huts were low and slight, made like
beehives in a picture, five or six feet high, and near each was a crate,
formed of interlaced branches and grass, in size and shape like a very
large hogshead. Each of these contained from six to nine bushels. These
were filled with the long acorns already mentioned, and in the huts were
several neatly-made baskets, containing quantities of the acorns roasted.
They were sweet and agreeably flavored, and we supplied ourselves with
about half a bushel, leaving one of our shirts, a handkerchief, and some
smaller articles, in exchange. The river again entered for a space among
the hills, and we followed a trail leading across a bend through a
handsome hollow behind. Here, while engaged in trying to circumvent a
deer, we discovered some Indians on a hill several hundred yards ahead,
and gave them a shout, to which they responded by loud and rapid talking
and vehement gesticulation, but made no stop, hurrying up the mountain as
fast as their legs could carry them. We passed on, and again encamped in a
grassy grove.

The absence of Mr. Preuss gave me great concern; and, for a large reward,
Derosier volunteered to go back on the trail. I directed him to search
along the river, traveling upward for the space of a day and a half, at
which time I expected he would meet Mr. Fitzpatrick, whom I requested to
aid in the search; at all events, he was to go no farther, but return to
this camp, where a _cache_ of provisions was made for him.

Continuing the next day down the river, we discovered three squaws in a
little bottom, and surrounded them before they could make their escape.
They had large conical baskets, which they were engaged in filling with a
small leafy plant (_erodium cicutarium_) just now beginning to bloom,
and covering the ground like a sward of grass. These did not make any
lamentations, but appeared very much impressed with our appearance,
speaking to us only in a whisper, and offering us smaller baskets of the
plant, which they signified to us was good to eat, making signs also that
it was to be cooked by the fire. We drew out a little cold horse-meat, and
the squaws made signs to us that the men had gone out after deer, and that
we could have some by waiting till they came in. We observed that the
horses ate with great avidity the herb which they had been gathering; and
here also, for the first time, we saw Indians eat the common grass--one of
the squaws pulling several tufts, and eating it with apparent relish.
Seeing our surprise, she pointed to the horses; but we could not well
understand what she meant, except, perhaps, that what was good for the one
was good for the other.

We encamped in the evening on the shore of the river, at a place where the
associated beauties of scenery made so strong an impression on us that we
gave it the name of the Beautiful Camp. The undulating river shore was
shaded with the live-oaks, which formed a continuous grove over the
country, and the same grassy sward extended to the edge of the water, and
we made our fires near some large granite masses which were lying among
the trees. We had seen several of the acorn _caches_ during the day,
and here there were two which were very large, containing each, probably,
ten bushels. Towards evening we heard a weak shout among the hills behind,
and had the pleasure to see Mr. Preuss descending towards the camp. Like
ourselves, he had traveled to-day 25 miles, but had seen nothing of
Derosier. Knowing, on the day he was lost, that I was determined to keep
the river as much as possible, he had not thought it necessary to follow
the trail very closely, but walked on, right and left, certain to find it
somewhere along the river, searching places to obtain good views of the
country. Towards sunset he climbed down towards the river to look for the
camp; but, finding no trail, concluded that we were behind, and walked
back till night came on, when, being very much fatigued, he collected
drift-wood and made a large fire among the rocks. The next day it became
more serious and he encamped again alone, thinking that we must have taken
some other course. To go back would have been madness in his weak and
starved condition, and onward towards the valley was his only hope, always
in expectation of reaching it soon. His principal means of subsistence
were a few roots, which the hunters call sweet onions, having very little
taste, but a good deal of nutriment, growing generally in rocky ground,
and requiring a good deal of labor to get, as he had only a pocket-knife.
Searching for these, he found a nest of big ants, which he let run on his
hand, and stripped them off in his mouth; these had an agreeable acid
taste. One of his greatest privations was the want of tobacco; and a
pleasant smoke at evening would have been a relief which only a voyageur
could appreciate. He tried the dried leaves of the live-oak, knowing that
those of other oaks were sometimes used as a substitute; but these were
too thick, and would not do. On the 4th he made seven or eight miles,
walking slowly along the river, avoiding as much as possible to climb the
hills. In little pools he caught some of the smallest kind of frogs, which
he swallowed, not so much in the gratification of hunger, as in the hope
of obtaining some strength. Scattered along the river were old fire-
places, where the Indians had roasted muscles and acorns; but though he
searched diligently, he did not there succeed in finding either. He had
collected firewood for the night, when he heard, at some distance from the
river, the barking of what he thought were two dogs, and walked in that
direction as quickly as he was able, hoping to find there some Indian hut,
but met only two wolves; and, in his disappointment, the gloom of the
forest was doubled.

Traveling the next day feebly down the river, he found five or six Indians
at the huts of which we have spoken: some were painting themselves black,
and others roasting acorns. Being only one man, they did not run off, but
received him kindly, and gave him a welcome supply of roasted acorns. He
gave them his pocket-knife in return, and stretched out his hand to one of
the Indians, who did not appear to comprehend the motion, but jumped back,
as if he thought he was about to lay hold of him. They seemed afraid of
him, not certain as to what he was.

Traveling on, he came to the place where we had found the squaws. Here he
found our fire still burning, and the tracks of the horses. The sight gave
him sudden hope and courage; and, following as fast as he could, joined us
at evening.

6th.--We continued on our road through the same surpassingly beautiful
country, entirely unequalled for the pasturage of stock by any thing we
had ever seen. Our horses had now become so strong that they were able to
carry us, and we traveled rapidly--over four miles an hour; four of us
riding every alternate hour. Every few hundred yards we came upon a little
band of deer; but we were too eager to reach the settlement, which we
momentarily expected to discover, to halt for any other than a passing
shot. In a few hours we reached a large fork, the northern branch of the
river, and equal in size to that which we had descended. Together they
formed a beautiful stream, 60 to 100 yards wide; which at first, ignorant
of the nature of the country through which that river ran, we took to be
the Sacramento.

We continued down the right bank of the river, traveling for a while over
a wooded upland, where we had the delight to discover tracks of cattle. To
the southwest was visible a black column of smoke, which we had frequently
noticed in descending, arising from the fires we had seen from the top of
the Sierra. From the upland we descended into broad groves on the river,
consisting of the evergreen, and a new species of a white-oak, with a
large tufted top, and three to six feet in diameter. Among these was no
brushwood; and the grassy surface gave to it the appearance of parks in an
old-settled country. Following the tracks of the horses and cattle, in
search of people, we discovered a small village of Indians. Some of these
had on shirts of civilized manufacture, but were otherwise naked, and we
could understand nothing from them: they appeared entirely astonished at
seeing us.

We made an acorn meal at noon, and hurried on; the valley being gay with
flowers, and some of the banks being absolutely golden with the
Californian poppy, (_eschescholtzia crocea_.) Here the grass was
smooth and green, and the groves very open; the large oaks throwing a
broad shade among sunny spots. Shortly afterwards we gave a shout at the
appearance, on a little bluff, of a neatly-built _adobe_ house, with
glass windows. We rode up, but, to our disappointment, found only Indians.
There was no appearance of cultivation, and we could see no cattle; and we
supposed the place had been abandoned. We now pressed on more eagerly than
ever: the river swept round a large bend to the right; the hills lowered
down entirely; and, gradually entering a broad valley, we came
unexpectedly into a large Indian village, where the people looked clean,
and wore cotton shirts and various other articles of dress. They
immediately crowded around us, and we had the inexpressible delight to
find one who spoke a little indifferent Spanish, but who at first
confounded us by saying there were no whites in the country; but just then
a well-dressed Indian came up, and made his salutations in very well-
spoken Spanish. In answer to our inquiries, he informed us that we were
upon the _Rio de los Americanos_, (the river of the Americans,) and
that it joined the Sacramento river about ten miles below. Never did a
name sound more sweetly! We felt ourselves among our countrymen; for the
name of _American_, in these distant parts, is applied to the
citizens of the United States. To our eager inquiries he answered, "I am a
_vaquero_ (cowherd) in the service of Capt. Sutter, and the people of
this _rancheria_ work for him." Our evident satisfaction made him
communicative; and he went on to say that Capt. Sutter was a very rich
man, and always glad to see his country people. We asked for his house.

He answered, that it was just over the hill before us; and offered, if we
would wait a moment, to take his horse and conduct us to it. We readily
accepted this civil offer. In a short distance we came in sight of the
fort; and, passing on the way the house of a settler on the opposite side,
(a Mr. Sinclair,) we forded the river; and in a few miles were met, a
short distance from the fort, by Capt. Sutter himself. He gave us a most
frank and cordial reception--conducted us immediately to his residence--
and under his hospitable roof we had a night of rest, enjoyment, and
refreshment, which none but ourselves could appreciate. But the party left
in the mountains, with Mr. Fitzpatrick, were to be attended to; and the
next morning, supplied with fresh horses and provisions, I hurried off to
meet them. On the second day we met, a few miles below the forks of the
Rio de los Americanos; and a more forlorn and pitiable sight than they
presented, cannot well be imagined. They were all on foot--each man, weak
and emaciated, leading a horse or mule as weak and emaciated as
themselves. They had experienced great difficulty in descending the
mountains, made slippery by rains and melting snows, and many horses fell
over precipices, and were killed; and with some were lost the _packs_
they carried. Among these, was a mule with the plants which we had
collected since leaving Fort Hall, along a line of 2,000 miles' travel.
Out of 67 horses and mules, with which we commenced crossing the Sierra,
only 33 reached the valley of the Sacramento, and they only in a condition
to be led along. Mr. Fitzpatrick and his party, traveling more slowly, had
been able to make some little exertion at hunting, and had killed a few
deer. The scanty supply was a great relief to them; for several had been
made sick by the strange and unwholesome food which the preservation of
life compelled them to use. We stopped and encamped as soon as we met; and
a repast of good beef, excellent bread, and delicious salmon, which I had
brought along, was their first relief from the sufferings of the Sierra,
and their first introduction to the luxuries of the Sacramento. It
required all our philosophy and forbearance to prevent _plenty_ from
becoming as hurtful to us now, as _scarcity_ had been before.

The next day, March 8th, we encamped at the junction of the two rivers,
the Sacramento and Americanos; and thus found the whole party in the
beautiful valley of the Sacramento. It was a convenient place for the
camp; and, among other things, was within reach of the wood necessary to
make the pack-saddles, which we should need on our long journey home, from
which we were farther distant now than we were four months before, when
from the Dalles of the Columbia we so cheerfully took up the homeward line
of march.

Captain Sutter emigrated to this country from the western part of Missouri
in 1838-39, and formed the first settlement in the valley, on a large
grant of land which he obtained from the Mexican Government. He had, at
first, some trouble with the Indians; but, by the occasional exercise of
well-timed authority, he has succeeded in converting them into a peaceable
and industrious people. The ditches around his extensive wheat-fields; the
making of the sun-dried bricks, of which his fort is constructed; the
ploughing, harrowing, and other agricultural operations, are entirely the
work of these Indians, for which they receive a very moderate
compensation--principally in shirts, blankets, and other articles of
clothing. In the same manner, on application to the chief of a village, he
readily obtains as many boys and girls as he has any use for. There were
at this time a number of girls at the fort, in training for a future
woolen factory; but they were now all busily engaged in constantly
watering the gardens, which the unfavorable dryness of the season rendered
necessary. The occasional dryness of some seasons, I understood to be the
only complaint of the settlers in this fertile valley, as it sometimes
renders the crops uncertain. Mr. Sutter was about making arrangements to
irrigate his lands by means of the Rio de los Americanos. He had this year
sown, and altogether by Indian labor, three hundred fanegas of wheat.

A few years since, the neighboring Russian establishment of Ross, being
about to withdraw from the country, sold to him a large number of stock,
with agricultural and other stores, with a number of pieces of artillery
and other munitions of war; for these, a regular yearly payment is made in

The fort is a quadrangular _adobe_ structure, mounting twelve pieces
of artillery, (two of them brass,) and capable of admitting a garrison of
a thousand men; this, at present, consists of forty Indians in uniform--
one of whom was always found on duty at the gate. As might naturally be
expected, the pieces are not in very good order. The whites in the
employment of Capt. Sutter, American, French, and German, amount, perhaps,
to thirty men. The inner wall is formed into buildings, comprising the
common quarters, with blacksmith and other workshops; the dwelling-house,
with a large distillery-house, and other buildings, occupying more the
centre of the area.

It is built upon a pond-like stream, at times a running creek
communicating with the Rio de los Americanos, which enters the Sacramento
about two miles below. The latter is here a noble river, about three
hundred yards broad, deep and tranquil, with several fathoms of water in
the channel, and its banks continuously timbered. There were two vessels
belonging to Capt. Sutter at anchor near the landing--one a large two-
masted lighter, and the other a schooner, which was shortly to proceed on
a voyage to Fort Vancouver for a cargo of goods.

