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Through the Grand Canyon from Wyoming to Mexico by E. L. Kolb

Part 4 out of 5

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waves, less than six feet high, are often dangers to be shunned. After
being overturned in them we learned their tremendous power, a power we
would never have associated with any water, before such an experience,
short of a waterfall.

There is a certain amount of danger in the canyons,--plenty of it.
Still, in most cases, with care and forethought, much of it can be
avoided. We think we are safe in saying that half of the parties who
have attempted a passage through these canyons have met with
fatalities. Most of these have occurred in Cataract Canyon, not
because it is any worse than other sections,--certainly no worse than
the Grand Canyon,--but because it is easily entered from the quiet,
alluring water of the lower Green River. Without a doubt each
successful expedition is responsible in a way for others' attempts. In
nearly every instance the unfortunate ones have underestimated the
danger, and have attempted the passage with inadequate boats, such as
Smith had for instance, undecked and without air chambers. Both of
these are imperative for safety.

We had the benefit of the experiences of others. In addition, our
years of work in the canyons had robbed them of their imaginary
dangers, and--while we trust that we are not entirely without
imagination--much of their weirdness and glamour with which they are
inseparable to the idealist and the impressionist. Each of these
upsets could have been avoided by a portage had we desired to make
one, but success in other rapids made us a little reckless and ready
to take a chance.

Beyond getting our flour wet on the outside, we suffered very little
loss to our cargo. We placed the two flour sacks beside the fires each
evening, until the wet flour dried to a crust. We continued to use out
of the centre of the sacks as though nothing had ever happened.

Bert and I each had a little cough the next morning, but it
disappeared by noon. Beyond that, we suffered no great inconvenience
from our enforced bath. Sleeping in the open, with plenty of healthful
exercise, kept us physically fit.

The cold air and the cold water did not seem to bother the others, but
I could not get comfortably warm during this cold snap. Added to this,
it took me some time to get over my scare, and I could see all kinds
of danger, in rapids, where Emery could see none. I insisted on
untying the photographic cases from the boats, and carrying them
around a number of rapids before we ran them. It is hardly necessary
to say that no upset occurred in these rapids.

Then came a cold day, with a raw wind sweeping up the river. A coating
of ice covered the boats and the oars. We had turned directly to the
north along the base of Powell's plateau, and were nearing the end of
a second granite gorge, with violent rapids and jagged rocks. Emery
made the remark that he had not had a swim for some time. In a
half-hour we came to a rapid with two twelve-foot waves in the centre
of the stream, with a projecting point above that would have to be
passed, before we could pull out of the swift-running centre. Emery
got his swim there. I was just behind and was more fortunate. I never
saw anything more quickly done. Before the boat was fully overturned
he swung an oar, so that it stuck out at an angle from the side of the
boat, and used the oar for a step; an instant later he had cut the oar
loose, and steered toward the shore. Bert threw him a rope from the
shore, and he was pulled in. He was wearing a thin rubber coat fitting
tightly about his wrists, tied about his neck, and belted at the
waist. This protected him so thoroughly that he was only wet from the
waist down.

If we were a little inclined to be proud of our record above Bright
Angel we had forgotten all about it by this time. We were scarcely
more than sixty miles from home and had experienced three upsets and a
smashed boat, all in one week.

Just at the end of the second granite section we made our first
portage since leaving Bright Angel. Bert and I worked on the boats,
while Emery cooked the evening meal.

Hot rice soup, flavoured with a can of prepared meat, was easily and
quickly prepared, and formed one of the usual dishes at these meals.
It contained a lot of nutriment, and the rice took up but little space
in the boats. Sometimes the meat was omitted, and raisins were
substituted. Prepared baked beans were a staple dish, but were not in
our supply on this last part of the trip. We often made "hot cakes"
twice a day; an excuse for eating a great deal of butter and honey, or
syrup. None of these things were luxuries. They were the best
foodstuff we could carry. We seemed to crave sweet stuff, and used
quantities of sugar. We could carry eggs, when packed in sawdust,
without trouble but did not carry many. We had little meat; what we
had was bacon, and prepared meats of the lunch variety. Cheese was our
main substitute for meat. It was easily carried and kept well. Dried
peaches or apricots were on the bill for nearly every meal, each day's
allowance being cooked the evening before. We tried several condensed
or emergency foods, but discarded them all but one, for various
reasons. The exception was Erbeswurst, a patent dried soup
preparation. Other prepared soups were carried also. I must not forget
the morning cereal. It was Cream of Wheat, easily prepared; eaten--not
served, perhaps devoured would be a better word--with sugar and
condensed cream, as long as it lasted, then with butter. Any remainder
from breakfast was fried for other meals. Each evening, we would make
some baking-powder biscuit in a frying-pan. A Dutch oven is better,
but had too much weight. The appellation for such bread is "flapjack"
or "dough-god." When I did the baking they were fearfully and
wonderfully made. Cocoa, which was nourishing, often took the place of
coffee. In fact our systems craved just what was most needed to build
up muscle and create heat. We found it was useless to try to catch
fish after the weather became cold. The fish would not bite.

On the upper end of our journey we carried no tobacco, as it happened
that Jimmy as well as ourselves were not tobacco users. There were no
alcoholic stimulants. When Bert joined us, a small flask, for
medicinal purposes only, was taken along. The whiskey was scarcely
touched at this time. Bert enjoyed a pipe after his meals, but
continued to keep good-natured even when his tobacco got wet, so
tobacco was not absolutely necessary to him.

Uninteresting and unromantic these things may be, but they were most
important to us. We were only sorry the supply was not larger. While
we never stinted ourselves, or cut the allowance of food, the amount
was growing smaller every day, and it was not a question any more
whether we would go out or not, to get provisions, to "rustle" as Bert
called it, but where we would go out. We might go up Cataract Creek or
Ha Va Su Creek, as it is sometimes called. We had been to the mouth of
this canyon on foot, so there would be no danger of missing it. The Ha
Va Supai Indians, about two hundred in number, lived in this lateral
canyon about seven or eight miles from the river. An agent and a
farmer lived with them, and might be able to sell us some provisions;
if not, it would be fifty miles back to our home. The trail was much
more direct than the river. The great drawback to this course was the
fact that Ha Va Su Canyon, sheer-walled, deep, and narrow, contained a
number of waterfalls, one of them about 175 feet high. The precipice
over which it fell was nothing but a mineral deposit from the water,
building higher every year. Formerly this was impassable, until some
miners, after enlarging a sloping cave, had cut a winding stairway in
it, which allowed a descent to be made to the bottom of the fall. A
recent storm had remodelled all the falls in Cataract Creek Canyon,
cutting out the travertine in some places, piling it up in others. A
great mass of cottonwood trees were also mixed with the debris. The
village, too, had been washed away and was then being rebuilt. We had
been told that the tunnel was filled up, and as far as we knew no one
had been to the river since the flood.

The other outlet was Diamond Creek Canyon, much farther down the
river. We would decide when we got to Ha Va Su just what we would do.

Tapeets Creek, one mile below our camp,--a stream which has
masqueraded under the title of Thunder River, and about which there
has been considerable speculation,--proved to be a stream a little
smaller than Bright Angel Creek, flowing through a narrow slot in the
rocks, and did not fall sheer into the river, as has been reported.
Perhaps a small cascade known as Surprise Falls which we passed the
next day has been confused with Tapeets Creek. This stream corkscrews
down through a narrow crevice and falls about two hundred feet, close
to the river's edge. We are told that the upper end of Tapeets Creek
is similar to this, but on a much larger scale.

Just opposite this fall a big mountain-sheep jumped from under an
overhanging ledge close to the water, and stared curiously at us, as
though he wondered what strange things those were coming down with the
current. It is doubtful if he ever saw a human being before. This
sight sent us scrambling in our cases for cameras and firearms; and it
was not the game laws, but a rusted trigger on the six-shooter
instead, that saved the sheep. He finally took alarm and scampered
away over the rocks, and we had no mutton stew that night.

We had one night of heavy rain, and morning revealed a little snow
within three hundred feet of the river, while a heavy white blanket
covered the upper cliffs. It continued to snow on top, and rained on
us nearly all this day. Emery took this opportunity to get the drop of
moisture out of the lens, and put the camera in such shape that we
could proceed with our picture making. A short run was made after this
work was completed.

The camp we were just leaving was about three miles above Kanab
Canyon. The granite was behind us, disappearing with a steep descent
much as it had emerged at the Hance Trail. There was also a small
deposit of algonkian. This too had been passed, and we were back in
the limestone and sandstone walls similar to the lower end of Marble
Canyon. While the formations were the same, the canyon differed. The
layers were thicker, the red sandstone and the marble walls were
equally sheer; there was no plateau between. What plateau this canyon
contained lay on top of the red sandstone. Few peaks rose above this.
The canyon had completed its northern run and was turning back again
to the west-southwest with a great sweep or circle. Less than an
hour's work brought us to Kanab Canyon.



In the mud at Kanab Canyon we saw an old footprint of some person who
had come down to the river through this narrow, gloomy gorge. It was
here that Major Powell terminated his second voyage, on account of
extreme high water. A picture they made showed their boats floated up
in this side canyon. Our stage was much lower than this. F.S.
Dellenbaugh, the author of "A Canyon Voyage," was a member of this
second expedition. This book had been our guide down to this point; we
could not have asked for a better one. Below here we had a general
idea of the nature of the river, and had a set of the government maps,
but we had neglected to provide ourselves with detailed information
such as this volume gave us.

Evening of the following day found us at Cataract Creek Canyon, but
with a stage of water in the river nearly fifty feet lower than that
which we had seen a few years before. The narrow entrance of this
great canyon gives no hint of what it is like a few miles above.

The Indian village is in the bottom of a 3000-foot canyon, half a mile
wide and three miles long, covered with fertile fields, peach and
apricot orchards. It even contained a few fig trees. Below the village
the canyon narrowed to a hundred yards, with a level bottom, covered
with a tangle of wild grape vines, cactus, and cottonwood trees. This
section contained the two largest falls, and came to an end about four
miles below the first fall. Then the canyon narrowed, deep and gloomy,
until there was little room for anything but the powerful, rapidly
descending stream. At the lower end it was often waist deep and
fifteen or twenty feet wide. It was no easy task to go through this
gorge. The stream had to be crossed several times. The canyon
terminated in an extremely narrow gorge 2500 feet deep, dark and
gloomy, one of the most impressive gorges we have ever seen. The main
canyon was similar, with a few breaks on the sides, those breaks being
ledges, or narrow sloping benches that would extend for miles, only to
be brought to an abrupt end by side canyons. There are many
mountain-sheep in this section, but we saw none either time. We could
see many fresh tracks where they had followed these ledges around, and
had gone up the narrow side canyon. It was cold in the main canyon,
and no doubt the sheep could be found on the plateaus, which were more
open, and would get sun when the sun shone. This plateau was 2500 feet
above us. At the turn of the canyon we could see the other walls 2000
feet above that. The rapids in the section just passed had been widely
separated and compared well with those of Marble Canyon, not the worst
we had seen, but far from being tame. There was plenty of shore room
at each of these rapids.