Since his arrival, several other persons, principally Americans, have
established themselves in the valley. Mr. Sinclair, from whom I
experienced much kindness during my stay, is settled a few miles distant,
on the Rio de los Americanos. Mr. Coudrois, a gentleman from Germany, has
established himself on Feather river, and is associated with Capt. Sutter
in agricultural pursuits. Among other improvements, they are about to
introduce the cultivation of rape-seed, (_brassica rapus_,) which
there is every reason to believe is admirably adapted to the climate and
soil. The lowest average produce of wheat, as far as we can at present
know, is thirty-five fanegas for one sown; but, as an instance of its
fertility, it may be mentioned that Senor Valejo obtained, on a piece of
ground where sheep had been pastured, 800 fanegas for eight sown. The
produce being different in various places, a very correct idea cannot be

An impetus was given to the active little population by our arrival, as we
were in want of every thing. Mules, horses, and cattle, were to be
collected; the horse-mill was at work day and night, to make sufficient
flour; the blacksmith's shop was put in requisition for horse-shoes and
bridle-bits; and pack-saddles, ropes, and bridles, and all the other
little equipments of the camp, were again to be provided.

The delay thus occasioned was one of repose and enjoyment, which our
situation required, and, anxious as we were to resume our homeward
journey, was regretted by no one. In the mean time, I had the pleasure to
meet with Mr. Chiles, who was residing at a farm on the other side of the
river Sacramento, while engaged in the selection of a place for a
settlement, for which he had received the necessary grant of land from the
Mexican government.

It will be remembered that we had parted near the frontier of the states,
and that he had subsequently descended the valley of Lewis's fork, with a
party of ten or twelve men, with the intention of crossing the
intermediate mountains to the waters of the Bay of San Francisco. In the
execution of this design, and aided by subsequent information, he left the
Columbia at the mouth of _Malheur_ river, and, making his way to the
head-waters of the Sacramento with a part of his company, traveled down
that river to the settlements of Nueva Helvetia. The other party, to whom
he had committed his wagons, and mill-irons, and saws, took a course
further to the south, and the wagons and their contents were lost.

On the 22d we made a preparatory move, and encamped near the settlement of
Mr. Sinclair, on the left bank of the Rio de los Americanos. I had
discharged five of the party; Neal, the blacksmith, (an excellent workman,
and an unmarried man, who had done his duty faithfully, and had been of
very great service to me,) desired to remain, as strong inducements were
offered here to mechanics.

Although at considerable inconvenience to myself, his good conduct induced
me to comply with his request; and I obtained for him from Capt. Sutter, a
present compensation of two dollars and a half per diem, with a promise
that it should be increased to five, if he proved as good a workman as had
been represented. He was more particularly an agricultural blacksmith. The
other men were discharged with their own consent.

While we remained at this place, Derosier, one of our best men, whose
steady good conduct had won my regard, wandered off from the camp, and
never returned to it again, nor has he since been heard of.

24th.--We resumed our journey with an ample stock of provisions and a
large cavalcade of animals, consisting of 130 horses and mules, and about
30 head of cattle, five of which were milch-cows. Mr. Sutter furnished us
also with an Indian boy, who had been trained as a _vaquero_, and who
would be serviceable in managing our cavalcade, great part of which were
nearly as wild as buffalo, and who was, besides, very anxious to go along
with us. Our direct course home was east, but the Sierra would force us
south, above 500 miles of traveling, to a pass at the head of the San
Joaquin river. This pass, reported to be good, was discovered by Mr.
Joseph Walker, of whom I have already spoken, and whose name it might
therefore appropriately bear. To reach it, our course lay along the valley
of the San Joaquin--the river on our right, and the lofty wall of the
impassable Sierra on the left. From that pass we were to move
southeastwardly, having the Sierra then on the right, and reach the
"_Spanish trail_," deviously traced from one watering-place to
another, which constituted the route of the caravans from _Puebla de los
Angelos_, near the coast of the Pacific, to _Santa Fe_ of New
Mexico. From the pass to this trail was 150 miles. Following that trail
through a desert, relieved by some fertile plains indicated by the
recurrence of the term _vegas_, until it turned to the right to cross
the Colorado, our course would be northeast until we regained the latitude
we had lost in arriving at Eutah lake, and thence to the Rocky mountains
at the head of the Arkansas. This course of traveling, forced upon us by
the structure of the country, would occupy a computed distance of 2,000
miles before we reached the head of the Arkansas--not a settlement to be
seen upon it--and the names of places along it, all being Spanish or
Indian, indicated that it had been but little trod by _American_
feet. Though long, and not free from hardships, this route presented some
points of attraction, in tracing the Sierra Nevada--turning the Great
Basin, perhaps crossing its rim on the south--completely solving the
problem of any river, except the Colorado, from the Rocky mountains on
that part of our continent--and seeing the southern extremity of the
Great Salt lake, of which the northern part had been examined the year

Taking leave of Mr. Sutter, who, with several gentlemen, accompanied us a
few miles on our way, we traveled about 18 miles, and encamped on the
_Rio de los Cosumnes_, a stream receiving its name from the Indians
who live in its valley. Our road was through a level country, admirably
suited to cultivation, and covered with groves of oak-trees, principally
the evergreen-oak, and a large oak already mentioned, in form like those
of the white-oak. The weather, which here, at this season, can easily be
changed from the summer heat of the valley to the frosty mornings and
bright days nearer the mountains, continued delightful for travelers, but
unfavorable to the agriculturists, whose crops of wheat began to wear a
yellow tinge from want of rain.

25th.--We traveled for 28 miles over the same delightful country as
yesterday, and halted in a beautiful bottom at the ford of the _Rio de
los Mukelemnes_, receiving its name from another Indian tribe living on
the river. The bottoms on the stream are broad, rich, and extremely
fertile, and the uplands are shaded with oak groves. A showy
_lupinus_, of extraordinary beauty, growing four to five feet in
height, and covered with spikes in bloom, adorned the banks of the river,
and filled the air with a light and grateful perfume.

On the 26th we halted at the _Arroyo de las Calaveras_, (Skull
creek,) a tributary to the San Joaquin--the previous two streams entering
the bay between the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers. This place is
beautiful, with open groves of oak, and a grassy sward beneath, with many
plants in bloom, some varieties of which seem to love the shade of the
trees, and grow there in close small fields. Near the river, and replacing
the grass, are great quantities of _ammole_, (soap plant,) the leaves
of which are used in California for making, among other things, mats for
saddle-cloths. A vine with a small white flower, (_melothria?_)
called here _la yerba buena_, and which, from its abundance, gives
name to an island and town in the bay, was to-day very frequent on our
road--sometimes running on the ground or climbing the trees.

27th.--To-day we traveled steadily and rapidly up the valley; for, with
our wild animals, any other gait was impossible, and making about five
miles an hour. During the earlier part of the day, our ride had been over
a very level prairie, or rather a succession of long stretches of prairie,
separated by lines and groves of oak timber, growing along dry gullies,
which are filled with water in seasons of rain; and, perhaps, also, by the
melting snows. Over much of this extent, the vegetation was sparse; the
surface showing plainly the action of water, which, in the season of
flood, the Joaquin spreads over the valley. About one o'clock we came
again among innumerable flowers; and a few miles further, fields of the
beautiful blue-flowering _lupine_, which seems to love the
neighborhood of water, indicated that we were approaching a stream. We
here found this beautiful shrub in thickets, some of them being 12 feet in
height. Occasionally three or four plants were clustered together, forming
a grand bouquet, about 90 feet in circumference, and 10 feet high; the
whole summit covered with spikes of flowers, the perfume of which is very
sweet and grateful. A lover of natural beauty can imagine with what
pleasure we rode among these flowering groves, which filled the air with a
light and delicate fragrance. We continued our road for about a half a
mile, interspersed through an open grove of live-oaks, which, in form,
were the most symmetrical and beautiful we had yet seen in this country.
The ends of their branches rested on the ground, forming somewhat more
than a half sphere of very full and regular figure, with leaves apparently
smaller than usual.

The Californian poppy, of a rich orange color, was numerous to-day. Elk
and several bands of antelope made their appearance.

Our road was now one continued enjoyment; and it was pleasant riding among
this assemblage of green pastures with varied flowers and scattered
groves, and out of the warm green spring to look at the rocky and snowy
peaks where lately we had suffered so much. Emerging from the timber, we
came suddenly upon the Stanislaus river, where we hoped to find a ford,
but the stream was flowing by, dark and deep, swollen by the mountain
snows; its general breadth was about 50 yards.

We traveled about five miles up the river, and encamped without being able
to find a ford. Here we made a large _coral_, in order to be able to
catch a sufficient number of our wild animals to relieve those previously

Under the shade of the oaks, along the river, I noticed _erodium
cicutarium_ in bloom, eight or ten inches high. This is the plant which
we had seen the squaws gathering on the Rio de los Americanos. By the
inhabitants of the valley it is highly esteemed for fattening cattle,
which appear to be very fond of it. Here, where the soil begins to be
sandy, it supplies to a considerable extent the want of grass.

Desirous, as far as possible, without delay, to include in our examination
the San Joaquin river, I returned this morning down the Stanislaus for 17
miles, and again encamped without having found a fording-place. After
following it for eight miles further the next morning, and finding
ourselves in the vicinity of the San Joaquin, encamped in a handsome oak
grove, and, several cattle being killed, we ferried over our baggage in
their skins. Here our Indian boy, who probably had not much idea of where
he was going, and began to be alarmed at the many streams which we were
rapidly putting between him and the village, deserted.

Thirteen head of cattle took a sudden fright, while we were driving them
across the river, and galloped off. I remained a day in the endeavor to
recover them; but, finding they had taken the trail back to the fort, let
them go without further effort. Here we had several days of warm and
pleasant rain, which doubtless saved the crops below.


On the 1st of April, we made 10 miles across a prairie without timber,
when we were stopped again by another large river, which is called the
_Rio de la Merced_, (river of our Lady of Mercy.) Here the country
had lost its character of extreme fertility, the soil having become more
sandy and light; but, for several days past, its beauty had been increased
by the additional animation of animal life; and now, it is crowded with
bands of elk and wild horses; and along the rivers are frequent fresh
tracks of grizzly bear, which are unusually numerous in this country.

Our route had been along the timber of the San Joaquin, generally about
eight miles distant, over a high prairie.

In one of the bands of elk seen to-day, there were about 200; but the
larger bands, both of these and wild horses, are generally found on the
other side of the river, which, for that reason, I avoided crossing. I had
been informed below, that the droves of wild horses were almost invariably
found on the western bank of the river; and the danger of losing our
animals among them, together with the wish of adding to our reconnoissance
the numerous streams which run down from the Sierra, decided me to travel
up the eastern bank.

2d.--The day was occupied in building a boat, and ferrying our baggage
across the river; and we encamped on the bank. A large fishing eagle was
slowly sailing along, looking after salmon; and there were some pretty
birds in the timber, with partridges, ducks and geese innumerable in the
neighborhood. We were struck with the tameness of the latter bird at
Helvetia, scattered about in flocks near the wheat-fields, and eating
grass on the prairie; a horseman would ride by within 30 yards, without
disturbing them.

3d.--To-day we touched several times the San Joaquin river--here a fine-
looking tranquil stream, with a slight current, and apparently deep. It
resembled the Missouri in color, with occasional points of white sand; and
its banks, where steep, were a kind of sandy clay; its average width
appeared to be about eighty yards. In the bottoms are frequent ponds,
where our approach disturbed multitudes of wild fowl, principally geese.
Skirting along the timber, we frequently started elk; and large bands were
seen during the day, with antelope and wild horses. The low country and
the timber rendered it difficult to keep the main line of the river; and
this evening we encamped on a tributary stream, about five miles from its
mouth. On the prairie bordering the San Joaquin bottoms, there occurred
during the day but little grass, and in its place was a sparse and dwarf
growth of plants; the soil being sandy, with small bare places and
hillocks, reminded me much of the Platte bottoms; but, on approaching the
timber, we found a more luxuriant vegetation, and at our camp was an
abundance of grass and pea-vines.

The foliage of the oak is getting darker; and every thing, except that the
weather is a little cool, shows that spring is rapidly advancing; and to-
day we had quite a summer rain.

4th.--Commenced to rain at daylight, but cleared off brightly at sunrise.
We ferried the river without any difficulty, and continued up the San
Joaquin. Elk were running in bands over the prairie and in the skirt of
the timber. We reached the river at the mouth of a large slough, which we
were unable to ford, and made a circuit of several miles around. Here the
country appears very flat; oak-trees have entirely disappeared, and are
replaced by a large willow, nearly equal to it in size. The river is about
a hundred yards in breadth, branching into sloughs, and interspersed with
islands. At this time it appears sufficiently deep for a small steamer,
but its navigation would be broken by shallows at low water. Bearing in
towards the river, we were again forced off by another slough; and passing
around, steered towards a clump of trees on the river, and finding there
good grass, encamped. The prairies along the left bank are alive with
immense droves of wild horses; and they had been seen during the day at
every opening through the woods which afforded us a view across the river.
Latitude, by observation, 37 deg. 08' 00"; longitude 120 deg. 45' 22".

5th--During the earlier part of the day's ride, the country presented a
lacustrine appearance; the river was deep, and nearly on a level with the
surrounding country; its banks raised like a levee, and fringed with
willows. Over the bordering plain were interspersed spots of prairie among
fields of _tule_, (bulrushes,) which in this country are called
_tulares_, and little ponds. On the opposite side, a line of timber
was visible which, according to information, points out the course of the
slough, which at times of high water connects with the San Joaquin river--
a large body of water in the upper part of the valley, called the Tule
lakes. The river and all its sloughs are very full, and it is probable
that the lake is now discharging. Here elk were frequently started, and
one was shot out of a band which ran around us. On our left, the Sierra
maintains its snowy height, and masses of snow appear to descend very low
towards the plains; probably the late rains in the valley were snow on the
mountains. We traveled 37 miles, and encamped on the river. Longitude of
the camp, 120 deg. 28' 34", and latitude, 36 deg. 49' 12".

6th.--After having traveled fifteen miles along the river, we made an
early halt, under the shade of sycamore-trees. Here we found the San
Joaquin coming down from the Sierra with a westerly course, and checking
our way, as all its tributaries had previously done. We had expected to
raft the river; but found a good ford, and encamped on the opposite bank,
where droves of wild horses were raising clouds of dust on the prairie.
Columns of smoke were visible in the direction of the Tule lakes to the
southward--probably kindled in the tulares by the Indians, as signals that
there were strangers in the valley.

We made, on the 7th, a hard march in a cold chilly rain from morning until
night--the weather so thick that we traveled by compass. This was a
_traverse_ from the San Joaquin to the waters of the Tule lakes, and
our road was over a very level prairie country. We saw wolves frequently
during the day, prowling about after the young antelope, which cannot run
very fast. These were numerous during the day, and two were caught by the

Late in the afternoon we discovered timber, which was found to be groves
of oak-trees on a dry _arroyo_. The rain, which had fallen in
frequent showers, poured down in a storm at sunset, with a strong wind,
which swept off the clouds, and left a clear sky. Riding on through the
timber, about dark we found abundant water in small ponds, 20 to 30 yards
in diameter, with clear deep water and sandy beds, bordered with bog
rushes, (_juncus effusus_,) and a tall rush (_scirpus
lacustris_) twelve feet high, and surrounded near the margin with
willow-trees in bloom; among them one which resembled _salix
myricoides_. The oak of the groves was the same already mentioned, with
small leaves, in form like those of the white-oak, and forming, with the
evergreen-oak, the characteristic trees of the valley.

8th.--After a ride of two miles through brush and open groves, we reached
a large stream, called the River of the Lake, resembling in size the San
Joaquin, and being about 100 yards broad. This is the principal tributary
to the Tule lakes, which collect all the waters in the upper part of the
valley. While we were searching for a ford, some Indians appeared on the
opposite bank, and having discovered that we were not Spanish soldiers,
showed us the way to a good ford several miles above.

The Indians of the Sierra make frequent descents upon the settlements west
of the Coast Range, which they keep constantly swept of horses; among them
are many who are called Christian Indians, being refugees from Spanish
missions. Several of these incursions occurred while we were at Helvetia.
Occasionally parties of soldiers follow them across the Coast Range, but
never enter the Sierra.

On the opposite side we found some forty or fifty Indians, who had come to
meet us from the village below. We made them some small presents, and
invited them to our encampment, which, after about three miles through
fine oak groves, we made on the river. We made a fort, principally on
account of our animals. The Indians brought otter-skins, and several kinds
of fish, and bread made of acorns, to trade. Among them were several who
had come to live among these Indians when the missions were broken up, and
who spoke Spanish fluently. They informed us that they were called by the
Spaniards _mansitos_, (tame,) in distinction from the wilder tribes
of the mountains. They, however, think themselves very insecure, not
knowing at what unforeseen moment the sins of the latter may be visited
upon them. They are dark-skinned, but handsome and intelligent Indians,
and live principally on acorns and the roots of the tule, of which also
their huts are made.

By observation, the latitude of the encampment is 36 deg. 24' 50", and
longitude 119 deg. 41' 40".

9th.--For several miles we had very bad traveling over what is called
rotten ground, in which the horses were frequently up to their knees.
Making towards a line of timber, we found a small fordable stream, beyond
which the country improved, and the grass became excellent; and crossing a
number of dry and timbered _arroyos_, we traveled until late through
open oak groves, and encamped among a collection of streams. These were
running among rushes and willows; and, as usual, flocks of blackbirds
announced our approach to water. We have here approached considerably
nearer to the eastern Sierra, which shows very plainly, still covered with
masses of snow, which yesterday and to-day has also appeared abundant on
the Coast Range.

10th.--To-day we made another long journey of about forty miles, through a
country uninteresting and flat, with very little grass and a sandy soil,
in which several branches we crossed had lost their water. In the evening
the face of the country became hilly; and, turning a few miles up towards
the mountains, we found a good encampment on a pretty stream hidden among
the hills, and handsomely timbered, principally with large cottonwoods,
(_populus_, differing from any in Michaux's Sylva.) The seed-vessels
of this tree were now just about bursting.

Several Indians came down the river to see us in the evening; we gave them
supper, and cautioned them against stealing our horses; which they
promised not to attempt.

11th.--A broad trail along the river here takes out among the hills. "Buen
camino," (good road,) said one of the Indians, of whom we had inquired
about the pass; and, following it accordingly, it conducted us beautifully
through a very broken country, by an excellent way, which, otherwise, we
should have found extremely bad. Taken separately, the hills present
smooth and graceful outlines, but, together, make bad traveling ground.
Instead of grass, the whole face of the country is closely covered with
_erodium cicutarium_, here only two or three inches high. Its height
and beauty varied in a remarkable manner with the locality, being, in many
low places which we passed during the day, around streams and springs, two
and three feet high. The country had now assumed a character of aridity;
and the luxuriant green of these little streams, wooded with willow, oak,
or sycamore, looked very refreshing among the sandy hills.

In the evening we encamped on a large creek, with abundant water. I
noticed here in bloom, for the first time since leaving the Arkansas
waters, the _Miribilis Jalapa_.

12th.--Along our road to-day the country was altogether sandy, and
vegetation meager. _Ephedra occidentalis_, which we had first seen in
the neighborhood of the Pyramid lake, made its appearance here, and in the
course of the day became very abundant, and in large bushes. Towards the
close of the afternoon, we reached a tolerably large river, which empties
into a small lake at the head of the valley; it is about thirty-five yards
wide, with a stony and gravelly bed, and the swiftest stream we have
crossed since leaving the bay. The bottoms produced no grass, though well
timbered with willow and cottonwood; and, after ascending several miles,
we made a late encampment on a little bottom, with scanty grass. In
greater part, the vegetation along our road consisted now of rare and
unusual plants, among which many were entirely new.

Along the bottoms were thickets consisting of several varieties of shrubs,
which made here their first appearance; and among these was _Garrya
elliptica_, (Lindley,) a small tree belonging to a very peculiar
natural order, and, in its general appearance, (growing in thickets,)
resembling willow. It now became common along the streams, frequently
supplying the place of _salix longifolia_.

13th.--The water was low, and a few miles above we forded the river at a
rapid, and marched in a southeasterly direction over a less broken
country. The mountains were now very near, occasionally looming out
through fog. In a few hours we reached the bottom of a creek without
water, over which the sandy beds were dispersed in many branches.
Immediately where we struck it, the timber terminated; and below, to the
right, it was a broad bed of dry and bare sands. There were many tracks of
Indians and horses imprinted in the sand, which, with other indications,
informed us was the creek issuing from the pass, and which we have called
Pass creek. We ascended a trail for a few miles along the creek, and
suddenly found a stream of water five feet wide, running with a lively
current, but losing itself almost immediately. This little stream showed
plainly the manner in which the mountain waters lose themselves in sand at
the eastern foot of the Sierra, leaving only a parched desert and arid
plains beyond. The stream enlarged rapidly, and the timber became abundant
as we ascended.

A new species of pine made its appearance, with several kinds of oaks, and
a variety of trees; and the country changing its appearance suddenly and
entirely, we found ourselves again traveling among the old orchard-like
places. Here we selected a delightful encampment in a handsome green oak
hollow, where among the open bolls of the trees was an abundant sward of
grass and pea-vines. In the evening a Christian Indian rode into the camp,
well dressed, with long spurs, and a _sombreo_, and speaking Spanish
fluently. It was an unexpected apparition, and a strange and pleasant
sight in this desolate gorge of a mountain--an Indian face, Spanish
costume, jingling spurs, and horse equipped after the Spanish manner. He
informed me that he belonged to one of the Spanish missions to the south,
distant two or three days' ride, and that he had obtained from the priests
leave to spend a few days with his relations in the Sierra. Having seen us
enter the pass, he had come down to visit us. He appeared familiarly
acquainted with the country, and gave me definite and clear information in
regard to the desert region east of the mountains. I had entered the pass
with a strong disposition to vary my route, and to travel directly across
towards the Great Salt lake, in the view of obtaining some acquaintance
with the interior of the Great Basin, while pursuing a direct course for
the frontier; but his representation, which described it as an arid and
barren desert, that had repulsed by its sterility all the attempts of the
Indians to penetrate it, determined me for the present to relinquish the
plan, and agreeably to his advice, after crossing the Sierra, continue our
intended route along its eastern base to the Spanish trail. By this route,
a party of six Indians, who had come from a great river in the eastern
part of the desert to trade with his people, had just started on their
return. He would himself return the next day to _San Fernando_, and
as our roads would be the same for two days, he offered his services to
conduct us so far on our way. His offer was gladly accepted. The fog which
had somewhat interfered with views in the valley, had entirely passed off,
and left a clear sky. That which had enveloped us in the neighborhood of
the pass proceeded evidently from fires kindled among the tulares by
Indians living near the lakes, and which were intended to warn those in
the mountains that there were strangers in the valley. Our position was in
latitude 35 deg. 17' 12", and longitude 118 deg. 35' 03".

14th.--Our guide joined us this morning on the trail; and, arriving in a
short distance at an open bottom where the creek forked, we continued up
the right-hand branch, which was enriched by a profusion of flowers, and
handsomely wooded with sycamore, oaks, cottonwood, and willow, with other
trees, and some shrubby plants. In its long strings of balls, this
sycamore differs from that of the United States, and is the _platanus
occidentalus_ of Hooker--a new species recently described among the
plants collected in the voyage of the Sulphur. The cottonwood varied its
foliage with white tufts, and the feathery seeds were flying plentifully
through the air. Gooseberries, nearly ripe, were very abundant in the
mountains; and as we passed the dividing grounds, which were not very easy
to ascertain, the air was filled with perfume, as if we were entering a
highly cultivated garden; and, instead of green, our pathway and the
mountain sides were covered with fields of yellow flowers, which here was
the prevailing color. Our journey to-day was in the midst of an advanced
spring, whose green and floral beauty offered a delightful contrast to the
sandy valley we had just left. All the day, snow was in sight on the butte
of the mountain, which frowned down upon us on the right; but we beheld it
now with feelings of pleasant security, as we rode along between green
trees, and on flowers, with hummingbirds and other feathered friends of
the traveler enlivening the serene spring air. As we reached the summit of
this beautiful pass, and obtained a view into the eastern country, we saw
at once that here was the place to take leave of all such pleasant scenes
as those around us. The distant mountains were now bald rocks again, and
below the land had any color but green. Taking into consideration the
nature of the Sierra Nevada, we found this pass an excellent one for
horses; and with a little labor, or perhaps with a more perfect
examination of the localities, it might be made sufficiently practicable
for wagons. Its latitude and longitude may be considered that of our last
encampment, only a few miles distant. The elevation was not taken--our
half-wild cavalcade making it troublesome to halt before night, when once

We here left the waters of the bay of San Francisco, and, though forced
upon them contrary to my intentions, I cannot regret the necessity which
occasioned the deviation. It made me well acquainted with the great range
of the Sierra Nevada of the Alta California, and showed that this broad
and elevated snowy ridge was a continuation of the Cascade Range of
Oregon, between which and the ocean there is still another and a lower
range, parallel to the former and to the coast, and which may be called
the Coast Range. It also made me well acquainted with the basin of the San
Francisco bay, and with the two pretty rivers and their valleys (the
Sacramento and San Joaquin) which are tributary to that bay, and cleared
up some points in geography on which error had long prevailed. It had been
constantly represented, as I have already stated, that the bay of San
Francisco opened far into the interior, by some river coming down from the
base of the Rocky mountains, and upon which supposed stream the name of
Rio Buenaventura had been bestowed. Our observations of the Sierra Nevada,
in the long distance from the head of the Sacramento, to the head of the
San Joaquin, and of the valley below it, which collects all the waters of
the San Francisco bay, show that this neither is nor can be the case. No
river from the interior does, or can, cross the Sierra Nevada--itself more
lofty than the Rocky mountains; and as to the Buenaventura, the mouth of
which seen on the coast gave the idea and the name of the reputed great
river, it is, in fact, a small stream of no consequence, not only below
the Sierra Nevada, but actually below the Coast Range--taking its rise
within half a degree of the ocean, running parallel to it for about two
degrees, and then falling into the Pacific near Monterey. There is no
opening from the bay of San Francisco into the interior of the continent.
The two rivers which flow into it are comparatively short, and not
perpendicular to the coast, but lateral to it, and having their heads
towards Oregon and southern California. They open lines of communication
north and south, and not eastwardly; and thus this want of interior
communication from the San Francisco bay, now fully ascertained, gives
great additional value to the Columbia, which stands alone as the only
great river on the Pacific slope of our continent which leads from the
ocean to the Rocky mountains, and opens a line of communication from the
sea to the valley of the Mississippi.