Cactus of different species was now a feature of the scenery. The
ocotilla or candlewood with long, lash-like stalks springing from a
common centre--that cactus, which, when dried, needs only a lighted
match to set it afire--flourishes in the rocky ledges. A species of
small barrel-cactus about the size of a man's head, with fluted sides,
or symmetrical vertical rows of small thorned lumps converging at the
top of the "nigger-head," as they are sometimes called, grows in great
numbers in crevices on the walls. The delicate "pin cushion" gathered
in clusters of myriad small spiny balls. The prickly pear, here in Ha
Va Su Canyon, were not the starved, shrivelled, mineral-tinted cactus
such as we found at the beginning of our trip. Instead they were green
and flourishing, with large fleshy leaves joining on to each other
until they rise to a height of three feet or more and cover large
patches of ground to the utter exclusion of all other growth. What a
display of yellow and red these desert plants put forth when they are
in bloom! A previous visit to Ha Va Su was made in the month of May
when every group of prickly pear was a riot of pure colour. All this
prolific growth is made possible by the extreme heat of the summer
months aided in the case of those plants and trees which flourish in
the fertile soil of Ha Va Su by the sub-irrigation and the spray from
the fall.

After making an inventory of our provisions we concluded not to try
the tedious and uncertain trip up Cataract Creek. With care and good
fortune we would have enough provisions to last us to Diamond Creek.

With our run the next day the inner gorge continued to deepen, the
walls drew closer together, so that we now had a narrow gorge hemming
us in with 3000-foot walls from which there was no escape. They were
about a fourth of a mile apart at the top. A boat at the foot of one
of these walls was merely an atom. The total depth of the canyon was
close to 4500 feet. There is nothing on earth to which this gorge can
be compared. Storm-clouds lowered into the chasm in the early morning.
The sky was overcast and threatening. We were travelling directly west
again, and no sunlight entered here, even when the sun shone. The
walls had lost their brighter reds, and what colour they had was dark
and sombre, a dirty brown and dark green predominating. The mythology
of the ancients, with their Inferno and their River Styx, could hardly
conjure anything more supernatural or impressive than this gloomy

There were a few bad rapids. One or two had no shore, others had an
inclination to run under one wall and had to be run very carefully. If
we could not get down alongside of a rapid, we could usually climb out
on the walls at the head of the rapid and look it over from that
vantage point. The one who climbed out would signal directions to the
others, who would run it at once, and continue on to the next rapid.
They would have its course figured out when the last boat arrived.

One canyon entered from the left, level on the bottom, and about one
hundred feet wide; it might be a means of outlet from this canyon, but
it is doubtful, for the marble has a way of ending abruptly and
dropping sheer, with a polished surface that is impossible to climb.

New Year's Eve was spent in this section. The camp was exceptionally
good. A square-sided, oblong section of rock about fifty feet long had
fallen forward from the base of the cliff. This left a cave-like
opening which was closed at one end with our dark-room tent. High
water had placed a sandy floor, now thoroughly dry, in the bottom.
Under the circumstances we could hardly ask for anything better. Of
driftwood there was none, and our camp-fires were made of mesquite
which grew in ledges in the rocks; in one case gathered with a great
deal of labour on the shore opposite our camp, and ferried across on
our boats. If a suitable camp was found after 3.30 P.M., we kept it,
rather than run the risk of not finding another until after dark.

Another day, January 1, 1912, brought us to the end of this gorge and
into a wider and more open canyon, with the country above covered with
volcanic peaks and cinder cones. Blow-holes had broken through the
canyon walls close to the top of the gorge, pouring streams of lava
down its sides, filling the bottom of the canyon with several hundred
feet of lava. This condition extended down the canyon for twenty miles
or more. Judging by the amount of lava the eruption must have
continued for a great while. Could one imagine a more wonderful
sight--the turbulent stream checked by the fire flood from above! What
explosions and rending of rocks there must have been when the two
elements met. The river would be backed up for a hundred miles! Each
would be shoved on from behind! There was no escape! They must fight
it out until one or the other conquered. But the fire could not keep
up forever, and, though triumphant for a period, it finally succumbed,
and the stream proceeded to cut down to the original level.

Two miles below the first lava flow we saw what we took to be smoke
and hurried down wondering if we would find a prospector or a cattle
rustler. We agreed, if it was the latter, to let them off if they
would share with us. But the smoke turned out to be warm springs, one
of them making quite a stream which fell twenty feet into the river.
Here in the river was a cataract, called Lava Falls, so filled with
jagged pieces of the black rock that a portage was advisable. The
weather had not moderated any in the last week, and we were in the
water a great deal as we lifted and lined the boats over the rocks at
the edge of the rapids. We would work in the water until numbed with
the cold, then would go down to the warm springs and thaw out for a
while. This was a little quicker than standing by the fire, but the
relief was only temporary. This portage was finished the next morning.

Another portage was made this same day, and the wide canyon where
Major Powell found some Indian gardens was passed in the afternoon.
The Indians were not at home when the Major called. His party felt
they were justified in helping themselves to some pumpkins or squash,
for their supplies were very low, and they could not go out to a
settlement--as we expected to do in a day or two--and replenish them.

We found the fish would not bite, just as our friend, the miner, had
said, but we did succeed in landing a fourteen-pound salmon, in one of
the deep pools not many miles from this point, and it was served up in
steaks the next day. If our method of securing the salmon was
unsportsmanlike, we excused ourselves for the methods used, just as
Major Powell justified his appropriation of the Indians' squash. If
that fish was ever needed, it was then, and it was a most welcome
addition to our rapidly disappearing stock of provisions. We were only
sorry we had not taken more "bait."

The next day we did see a camp-fire, and on climbing the shore, found
a little old prospector, clad in tattered garments, sitting in a
little dugout about five feet square which he had shovelled out of the
sand. He had roofed it with mesquite and an old blanket. A rapid, just
below, made so much noise that he did not hear us until we were before
his door. He looked at the rubber coats and the life-preservers, then
said, with a matter-of-fact drawl, "Well, you fellows must have come
by the river!" After talking awhile he asked: "What do you call
yourselves?" This question would identify him as an old-time Westerner
if we did not already know it. At one time it was not considered
discreet to ask any one in these parts what their name was, or where
they were from. He gave us a great deal of information about the
country, and said that Diamond Creek was about six miles below. He had
come across from Diamond Creek by a trail over a thousand foot ridge,
with a burro and a pack mule, a month before. He had just been out
near the top on the opposite side, doing some assessment work on some
copper claims, crossing the river on a raft, and stated that on a
previous occasion he had been drawn over the rapid, but got out.

When he learned that we had come through Utah, he stated that he
belonged near Vernal, and had once been upset in the upper canyons,
about twenty years before. He proved to be the Snyder of whom we had
heard at Linwood, and also from the Chews, who had given him a horse
so he could get out over the mountains. Yet here was, a thousand miles
below, cheerful as a cricket, and sure that a few months at the most
would bring him unlimited wealth. He asked us to "share his chuck"
with him, but we could see nothing but a very little flour, and a
little bacon, so pleaded haste and pushed on for Diamond Creek.

The mouth of this canyon did not look unlike others we had seen in
this section, and one could easily pass it without knowing that it ran
back with a gentle slope for twenty miles, and that a wagon road came
down close to the river. It contained a small, clear stream. The
original tourist camp in the Grand Canyon was located up this canyon.
We packed all our plates and films, ready to take them out. The
supplies left in the boats when we went out the next morning were:

5 pounds of flour, partly wet and crusted.
2 pounds mildewed Cream of Wheat.
3 or 4 cans (rusty) of dried beef.
Less than one pound of sugar.

We carried a lunch out with us. This was running a little too close
for comfort.

The mouth of Diamond Creek Canyon was covered with a growth of large
mesquite trees. Cattle trails wound through this thorny thicket down
to the river's edge. The trees thinned out a short distance back, and
the canyon widened as it receded from the river. A half mile back from
the river was the old slab building that had served as headquarters
for the campers. Here the canyon divided, one containing the small
stream heading in the high walls to the southeast; while the other
branch ran directly south, heading near the railroad at the little
flag-station of Peach Springs, twenty-three miles distant.
It was flat-bottomed, growing wider and more valley-like with every
mile, but not especially interesting to one who had seen the glory of
all the canyons. Floods had spoiled what had once been a very passable
stage road, dropping 4000 feet in twenty miles, down to the very
depths of the Grand Canyon. Some cattle, driven down by the snows,
were sunning themselves near the building. Our appearance filled them
with alarm, and they "high tailed it" to use a cattle man's
expression, scampering up the rocky slopes.

A deer's track was seen in a snow-drift away from the river. On the
sloping walls in the more open sections of this valley grew the
stubby-thorned chaparral. The hackberry and the first specimens of the
palo verde were found in this vicinity. The mesquite trees seen at the
mouth of the canyon were real trees--about the size of a large apple
tree--not the small bushes we had seen at the Little Colorado. All the
growth was changing as we neared the lower altitudes and the mouth of
the Grand Canyon, being that of the hot desert, which had found this
artery or avenue leading to the heart of the rocky plateaus and had
pushed its way into this foreign land.

Even the animal life of the desert has followed this same road.
Occasional Gila monsters, which are supposed to belong to the hot
desert close to the Mexico line, have been found at Diamond Creek, and
lizards of the Mojave Desert have been seen as far north as the foot
of Bright Angel Trail.

But we saw little animal life at this time. There were occasional
otters disporting themselves near our boats, in one instance unafraid,
in another raising a gray-bearded head near our boat with a startled
look in his eyes. Then he turned and began to swim on the surface
until our laughter caused him to dive. Tracks of the civet-cat or the
ring-tailed cat--that large-eyed and large-eared animal, somewhat like
a raccoon and much resembling a weasel--were often seen along the
shores. The gray fox, the wild-cat, and the coyote, all natives of
this land, kept to the higher pinon-covered hills. The beaver seldom
penetrates into the deep canyons because of the lack of vegetation,
but is found in all sections in the open country from the headwaters
to the delta in Mexico.

We went out by this canyon on January the 5th, and returned Sunday,
January the 8th, bringing enough provisions to last us to the end of
the big canyon. We imagined we would have no trouble getting what we
needed in the open country below that. We sent some telegrams and
received encouraging answers to them before returning. With us were
two brothers, John and Will Nelson, cattle men who had given us a
cattle man's welcome when we arrived at Peach Springs. There was no
store at Peach Springs, and they supplied us with the provisions that
we brought back. They drove a wagon for about half the distance, then
the roads became impassable, so they unhitched and packed their
bedding and our provisions in to the river. The Nelsons were anxious
to see us run a rapid or two.

We found the nights to be just as cold on top as they ever get in this
section--a little below zero--although the midday sun was warm enough
to melt the snow and make it slushy. I arrived at the river with my
feet so swollen that I had difficulty in walking, a condition brought
on by a previous freezing they had received, being wet continually by
the icy water in my boat--which was leaking badly since we left Bright
Angel--and the walk out through the slush. I was glad there was little
walking to do when once at the river, and changed my shoes for
arctics, which were more roomy and less painful.

On the upper part of our trip there were occasional days when Emery
was not feeling his best, while I had been most fortunate and had
little complaint to make; now things seemed to be reversed. Emery, and
Bert too, were having the time of their lives, while I was "getting
mine" in no small doses.[6]

We had always imagined that the Grand Canyon lost its depth and
impressiveness below Diamond Creek. We were to learn our mistake. The
colour was missing, that was true, for the marble and sandstone walls
were brown, dirty, or colourless, with few of the pleasing tones of
the canyon found in the upper end. But it was still the Grand Canyon.
We were in the granite again--granite just as deep as any we had seen
above, it may have been a little deeper, and in most cases it was very
sheer. There was very little plateau, the limestone and sandstone rose
above that, just as they had above Kanab Canyon. The light-coloured
walls could not be seen.