Four _companeros_ joined our guide at the pass; and two going back at
noon, the others continued on in company. Descending from the hills, we
reached a country of fine grass, where the _erodium cicutarium_
finally disappeared, giving place to an excellent quality of bunch-grass.
Passing by some springs where there was a rich sward of grass among groves
of large black-oak, we rode over a plain on which the guide pointed out a
spot where a refugee Christian Indian had been killed by a party of
soldiers which had unexpectedly penetrated into the mountains. Crossing a
low sierra, and descending a hollow where a spring gushed out, we were
struck by the sudden appearance of _yucca_ trees, which gave a
strange and southern character to the country, and suited well with the
dry and desert region we were approaching. Associated with the idea of
barren sands, their stiff and ungraceful form makes them to the traveler
the most repulsive tree in the vegetable kingdom. Following the hollow, we
shortly came upon a creek timbered with large black-oak, which yet had not
put forth a leaf. There was a small rivulet of running water, with good

15th.--The Indians who had accompanied the guide returned this morning,
and I purchased from them a Spanish saddle and long spurs, as
reminiscences of the time; and for a few yards of scarlet cloth they gave
me a horse, which afterwards became food for other Indians.

We continued a short distance down the creek, in which our guide informed
us that the water very soon disappeared, and turned directly to the
southward along the foot of the mountain; the trail on which we rode
appearing to describe the eastern limit of travel, where water and grass
terminated. Crossing a low spur, which bordered the creek, we descended to
a kind of plain among the lower spurs, the desert being in full view on
our left, apparently illimitable. A hot mist lay over it to-day, through
which it had a white and glistening appearance; here and there a few dry-
looking _buttes_ and isolated black ridges rose suddenly upon it.
"There," said our guide, stretching out his hand towards it, "there are
the great _llanos_, (plains,) _no hay agua; no hay zacate--
nada_: there is neither water nor grass--nothing; every animal that
goes upon them, dies." It was indeed dismal to look upon, and to conceive
so great a change in so short a distance. One might travel the world over,
without finding a valley more fresh and verdant--more floral and sylvan--
more alive with birds and animals--more bounteously watered--than we had
left in the San Joaquin: here within a few miles' ride, a vast desert
plain spread before us, from which the boldest traveler turned away in

Directly in front of us, at some distance to the southward, and running
out in an easterly direction from the mountains, stretched a sierra,
having at the eastern end (perhaps 50 miles distant) some snowy peaks, on
which, by the information of our guide, snow rested all the year.

Our cavalcade made a strange and grotesque appearance; and it was
impossible to avoid reflecting upon our position and composition in this
remote solitude. Within two degrees of the Pacific ocean--already far
south of the latitude of Monterey--and still forced on south by a desert
on one hand, and a mountain range on the other--guided by a civilized
Indian, attended by two wild ones from the Sierra--a Chinook from the
Columbia, and our mixture of American, French, German--all armed--four or
five languages heard at once--above a hundred horses and mules, half wild
--American, Spanish, and Indian dresses and equipments intermingled--such
was our composition. Our march was a sort of procession. Scouts ahead and
on the flanks; a front and rear division; the pack-animals, baggage, and
horned-cattle in the centre; and the whole stretching a quarter of a mile
along our dreary path. In this form we journeyed, looking more as if we
belonged to Asia than to the United States of America.

We continued in a southerly direction across the plain, to which, as well
as to all the country, so far as we could see, the _yucca_ trees gave
a strange and singular character. Several new plants appeared, among which
was a zygophyllaceous shrub, (_zygophyllum Californicum_, Torr. and
Frem.,) sometimes ten feet in height; in form, and in the pliancy of its
branches, it is rather a graceful plant. Its leaves are small, covered
with a resinous substance; and, particularly when bruised and crushed,
exhale a singular but very agreeable and refreshing odor. This shrub and
the _yucca_, with many varieties of cactus, make the characteristic
features in the vegetation for a long distance to the eastward. Along the
foot of the mountain, 20 miles to the southward, red stripes of flowers
were visible during the morning, which we supposed to be variegated
sandstones. We rode rapidly during the day, and in the afternoon emerged
from the _yucca_ forest at the foot of an _outlier_ of the
Sierra before us, and came among the fields of flowers we had seen in the
morning, which consisted principally of the rich orange-colored California
poppy, mingled with other flowers of brighter tints. Reaching the top of
the spur, which was covered with fine bunch-grass, and where the hills
were very green, our guide pointed to a small hollow in the mountain
before us, saying, "_a este piedra hay agua_." He appeared to know
every nook in the country. We continued our beautiful road, and reached a
spring in the slope at the foot of the ridge, running in a green ravine,
among granite boulders; here nightshade, and borders of buckwheat, with
their white blossoms around the granite rocks, attracted our notice as
familiar plants. Several antelopes were seen among the hills, and some
large hares. Men were sent back this evening in search of a wild mule with
a valuable pack, which had managed (as they frequently do) to hide itself
along the road.

By observation, the latitude of the camp is 34 deg. 41' 42", and longitude
118 deg. 20' 00". The next day the men returned with the mule.

17th.--Crossing the ridge by a beautiful pass of hollows, where several
deer broke out of the thickets, we emerged at a small salt lake in a
_vallon_ lying nearly east and west, where a trail from the mission
of _San Buenaventura_ comes in. The lake is about 1,200 yards in
diameter; surrounded on the margin by a white salty border, which, by the
smell, reminded us slightly of Lake Abert. There are some cottonwoods,
with willow and elder, around the lake; and the water is a little salt,
although not entirely unfit for drinking. Here we turned directly to the
eastward along the trail, which, from being seldom used, is almost
imperceptible; and, after traveling a few miles, our guide halted, and,
pointing to the hardly visible trail, "_aqui es camino_," said he,
"_no se pierde--va siempre_." He pointed out a black _butte_ on
the plain at the foot of the mountain, where we would find water to encamp
at night; and, giving him a present of knives and scarlet cloth, we shook
hands and parted. He bore off south, and in a day's ride would arrive at
San Fernando, one of several missions in this part of California, where
the country is so beautiful that it is considered a paradise, and the name
of its principal town (_Puebla de los Angeles_) would make it
angelic. We continued on through a succession of valleys, and came into a
most beautiful spot of flower fields; instead of green, the hills were
purple and orange, with unbroken beds, into which each color was
separately gathered. A pale straw-color, with a bright yellow, the rich
red orange of the poppy mingled with fields of purple, covered the spot
with a floral beauty; and, on the border of the sandy deserts, seemed to
invite the traveler to go no farther. Riding along through the perfumed
air, we soon after entered a defile overgrown with the ominous
_artemisia tridentata_, which conducted us into a sandy plain covered
more or less densely with forests of _yucca_.

Having now the snowy ridge on our right, we continued our way towards a
dark _butte_, belonging to a low sierra on the plain, and which our
guide had pointed out for a landmark. Late in the day, the familiar growth
of cottonwood, a line of which was visible ahead, indicated our approach
to a creek, which we reached where the water spread out into sands, and a
little below sank entirely. Here our guide had intended we should pass the
night; but there was not a blade of grass, and, hoping to find nearer the
mountain a little for the night, we turned up the stream. A hundred yards
above, we found the creek a fine stream, sixteen feet wide, with a swift
current. A dark night overtook us when we reached the hills at the foot of
the ridge, and we were obliged to encamp without grass; tying up what
animals we could secure in the darkness, the greater part of the wild ones
having free range for the night. Here the stream was two feet deep, swift
and clear, issuing from a neighboring snow peak. A few miles before
reaching this creek, we had crossed a broad dry riverbed, which, nearer
the hills, the hunters had found a bold and handsome stream.

18th.--Some parties were engaged in hunting up the scattered horses, and
others in searching for grass above; both were successful, and late in the
day we encamped among some spring-heads of the river, in a hollow which
was covered with only tolerably good grasses, the lower ground being
entirely overgrown with large bunches of the coarse stiff grass, (_carex

Our latitude, by observation, was 34 deg. 27' 03", and longitude 117 deg. 13' 00".

Traveling close along the mountain, we followed up, in the afternoon of
the 19th, another stream, in hopes to find a grass-patch like that of the
previous day, but were deceived; except some scattered bunch-grass, there
was nothing but rock and sand; and even the fertility of the mountain
seemed withered by the air of the desert. Among the few trees was the nut
pine, (_pinus monophyllus_.)

Our road the next day was still in an easterly direction along the ridge,
over very bad traveling ground, broken and confounded with crippled trees
and shrubs; and, after a difficult march of eighteen miles, a general
shout announced that we had struck the great object of our search--THE
SPANISH TRAIL--which here was running directly north. The road itself,
and its course, were equally happy discoveries to us. Since the middle of
December we had continually been forced south by mountains and by deserts,
and now would have to make six degrees of _northing_, to regain the
latitude on which we wished to cross the Rocky mountains. The course of
the road, therefore, was what we wanted; and, once more, we felt like
going homewards. A _road_ to travel on, and the _right_ course
to go, were joyful consolations to us; and our animals enjoyed the beaten
track like ourselves. Relieved from the rocks and brush, our wild mules
started off at a rapid rate, and in fifteen miles we reached a
considerable river, timbered with cottonwood and willow, where we found a
bottom of tolerable grass. As the animals had suffered a great deal in the
last few days, I remained here all next day, to allow them the necessary
repose; and it was now necessary, at every favorable place, to make a
little halt. Between us and the Colorado river we were aware that the
country was extremely poor in grass, and scarce for water, there being
many _jornadas_, (days' journey,) or long stretches of forty to sixty
miles, without water, where the road was marked by bones of animals.

Although in California we had met with people who had passed over this
trail, we had been able to obtain no correct information about it; and the
greater part of what we had heard was found to be only a tissue of
falsehoods. The rivers that we found on it were never mentioned, and
others, particularly described in name and locality, were subsequently
seen in another part of the country. It was described as a tolerably good
sandy road, with so little rock as scarcely to require the animals to be
shod; and we found it the roughest and rockiest road we had ever seen in
the country, and which nearly destroyed our band of fine mules and horses.
Many animals are destroyed on it every year by a disease called the foot-
evil; and a traveler should never venture on it without having his animals
well shod, and also carrying extra shoes.

Latitude 34 deg. 34' 11"; and longitude 117 deg. 13' 00".

The morning of the 22d was clear and bright, and a snowy peak to the
southward shone out high and sharply defined. As has been usual since we
crossed the mountains and descended into the hot plains, we had a gale of
wind. We traveled down the right bank of the stream, over sands which are
somewhat loose, and have no verdure, but are occupied by various shrubs. A
clear bold stream, 60 feet wide, and several feet deep, had a strange
appearance, running between perfectly naked banks of sand. The eye,
however, is somewhat relieved by willows, and the beautiful green of the
sweet cottonwoods with which it is well wooded. As we followed along its
course, the river, instead of growing constantly larger, gradually
dwindled away, as it was absorbed by the sand. We were now careful to take
the old camping-places of the annual Santa Fe caravans, which, luckily for
us, had not yet made their yearly passage. A drove of several thousand
horses and mules would entirely have swept away the scanty grass at the
watering places, and we should have been obliged to leave the road to
obtain subsistence for our animals. After riding 20 miles in a north-
easterly direction, we found an old encampment, where we halted.

By observation, the elevation of this encampment is 2,250 feet.

23d.--The trail followed still along the river, which, in the course of
the morning, entirely disappeared. We continued along the dry bed, in
which, after an interval of about 16 miles, the water reappeared in some
low places, well timbered with cottonwood and willow, where was another of
the customary camping-grounds. Here a party of six Indians came into camp,
poor and hungry, and quite in keeping with the character of the country.
Their arms were bows of unusual length, and each had a large gourd,
strengthened with meshes of cord, in which he carried water. They proved
to be the Mohahve Indians mentioned by our recent guide; and from one of
them, who spoke Spanish fluently, I obtained some interesting information,
which I would be glad to introduce here. An account of the people
inhabiting this region would undoubtedly possess interest for the
civilized world. Our journey homewards was fruitful in incident; and the
country through which we traveled, although a desert, afforded much to
excite the curiosity of the botanist; but limited time, and the rapidly
advancing season for active operations, oblige me to omit all extended
descriptions, and hurry briefly to the conclusion of this report.

The Indian who spoke Spanish had been educated for a number of years at
one of the Spanish missions, and, at the breaking up of those
establishments, had returned to the mountains, where he had been found by
a party of _Mohahve_ (sometimes called _Amuchaba_) Indians,
among whom he had ever since resided.

He spoke of the leader of the present party as "_mi amo_," (my
master.) He said they lived upon a large river in the southeast, which the
"soldiers called the Rio Colorado;" but that, formerly, a portion of them
lived upon this river, and among the mountains which had bounded the river
valley to the northward during the day, and that here along the river they
had raised various kinds of melons. They sometimes came over to trade with
the Indians of the Sierra, bringing with them blankets and goods
manufactured by the Monquis and other Colorado Indians. They rarely
carried home horses, on account of the difficulty of getting them across
the desert, and of guarding them afterwards from the Pa-utah Indians, who
inhabit the Sierra, at the head of the _Rio Virgen_, (river of the

He informed us that, a short distance below, this river finally
disappeared. The two different portions in which water is found had
received from the priests two different names; and subsequently I heard it
called by the Spaniards the _Rio de las Animas_, but on the map we
have called it the _Mohahve_ river.

24th.--We continued down the stream (or rather its bed) for about eight
miles, where there was water still in several holes, and encamped. The
caravans sometimes continued below, to the end of the river, from which
there is a very long _jornada_ of perhaps 60 miles, without water.
Here a singular and new species of acacia, with spiral pods or seed-
vessels, made its first appearance; becoming henceforward, for a
considerable distance, the characteristic tree. It was here comparatively
large, being about 20 feet in height, with a full and spreading top, the
lower branches declining towards the ground. It afterwards occurred of
smaller size, frequently in groves, and is very fragrant. It has been
called by Dr. Torrey, _spirolobium odoratum_. The zygophyllaceous
shrub had been constantly characteristic of the plains along the river;
and here, among many new plants, a new and very remarkable species of
eriogonum (_eriogonum inflatum_, Tor. & Frem.) made its first

Our cattle had become so tired and poor by this fatiguing traveling, that
three of them were killed here, and the meat dried. The Indians had now an
occasion for a great feast and were occupied the remainder of the day and
all night in cooking and eating. There was no part of the animal for which
they did not find some use, except the bones. In the afternoon we were
surprised by the sudden appearance in the camp of two Mexicans--a man and
a boy. The name of the man was _Andreas Fuentes_; and that of the
boy, (a handsome lad, 11 years old,) _Pablo Hernandez_. They belonged
to a party consisting of six persons, the remaining four being the wife of
Fuentes, and the father and mother of Pablo, and Santiago Giacome, a
resident of New Mexico. With a cavalcade of about thirty horses, they had
come out from Puebla de los Angeles, near the coast, under the guidance of
Giacome, in advance of the great caravan, in order to travel more at
leisure, and obtain better grass. Having advanced as far into the desert
as was considered consistent with their safety, they halted at the
_Archilette_, one of the customary camping-grounds, about 80 miles
from our encampment, where there is a spring of good water, with
sufficient grass; and concluded to await there the arrival of the great
caravan. Several Indians were soon discovered lurking about the camp, who,
in a day or two after, came in, and, after behaving in a very friendly
manner, took their leave, without awakening any suspicions. Their
deportment begat a security which proved fatal. In a few days afterwards,
suddenly a party of about one hundred Indians appeared in sight, advancing
towards the camp. It was too late, or they seemed not to have presence of
mind to take proper measures of safety; and the Indians charged down into
their camp, shouting as they advanced, and discharging flights of arrows.
Pablo and Fuentes were on horse-guard at the time, and mounted according
to the custom of the country. One of the principal objects of the Indians
was to get possession of the horses, and part of them immediately
surrounded the band; but, in obedience to the shouts of Giacome, Fuentes
drove the animals over and through the assailants, in spite of their
arrows; and, abandoning the rest to their fate, carried them off at speed
across the plain. Knowing that they would be pursued by the Indians,
without making any halt except to shift their saddles to other horses,
they drove them on for about sixty miles, and this morning left them at a
watering-place on the trail, called Agua de Tomaso. Without giving
themselves any time for rest, they hurried on, hoping to meet the Spanish
caravan, when they discovered my camp. I received them kindly, taking them
into my own mess, and promised them such aid as circumstances might put it
in my power to give.

25th.--We left the river abruptly, and, turning to the north, regained in
a few miles the main trail, (which had left the river sooner than
ourselves,) and continued our way across a lower ridge of the mountain,
through a miserable tract of sand and gravel. We crossed at intervals the
broad beds of dry gullies, where in the seasons of rains and melting snows
there would be brooks or rivulets: and at one of these, where there was no
indication of water, were several freshly-dug holes, in which there was
water at the depth of two feet. These holes had been dug by the wolves,
whose keen sense of smell had scented the water under the dry sand. They
were nice little wells, narrow, and dug straight down; and we got pleasant
water out of them.

The country had now assumed the character of an elevated and mountainous
desert; its general features being black, rocky ridges, bald, and
destitute of timber, with sandy basins between. Where the sides of these
ridges are washed by gullies, the plains below are strewed with beds of
large pebbles or rolled stones, destructive to our soft-footed animals,
accustomed to the soft plains of the Sacramento valley. Through these
sandy basins sometimes struggled a scanty stream, or occurred a hole of
water, which furnished camping-grounds for travelers. Frequently in our
journey across, snow was visible on the surrounding mountains; but their
waters rarely reached the sandy plain below, where we toiled along,
oppressed with thirst and a burning sun. But, throughout this nakedness of
sand and gravel, were many beautiful plants and flowering shrubs, which
occurred in many new species, and with greater variety than we had been
accustomed to see in the most luxuriant prairie countries; this was a
peculiarity of this desert. Even where no grass would take root, the naked
sand would bloom with some rich and rare flower, which found its
appropriate home in the arid and barren spot.

Scattered over the plain, and tolerably abundant, was a handsome
leguminous shrub, three or four feet high, with fine bright purple
flowers. It is a new _psoralea_, and occurred frequently henceforward
along our road.

Beyond the first ridge, our road bore a little to the east of north,
towards a gap in a higher line of mountains; and, after traveling about 25
miles, we arrived at the _Agua de Tomaso_--the spring where the
horses had been left; but, as we expected, they were gone. A brief
examination of the ground convinced us that they had been driven off by
the Indians. Carson and Godey volunteered, with the Mexican, to pursue
them; and, well mounted, the three set off on the trail. At this stopping-
place there are a few bushes, and a very little grass. Its water was a
pool; but near by was a spring, which had been dug out by Indians or
travelers. Its water was cool--a great refreshment to us under a burning

In the evening Fuentes returned, his horse having failed; but Carson and
Godey had continued the pursuit.

I observed to-night an occultation of _a2 Cancri_, at the dark limb
of the moon, which gives for the longitude of the place 116 deg. 23' 28"; the
latitude, by observation, is 35 deg. 13' 08". From Helvetia to this place, the
positions along the intervening line are laid down, with the longitudes
obtained from the chronometer, which appears to have retained its rate
remarkably well; but henceforward, to the end of our journey, the few
longitudes given are absolute, depending upon a subsequent occultation and
eclipses of the satellites.

In the afternoon of the next day, a war-whoop was heard, such as Indians
make when returning from a victorious enterprise; and soon Carson and
Godey appeared, driving before them a band of horses, recognised by
Fuentes to be part of those they had lost. Two bloody scalps, dangling
from the end of Godey's gun, announced that they had overtaken the Indians
as well as the horses. They informed us, that after Fuentes left them,
from the failure of his horse, they continued the pursuit alone, and
towards night-fall entered the mountains, into which the trail led. After
sunset the moon gave light, and they followed the trail by moonshine until
late in the night, when it entered a narrow defile, and was difficult to
follow. Afraid of losing it in the darkness of the defile, they tied up
their horses, struck no fire, and lay down to sleep, in silence and in
darkness. Here they lay from midnight until morning. At daylight they
resumed the pursuit, and about sunrise discovered the horses; and,
immediately dismounting and tying up their own, they crept cautiously to a
rising ground which intervened, from the crest of which they perceived the
encampment of four lodges close by. They proceeded quietly, and had got
within 30 or 40 yards of their object, when a movement among the horses
discovered them to the Indians. Giving the war-shout, they instantly
charged into the camp, regardless of the number which the _four_
lodges would imply. The Indians received them with a flight of arrows shot
from their long-bows, one of which passed through Godey's shirt-collar,
barely missing the neck: our men fired their rifles upon a steady aim, and
rushed in. Two Indians were stretched upon the ground, fatally pierced
with bullets: the rest fled, except a little lad that was captured. The
scalps of the fallen were instantly stripped off; but in the process, one
of them, who had two balls through his body, sprang to his feet, the blood
streaming from his skinned head, and uttering a hideous howl. An old
squaw, possibly his mother, stopped and looked back from the mountainsides
she was climbing, threatening and lamenting. The frightful spectacle
appalled the stout hearts of our men; but they did what humanity required,
and quickly terminated the agonies of the gory savage. They were now
masters of the camp, which was a pretty little recess in the mountain,
with a fine spring, and apparently safe from all invasion. Great
preparations had been made to feast a large party, for it was a very
proper place to rendezvous, and for the celebration of such orgies as
robbers of the desert would delight in. Several of the best horses had
been killed, skinned, and cut up; for the Indians living in mountains, and
only coming into the plains to rob and murder, make no other use of horses
than to eat them. Large earthen vessels were on the fire, boiling and
stewing the horse-beef; and several baskets, containing 50 or 60 pairs of
moccasins, indicated the presence, or expectation, of a considerable
party. They released the boy, who had given strong evidence of the
stoicism, or something else, of the savage character, in commencing his
breakfast upon a horse's head, as soon as he found he was not to be
killed, but only tied as a prisoner. Their object accomplished, our men
gathered up all the surviving horses, fifteen in number, returned upon
their trail, and rejoined us, at our camp, in the afternoon of the same
day. They had rode about 100 miles, in the pursuit and return, and all in
30 hours. The time, place, object, and numbers considered, this expedition
of Carson and Godey may be considered among the boldest and most
disinterested which the annals of western adventure, so full of daring
deeds, can present. Two men, in a savage desert, pursue day and night an
unknown body of Indians, into the defile of an unknown mountain--attack
them on sight, without counting numbers--and defeat them in an instant--
and for what? To punish the robbers of the desert, and to avenge the
wrongs of Mexicans whom they did not know. I repeat: it was Carson and
Godey who did this--the former an _American_, born in the Boonslick
county of Missouri; the latter a Frenchman, born in St. Louis,--and both
trained to western enterprise from early life.

By the information of Fuentes, we had now to make a long stretch of 40 or
50 miles across a plain which lay between us and the next possible camp;
and we resumed our journey late in the afternoon, with the intention of
traveling through the night, and avoiding the excessive heat of the day,
which was oppressive to our animals. For several hours we traveled across
a high plain, passing, at the opposite side, through a canon by the bed of
a creek, running northwardly into a small lake beyond, and both of them
being dry. We had a warm, moonshiny night; and, traveling directly towards
the north-star, we journeyed now across an open plain, between mountain-
ridges--that on the left being broken, rocky, and bald, according to
Carson and Godey, who had entered here in pursuit of the horses. The plain
appeared covered principally with the _zygophyllum Californicum_,
already mentioned; and the line of our road was marked by the skeletons of
horses, which were strewed to considerable breadth over the plain. We were
always warned on entering one of these long stretches, by the bones of
these animals, which had perished before they could reach the water. About
midnight we reached a considerable stream-bed, now dry--the discharge of
the waters of this basin, (when it collected any)--down which we
descended, in a northwesterly direction. The creek-bed was overgrown with
shrubbery, and several hours before day it brought us to the entrance of a
canon, where we found water, and encamped. This word _canon_ is used
by the Spaniards to signify a defile or gorge in a creek or river, where
high rocks press in close, and make a narrow way, usually difficult, and
often impossible to be passed.