Many of the rapids of this lower section were just as bad as any we
had gone over; one or two have been considered worse by different
parties. Two hours after leaving the Nelsons we were halted by a rapid
that made us catch our breath. It was in two sections--the lower one
so full of jagged rocks that it meant a wrecked boat. The upper part
fell about twenty feet we should judge and was bad enough. It was a
question if we could run this and keep from going over the lower part!
If we made a portage, our boats would have to be taken three or four
hundred feet up the side of the cliff. The rapid was too strong to
line a boat down. We concluded to risk running the first part. Bert
climbed to the head of the second section of the rapid, where a
projecting point of granite narrowed the stream, and formed a quiet
eddy just above the foaming plunge. If we could keep out of the centre
and land here we would be safe. Our shoes were removed, our trousers
were rolled to our knees and we removed our coats. If we had to swim
there, we were going to be prepared. The life-preservers were well
inflated, and tied; then we made the plunge, Emery taking the lead, I
following close behind. Our plan was to keep as near the shore as
possible. Once I thought it was all over when I saw the _Edith_ pulled
directly for a rock in spite of all Emery could do to pull away.
Nothing but a rebounding wave saved him. I went through the same
experience. Several times we were threatened with an upset, but we
landed in safety. The portage was short and easy. Flat granite rocks
were covered with a thin coat of ice. The boats were unloaded and slid
across, then dropped below the projecting rock. The _Defiance_ skidded
less than two feet and struck a projecting knob of rock the size of a
goose egg. It punctured the side close to the stern, fortunately above
the water line, and the wood was not entirely broken away.

Two miles below this we found another bad one. This was lined while
Bert got supper up in a little sloping canyon; about as uncomfortable
a camp as we had found. Many of the rapids run the next day were
violent. The river seemed to be trying to make up for lost time. We
passed a canyon coming from the south containing two streams, one
clear, and one muddy. The narrowest place we had seen on the river was
a rapid run this day, not over forty feet wide. Evening brought us to
a rapid with a lateral canyon coming in from each side, that on the
right containing a muddy stream. The walls were sheer and jagged close
to the rapid, with a break on the rugged slopes here and there. A
sloping rock in the middle of the stream could be seen in the third
section of the rapid. This was Separation Rapid, the point where the
two Howland brothers and Dunn parted company with Major Powell and his

From our camp at the left side we could easily figure out a way to the
upper plateau. Above that they would have a difficult climb as far as
we could tell. That they did reach the top is well known. They met a
tragic fate. The second day after getting out they were killed by some
Indians--the Shewits Utes--who had treated them hospitably at first
and provided them with something to eat. That night a visiting Indian
brought a tale of depredations committed by some miners against
another section of their tribe. These men were believed to be the
guilty parties, and they were ambushed the next morning. Their fate
remained a mystery for a year; then a Ute was seen with a watch
belonging to one of the men. Later a Mormon who had a great deal of
influence with the Indians got their story from them, and reported to
Major Powell what he had learned. It was a deplorable and a tragic
ending to what otherwise was one of the most successful, daring, and
momentous explorations ever undertaken on this continent.

We find there is a current belief that it was cowardice and fear of
this one rapid that caused these men to separate from the party. The
more one hears of this separation, the more it seems that it was a
difference of opinion on many matters, and not this one rapid, that
caused them to leave. These men had been trappers and hunters, one
might say pioneers, and one had been with Major Powell before the
river exploration. They had gone through all the canyons, and had come
through this far without a fatality. They had seen a great many rapids
nearly as bad as this, and several that were worse, if one could judge
by its nature when we found it. They were not being carried by others,
but had charge of one boat. They did smash one boat in Disaster Rapid
in Lodore Canyon, and at that time they claimed Major Powell gave them
the wrong signal. This caused some feeling.

At the time of the split, the food question was a serious one. There
were short rations for a long time; in fact there was practically no
food. After an observation, Major Powell informed them that they were
within forty-five miles of the Virgin River, in a direct line. Much of
the country between the end of the canyon and the Virgin River was
open, a few Mormon settlements could be found up the Virgin Valley. He
offered them half of the small stock of provisions, when they
persisted in leaving, but they refused to take any provisions
whatever, feeling sure that they could kill enough game to subsist on.
This one instance would seem to be enough to clear them of the stigma
of cowardice. The country on top was covered with volcanic cinders.
There was little water to be found, and in many ways it was just as
inhospitable as the canyon. The cook had a pan of biscuits, which he
left on a rock for them, after the men had helped the party lift the
boats over the rocks at the head of the rapid. After landing in safety
around a bend which hid them from sight, the boating party fired their
guns, hoping they would hear the report, and follow in the abandoned
boat. It is doubtful if they could hear the sound of the guns, above
the roar of the rapid. If they did, they paid no attention to it. The
younger Howland wished to remain with the party, but threw his lot
with his brother, when he withdrew.

While these men did not have the Major's deep scientific interest in
the successful completion of this exploration, they undoubtedly should
have stayed with their leader, if their services were needed or
desired. It is more than likely that they were insubordinate; they
certainly made a misguided attempt, but in spite of these facts it
scarcely seems just to brand them as cowards. Two days after they
left, the boating party was camped at the end of the canyons.



The first section of Separation Rapid was run the first thing in the
morning, a manoeuvre that was accomplished by starting on the left
shore and crossing the swift centre clear to the other shore. This
allowed us to reach some quiet water near a small deposit of rock and
earth at the base of the sheer wall. Two feet of water would have
covered this deposit; likewise two feet of water would have given us a
clear channel over this second section. As it was, the rapid was
rough, with many rocks very near the surface. Directly across from us,
close to the left shore, was what looked like a ten-foot geyser, or
fountain of water. This was caused by a rock in the path of a strong
current rebounding from the shore. The water ran up on the side near
the wall, then fell on all sides. It was seldom the water had force
enough to carry to the top of a rock as large as that. This portage of
the second section was one of the easiest we had made. By rolling a
few large rocks around we could get a stream water across our small
shore large enough to float an empty boat with a little help, so we
lightened them of the cargo and floated them through our canal. While
running the third section the _Edith_ was carried up on the sloping
rock in the middle of the stream; she paused a moment, then came down
like a shot and whirled around to the side without mishap. This made
the thirteenth rapid in which both boats were lined or portaged. In
three other rapids one boat was run through and one was portaged. Half
of all these rapids were located in the Grand Canyon.

All this time we were anxiously looking forward to a rapid which Mr.
Stone had described as being the worst in the entire series, also the
last rapid we would be likely to portage and had informed us that
below this particular rapid everything could be run with little or no
inspection. Naturally we were anxious to get that rapid behind us. It
was described as being located below a small stream flowing from the
south. The same rapid was described by Major Powell as having a bold,
lava-capped escarpment at the head of the rapid, on the right. We had
not seen any lava since leaving Diamond Creek, and an entry in my
notes reads, "we have gone over Stone's 'big rapid' three times and it
is still ahead of us." The knowledge that there was a big rapid in the
indefinite somewhere that was likely to cause us trouble seemed to
give us more anxious moments than the many unmentioned rapids we were
finding all this time. We wondered how high the escarpment was, and if
we could take our boats over its top. We tried to convince ourselves
that it was behind us, although sure that it could not be. But the
absence of lava puzzled us. After one "bad" rapid and several "good"
rapids we came to a sharp turn in the canyon. Emery was ahead and
called back, "I see a little stream"; Bert joined with "I see the
lava"; and the "Bold Escarpment Rapid," as we had been calling it for
some time, was before us. It was more than a nasty rapid, it was a

What a din that water sent up! We had to yell to make ourselves heard.
The air vibrated with the impact of water against rock. The rapid was
nearly half a mile long. There were two sections near its head
staggered with great rocks, forty of them, just above or slightly
submerged under the surface of the water. Our low stage of water
helped us, so that we did not have to line the boats from the ledge,
eighty feet above the water, as others had done. The rapid broke just
below the lower end of the sheer rock, which extended twenty feet
beyond the irregular shore. The _Edith_ went first, headed upstream,
at a slight angle nearly touching the wall, dropping a few inches
between each restraining stroke of the oars. Bert crouched on the bow,
ready to spring with the rope, as soon as Emery passed the wall and
headed her in below the wall. Jumping to the shore, he took a snub
around a boulder and kept her from being dragged into the rapid. Then
they both caught the _Defiance_ as she swung in below the rock, and
half the battle was won before we tackled the rapid.

Our days were short, and we did not take the boats down until the next
day; but we did carry much of the camp material and cargo halfway down
over ledges a hundred feet above the river. For a bad rapid we were
very fortunate in getting past it as easily as we did. Logs were laid
over rocks, the boats were skidded over them about their own length
and dropped in again. Logs and boats were lined down in the swift, but
less riotous water, to the next barrier, which was more difficult. A
ten-foot rounded boulder lay close to the shore, with smaller rocks,
smooth and ice-filmed, scattered between. Powerful currents swirled
between these rocks and disappeared under two others, wedged closely
together on top. Three times the logs were snatched from our grasp as
we tried to bridge them across this current, and they vanished in the
foam, to shoot out end first, twenty feet below and race away on the
leaping water. A boat would be smashed to kindling-wood if once
carried under there. At last we got our logs wedged, and an hour of
tugging, in which only two men could take part at the same time,
landed both boats in safety below this barrier. We shot the remainder
of the rapid on water so swift that the oars were snatched from our
hands if we tried to do more than keep the boats straight with the
current. That rapid was no longer the "Bold Escarpment," but the "Last
Portage" instead, and it was behind us.

The afternoon was half gone when we made ready pull away from the Last
Portage. There were other rapids, but scarcely a pause was made in our
two-hour run, and we camped away from the roar of water. The canyon
was widening out a little at a time; the granite disappeared in the
following day's run, at noon. Grass-covered slopes, with seeping
mineral springs, took the place of precipitous walls; they dropped to
2500 feet in height; numerous side canyons cut the walls in regular
sections like gigantic city blocks, instead of an unbroken avenue.
Small rapids continued to appear, there were a few small islands, and
divided currents, so shallow they sometimes kept us guessing which one
to take, but we continued to run them all without a pause. We would
have run out of the canyon that day but for one thing. Five
mountain-sheep were seen from our boats in one of the sloping grassy
meadows above the river. We landed below, carried our cameras back,
and spent half an hour in trying to see them again, but they had taken

Placer claim locations and fresh burro tracks were seen in the sand at
our last Grand Canyon camp, and a half mile below us we could see out
into open country. We found the walls, or the end of the table-land,
to be about two thousand feet high, with the canyon emerging at a
sharp angle so that a narrow ridge, or "hogs-back" lay on the left
side of the stream. Once out in the open the walls were seen to be
quite steep, but could be climbed to the top almost any place without
trouble. Saturday, January the 13th, we were out of the canyon at
last, and the towering walls, now friendly, now menacing, were behind
us. Three hundred and sixty-five large rapids, and nearly twice as
many small rapids, were behind us and the dream of ten years was an
accomplished fact. But best of all, there were no tragedies or
fatalities to record. Perhaps we did look a little the worse for wear,
but a few days away from the river would repair all that. The boats
had a bump here and there, besides the one big patch on the _Edith_; a
little mending and a little caulking would put both the _Edith_ and
_Defiance_ in first-class condition.

There is little of interest to record of our 175-mile run to Needles,
California. It was a land of desolation--an extension of the Mojave
Desert on the south, and the alkaline flats and mineral mountains of
Nevada on the north, of Death Valley and the Funeral Mountains of
California to the northwest--a burned-out land of grim-looking
mountains extending north and south across our way; a dried-out,
washed-out, and wind-swept land of extensive flats and arroyos; a land
of rock and gravel cemented in marls and clay; ungraced with any but
the desert plants,--cactus and thorny shrubs,--with little that was
pleasing or attractive. A desert land it is true, but needing only the
magic touch of water to transform much of it into a garden spot. Even
as it was, a few months later it would be covered with the flaming
blossoms of the desert growth, which seem to try to make amends in one
or two short months for nearly a year of desolation.