In the morning we found that we had a very poor camping-ground--a swampy,
salty spot, with a little long, unwholesome grass; and the water, which
rose in springs, being useful only to wet the mouth, but entirely too salt
to drink. All around was sand and rocks, and skeletons of horses which had
not been able to find support for their lives. As we were about to start,
we found, at the distance of a few hundred yards, among the hills to the
southward, a spring of tolerably good water, which was a relief to
ourselves; but the place was too poor to remain long, and therefore we
continued on this morning. On the creek were thickets of _spirolobium
odoratum_ (acacia) in bloom, and very fragrant.

Passing through the canon, we entered another sandy basin, through which
the dry stream-bed continued its north-westerly course, in which direction
appeared a high snowy mountain.

We traveled through a barren district, where a heavy gale was blowing
about the loose sand, and, after a ride of eight miles, reached a large
creek of salt and bitter water, running in a westerly direction, to
receive the stream-bed we had left. It is called by the Spaniards
_Amargosa_--the bitter-water of the desert. Where we struck it, the
stream bends; and we continued in a northerly course up the ravine of its
valley, passing on the way a fork from the right, near which occurred a
bed of plants, consisting of a remarkable new genus of _cruciferae_.

Gradually ascending, the ravine opened into a green valley, where, at the
foot of the mountain, were springs of excellent water. We encamped among
groves of the new _acacia_, and there was an abundance of good grass
for the animals.

This was the best camping-ground we had seen since we struck the Spanish
trail. The day's journey was about twelve miles.

29th.--To-day we had to reach the _Archilette_, distant seven miles,
where the Mexican party had been attacked, and, leaving our encampment
early, we traversed a part of the desert the most sterile and repulsive we
had yet seen. Its prominent features were dark _sierras_, naked and
dry; on the plains a few straggling shrubs--among them, cactus of several
varieties. Fuentes pointed out one called by the Spaniards _bisnada_,
which has a juicy pulp, slightly acid, and is eaten by the traveler to
allay thirst. Our course was generally north; and, after crossing an
intervening ridge, we descended into a sandy plain, or basin, in the
middle of which was the grassy spot, with its springs and willow bushes,
which constitutes a camping-place in the desert, and is called the
_Archilette_. The dead silence of the place was ominous; and,
galloping rapidly up, we found only the corpses of the two men: every
thing else was gone. They were naked, mutilated, and pierced with arrows.
Hernandez had evidently fought, and with desperation. He lay in advance of
the willow half-faced tent, which sheltered his family, as if he had come
out to meet danger, and to repulse it from that asylum. One of his hands,
and both his legs, had been cut off. Giacome, who was a large and strong-
looking man, was lying in one of the willow shelters, pierced with arrows.

Of the women no trace could be found, and it was evident they had been
carried off captive. A little lap-dog, which had belonged to Pablo's
mother, remained with the dead bodies, and was frantic with joy at seeing
Pablo; he, poor child, was frantic with grief, and filled the air with
lamentations for his father and mother. _Mi Padre! Mi Madre!_--was
his incessant cry. When we beheld this pitiable sight, and pictured to
ourselves the fate of the two women, carried off by savages so brutal and
so loathsome, all compunction for the scalped-alive Indian ceased; and we
rejoiced that Carson and Godey had been able to give so useful a lesson to
these American Arabs who lie in wait to murder and plunder the innocent

We were all too much affected by the sad feelings which the place
inspired, to remain an unnecessary moment. The night we were obliged to
pass there. Early in the morning we left it, having first written a brief
account of what had happened, and put it in the cleft of a pole planted at
the spring, that the approaching caravan might learn the fate of their
friends. In commemoration of the event, we called the place _Ague de
Hernandez_--Hernandez's spring. By observation, its latitude was 35 deg.
51' 21".

30th.--We continued our journey over a district similar to that of the day
before. From the sandy basin, in which was the spring, we entered another
basin of the same character, surrounded everywhere by mountains. Before us
stretched a high range, rising still higher to the left, and terminating
in a snowy mountain.

After a day's march of 24 miles, we reached at evening the bed of a stream
from which the water had disappeared, a little only remaining in holes,
which we increased by digging; and about a mile above, the stream, not yet
entirely sunk, was spread out over the sands, affording a little water for
the animals. The stream came out of the mountains on the left, very
slightly wooded with cottonwood, willow, and acacia, and a few dwarf-oaks;
and grass was nearly as scarce as water. A plant with showy yellow flowers
(_Stanleya integrifolia_) occurred abundantly at intervals for the
last two days, and _eriogonum inflatum_ was among the characteristic


1st.--The air is rough, and overcoats pleasant. The sky is blue, and the
day bright. Our road was over a plain, towards the foot of the mountain;
_zygophyllum Californicum_, now in bloom, with a small yellow flower,
is characteristic of the country; and _cacti_ were very abundant, and
in rich fresh bloom, which wonderfully ornaments this poor country. We
encamped at a spring in the pass, which had been the site of an old
village. Here we found excellent grass, but very little water. We dug out
the old spring, and watered some of our animals. The mountain here was
wooded very slightly with the nut-pine, cedars, and a dwarf species of
oak; and among the shrubs were _Purshia tridentata, artemisia_, and
_ephedra occidentalis_. The numerous shrubs which constitute the
vegetation of the plains are now in bloom, with flowers of white, yellow,
red, and purple. The continual rocks, and want of water and grass, began
to be very hard on our mules and horses; but the principal loss is
occasioned by their crippled feet, the greater part of those left being in
excellent order, and scarcely a day passes without some loss; and, one by
one, Fuentes' horses are constantly dropping behind. Whenever they give
out, he dismounts and cuts off their tails and manes, to make saddle-
girths--the last advantage one can gain from them.

The next day, in a short but rough ride of 12 miles, we crossed the
mountain; and, descending to a small valley plain, encamped at the foot of
the ridge, on the bed of a creek, and found good grass in sufficient
quantity, and abundance of water in holes. The ridge is extremely rugged
and broken, presenting on this side a continued precipice, and probably
affords very few passes. Many _digger_ tracks were seen around us,
but no Indians were visible.

3d.--After a day's journey of 18 miles, in a northeasterly direction, we
encamped in the midst of another very large basin, at a camping ground
called _las Vegas_--a term which the Spaniards use to signify fertile
or marshy plains, in contradistinction to _llanos_, which they apply
to dry and sterile plains. Two narrow streams of clear water, four or five
feet deep, gush suddenly, with a quick current, from two singularly large
springs; these, and other waters of the basin, pass out in a gap to the
eastward. The taste of the water is good, but rather too warm to be
agreeable; the temperature being 71 deg. in the one, and 73 deg. in the other.
They, however, afford a delightful bathing-place.

4th.--We started this morning earlier than usual, traveling in a
northeasterly direction across the plain. The new acacia (_spirolobium
odoratum_) has now become the characteristic tree of the country; it is
in bloom, and its blossoms are very fragrant. The day was still, and the
heat, which soon became very oppressive, appeared to bring out strongly
the refreshing scent of the zygophyllaceous shrubs and the sweet perfume
of the acacia. The snowy ridge we had just crossed looked out
conspicuously in the northwest. In about five hours' ride, we crossed a
gap in the surrounding ridge, and the appearance of skeletons of horses
very soon warned us that we were engaged in another dry _jornada_,
which proved the longest we had made in all our journey--between fifty and
sixty miles without a drop of water.

Travelers through countries affording water and timber can have no
conception of our intolerable thirst while journeying over the hot yellow
sands of this elevated country, where the heated air seems to be entirely
deprived of moisture. We ate occasionally the _bisnada_, and
moistened our mouths with the acid of the sour dock, (_rumex
venosus_.) Hourly expecting to find water, we continued to press on
until towards midnight, when, after a hard and uninterrupted march of 16
hours, our wild mules began running ahead; and in a mile or two we came to
a bold running stream--so keen is the sense of that animal, in these
desert regions, in scenting at a distance this necessary of life.

According to the information we had received, Sevier river was a tributary
of the Colorado; and this, accordingly, should have been one of its
affluents. It proved to be the _Rio de los Angeles_, (river of the
Angels)--a branch of the _Rio Virgen_. (river of the Virgin.)

5th.--On account of our animals, it was necessary to remain to-day at this
place. Indians crowded numerously around us in the morning; and we were
obliged to keep arms in hand all day, to keep them out of the camp. They
began to surround the horses, which, for the convenience of grass, we were
guarding a little above, on the river. These were immediately driven in,
and kept close to the camp.

In the darkness of the night we had made a very bad encampment, our fires
being commanded by a rocky bluff within 50 yards; but, notwithstanding, we
had the river and small thickets of willows on the other side. Several
times during the day the camp was insulted by the Indians; but, peace
being our object, I kept simply on the defensive. Some of the Indians were
on the bottoms, and others haranguing us from the bluffs; and they were
scattered in every direction over the hills. Their language being probably
a dialect of the _Utah_, with the aid of signs some of our people
could comprehend them very well. They were the same people who had
murdered the Mexicans; and towards us their disposition was evidently
hostile, nor were we well disposed towards them. They were barefooted, and
nearly naked; their hair gathered up into a knot behind; and with his bow,
each man carried a quiver with thirty or forty arrows partially drawn out.
Besides these, each held in his hand two or three arrows for instant
service. Their arrows are barbed with a very clear translucent stone, a
species of opal, nearly as hard as the diamond; and, shot from their long
bow, are almost as effective as a gunshot. In these Indians, I was
forcibly struck by an expression of countenance resembling that in a beast
of prey; and all their actions are those of wild animals. Joined to the
restless motion of the eye, there is a want of mind--an absence of
thought--and an action wholly by impulse, strongly expressed, and which
constantly recalls the similarity.

A man who appeared to be a chief, with two or three others forced himself
into the camp, bringing with him his arms, in spite of my orders to the
contrary. When shown our weapons, he bored his ear with his fingers, and
said he could not hear. "Why," said he, "there are none of you." Counting
the people around the camp, and including in the number a mule that was
being shod, he made out 22. "So many," said he, showing the number, "and
we--we are a great many;" and he pointed to the hills and mountains round
about. "If you have your arms," said he, twanging his bow, "we have
these." I had some difficulty in restraining the people, particularly
Carson, who felt an insult of this kind as much as if it had been given by
a more responsible being. "Don't say that, old man," said he; "don't you
say that--your life's in danger"--speaking in good English; and probably
the old man was nearer to his end than he will be before he meets it.

Several animals had been necessarily left behind near the camp last night;
and early in the morning, before me Indians made their appearance, several
men were sent to bring them in. When I was beginning to be uneasy at their
absence, they returned with information that they had been driven off from
the trail by Indians; and, having followed the tracks in a short distance,
they found the animals cut up and spread out upon bushes. In the evening I
gave a fatigued horse to some of the Indians for a feast; and the village
which carried him off refused to share with the others, who made loud
complaints from the rocks of the partial distribution. Many of these
Indians had long sticks, hooked at the end, which they use in hauling out
lizards, and other small animals, from their holes. During the day they
occasionally roasted and ate lizards at our fires. These belong to the
people who are generally known under the name of _Diggers_; and to
these I have more particularly had reference when occasionally speaking of
a people whose sole occupation is to procure food sufficient to support
existence. The formation here consists of fine yellow sandstone,
alternating with a coarse conglomerate, in which the stones are from the
size of ordinary gravel to six or eight inches in diameter. This is the
formation which renders the surface of the country so rocky, and gives us
now a road alternately of loose heavy sands and rolled stones, which
cripple the animals in a most extraordinary manner.

On the following morning we left the _Rio de los Angeles_, and
continued our way through the same desolate and revolting country, where
lizards were the only animal, and the tracks of the lizard eaters the
principal sign of human beings. After twenty miles' march through a road
of hills and heavy sands, we reached the most dreary river I have ever
seen--a deep rapid stream, almost a torrent, passing swiftly by, and
roaring against obstructions. The banks were wooded with willow, acacia,
and a frequent plant of the country already mentioned, (_Garrya
elliptica_,) growing in thickets, resembling willow, and bearing a
small pink flower. Crossing it we encamped on the left bank, where we
found a very little grass. Our three remaining steers, being entirely
given out, were killed here. By the boiling point, the elevation of the
river here is 4,060 feet; and latitude, by observation, 36 deg.41' 33". The
stream was running towards the southwest, and appeared to come from a
snowy mountain in the north. It proved to be the _Rio Virgen_--a
tributary to the Colorado. Indians appeared in bands on the hills, but did
not come into camp. For several days we continued our journey up the
river, the bottoms of which were thickly overgrown with various kinds of
brush; and the sandy soil was absolutely covered with the tracks of
_Diggers_, who followed us stealthily, like a band of wolves; and we
had no opportunity to leave behind, even for a few hours, the tired
animals, in order that they might be brought into camp after a little
repose. A horse or mule, left behind, was taken off in a moment. On the
evening of the 8th, having traveled 28 miles up the river from our first
encampment on it, we encamped at a little grass-plat, where a spring of
cool water issued from the bluff. On the opposite side was a grove of
cottonwoods at the mouth of a fork, which here enters the river. On either
side the valley is bounded by ranges of mountains, everywhere high, rocky,
and broken. The caravan road was lost and scattered in the sandy country,
and we had been following an Indian trail up the river. The hunters the
next day were sent out to reconnoitre, and in the mean time we moved about
a mile farther up, where we found a good little patch of grass. There
being only sufficient grass for the night, the horses were sent with a
strong guard in charge of Tabeau to a neighboring hollow, where they might
pasture during the day; and, to be ready in case the Indians should make
any attempt on the animals, several of the best horses were picketed at
the camp. In a few hours the hunters returned, having found a convenient
ford in the river, and discovered the Spanish trail on the other side.

I had been engaged in arranging plants; and, fatigued with the heat of the
day, I fell asleep in the afternoon, and did not awake until sundown.
Presently Carson came to me, and reported that Tabeau, who early in the
day had left his post, and, without my knowledge, rode back to the camp we
had left, in search of a lame mule, had not returned. While we were
speaking, a smoke rose suddenly from the cottonwood grove below, which
plainly told us what had befallen him; it was raised to inform the
surrounding Indians that a blow had been struck, and to tell them to be on
their guard. Carson, with several men well mounted, was instantly sent
down the river, but returned in the night without tidings of the missing
man. They went to the camp we had left, but neither he nor the mule was
there. Searching down the river, they found the tracks of the mule,
evidently driven along by Indians, whose tracks were on each side of those
made by the animal. After going several miles, they came to the mule
itself, standing in some bushes, mortally wounded in the side by an arrow,
and left to die, that it might be afterwards butchered for food. They also
found, in another place, as they were hunting about on the ground for
Tabeau's tracks, something that looked like a little puddle of blood, but
which the darkness prevented them from verifying. With these details they
returned to our camp, and their report saddened all our hearts.

10th.--This morning, as soon as there was light enough to follow tracks, I
set out myself, with Mr. Fitzpatrick and several men, in search of Tabeau.
We went to the spot where the appearance of puddled blood had been seen;
and this, we saw at once, had been the place where he fell and died. Blood
upon the leaves, and beaten-down bushes, showed that he had got his wound
about twenty paces from where he fell, and that he had struggled for his
life. He had probably been shot through the lungs with an arrow. From the
place where he lay and bled, it could be seen that he had been dragged to
the river bank, and thrown into it. No vestige of what had belonged to him
could be found, except a fragment of his horse equipment. Horse, gun,
clothes--all became the prey of these Arabs of the New World.

Tabeau had been one of our best men, and his unhappy death spread a gloom
over our party. Men, who have gone through such dangers and sufferings as
we had seen, become like brothers, and feel each other's loss. To defend
and avenge each other, is the deep feeling of all. We wished to avenge his
death; but the condition of our horses, languishing for grass and repose,
forbade an expedition into unknown mountains. We knew the tribe who had
done the mischief--the same which had been insulting our camp. They knew
what they deserved, and had the discretion to show themselves to us no
more. The day before, they infested our camp; now, not one appeared; nor
did we ever afterwards see but one who even belonged to the same tribe,
and he at a distance.

Our camp was in a basin below a deep canon--a gap of two thousand feet
deep in the mountain--through which the _Rio Virgen_ passes, and
where no man or beast could follow it. The Spanish trail, which we had
lost in the sands of the basin, was on the opposite side of the river. We
crossed over to it, and followed it northwardly towards a gap which was
visible in the mountain. We approached it by a defile, rendered difficult
for our barefooted animals by the rocks strewed along it; and here the
country changed its character. From the time we entered the desert, the
mountains had been bald and rocky; here they began to be wooded with cedar
and pine, and clusters of trees gave shelter to birds--a new and welcome
sight--which could not have lived in the desert we had passed.

Descending a long hollow, towards the narrow valley of a stream, we saw
before us a snowy mountain, far beyond which appeared another more lofty
still. Good bunch-grass began to appear on the hill-sides, and here we
found a singular variety of interesting shrubs. The changed appearance of
the country infused among our people a more lively spirit, which was
heightened by finding at evening a halting-place of very good grass on the
clear waters of the _Santa Clara_ fork of the _Rio Virgen_.

11th.--The morning was cloudy and quite cool, with a shower of rain--the
first we have had since entering the desert, a period of 27 days--and we
seem to have entered a different climate, with the usual weather of the
Rocky mountains. Our march to-day was very laborious, over very broken
ground, along the Santa Clara river; but then the country is no longer so
distressingly desolate. The stream is prettily wooded with sweet
cottonwood trees--some of them of large size; and on the hills, where the
nut-pine is often seen, a good and wholesome grass occurs frequently. This
cottonwood, which is now in fruit, is of a different species from any in
Michaux's Sylva. Heavy dark clouds covered the sky in the evening and a
cold wind sprang up, making fires and overcoats comfortable.

12th.--A little above our encampment the river forked, and we continued up
the right-hand branch, gradually ascending towards the summit of the
mountain. As we rose towards the head of the creek, the snowy mountains on
our right showed out handsomely--high and rugged, with precipices, and
covered with snow for about two thousand feet from their summits down. Our
animals were somewhat repaid for their hard marches by an excellent
camping-ground on the summit of the ridge, which forms here the dividing
chain between the waters of the _Rio Virgen_, which goes south to the
Colorado, and those of Sevier river, flowing northwardly, and belonging to
the Great Basin. We considered ourselves as crossing the rim of the basin;
and, entering it at this point, we found here an extensive mountain
meadow, rich in bunch-grass, and fresh with numerous springs of clear
water, all refreshing and delightful to look upon. It was, in fact, that
_las Vegas de Santa Clara_, which had been so long presented to us as
the terminating point of the desert, and where the annual caravan from
California to New Mexico halted and recruited for some weeks. It was a
very suitable place to recover from the fatigue and exhaustion of a
month's suffering in the hot and sterile desert. The meadow was about a
mile wide, some ten miles long, bordered by grassy hills and mountains--
some of the latter rising two thousand feet, and white with snow down to
the level of the _vegas_. Its elevation above the sea was 5,280 feet;
latitude, by observation, 37 deg. 28' 28", and its distance from where we
first struck the Spanish trail about 400 miles. Counting from the time we
reached the desert, and began to skirt, at our descent from Walker's Pass
in the Sierra Nevada, we had traveled 550 miles, occupying 27 days, in
that inhospitable region. In passing before the Great Caravan, we had the
advantage of finding more grass, but the disadvantage of finding also the
marauding savages, who had gathered down upon the trail, waiting the
approach of that prey. This greatly increased our labors, besides costing
us the life of an excellent man. We had to move all day in a state of
watch, and prepared for combat--scouts and flankers out, a front and rear
division of our men, and baggage-animals in the centre. At night, camp
duty was severe. Those who had toiled all day, had to guard, by turns, the
camp and the horses, all night. Frequently one-third of the whole party
were on guard at once; and nothing but this vigilance saved us from
attack. We were constantly dogged by bands, and even whole tribes of
marauders; and although Tabeau was killed, and our camp infested and
insulted by some, while swarms of them remained on the hills and mountain-
sides, there was manifestly a consultation and calculation going on, to
decide the question of attacking us. Having reached the resting-place of
the _Vegas de Santa Clara_, we had complete relief from the heat and
privations of the desert, and some relaxation from the severity of camp
duty. Some relaxation, and relaxation only--for camp-guards, horse-guards,
and scouts, are indispensable from the time of leaving the frontiers of
Missouri until we return to them.

After we left the _Vegas_, we had the gratification to be joined by
the famous hunter and trapper, Mr. Joseph Walker, whom I have before
mentioned, and who now became our guide. He had left California with the
great caravan; and perceiving, from the signs along the trail, that there
was a party of whites ahead, which he judged to be mine, he detached
himself from the caravan, with eight men, (Americans,) and ran the
gauntlet of the desert robbers, killing two, and getting some of the
horses wounded, and succeeded in overtaking us. Nothing but his great
knowledge of the country, great courage and presence of mind, and good
rifles, could have brought him safe from such a perilous enterprise.

13th.--We remained one day at this noted place of rest and refreshment;
and, resuming our progress in a northwestwardly direction, we descended
into a broad valley, the water of which is tributary to Sevier lake. The
next day we came in sight of the Wahsatch range of mountains on the right,
white with snow, and here forming the southeast part of the Great Basin.
Sevier lake, upon the waters of which we now were, belonged to the system
of lakes in the eastern part of the Basin--of which, the Great Salt lake,
and its southern limb, the Utah lake, were the principal--towards the
region of which we were now approaching. We traveled for several days in
this direction, within the rim of the Great Basin, crossing little streams
which bore to the left for Sevier lake; and plainly seeing, by the changed
aspect of the country, that we were entirely clear of the desert, and
approaching the regions which appertained to the system of the Rocky
mountains. We met, in this traverse, a few mounted Utah Indians, in
advance of their main body, watching the approach of the great caravan.

16th.--We reached a small salt lake, about seven miles long and one broad,
at the northern extremity of which we encamped for the night. This little
lake, which well merits its characteristic name, lies immediately at the
base of the Wah-satch range, and nearly opposite a gap in that chain of
mountains through which the Spanish trail passes; and which, again falling
upon the waters of the Colorado, and crossing that river, proceeds over a
mountainous country to Santa Fe.

17th.--After 440 miles of traveling on a trail, which served for a road,
we again found ourselves under the necessity of exploring a track through
the wilderness. The Spanish trail had borne off to the southeast, crossing
the Wah-satch range. Our course led to the northeast, along the foot of
that range, and leaving it on the right. The mountain presented itself to
us under the form of several ridges, rising one above the other, rocky,
and wooded with pine and cedar; the last ridge covered with snow. Sevier
river, flowing northwardly to the lake of the same name, collects its
principal waters from this section of the Wah-satch chain. We had now
entered a region of great pastoral promise, abounding with fine streams,
the rich bunch-grass, soil that would produce wheat, and indigenous flax
growing as if it had been sown. Consistent with the general character of
its bordering mountains, this fertility of soil and vegetation does not
extend far into the Great Basin. Mr. Joseph Walker, our guide, and who has
more knowledge of these parts than any man I know, informed me that all
the country to the left was unknown to him, and that even the
_Digger_ tribes, which frequented Lake Sevier, could tell him nothing
about it.

20th.--We met a band of Utah Indians, headed by a well-known chief, who
had obtained the American or English name of Walker, by which he is quoted
and well known. They were all mounted, armed with rifles, and used their
rifles well. The chief had a fusee, which he carried slung, in addition to
his rifle. They were journeying slowly towards the Spanish trail, to levy
their usual tribute upon the great California caravan. They were robbers
of a higher order than those of the desert. They conducted their
depredations with form, and under the color of trade and toll, for passing
through their country. Instead of attacking and killing, they affect to
purchase--taking the horses they like, and giving something nominal in
return. The chief was quite civil to me. He was personally acquainted with
his namesake, our guide, who made my name known to him. He knew of my
expedition of 1842; and, as tokens of friendship, and proof that we had
met, proposed an interchange of presents. We had no great store to choose
out of; so he gave me a Mexican blanket, and I gave him a very fine one
which I had obtained at Vancouver.

23d.--We reached Sevier river--the main tributary of the lake of the same
name--which, deflecting from its northern course, here breaks from the
mountains to enter the lake. It was really a fine river, from eight to
twelve feet deep; and after searching in vain for a fordable place, we
made little boats (or rather rafts) out of bulrushes, and ferried across.
These rafts are readily made, and give a good conveyance across a river.
The rushes are bound in bundles, and tied hard; the bundles are tied down
upon poles, as close as they can be pressed, and fashioned like a boat, in
being broader in the middle and pointed at the ends. The rushes, being
tubular and jointed, are light and strong. The raft swims well, and is
shoved along by poles, or paddled, or pushed and pulled by swimmers, or
drawn by ropes. On this occasion, we used ropes--one at each end--and
rapidly drew our little float backwards and forwards from shore to shore.
The horses swam. At our place of crossing, which was the most northern
point of its bend, the latitude was 39 deg. 22' 19". The banks sustained the
character for fertility and vegetation which we had seen for some days.
The name of this river and lake was an indication of our approach to
regions of which our people had been the explorers. It was probably named
after some American trapper or hunter, and was the first American name we
had met with since leaving the Columbia river. From the Dalles to the
point where we turned across the Sierra Nevada, near 1,000 miles, we heard
Indian names, and the greater part of the distance none; from Nueva
Helvetia (Sacramento) to _las Vegas de Santa Clara_, about 1,000
more, all were Spanish; from the Mississippi to the Pacific, French and
American or English were intermixed; and this prevalence of names
indicates the national character of the first explorers.