A wash ran along the base of the plateau from which we had emerged. An
abandoned road and ferry showed that this had once been a
well-travelled route. The stream had a good current and we pulled
away, only stopping once to see the last of our plateau before a turn
and deepening banks hid it from view. We wondered if the water ever
dropped in a precipitous fall over the face of the wall and worked
back, a little every year, as it does at Niagara. We could hardly
doubt that there were some such falls back in the dim past when these
canyons were being carved.

In the middle of the afternoon we passed a ranch or a house with a
little garden, occupied by two miners, who hailed us from the shore. A
half-mile below was the Scanlon Ferry, a binding tie between Arizona,
on the south and what was now Nevada, on the north, for we had reached
the boundary line shortly after emerging from the canyon. We still
travelled nearly directly west. The ferry was in charge of a
Cornishman who also had as pretty a little ranch as one could expect
to find in such an unlikely place. A purling stream of water, piped
from somewhere up in the hills, had caused the transformation. The
ranch was very homey with cattle and horses, sheep and hogs, dogs and
cats, all sleek and contented-looking. The garden proved that this
country had a warm climate, although we were not suffering from heat
at that time. An effort was being made to grow some orange trees, but
with little promise of success; there were fig trees and date-palms,
with frozen dates hanging on the branches, one effect of the coldest
winter they had seen in this section.

The rancher told us he could not sell us anything that had to be
brought in, for it was seventy miles to the railroad, but we could
look over such supplies as he had. It ended by his selling us a
chicken, two dozen eggs, five pounds of honey, and ten pounds of
flour,--all for $2.50. We did not leave until the next morning, then
bought another jar of honey, for we had no sugar, and two-thirds of
the first jar was eaten before we left the ferry.

We pulled away in such a hurry the next morning that we forgot an axe
that had been carried with us for the entire journey. A five-hour run
brought us to the mouth of the Virgin River, a sand-bar a mile wide,
and with a red-coloured stream little larger than Cataract Creek
winding through it. We had once seen this stream near its head waters,
a beautiful mountain creek, that seemed to bear no relation to this
repulsive-looking stream that entered from the north. A large,
flat-topped, adobe building, apparently deserted, stood off at one
side of the stream. This was the head of navigation for flat-bottomed
steamboats that once plied between here and the towns on the lower end
of the river. They carried supplies for small mines scattered through
the mountains and took out cargoes of ore, and of rock salt which was
mined back in Nevada.

It was here at the Virgin River that Major Powell concluded his
original voyage of exploration. Some of his men took the boats on down
to Fort Mojave, a few miles above Needles; afterwards two of the party
continued on to the Gulf. The country below the Virgin River had been
explored by several parties, but previous to this time nothing
definite was known of the gorges until this exploration by this most
remarkable man. The difficulties of this hazardous trip were increased
for him by the fact that he had lost an arm in the Civil War.

It is usually taken for granted that the United States government was
back of this exploration. This was true of the second expedition, but
not of the first. Major Powell was aided to a certain extent by the
State College of Illinois, otherwise he bore all the expense himself.
We received $10,000 from the government to apply on the expenses of
the second trip.

We felt that we had some reason to feel a justifiable pride for having
duplicated, in some ways, this arduous journey. It was impossible for
us to do more than guess what must have been the feelings and
anxieties of this explorer. Added to the fact that we had boats,
tested and constructed to meet the requirements of the river, and the
benefit of others' experiences, was a knowledge that we were not
likely to be precipitated over a waterfall, or if we lost everything
and succeeded in climbing out, that there were a few ranches and
distant settlements scattered through the country.

But we had traversed the same river and the same canyons which change
but little from year to year, and had succeeded beyond our fondest
hopes in having accomplished what we set out to do.

The Black Mountains, dark and forbidding, composed of a hard rock
which gave a metallic clink, and decorated with large spots of white,
yellow, vermilion, and purple deposits of volcanic ashes, were entered
this afternoon. The peaks were about a thousand feet high. The passage
between is known as Boulder Canyon. Here we met two miners at work on
a tunnel, or drift, who informed us that it was about forty miles to
Las Vegas, Nevada, and that it was only twenty-five miles from the
mouth of Las Vegas Wash, farther down the river, to this same town and
the railroad.

Fort Callville--an abandoned rock building, constructed by the
directions of Brigham Young, without windows or roof, and surrounded
by stone corrals--was passed the next day. At Las Vegas Wash the river
turned at right angles, going directly south, holding with very little
deviation to this general direction until it empties into the Gulf of
California nearly five hundred miles away. The river seemed to be
growing smaller as we got out in the open country. Like all Western
rivers, when unprotected by canyons, it was sinking in the sand.
Sand-bars impeded our progress at such places as the mouth of the
Wash. But we had a good current, without rapids in Black Canyon, which
came shortly below, and mile after mile was put behind us before we
camped for the night.

An old stamp-mill, closed for the time, but in charge of three men who
were making preparations to resume work, was passed the next day. They
had telephone communication with Searchlight, Nevada, twenty odd miles
away, and we sent out some telegrams in that way. More sand-bars were
encountered the next day, and ranches began to appear on both sides of
the river. We had difficulty on some of these bars. In places the
river bed was a mile wide, with stagnant pools above the sand, and
with one deep channel twisting between. At Fort Mojave, now an Indian
school and agency, we telephoned to some friends in Needles, as we had
promised to do, telling them we would arrive about noon of the
following day. We made a mistake in not camping at the high ground by
the "fort" that night, for just below the river widened again and the
channel turned out in the centre. It was getting dark and we had
entered this before noticing which way it turned, and had a hard pull
back to the shore, for we had no desire to camp out there in the
quicksand. The shore was little more desirable. It was a marsh,
covered with a growth of flags and tules but with the ground frozen
enough so that we did not sink. Our last camp--No. 76--was made in
this marsh. There we spent the night, hidden like hunted savages in
the cane-brake, while an Indian brass band played some very good music
for an officers' ball, less than half a mile away.

We were up and away with the sun the next morning. On nearing Needles,
a friend met us on the outskirts of the town and informed us that they
had arranged what he called an official landing and reception. At his
request we deferred going down at once, but busied ourselves instead
at packing our cargo, ready for shipping. Our friend had secured the
services of a motion-picture operator and our own camera was sent down
to make a picture of the landing, which was made as he had arranged.

We landed in Needles January 18, 1912; one month from the time of our
start from Bright Angel Trail, with a total of one hundred and one
days spent along the river. In that time our camps had been changed
seventy-six times.

Our two boats, highly prized as souvenirs of our twelve hundred mile
trip, and which had carried us through three hundred and sixty-five
big rapids, over a total descent of more than five thousand feet, were
loaded on cars ready for shipment; the _Edith_ to Los Angeles, the
_Defiance_ to the Grand Canyon.

Among other mail awaiting us was the following letter, bearing the
postmark of Hite, Utah:



"Well I got here at last after seventeen days in Cataract
Canyon. The old boat will stand a little quiet water but
will never go through another rapid. I certainly played
'ring-a-round' some of those rocks in Cataract Canyon; I
tried every scheme I had ever heard of, and some that were
never thought of before. At the last rapid in Cataract I
carried all my stuff over the cliff, then tried to line the
boat from the narrow ledge. The boat jerked me into the
river, but I did not lose my hold on the chain and climbed
on board. I had no oars, but managed to get through without
striking any rocks, and landed a mile and a half below the
supplies. I hope the 'movies' are good.[7]

"Sincerely yours,





A westward-bound train was bearing me across the Mojave Desert one day
in May. In a few swiftly passing hours we had made a six-thousand foot
descent from the plateau with its fir and aspen-covered mountain, its
cedar and pinon-clothed foot-hills, and its extensive forests of
yellow pine. Crimson and yellow-flowered cactus, sage and chaparral,
succeeded the pines. The cool mountains had given way to burned-out,
umber-coloured hills, rock-ribbed arroyos, and seemingly endless
desert; and the sun was growing hotter every minute.

If the heat continued to increase, I doubted if I would care to take a
half-planned Colorado River trip down to the Gulf. Visions of the
California beaches, of fishing at Catalina and of horseback rides over
the Sierra's trails, nearly unsettled my determination to stop at
Needles, on the California side of the river. This was my vacation!
Why undergo all the discomfort of a voyage on a desert stream, when
the pleasures and comforts of the Pacific beckoned? One thing was
sure, if I was not successful in securing a boat at Needles, the very
next train would find me on board, bound for the Western Slope. By
mid-afternoon the chaparral had disappeared and only the cactus
remained--the ocotilla, covered with a million flowers, wave upon wave
of crimson flame, against the yellow earth. Violet-veiled mountains
appeared in the west, marking the southern trend of the Colorado. The
air was suffocating. The train-created wind was like a blast from a
furnace; yet with the electric fans whirring, with blinds drawn and
windows closed to keep the withering air _out_, it seemed a little
less uncomfortable in the car, in spite of the unvitalized air, than
under the scorching sun.

We were beside the Colorado at last. I had a good view of the stream
below, as we crossed the bridge--the Colorado in flood, muddy,
turbulent, sweeping onward like an affrighted thing,--repulsive, yet
with a fascination for me, born of an intimate acquaintance with the
dangers of this stream. The river had called again! The heat was
forgotten, the visions of the coast faded, for me the train could not
reach Needles, ten miles up the river, quickly enough.

With my brother, I had followed this stream down to Needles, through a
thousand miles of canyon. I had seen how it carved its way through the
mountains, carrying them on, in solution, toward the ocean. At last I
would see what became of all these misplaced mountains. I would see
the tidal bore as it swept in from the Gulf. I had heard there were
wild hogs which burrowed through the cane-brake. It may be that I
would learn of a vessel at some port down on the Mexican coast, which
I might reach and which would take me around the Lower California
Peninsula. I felt sure there was such a port. No doubt I could have
found books to tell me exactly what I would see, but too much
information would spoil all the romance of such an adventure. It was
all very alluring. With the spring flood on, the river could not help
but be interesting and exciting, a pretty good imitation of the
rapids, perhaps. If I could only secure a boat!

Half an hour later I was meeting old acquaintances about the hotel,
connected with the station. The genial hotel manager, with the Irish
name, was smilingly explaining to some newcomers that this was not
hot; that "a dry heat at 110 degrees was not nearly as bad as 85
degrees back in Chicago," "and as for heat," he continued, "why down
in Yuma"--then he caught sight of me, with a grin on my face, and
perhaps he remembered that I had heard him say the same thing two
years before, when it was even hotter; and he came over with
out-stretched hand,--calling me uncomplimentary names, under his
breath, for spoiling the effect of his explanation; all which was
belied by his welcome. It takes an Irishman to run a big hotel in the
middle of the desert.

A few inquiries brought out the information that I was not likely to
get a boat. The stores did not keep them. I should have given my order
two weeks before to an Indian who built boats to order at $2.00 a
foot. This was a new one on me. Suppose a fellow wanted--well say,
about $15.00 worth. It would look something like a tub, wouldn't it?
Perhaps it was to be the coast, for me, after all.

The Colorado River in flood is a terrible stream. Unlike the Eastern
rivers, there are no populous cities--with apologies to Needles and
Yuma--along its shores, to be inundated with the floods. Unlike the
rivers of the South, few great agricultural districts spread across
its bottoms. Along the upper seven hundred miles there are not a
half-dozen ranches with twenty-five acres under cultivation. But if
destructive power and untamed energy are terrible, the Colorado River,
in flood, is a terrible stream.

After changing into some comfortable clothes I sauntered past the
railway machine shops down to the river, and up to where a fight was
being waged to save the upper part of the town from being torn away by
the flood. For a month past, car after car of rock had been dumped
along the river bank, only to disappear in the quicksands; and as yet
no bottom had been reached. Up to this point the fight was about
equal. The flood would not reach its crest until two or three weeks

Beyond a fisherman or two there were few men by the river. The workmen
had finished their day's labour. A ferryman said that I might talk an
Indian into selling his boat, but it was doubtful. My next job was to
find such an Indian.

A big, greasy Mojave buck lay on an uncovered, rusty bed spring, slung
on a home-made frame, before his willow and adobe home, close to the
Colorado River. In answer to my repeated question he uncoiled and
stretched the full length of his six foot six couch, grunted a few
words in his native tongue to other Indians without a glance in my
direction, then indifferently closed his eyes again. A young Indian in
semi-cowboy garb,--not omitting a gorgeous silk handkerchief about his
neck,--jabbered awhile with some grinning squaws, then said in
perfectly understandable English, "He will sell his boat for $18.00.
It is worth $30.00." This was decisive for an Indian. It usually takes
a half-day of bickering to get them to make any kind of a bargain. I
told him I would take it in the morning.

It was a well-constructed boat, almost new, built of inch pine,
flat-bottomed, and otherwise quite similar in shape to the boats my
brother and I had used on our twelve hundred mile journey through the
canyons of the Green and Colorado rivers,--but without the graceful
lines and swells that made those other boats so valuable to us in
rapids. The boat was nearly new and well worth $30.00, as boat prices
went in that town. Why he was willing to sell it for $18.00, or at the
rate of $1.00 a foot, I could not imagine. It was the first bargain an
Indian had ever offered me. But if I paid for it that evening, there
were doubts in my mind if I should find it in the morning, so I
delayed closing the bargain and went back again to inspect the boat.

That evening I inquired among my acquaintances if there was any one
who would care to accompany me. If so I would give them passage to
Yuma, or to the Gulf of California in Mexico, if they wished it. But
no one could go, or those who could, wouldn't. One would have thought
from the stories with which I was regaled, that the rapids of the
Grand Canyon were below Needles, and as for going to the Gulf, it was
suicide. I was told of the outlaws along the border, of the firearms
and opium smugglers, who shot first and questioned afterward, and of
the insurrectos of Lower California. The river had no real outlet to
the ocean, they said, since the break into Salton Sea, but spread over
a cane-brake, thirty miles or more in width. Many people had gone into
these swamps and never returned, whether lost in the jungles or killed
by the Cocopah Indians, no one knew. They simply disappeared. It was
all very alluring.

My preparations, the next day, were few. I had included a sleeping bag
with my baggage. It would come in equally handy whether I went down on
the Colorado or up into the Coast Range. A frying-pan, a coffee-pot a
few metal dishes and provisions for a week were all I needed. Some one
suggested some bent poles, and a cover, such as are used on wagons to
keep off the sun. This seemed like a good idea; and I hunted up a
carpenter who did odd jobs. He did not have such a one, but he did
have an old wagon-seat cover, which could be raised or dropped at
will. This was even better, for sometimes hard winds sweep up the
river. The cover was fastened to the sides of the boat. The boat,
meanwhile, had been thoroughly scrubbed. It looked clean before, but I
was not going to take any chances at carrying Indian live-stock along
with his boat. My surplus baggage was sent on to Los Angeles, and
twenty-four hours after I had landed in Needles, I was ready to

My experience in camping trips of various sorts has been that the
start from headquarters occupies more time than any similar
preparation. Once on the road, things naturally arrange themselves
into some kind of a system, and an hour on the road in the evening
means several hours gained the next morning. Added to this, there are
always a number of loafers about railroad towns, and small things have
a way of disappearing. With this in mind, I determined to make my
start that evening, and at 7 P.M. on the 23d of May, 1913, I embarked
on a six to eight mile an hour current, paced by cottonwood logs,
carried down by the flood from the head waters in Wyoming, Utah, and

When sailing on the unruffled current one did not notice its
swiftness--it sped so quietly yet at the same time with such deadly
intent--until some half submerged cottonwood snags appeared, their
jagged, broken limbs ploughing the stream exactly like the bow of a
motor-driven boat, throwing two diverging lines of waves far down the
stream. One would almost think the boat was motionless, it raced so
smoothly,--and that the snags were tearing upstream as a river man had
said, the day before, "like a dog with a bone in his teeth." A sunken
stone-boat, with a cabin half submerged, seemed propelled by some
unseen power and rapidly dwindled in the distance.

So fascinating were these things that I forgot the approaching night.
I first noticed it when the stream slackened its mad pace and spread
over its banks into great wide marshes, in divided and subdivided
channels and over submerged islands, with nothing but willow and fuzzy
cattail tops to indicate that there was a bottom underneath. Here
there was no place to camp had I wished to do so. Once I missed the
main channel and had a difficult time in finding my way back in the
dark. After two or three miles of this quiet current, the streams
began to unite again, and the river regained its former speed. I was
growing weary after the first excitement, and began to wish myself
well out of it all and safely anchored to the shore. But I knew there
was a level bank above the river close to the bridge, which would make
a good camping place; so I rested on my oars facing down the stream
with eyes and ears alert for the treacherous snags. Then the stars
began to appear, one by one, lighting up the cloudless sky; a moist,
tropical-like breeze moved up the stream, the channel narrowed and
deepened, the snags vanished, and the stream increased its swiftness.

And with eyes wide open, but unseeing, I dozed. It was the lights of a
passenger train crossing the bridge, just a short distance away, that
made me realize where I was. The train thundered into the darkness;
but louder than the roar of the train was that of the water directly
ahead, and hidden in the impenetrable shadow over on the right shore
was a noise much like that made by a Grand Canyon rapid.

Wide awake now, I pulled for the left, and after one or two attempts
to land, I caught some willow tops and guided the boat to the raised
bank. Beyond the willows was a higher ground, covered with a mesquite
thicket, with cattle trails winding under the thorny trees. Here I
unrolled my sleeping bag, then went up to interview the operator and
the watchman, and to get a drink of clear water, for I had no desire
to drink the liquid mud of the Colorado until it was necessary. In
answer to a question I told them of my little ride. One of the men
exclaimed, "You don't mean to say that you came down on the flood
after dark!" On being informed that I had just arrived, he exclaimed:
"Well I reckon you don't know what the Colorado is. It's a wonder this
whirlpool didn't break you against the pier. You ought to have brought
some one with you to see you drown!"



Before sunrise the following morning, I had completed my few camp
duties, finished my breakfast and dropped my boat into the whirlpool
above the bridge. My two friends watched the manoeuvre as I pulled
clear of the logs and the piers which caused the water to make such
alarming sounds the night before; then they gave me a final word of
caution, and the information that the Parker Bridge was sixty miles
away and that Yuma was two hundred and fifty miles down the stream.
They thought that I should reach Yuma in a week. It seemed but a few
minutes until the bridge was a mile up the stream. Now I was truly
embarked for the gulf.

By the time I had reached the spire-like mountainous rocks a few miles
below the bridge, which gave the town of Needles its name, the sun was
well up and I was beginning to learn what desert heat was, although I
had little time to think of it as I was kept so busy with my boat.
Here, the stream which was spread a mile wide above, had choked down
to two hundred feet; small violent whirlpools formed at the abrupt
turns in this so-called canyon and the water tore from side to side.
In one whirl my boat was twice carried around the circle into which I
had allowed it to be caught, then shot out on the pounding flood. Soon
the slag-like mountains were passed and the country began to spread,
first in a high barren land, then with a bottom land running back from
the river. The willow bushes changed to willow trees, tall and
spindly, crowded in a thicket down to the river's edge. The Chemehuevi
Indians have their reservation here. On rounding an abrupt turn I
surprised two little naked children, fat as butterballs, dabbling in a
mud puddle close to the stream. The sight, coupled with the
tropical-like heat and the jungle, could well make one imagine he was
in Africa or India, and that the little brown bodies were the
"alligator bait" of which we read. Only the 'gators were missing. The
unexpected sight of a boat and a white man trying to photograph them
started them both into a frightened squall. Then an indignant mother
appeared, staring at me as though she would like to know what I had
done to her offspring. Farther along were other squaws, with red and
blue lines pencilled on their childlike, contented faces, seated under
the willows. Their cotton garments, of red and blue bandanna
handkerchiefs sewed together, added a gay bit of colour to the scene.

Below this were two or three cozy little ranch houses and a few
scattered cattle ranches, with cattle browsing back in the trees. All
this time it was getting hotter, and I was thankful for my sheltering
cover. My lunch, prepared in the morning, was eaten as I drifted.
Except in a few quiet stretches I did little rowing, just enough to
keep the boat away from the overhanging banks and in the strong

The bottom lands began to build up again with banks of gravel and
clay, growing higher with every mile. The deciduous trees gave way to
the desert growths: the cholla, "the shower of gold," and the palo
verde and the other acacias. Here were the California or valley-quail;
and lean, long-legged jack-rabbits. Here too were the coyotes, leaner
than the rabbits, but efficient, shifty-eyed, and insolent. One could
admire but could hardly respect them.

I had entertained hopes of reaching Parker that evening, but supposed
the hour would be late if I reached it at all. Imagine my surprise,
then, when at half-past four I heard the whistle of a train, and
another turn revealed the Parker bridge. I had been told by others
that it had taken them three or four days to reach this point on a low
stage of water. Evidently the high water is much better for rapid and
interesting travel.

Here at the bridge, which was a hundred feet above the river, was a
dredge, and an old flat-bottomed steamboat, a relic of a few years
past, before the government built the Laguna dam above Yuma, and
condemned the Colorado as a navigable stream. Those were the days
which the Colorado steamboat men recall with as much fond remembrance
as the old-time boatmen of the Mississippi remember their palmy days.

In spite of the fact that the boats were flat-bottomed and small, it
was real steamboating of an exciting nature at least. At times they
beat up against the current as far as the mouth of the Rio Virgin. In
low water the channels shifted back and forth first choked with sand
on one side of the stream, then on the other. While the total fall
from Fort Mojave, a few miles above Needles, to the Gulf is only 525
feet, considerable of that fall came in short sections, first with a
swift descent, then in a quiet stretch. Even in the high-water stage I
was finding some such places.

Parker stood a mile back from the river, on top of the level gravelly
earth which stretched for miles on either side of the river clear to
the mountains. This earth and gravel mixture was so firmly packed that
even the cactus had a scant foothold. The town interested me for one
reason only, this being, that I could get my meals for the evening and
the following morning, instead of having to cook them myself. After I
had eaten them, however, there was a question in my mind if my own
cooking, bad as it was, would not have answered the purpose just as
well. The place was a new railroad town on an Indian reservation, a
town of great expectations, somewhat deferred.

It was not as interesting to me as my next stop at Ahrenburg, some
fifty miles below Parker. This place while nothing but a collection of
dilapidated adobe buildings, had an air of romance about it which was
missing in the newer town. Ahrenburg had seen its day. Many years ago
it was a busy mining camp, and the hope is entertained by the faithful
who still reside in its picturesque adobe homes that it will come back
with renewed vigour. Here at Ahrenburg I met a character who added
greatly to the interest of my stay. He was a gigantic, raw-boned
Frenchman, at that time engaged in the construction of a motor boat;
but a miner, a sailor, and a soldier of fortune in many ways, one who
had pried into many of the hidden corners of the country and had a
graphic way of describing what he had seen. I was his guest until late
that night, and was entertained royally on what humble fare he had to
offer. We both intended to renew our acquaintance in the morning, but
some prowling Mexicans near my boat, croaking frogs, and swarms of
mosquitos gave me a restless night. With the first glimmer of daylight
I was up, and half an hour later I was away on the flood.

This was my big day. The current was better than much of that above; I
was getting used to the heat, and, instead of idly drifting, I pulled
steadily at the oars. The river twisted back and forth in great loops
with the strong current, as is usual, always on the outside of the
loops, close to the overhanging banks. I would keep my boat in this
current, with a wary lookout over my shoulder for fallen trees and
sudden turns, which had a way of appearing when least expected. At
some such places the stream was engaged at undermining the banks which
rose eight and ten feet above the water. Occasional sections,
containing tons of earth and covered with tall, slender willow trees,
would topple over, falling on the water with the roar of a cannon or a
continued salute of cannons; for the falling, once started, quite
often extended for half a mile down the stream. At one such place
eighteen trees fell in three minutes, and it would be safe to say that
a hundred trees were included in the extended fall. The trees, sixty
feet high, resembled a field of gigantic grass or unripened grain; the
river was a reaper, cutting it away at the roots. Over they tumbled to
be buried in the stream; the water would swirl and boil, earth and
trees would disappear; then the mass of leaf-covered timber, freed of
the earth, would wash away to lodge on the first sand-bar, and the
formation of a new island or a new shore would begin.

Then again, the banks were barren, composed of gravel and clay,
centuries older than the verdure-covered land, undisturbed, possibly,
since some glacial period deposited it there. But a shifting of the
channel directed the attack against these banks. Here the swift
current would find a little irregularity on the surface and would
begin its cutting. The sand-laden water bored exactly like an auger,
in fast-cutting whirls. One such place I watched for a half-hour from
the very beginning, until the undermined section, fourteen feet high,
began to topple, and I pulled out to safety, but not far enough to
escape a ducking in the resulting wave.

Below this, instead of a firm earth, it was a loose sand and gravel
mixture twenty feet above the river. Here for half a mile the entire
bank was moving, slowly at the top, gathering speed at the bottom.
While close to this I heard a peculiar hissing as of carbonated water
all about me. At first I thought there were mineral springs
underneath, but found the noise was caused by breaking air bubbles
carried under the stream with the sands. All this day such phenomena
continued, sliding sand-banks and tumbling jungles. In these latter
places some cattle had suffered. Their trails ran parallel with the
stream. No doubt they had one or two places where they drank cut down
to the stream Knowing nothing of the cutting underneath, they had been
precipitated into the flood, and now their carcasses were food for
swarms of vultures gathered for an unholy feast.

What powerful, graceful birds these scavengers are, stronger than the
eagle even, tireless and seemingly motionless as they drift along
searching every nook and cranny for their provender! But aside from a
grudgingly given tribute of admiration for their power, one has about
as much respect for them as for the equally graceful rattlesnake, that
other product of nature which flourishes in this desert land.

The bird life along this lower part of the river was wonderful in its
variety. The birds of the desert mingled with those of the fertile
lands. The song-birds vied with those of gorgeous plume. Water-birds
disported themselves in the mud-banks and sloughs. The smaller birds
seemed to pay little attention to the nearness of the hawks.
Kingfisher perched on limbs overhanging the quiet pools, ready to drop
at the faintest movement on the opaque water; the road-runner chased
the festive lizard on the desert land back of the willows. Here also
in the mesquite and giant cactus were thrush and Western meadow-larks
and mocking-birds mimicking the call of the cat-bird. Down in the
brush by the river was the happy little water-ousel, as cheerful in
his way as the dumpy-built musical canyon wren. The Mexican crossbill
appeared to have little fear of the migrating Northern shrike. There
were warblers, cardinals, tanagers, waxwings, song-sparrows, and
chickadees. Flitting droves of bush-tit dropped on to slender weeds,
scarcely bending them, so light were they. Then in a minute they were
gone. In the swamps or marshes were countless red-winged blackbirds.

The most unobservant person could not help but see birds here. I had
expected to find water-fowl, for the Colorado delta is their breeding
place; but I little expected to find so many land birds in the trees
along the river. Instead of having a lonesome trip, every minute was
filled with something new, interesting, and beautiful and I was having
the time of my life.

I camped that night at Picachio,--meaning the Pocket,--eighty miles
below Ahrenburg. This is still a mining district, but the pockets
containing nuggets of gold which gave the place its name seem to have
all been discovered at the time of the boom; the mining now done is in
quartz ledges up on the sides of grim, mineral-stained hills. I was
back in the land of rock again, a land showing the forces of nature in
high points of foreign rock, shot up from beneath, penetrating the
crust of the earth and in a few places emerging for a height of two
hundred feet from the river itself, forming barren islands and great
circling whirlpools, as large as that in the Niagara gorge, and I
thought, for a while, almost as powerful. In one I attempted to keep
to the short side of the river, but found it a difficult job, and one
which took three times as long to accomplish as if I had allowed
myself to be carried around the circle.

Then the land became level again, and the Chocolate Mountains were
seen to the west. A hard wind blew across the stream, so that I had to
drop my sunshade to prevent being carried against the rocks. This day
I passed a large irrigation canal leading off from the stream, the
second such on the entire course of the Colorado. Here a friendly
ranchman called to me from the shore and warned me of the Laguna dam
some distance below. He said the water was backed up for three miles,
so I would know when I was approaching it.

In spite of this warning, I nearly came to grief at the dam. The wind
had shifted until it blew directly down the stream. The river, nearly
a mile wide, still ran with a powerful current; I ceased rowing and
drifted down, over waves much like those one would find on a lake
driven by a heavy wind. I saw some high poles and a heavy electric
cable stretched across the stream, and concluded that this was the
beginning of the dam. I began to look ahead for some sign of a barrier
across the stream, far below, but I could see nothing of the kind;
then as I neared the poles it suddenly dawned on me that there was no
raised barrier which diverted all the water through a sluice, but a
submerged dam, over which the flood poured, and that the poles were on
that dam.

My sail-like sunshade was dropped as quickly as I could do it, and,
grabbing the oars, I began to pull for the California shore.

It was fortunate for me that I happened to be comparatively near the
shore when I began rowing. As it was, I landed below the diverting
canal, and about a hundred yards above the dam. On examination the dam
proved to be a slope about fifty feet long. A man in charge of the
machinery controlling the gates told me that the dam lacked seven feet
of being a mile wide, and that approximately seven feet of water was
going over the entire dam.

Great cement blocks and rocks had been dropped promiscuously below the
dam to prevent it from being undermined. Even without the rocks it was
doubtful if an uncovered boat could go through without upsetting. The
great force of the water made a trough four or five feet lower than
the river level, all water coming down the slope shooting underneath,
while the river rolled back upstream. On two occasions boatmen had
been carried over the dam. In each case the boat was wrecked, but the
occupants were thrown out and escaped uninjured. I could not help but
be amused, and feel a little uncomfortable too, when I saw how nearly
I came to being wrecked here, after having escaped that fate in the
rapids of the canyons.

I ran my boat back to the diverting canal, then rowed down to the
massive cement gates, which looked to me like a small replica of some
of the locks on the Panama Canal. With the help of an Indian who was
ready for a job my boat was taken out, rolled around the buildings on
some sections of pipe, and slid over the bank into the canal below the

In spite of a desire to spend some time inspecting the machinery of
this great work,--which, with the canal and other improvements, had
cost the government over a million dollars--I immediately resumed my
rowing. It was mid-afternoon, and measured by the canal, which was
direct, it was twelve miles to Yuma. But I soon learned that great
winding curves made it much farther by the river. In some cases it
nearly doubled back on itself. The wind had shifted by this time and
blew against me so hard that it was almost useless to attempt rowing.
In another place there were no banks, and the water had spread for
three miles in broken sloughs and around half-submerged islands, the
one deep channel being lost in the maze of shallow ones. With these
things to contend with it was dusk long before I neared the town, the
twelve miles having stretched to twenty. Finally I saw a windmill
partly submerged. Some distance away was a small ranch house also in
the water. The house, with lights in the upper story, was a cheering
sight; the windmill looked out of place in the midst of all this
desolation of water. Soon other houses appeared with lights showing
through the windows. Once I lost my way and spent a half hour in
getting back to the right channel.

Somewhere in the dark, I never knew just when, I passed the mouth of
the Gila River. In a similar way in broad daylight I had passed the
Bill Williams Fork above Ahrenburg.

At last I neared the town. I could discern some buildings on top of a
small hill, evidently one of the back streets of Yuma. After tying my
boat, I hid my small load in some mesquite trees, then climbed the
hill and passed between two peculiar stone houses dark as dungeons.
They puzzled me from the outside, but when once past them, I was no
longer in doubt. I had entered the open gateway leading to the
courtyard of the Yuma penitentiary. No wonder the buildings looked
like dungeons. This was a new experience for me, but somehow I had
always imagined just how it would look. I was considering beating a
retreat when a guard hailed me and asked me if I was not lost. With
the assistance of the guard, I escaped from the pen and found my way
to the streets of Yuma, just four days after leaving the Needles



"Mexico is a good place to keep away from just at present." This was
the invariable answer to a few casual inquiries concerning what I
would be likely to meet with in the way of difficulties, a possible
companion for the voyage to the Gulf, and how one could get back when
once there. I received little encouragement from the people of Yuma.
The cautions came not from the timid who see danger in every rumour,
but from the old steamboat captains, the miners, and prospectors who
knew the country and had interests in mineral claims across the
border. These claims they had lost in many cases because they had
failed for the last two years to keep up their assessment work. There
were vague suggestions of being stood up against an adobe wall with a
row of "yaller bellies" in front, or being thrown into damp dungeons
and held for a ransom.

The steamboat men could give me little information about the river.
The old channel had filled with silt, and the river was diverted into
a roundabout course little more than a creek in width, then spread
over whole delta. The widely spread water finally collected into an
ancient course of the Colorado, known as the Hardy or False Colorado.
As nearly as I could learn no one from Yuma had been through this new
channel beyond a certain point called Volcanic Lake. Two or three
parties had come back with stories of having attempted it, but found
themselves in the middle of a cane-brake with insufficient water to
float a boat. With a desire to be of real assistance to me, one old
captain called a Yuma Indian into his office and asked him his
opinion, suggesting that he might go along.

"Mebbe so get lost in the trees, mebbe so get shot by the Cocopah,"
the Indian replied as he shook his head.

The captain laughed at the last and said that the Yuma and Cocopah
Indians were not the best of friends, and accused each other of all
sorts of things which neither had committed. Some Mexicans and certain
outlawed whites who kept close to the border for different reasons,
and the possibilities of bogging in a cane-brake were the only
uncertainties. In so many words he advised me against going.

Still I persevered. I had planned so long on completing my boating
trip to the Gulf, that I disliked to abandon the idea altogether. I
felt sure, with a flood on the Colorado, there would be some channel
that a flat-bottomed boat could go through, when travelling with the
current; but the return trip and the chances of being made a target
for some hidden native who had lived on this unfriendly border and had
as much reason for respecting some citizens of the United States as
our own Indians had in the frontier days, caused me considerable
concern. I knew it was customary everywhere to make much of the
imaginary dangers, as we had found in our other journeys; but it is
not difficult to discriminate between sound advice and the croakings
which are based on lack of real information. I knew this was sound
advice, and as usual I disliked to follow it. At last I got some
encouragement. It came from a retired Wild West showman,--the real
thing, one who knew the West from its early days. He laughed at the
idea of danger and said I was not likely to find any one, even if I
was anxious to do so, until I got to the La Bolso Ranch near the Gulf.
They would be glad to see me. He thought it was likely to prove
uninteresting unless I intended to hunt wild hogs, but that was
useless without dogs, and I would have trouble getting a gun past the
custom officers. His advice was to talk with the Mexican consul, as he
might know some one who could bring me back by horseback.

In the consul I found a young Spaniard, all affability, bows, and
gestures; and without being conscious of it at first I too began
making motions. He deplored my lack of knowledge of the Spanish
language, laughed at any suggestion of trouble, as all trouble was in
Eastern Sonora, he said, separated from the coast by two hundred miles
of desert, and stated that the non-resident owner of the La Bolsa
cattle ranch happened to be in the building at that moment. In a
twinkling he had me before him and explained the situation. This
gentleman, the owner of a 600,000-acre grant, and the fishing
concession of the Gulf, stated that the ranch drove a team to Yuma
once a week, that they would bring me back; in the interval I must
consider myself the guest of the Rancho La Bolsa. The consul gave me a
passport, and so it was all arranged.

In spite of the consul's opinion, there were many whispered rumours of
war, of silent automobiles loaded with firearms that stole out of town
under cover of the night and returned in four days, and another of a
river channel that could be followed and was followed, the start being
made, not from Yuma, but from another border town farther west. A year
before there had been an outbreak at this place of certain restless
spirits,--some whites included,--and they went along the northern line
of Mexico, sacking the ranches and terrorizing the people. The La
Bolsa ranch was among those that suffered. The party contained some
discharged vaqueros who were anxious to interview the ranch foreman,
but fortunately for him he was absent. Then they turned south to
Chihuahua and joined the army of Madero. War, to them, meant license
to rob and kill. They were not insurrectos, but bandits, and this was
the class that was most feared.

Meanwhile I had not given up the idea of a possible companion. Before
coming to Yuma I had entertained hopes of getting some one with a
motor boat to take me down and back, but there were no motor boats, I
found. The nearest approach to a power boat was an attempt that was
being made to install the engine from a wrecked steam auto on a sort
of flat-bottomed scow. I heard of this boat three or four times, and
in each case the information was accompanied by a smile and some vague
remarks about a "hybrid." I hunted up the owner,--the proprietor of a
shooting gallery,--a man who had once had aspirations as a
heavy-weight prize fighter, but had met with discouragement. So he had
turned his activities to teaching the young idea how to
shoot--especially the "Mexican idea" and those other border spirits
who were itching for a scrap.

The proprietor of the shooting gallery drove a thriving trade. Since
he had abandoned his training he had taken on fat, and I found him to
be a genial sort of giant who refused to concern himself with the
serious side of life. Even a lacing he had received in San Francisco
at the hands of a negro stevedore struck him as being humorous. He did
not seem to have much more confidence in his "power boat" than the
others, but said I might talk with the man who was putting it
together, ending with the remark "Phillipps thinks he can make her
run, and he has always talked of going to the Gulf."

On investigation I found Al Phillipps was anxious to go to the Gulf,
and would go along if I would wait until he got his boat in shape.
This would take two days. Phillipps, as he told me himself, was a
Jayhawker who had left the farm in Kansas and had gone to sea for two
years. He was a cowboy, but had worked a year or two about mining
engines. In Yuma he was a carpenter, but was anxious to leave and go
prospecting along the Gulf. Phillipps and I were sure to have an
interesting time. He spoke Spanish and did not fear any of the
previously mentioned so-called dangers; he had heard of one party
being carried out to sea when the tide rushed out of the river, but as
we would have low tide he thought that, with caution, we could avoid

At last all was ready for the momentous trial. The river bank was
lined with a crowd of men who seemed to have plenty of leisure. Some
long-haired Yuma Indians, and red and green turbaned Papagos, gathered
in a group off a little to one side. A number of darkies were fishing
for bullheads, and boys of three colors besides the Mexicans and a
lone Chinaman clambered over the trees and the boats along the shore.

It was a moment of suspense for Phillipps. His reputation as an
engineer and a constructor of boats hung in the balance. He also had
some original ideas about a rudder which had been incorporated in this
boat. Now was his chance to test them out, and his hour of triumph if
they worked.

The test was a rigid one. The boat was to be turned upstream against
an eight-mile current with big sand-waves, beginning about sixty feet
from the shore, running in the middle of the river. If the engine ran,
and the stern paddle-wheel turned, his reputation was saved. If she
was powerful enough to go against the current, it was a triumph and we
would start for the Gulf at once.

On board were Phillipps, a volunteer, and myself. Before turning the
boat loose, the engine was tried. It was a success. The paddle-wheel
churned the water at a great rate, sending the boat upstream as far as
the ropes would let her go. We would try a preliminary run in the
quiet water close to the shore, before making the test in the swift
current. The order was given to cast off, and for two men, the owner
and another, to hold to the ropes and follow on the shore. The engine
was started, the paddle-wheel revolved, slowly at first but gathering
speed with each revolution. We began to move gently, then faster, so
that the men on shore had difficulty in keeping even with us, impeded
as they were with bushes and sloping banks. Flushed with success, the
order was given to turn her loose, and we gathered in the ropes. Now
we were drifting away from the shore and making some headway against
the swift current. The crowd on shore was left behind.

But as we left the bank the river increased in speed and the boat
gradually lost. Then she stood still, but began to turn slowly,
broadside to the current. This was something we had not foreseen. With
no headway the rudder was of no avail. There was no sweep-oar; we had
even neglected to put an oar on the boat. With pieces of boards the
stranger and I paddled, trying to hold her straight, but all the time,
in spite of our efforts, she drifted away from the land and slowly
turned. A big sand-wave struck her, she wheeled in her tracks and
raced straight for a pier, down the stream.

About this time our engineer began having trouble with his engine. At
first we feared it would not run, now it seemed it would not stop.

A great shout went up from the shore, and a bet was made that we would
run to the Gulf in less than a day. A darky boy fell off a boat in the
excitement, the Indians did a dance, men pounded each other and
whooped for joy. Then a bolt came loose, and the engine ran away.
Driving-rod and belts were whirled "regardless," as the passenger
afterwards said, about our heads.

Then the crash came. Our efforts to escape the pier were of no avail.
I made a puny effort to break the impact with a pole, but was sent
sprawling on the deck. Al tumbled headlong on top of the engine, which
he had stopped at last, our passenger rolled over and over, but we all
stayed with the ship. Each grabbing a board, we began to paddle and
steered the craft to the shore.

With the excitement over, the crowd faded away. Only two or three
willing hands remained to help us line the craft back to the landing.
The owner, who had to run around the end of the bridge, came down
puffing and blowing, badly winded, at the end of the first round.
Without a word from any one we brought the boat back to the landing.

Al was the first to speak.

"Well, what are you going to do?" he asked.

"Me? I'm going to take my boat and start for the Gulf in ten minutes.
I'll take nothing that I cannot carry. If I have to leave the river I
will travel light across the desert to Calexico. I think that I can
get through. If you want to go along, I'll stick with you until we get
back. What do you think about it?"

It was a long speech and a little bitter perhaps. I felt that way. The
disappointment on top of the three days' delay when time was precious
could not be forgotten in a moment. And when my speech was said I was
all through.

Al said he would be ready in half an hour. Our beds were left behind.
Al had a four-yard square of canvas for a sail. This would be
sufficient covering at night in the hot desert. We had two canteens.
The provisions, scarcely touched before arriving here, were sufficient
for five days. I was so anxious to get started that I did not take the
time to replenish them in Yuma, intending to do so at the custom-house
on the Arizona side twelve miles below, where some one had told me
there was a store. I counted on camping there. After a hurriedly eaten
luncheon we were ready to start, the boat was shoved off, and we were
embarked for Mexico.

Half an hour later we passed the abandoned Imperial Canal, the
man-made channel which had nearly destroyed the vast agricultural
lands which it had in turn created. Just such a flood as that on which
we were travelling had torn out the insufficiently supported
head-gates. The entire stream, instead of pushing slowly across the
delta, weltering in its own silt to the Gulf, poured into the bottom
of the basin nearly four hundred feet below the top of this silt-made
dam. In a single night it cut an eighty-foot channel in the unyielding
soil, and what had once been the northern end of the California Gulf
was turned into an inland sea, filled with the turbid waters of the
Colorado, instead of the sparkling waters of the ocean. Nothing but an
almost superhuman fight finally rescued the land from the grip of the

A short distance below, just across the Mexican line, on the
California side, was the new canal, dug in a firmer soil and with
strongly built gates anchored in rock back from the river.

Half a mile away from the stream, on a spur railway, was the Mexican
custom-house. I had imagined that it would be beside the river, and
that guards would be seen patrolling the shore. But aside from an
Indian fishing, there was no one to be seen. We walked out to the
custom-house, gave a list of the few things which we had, assured them
that we carried no guns, paid our duty, and departed. We had imagined
that our boat would be inspected, but no one came near.

The border line makes a jog here at the river and the Arizona-Mexico
line was still a few miles down the stream. We had passed the mouth of
the old silt-dammed Colorado channel, which flowed a little west of
south; and we turned instead to the west into the spreading delta or
moraine. About this time I remarked that I had seen no store at the
custom-house and that I must not neglect to get provisions at the next
one or we would be rather short.

"We passed our last custom-house back there." Al replied, "That's
likely the last place we will see until we get to the ranch by the

No custom-house! No store! This was a surprise. What was a border for
if not to have custom-houses and inspectors? With all the talk of
smuggling I had not thought of anything else. And I could tell by Al's
tone that his estimation of my foresight had dropped several degrees.
This was only natural, for his disappointment and the jibes still

At last we were wholly in Mexican territory. With the States behind,
all of our swiftly running water had departed, and we now travelled on
a stream that was nearly stagnant. All the cottonwood logs which had
finally been carried down the stream after having been deposited on a
hundred shores, found here their final resting place. About each
cluster of logs an island was forming, covered with a rank grass and

Ramified channels wound here and there. Two or three times we found
ourselves in a shallow channel, and with some difficulty retraced our
way. All channels looked alike, but only one was deep.

Then the willow trees which were far distant on either shore began to
close in and we travelled in a channel not more than a hundred feet
wide, growing smaller with every mile. This new channel is sometimes
termed the Bee River. It parallels the northern Mexico line; it also
parallels a twenty-five mile levee which the United States government
has constructed along the northern edge of this fifty-mile wide dam
shoved across the California Gulf by the stream, building higher every
year. Except for the river channel the dam may be said to reach
unbroken from the Arizona-Sonora Mesa to the Cocopah Mountains. The
levee runs from a point of rocks near the river to Lone Mountain, a
solitary peak some distance east of the main range. This levee, built
since the trouble with the canal, is all that prevents the water from
breaking into the basin in a dozen places.

We saw signs of two or three camp-fires close to the stream, and with
the memory of the stories haunting us a little we built only a small
fire when we cooked our evening meal, then extinguished it, and camped
on a dry point of land a mile or two below. I think we were both a
little nervous that night; I confess that I was, and if an unwashed
black-bearded individual had poked his head out from the willows and
said, "Woof!" or whatever it is that they say when they want to start
up a jack-rabbit, we would both have stampeded clear across the
border. In fact I felt a little as I did when I played truant from
school and wondered what would happen when I was found out.

Daybreak found us ready to resume our journey, and with a rising sun
any nervousness vanished. What could any one want with two men who had
nothing but a flat-bottomed boat?

All the morning we travelled west, the trees ever drawing closer as
our water departed on the south, running through the willows,
arrow-weed, and cat-tails. Then the channel opened into Volcanic Lake,
a circular body of water, which is not a lake but simply a gathering
together of the streams we had been losing, and here the water stands,
depositing its mud. All the way across had no depth but a bottomless
mud, so soft it would engulf a person if he tried to wade across.

On the west there was no growth. The shore was nothing but an ash-like
powder, not a sand, but a rich soil blown here and there, building in
dunes against every obstruction, ever moving before the wind. Here
were boiling, sputtering mud pots and steam vents building up and
exhausting through mud pipe-stems, rising a foot or two above the
springs. Here was a shelter or two of sun-warped boards constructed by
those who come here crippled with rheumatism and are supposed to
depart, cured. Here we saw signs of a wagon track driven toward
Calexico, the border town directly north of the lake. The heat was
scorching, the sun, reflected from the sand and water, was blistering,
and we could well imagine what a walk across that ash-like soil would
mean. Mirages in the distance beckoned, trees and lakes were seen over
toward the mountains where we had seen nothing but desert before; heat
waves rose and fell. Our mouths began to puff from the reflected sun,
our faces burned and peeled, black and red in spots. There was no
indication of the slightest breeze until about three o'clock, when the
wind moved gently across the lake.

We had skirted the northern part of the circle, passing a few small
streams and then found one of the three large channels which empty the
lake. As it happened we took the one on the outside, and the longest.
The growth grew thicker than ever, the stream choked down to fifty
feet. Now it began to loop backward and forward and back again, as
though trying to make the longest and crookedest channel possible in
the smallest space. The water in the channel was stagnant, swift
streamlets rushed in from the tules on the north, and rushed out again
on the south. It was not always a simple matter to ascertain which was
the main channel. Others just as large were diverted from the stream.
Twice we attempted to cut across, but the water became shallow, the
tules stalled our boats, and we were glad to return, sounding with a
pole when in doubt.

Then we began to realize that we were not entirely alone in this
wilderness of water. We saw evidence of another's passage, in broken
cat-tails and blazed trees. In many places he had pushed into the
thickets. We concluded it must be a trapper. At last, to our surprise,
we saw a telephone equipment, sheltered in a box nailed on a
water-surrounded tree. The line ran directly across the stream. Here
also we could see where a boat had forced a way through, and the water
plants had been cut with a sharp instrument. What could it be? We were
certain no line ran to the only ranch at the Gulf. We had information
of another ranch directly on the border line, but did not think it
came below the levee, and as far as we had learned, there were no
homes but the wickiups of the Cocopah in the jungles. It was like one
of those thrilling stories of Old Sleuth and Dead Shot Dick which we
read, concealed in our schoolbooks, when we were supposed to be
studying the physical geography of Mexico. But the telephone was no
fiction, and had recently been repaired, but for what purpose it was
there we could not imagine. After leaving the lake there was no dry
land. At night our boat, filled with green tules for a bed, was tied
to a willow tree, with its roots submerged in ten feet of water. Never
were there such swarms of mosquitos. In the morning our faces were
corrugated with lumps, not a single exposed spot remaining unbitten.

The loops continued with the next day's travel, but we were gradually
working to the southwest, then they began to straighten out somewhat,
as the diverted streams returned. We thought early in the morning that
we would pass about ten miles to the east of the coast range, but it
was not to be. Directly to the base of the dark, heat-vibrating rocks
we pulled, and landed on the first shore that we had seen for
twenty-four hours.

Here was a recently used trail, and tracks where horses came down to
the water. Here too was the track of a barefooted Cocopah, a tribe
noted for its men of gigantic build, and with great feet out of all
proportion to their size. If that footprint was to be fossilized,
future generations would marvel at the evidence of some gigantic
prehistoric animal, an alligator with a human-shaped foot. These
Indians have lived in these mud bottoms so long, crossing the streams
on rafts made of bundles of tules, and only going to the higher land
when their homes are inundated by the floods, that they have become a
near approach to a web-footed human being.

Our stream merely touched the mountain, then turned directly to the
southeast in a gradually increasing stream. Now we began to see the
breeding places of the water-birds of which we had heard. There was a
confusion of bird calls, sand-hill cranes were everywhere; in some
cases with five stick-built nests in a single water-killed tree. A
blue heron flopped around as though it had broken a wing, to decoy us
from its nest. The snowy white pelican waddled along the banks and
mingled with the cormorants. There were great numbers of gulls, and
occasional snipe. We were too late to see the ducks which come here,
literally by the million, during the winter months. There were hawks'
nests in the same groups of trees as the cranes, with the young hawks
stretching their necks for the food which was to be had in such
abundance. And on another tree sat the parent hawks, complacently
looking over the nests of the other birds, like a coyote waiting for a
horse to die. At Cocopah Mountain a golden eagle soared, coming down
close to the ground as we rested under the mesquite. Then as we
travelled clear streams of water began to pour in from the north and
east, those same streams we had lost above, but cleared entirely of
their silt. Now the willows grew scarce, and instead of mud banks a
dry, firm earth was built up from the river's edge, and the stream
increased in size. Soon it was six or seven hundred feet wide and
running with a fair current. This was the Hardy River. We noticed
signs of falling water on the banks as though the stream had dropped
an inch or two. In a half-hour the mark indicated a fall of eight
inches or more; then we realized we were going out with the tide. A
taste of water proved it. The river water was well mixed with a weak
saline solution. We filled our canteens at once.

We saw a small building and a flagpole on the south shore, but on
nearing the place found it was deserted. A few miles below were two
other channels equally as large as that on which we travelled,
evidently fed by streams similar to our own. There were numerous
scattered trees, some of them cottonwood, and we saw some grazing
cattle. We began to look for the ranch house, which some one had said
was at the point where the Colorado and the Hardy joined, and which
others told us was at the Gulf.



That the head of the Gulf of California has a big tide is well known.
Choked in a narrowing cone, the waters rise higher and higher as they
come to the apex, reaching twenty-five feet or over in a high tide.
This causes a tidal bore to roll up the Colorado, and from all reports
it was something to be avoided. The earliest Spanish explorers told
some wonderful tales of being caught in this bore and of nearly losing
their little sailing vessels.

This was my first experience with river tides. It was somewhat of a
disappointment to me that I could not arrange to be here at a high
tide, for we had come at the first quarter of the moon. Out on the
open sea one can usually make some headway by rowing against the ebb
or flow of the tide: here on the Colorado, where it flowed upstream at
a rate of from five to eight miles an hour, it was different. When we
reached the head of the tide, it was going out. Unfortunately for us
the day was gone when the current began to run strong. It hardly
seemed advisable to travel with it after dark. We might pass the
ranch, or be carried against a rock-bound coast, or find difficulty in
landing and be overwhelmed by the tidal bore. So when darkness fell we
camped pulling our boat out in a little slough to prevent it from
being carried away. Evidently we were too near the headwaters for a
tidal bore, for at eleven P.M. the waters turned and came back as
quietly as they ran out.

We launched our boat before the break of day, and for four hours we
travelled on a good current. The channel now had widened to a
half-mile, with straight earthy banks, about fifteen feet high. Still
there was no sign of a ranch, and it began to look to us as if there
was little likelihood of finding any.

The land was nearly level and except for a few raised hummocks on
which grew some scattered trees, it was quite bare. This was not only
because it did not get the life-giving water from the north, but
because at times it was submerged under the saline waters from the
south. Near the shores of the river, and extending back for fifty
feet, was a matted, rank growth of grass; beyond that the earth was
bare, baked and cracked by the burning sun. This grass, we found, was
a favorite resort of rattlesnakes. We killed two of them, a large one
and a vicious little flat-headed sidewinder.

All this land was the south rim of the silt dam, which extended from
the line of cliffs or mesa on the east to the mountains on the west.
The other rim, a hundred feet higher, lay at least fifty miles to the
north. Here was the resting-place of a small portion of the sediment
carved away by the Colorado's floods. How deep it is piled and how far
it extends out under the waters of the Gulf would be hard to say.

We felt sure that we would get to the Gulf with this tide, but when
the time came for it to turn we were still many miles away. There was
nothing to do but to camp out on this sun-baked plain. We stopped a
little after 9.30 A.M. Now that we were nearing the Gulf we were sure
there would be a tidal bore. As we breakfasted a slight rushing sound
was heard, and what appeared to be a ripple of broken water or small
breaker came up the stream and passed on. This was a disappointment.
With high water on the river and with a low tide this was all the
tidal bore we would see.

In four hours the water rose fourteen feet, then for two hours the
rise was slower. Within three feet of the level it came. The opposite
side, rounded at the edges, looked like a thread on top of the water,
tapered to a single silken strand and looking toward the Gulf, merged
into the water. To all appearances it was a placid lake spread from
mountain to mesa.

Our smaller canteen was still filled with the fresh water secured the
evening before. The other had been emptied and was filled again before
the return of the tide, but considerable taste of the salt remained.
What we did now must be done with caution. So far we had not seen the
ranch. We were in doubt whether it was somewhere out on the coast or
back on one of the sloughs passed the evening before. We had heard of
large sail-boats being hauled from Yuma and launched by the ranch.
This would seem to indicate that it was somewhere on the Gulf. We had
provisions sufficient for one day, one canteen of fresh water, and
another so mixed with the salt water that we would not use it except
as a last resort.

A little after 3.30 P.M. the tide changed; we launched our boat and
went out with the flood. As we neared the mouth of the stream we found
that the inrush and outrush of water had torn the banks. Here the
river spread in a circular pool several miles across. It seemed almost
as if the waters ran clear to the line of yellow cliffs and to the
hazy mountain range. Then the shores closed in again just before the
current divided quite evenly on either side of a section of the barren
plain named Montague Island. We took the channel to the east.

Our last hope of finding the ranch was in a dried-out river channel,
overgrown with trees. But although we looked carefully as we passed,
there was no sign of a trail or of human life. Some egrets preened
their silken feathers on the bank; sand-hill cranes and two coyotes,
fat as hogs and dragging tails weighted with mud, feasted on the
lively hermit-crabs, which they extracted from their holes--and that
was all.

The sun, just above the lilac-tinted mountains, hung like a great
suspended ball of fire. The cloudless sky glared like a furnace. Deep
purple shadows crept into the canyons slashing the mountain range. The
yellow dust-waves and the mirages disappeared with the going down of
the sun. Still we were carried on and on. We would go down with the
tide. Now the end of the island lay opposite the line of cliffs; soon
we would be in the Gulf.

So ended the Colorado. Two thousand miles above, it was a beautiful
river, born of a hundred snow-capped peaks and a thousand crystal
streams; gathering strength, it became the masterful river which had
carved the hearts of mountains and slashed the rocky plateaus,
draining a kingdom and giving but little in return. Now it was going
under, but it was fighting to the end. Waves of yellow struggled up
through waves of green and were beaten down again. The dorsal fins of
a half-dozen sharks cut circles near our craft. With the last
afterglow we were past the end of the island and were nearing the
brooding cliffs. Still the current ran strong. The last vestige of day
was swallowed in the gloom, just as the Colorado was buried 'neath the
blue. A hard wind was blowing, toward the shore; the sea was choppy. A
point of rocks where the cliffs met the sea was our goal. Would we
never reach it? Even in the night, which was now upon us, the distance
was deceptive. At last we neared the pile of rocks. The sound of
waters pounding on the shore was heard, and we hurriedly landed, a
half-mile above it, just as the tide turned.

The beach was a half-mile wide, covered with mud and sloughs. There
was no high shore. But an examination showed that the tide ran back to
the cliffs. One of us had to stay with the boat. Telling Phillipps to
get what sleep he could, I sat in the boat, and allowed the small
breakers which fox-chased each other to beat it in as the tide rose.

An arctic explorer has said that having an adventure means that
something unexpected or unforeseen has happened; that some one has
been incompetent. I had the satisfaction of knowing that the fault of
this adventure, if such it could be called, was mine. Here we were, at
our goal in Mexico, supposed to be a hostile land, with scant
provisions for one day. It was a hundred miles along the line of
cliffs, back to Yuma. So far, we had failed to find the ranch. It was
not likely that it was around the point of rocks. We knew now that the

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