We had here the misfortune to lose one of our people, Francois Badeau, who
had been with me on both expeditions; during which he had always been one
of my most faithful and efficient men. He was killed in drawing towards
him a gun by the muzzle; the hammer being caught, discharged the gun,
driving the ball through his head. We buried him on the banks of the

Crossing the next day a slight ridge along the river, we entered a
handsome mountain valley covered with fine grass, and directed our course
towards a high snowy peak, at the foot of which lay the Utah lake. On our
right was a bed of high mountains, their summits covered with snow,
constituting the dividing ridge between the Basin waters and those of the
Colorado. At noon we fell in with a party of Utah Indians coming out of
the mountain, and in the afternoon encamped on a tributary to the lake,
which is separated from the waters of the Sevier by very slight dividing

Early the next day we came in sight of the lake; and, as we descended to
the broad bottoms of the Spanish fork, three horsemen were seen galloping
towards us, who proved to be Utah Indians--scouts from a village, which
was encamped near the mouth of the river. They were armed with rifles, and
their horses were in good condition. We encamped near them, on the Spanish
fork, which is one of the principal tributaries to the lake. Finding the
Indians troublesome, and desirous to remain here a day, we removed the
next morning farther down the lake and encamped on a fertile bottom near
the foot of the same mountainous ridge which borders the Great Salt lake,
and along which we had journeyed the previous September. Here the
principal plants in bloom were two, which were remarkable as affording to
the Snake Indians--the one an abundant supply of food, and the other the
most useful among the applications which they use for wounds. These were
the kooyah plant, growing in fields of extraordinary luxuriance, and
_convollaria stellata_, which, from the experience of Mr. Walker, is
the best remedial plant known among these Indians. A few miles below us
was another village of Indians, from which we obtained some fish--among
them a few salmon trout, which were very much inferior in size to those
along the Californian mountains. The season for taking them had not yet
arrived; but the Indians were daily expecting them to come up out of the

We had now accomplished an object we had in view when leaving the Dalles
of the Columbia in November last: we had reached the Utah lake; but by a
route very different from the one we had intended, and without sufficient
time remaining to make the examinations which we desired. It is a lake of
note in this country, under the dominion of the Utahs, who resort to it
for fish. Its greatest breadth is about fifteen miles, stretching far to
the north, narrowing as it goes, and connecting with the Great Salt lake.
This is the report, which I believe to be correct; but it is fresh water,
while the other is not only salt, but a saturated solution of salt; and
here is a problem which requires to be solved. It is almost entirely
surrounded by mountains, walled on the north and east by a high and snowy
range, which supplies to it a fan of tributary streams. Among these, the
principal river is the _Timpan-ogo_--signifying Rock river--a name
which the rocky grandeur of its scenery, remarkable even in this country
of rugged mountains, has obtained for it from the Indians. In the Utah
language, _og-wah-be_, the term for river, when coupled with other
words in common conversation, is usually abbreviated to _ogo; timpan_
signifying rock. It is probable that this river furnished the name which
on the older maps has been generally applied to the Great Salt lake; but
for this I have preferred a name which will be regarded as highly
characteristic, restricting to the river the descriptive term Timpan-ogo,
and leaving for the lake into which it flows the name of the people who
reside on its shores, and by which it is known throughout the country.

The volume of water afforded by the Timpan-ogo is probably equal to that
of the Sevier river; and, at the time of our visit, there was only one
place in the lake-valley at which the Spanish fork was fordable. In the
cove of the mountains along its eastern shore, the lake is bordered by a
plain, where the soil is generally good, and in greater part fertile;
watered by a delta of prettily timbered streams. This would be an
excellent locality for stock-farms; it is generally covered with good
bunch-grass, and would abundantly produce the ordinary grains.

In arriving at the Utah lake, we had completed an immense circuit of
twelve degrees diameter north and south, and ten degrees east and west;
and found ourselves, in May, 1844, on the same sheet of water which we had
left in September, 1843. The Utah is the southern limb of the Great Salt
lake; and thus we had seen that remarkable sheet of water both at its
northern and southern extremity, and were able to fix its position at
these two points. The circuit which we had made, and which had cost us
eight months of time, and 3,500 miles of traveling, had given us a view of
Oregon and of North California from the Rocky mountains to the Pacific
ocean, and of the two principal streams which form bays or harbors on the
coast of that sea. Having completed this circuit, and being now about to
turn the back upon the Pacific slope of our continent, and to recross the
Rocky mountains, it is natural to look back upon our footsteps, and take
some brief view of the leading features and general structure of the
country we had traversed. These are peculiar and striking, and differ
essentially from the Atlantic side of the country. The mountains all are
higher, more numerous, and more distinctly defined in their ranges and
directions; and, what is so contrary to the natural order of formations,
one of these ranges, which is near the coast, (the Sierra Nevada and the
Coast Range,) presents higher elevations and peaks than any which are to
be found in the Rocky mountains themselves. In our eight months' circuit,
we were never out of sight of snow; and the Sierra Nevada, where we
crossed it, was near 2,000 feet higher than the South Pass in the Rocky
mountains. In height, these mountains greatly exceed those of the Atlantic
side, constantly presenting peaks which enter the region of eternal snow;
and some of them volcanic, and in a frequent state of activity. They are
seen at great distances, and guide the traveler in his course.

The course and elevation of these ranges give direction to the rivers and
character to the coast. No great river does, or can, take its rise below
the Cascade and Sierra Nevada range; the distance to the sea is too short
to admit of it. The rivers of the San Francisco bay, which are the largest
after the Columbia, are local to that bay, and lateral to the coast,
having their sources about on a line with the Dalles of the Columbia, and
running each in a valley of its own, between the Coast range and the
Cascade and Sierra Nevada range. The Columbia is the only river which
traverses the whole breadth of the country, breaking through all the
ranges, and entering the sea. Drawing its waters from a section of ten
degrees of latitude in the Rocky mountains, which are collected into one
stream by three main forks (Lewis's, Clark's, and the North fork) near the
centre of the Oregon valley, this great river thence proceeds by a single
channel to the sea, while its three forks lead each to a pass in the
mountains, which opens the way into the interior of the continent. This
fact in relation to the rivers of this region, gives an immense value to
the Columbia. Its mouth is the only inlet and outlet to and from the sea:
its three forks lead to the passes in the mountains: it is, therefore, the
only line of communication between the Pacific and the interior of North
America; and all operations of war or commerce, of national or social
intercourse, must be conducted upon it. This gives it a value beyond
estimation, and would involve irreparable injury if lost. In this unity
and concentration of its waters, the Pacific side of our continent differs
entirely from the Atlantic side, where the waters of the Alleghany
mountains are dispersed into many rivers, having their different entrances
into the sea, and opening many lines of communication with the interior.

The Pacific coast is equally different from that of the Atlantic. The
coast of the Atlantic is low and open, indented with numerous bays,
sounds, and river estuaries, accessible everywhere, and opening by many
channels into the heart of the country. The Pacific coast, on the
contrary, is high and compact, with few bays, and but one that opens into
the heart of the country. The immediate coast is what the seamen call
_iron-bound_. A little within, it is skirted by two successive ranges
of mountains, standing as ramparts between the sea and the interior of the
country; and to get through which there is but one gate, and that narrow
and easily defended. This structure of the coast, backed by these two
ranges of mountains, with its concentration and unity of waters, gives to
the country an immense military strength, and will probably render Oregon
the most impregnable country in the world.

Differing so much from the Atlantic side of our continent, in coast,
mountains, and rivers, the Pacific side differs from it in another most
rare and singular feature--that of the Great Interior Basin, of which I
have so often spoken, and the whole form and character of which I was so
anxious to ascertain. Its existence is vouched for by such of the American
traders and hunters as have some knowledge of that region; the structure
of the Sierra Nevada range of mountains requires it to be there; and my
own observations confirm it. Mr. Joseph Walker, who is so well acquainted
in these parts, informed me that, from the Great Salt lake west, there was
a succession of lakes and rivers which have no outlet to the sea, nor any
connection with the Columbia, or with the Colorado of the Gulf of
California. He described some of these lakes as being large, with numerous
streams, and even considerable rivers falling into them. In fact, all
concur in the general report of these interior rivers and lakes; and, for
want of understanding the force and power of evaporation, which so soon
establishes an equilibrium between the loss and supply of waters, the
fable of whirlpools and subterraneous outlets has gained belief, as the
only imaginable way of carrying off the waters which have no visible
discharge. The structure of the country would require this formation of
interior lakes; for the waters which would collect between the Rocky
mountains and the Sierra Nevada, not being able to cross this formidable
barrier, nor to get to the Columbia or the Colorado, must naturally
collect into reservoirs, each of which would have its little system of
streams and rivers to supply it. This would be the natural effect; and
what I saw went to confirm it. The Great Salt lake is a formation of this
kind, and quite a large one; and having many streams, and one considerable
river, 400 or 500 miles long, falling into it. This lake and river I saw
and examined myself; and also saw the Wah-satch and Bear River mountains,
which enclose the waters of the lake on the east, and constitute, in that
quarter, the rim of the Great Basin. Afterwards, along the eastern base of
the Sierra Nevada, where we traveled for 42 days, I saw the line of lakes
and rivers which lie at the foot of that Sierra; and which Sierra is the
western rim of the Basin. In going down Lewis's fork and the main
Columbia, I crossed only inferior streams coming in from the left, such as
could draw their water from a short distance only; and I often saw the
mountains at their heads white with snow,--which, all accounts said,
divided the waters of the _desert_ from those of the Columbia, and
which could be no other than the range of mountains which form the rim of
the Basin on its northern side. And in returning from California along the
Spanish trail, as far as the head of the Santa Clara fork of the Rio
Virgen, I crossed only small streams making their way south to the
Colorado, or lost in sand, (as the Mo-hah-ve;) while to the left, lofty
mountains, their summits white with snow, were often visible, and which
must have turned water to the north as well as to the south, and thus
constituted, on this part, the southern rim of the Basin. At the head of
the Santa Clara fork, and in the Vegas de Santa Clara, we crossed the
ridge which parted the two systems of waters. We entered the Basin at that
point, and have traveled in it ever since; having its southeastern rim
(the Wah-satch mountain) on the right, and crossing the streams which flow
down into it. The existence of the Basin is, therefore, an established
fact in my mind: its extent and contents are yet to be better ascertained.
It cannot be less than 400 or 500 miles each way, and must lie principally
in the Alta California; the demarcation latitude of 42 deg. probably cutting a
segment from the north part of the rim. Of its interior, but little is
known. It is called a _desert_, and, from what I saw of it, sterility
may be its prominent characteristic; but where there is so much water,
there must be some _oasis_. The great river, and the great lake,
reported, may not be equal to the report; but where there is so much snow,
there must be streams; and where there is no outlet, there must be lakes
to hold the accumulated waters, or sands to swallow them up. In this
eastern part of the Basin, containing Sevier, Utah, and the Great Salt
lakes, and the rivers and creeks falling into them, we know there is good
soil and good grass, adapted to civilized settlements. In the western
part, on Salmon Trout river, and some other streams, the same remark may
be made.

The contents of this great Basin are yet to be examined. That it is
peopled, we know; but miserably and sparsely. From all that I heard and
saw, I should say that humanity here appeared in its lowest form, and in
its most elementary state. Dispersed in single families; without fire-
arms; eating seeds and insects; digging roots, (and hence their name,)--
such is the condition of the greater part. Others are a degree higher, and
live in communities upon some lake or river that supplies fish, and from
which they repulse the miserable _Digger_. The rabbit is the largest
animal known in this desert; its flesh affords a little meat; and their
bag-like covering is made of its skins. The wild sage is their only wood,
and here it is of extraordinary size--sometimes a foot in diameter, and
six or eight feet high. It serves for fuel, for building material, for
shelter to the rabbits, and for some sort of covering for the feet and
legs in cold weather. Such are the accounts of the inhabitants and
productions of the Great Basin; and which, though imperfect, must have
some foundation, and excite our desire to know the whole.

The whole idea of such a desert, and such a people, is a novelty in our
country, and excites Asiatic, not American ideas. Interior basins, with
their own systems of lakes and rivers, and often sterile, are common
enough in Asia; people still in the elementary state of families, living
in deserts, with no other occupation than the mere animal search for food,
may still be seen in that ancient quarter of the globe; but in America
such things are new and strange, unknown and unsuspected, and discredited
when related. But I flatter myself that what is discovered, though not
enough to satisfy curiosity, is sufficient to excite it, and that
subsequent explorations will complete what has been commenced.

Book of the day: