Jackson County 1843
There are several other rivers on the north side of the Columbia which, however, are unimportant. I shall, therefore, proceed to the description of those on the south side of that river. Besides the tributaries of the Columbia, there are but three rivers on the south side of that river which deserve particular attention. The first which I shall notice is the Umpqua, which rises in the Cascade Mountains, near latitude 43 deg. north; pursuing a westerly course, it enters the ocean at latitude 43 deg. 30 min. north. It is generally about a half of a mile wide and is confined, in many places, within high banks of basaltic rock. Having a very large bar at its mouth, the entrance is very difficult, and the harbor very unsafe. The water upon this bar is about two fathoms deep, yet the channel is subject to such sudden changes that at times it is with the greatest difficulty it can be found. The tide flows up this stream about forty miles from its mouth, which would aid in its navigation very much to that extent, were it not for the vast bar at its entrance. The country through which this stream passes is, generally, broken and hilly, but in many places there are valleys and undulating plains which are very rich and of very considerable extent. With the exception of the valleys and plains, it is usually covered with thick forests of lofty pines, firs and oaks. This stream is perhaps navigable for steamboats about forty miles from its mouth, beyond which its navigation is repeatedly interrupted by falls and rapids, yet it is navigable still above for boats and barges to considerable extent. The river lying next south of the Umpqua is the Rogue's River, which has its source in the Klamath and Cascade ranges near latitude 42 deg. north. It pursues a course about west by north, winding its way through alternate sterile mountains, high hills, rich, fertile valleys and beautiful plains and finally empties into the ocean at the parallel of 43 deg. north latitude. The entrance of this river is also much obstructed by a vast sand bar at its mouth, which is entirely impassable the greater part of the year. This river is about the same width of the Umpqua; its current is very rapid, and it has numerous falls and rapids which much obstruct its navigation, even for boats and canoes. Its bed is generally about fifteen or twenty feet below the surface of the earth, hence its waters are very difficult of access. It is navigable, perhaps, about eighty miles for boats and canoes. The country through which it passes is usually very well timbered, well watered, and much of it is very rich and productive.
The only river which remains to be noticed is the Klamath, which rises in the Klamath Range near latitude 41 deg. north, whence it runs a northwest cours, about ninety miles, where it changes its course to west and pursues a very serpentine course for many miles, when, finally, it runs about west by north to the ocean, where it empties near latitude 41 deg. 40 min. north, in California. This river waters the most barren and mountainous portion of country in the southern part of Oregon. With the exception of a few small valleys and plains, it is everywhere walled in with high mountains and cliffs of solid rock, most of which, are entirely destitute of timber. But a very small portion of this stream is navigable for any crafts larger than canoes and boats; but that portion of it near its mouth is, perhaps, navigable for steamboats a distance of thirty or forty miles, without serious obstruction. As is the case with all those streams emptying into the Pacific, it has an extensive bar at its mouth which entirely prevents the safe entry of vessels, although there is a sufficient depth of water. All those rivers putting into the Pacific south of the Columbia, have from two to eight fathoms of water upon their bars; but it is hazardous in the extreme for a vessel to attempt an entrance at many seasons of the year because of the tremendous surf that sets in from the ocean; and the extreme narrowness and variableness of their channels.
All the various rivers of Oregon are subject to extraordinary rises and overflows which take place in those heading in the different ranges of mountains at different seasons of the year. In those which rise in the Cascade Range, the rise takes place in November and February, annually. These rises are produced by the great quantities of rain which fall in those regions, of which more will be said upon a subsequent page. [pages 32-33]
Further south, numerous other beautiful and rich valleys are also found, the first of which I shall notice are those lying upon the Umpqua River. In the immediate vicinity of Fort Umpqua, a valley of about thirty miles in length and ten in width is found, which is everywhere surrounded by an extensive, broken and mountainous country, but which is a very beautiful and rich valley, abounding with all the various grasses and good timber. There is also another valley upon this river, of much greater extent, which commences about ten miles above the eastern extremity of that just described and extends up and south of the river about seventy miles. This is among the most beautiful, and productive valleys of all Oregon, abounding with the various grasses and good timber of most luxuriant growth and having an unusually deep, rich soil; it is peculiarly fitted both to the purposes of grazing and farming. South of this, upon Rogue's River, are several other very extensive and unusually rich valleys. The principal of them is found upon that river, about sixty miles from the ocean. It is about eighty miles long, and averages from ten to forty miles in width on each side of the river. For beauty of scenery, richness of soil, abundance of timber and vegetation; and for its peculiar adaptation to both grazing and agricultural purposes, this valley much surpasses all others in any part of Oregon. Besides this there are also several others which are found upon and in the vicinity of this river, and which are much less extensive, but equally productive of both timber and the various grasses. All these valleys, however, are surrounded by stupendous mountains, high hills and elevated plains, which are generally entirely destitute of timber, and in many places devoid of all vegetable productions. The only valleys which remain to be noticed are those found upon the Klamath River, where numerous valleys are to be found, which, although very limited in extent, possess a very rich soil and yield a superabundance of good timber and most luxuriant vegetation. Throughout all this section, besides the various valleys before enumerated and more particularly described, there are numbers of others which are equally productive and valuable, though of much less extent. Upon and in the neighborhood of the Umpqua, Rogue's and Klamath rivers, there are not only the valleys referred to, but there are also several others, as well as numerous sections of high lands, undulating, elevated plains and rolling prairies, which are also very productive and which are admirably suited to the purpose of grazing, as well as that of farming. This southern portion of the western section is by far the most valuable and delightful portion of Oregon, and in point of richness and productions it very much resembles the unequalled plains and valleys of California. [pages 40-41]
Having remained in Oregon as long as I had originally designed, I now proceeded to make preliminary arrangements for an overland tour to California, to visit which country was also among my original purposes. But traveling from Oregon to California, like traveling from the States to Oregon, is attended with imminent danger from innumerable hostile Indians, hence it became necessary to obtain a party of armed men sufficient in numbers to secure our protection. I, therefore, visited the different neighborhoods with that view, when I soon found that there would be no difficulty in obtaining a party, ample in numbers to ensure our entire safety. Upon designating a place of rendezvous on the Willamette River, about twenty miles above the falls, we soon had fifty-three emigrants, of whom twenty-five were armed men, when myself having been again honored with command, on the 30th day of May, 1843, we were outward bound for the second and last paradise of the west, California. As the presumption is that many of the Oregon emigrants will, eventually, emigrate to California, and that too, by the same route which I traveled, I have deemed it proper to give some of the principal scenes and incidents of this party of California emigrants. This I do in order to put the future emigrants upon their guard, and thereby to enable them to avoid the innumerable dangers and difficulties which we encountered, and of which we were wholly unadvised.
Leaving our place of rendezvous, as above stated, nothing of importance occurred until we arrived at Rogue's River, which we were under the necessity of crossing by the aid of the Indians, who soon appeared with their canoes and proffered their aid, which we were under the necessity of accepting, but we proceeded with the utmost caution, for as we were well advised, several parties had been robbed at this place under quite similar circumstances. In view of the peculiarity of our perilous situation, I directed twelve men to cross the river, in advance, in order to receive and guard the baggage, as it should be sent across. The residue of the men remained in order to protect the women and children, and to guard the horses and baggage previous to their being sent across. During all the time which was occupied in crossing the river, great numbers of Indians thronged around us on each side of the river, frequently rushing upon us in such a manner that it became necessary for us to draw our forces out in battle array against them, when we were under the necessity of discharging a gun or two occasionally, in the open air, in order to deter them from any further hostile movements. Upon discharging a gun, they would invariably fall back and flee in every direction with the greatest confusion; but after the lapse of a very few minutes they would again crowd and huddle around us, in increased numbers, when we would again dispel them as before. Their object in crowding upon us in this manner was to intermingle with our people to such an extent as to produce general confusion and disorder, when they designed to steal and plunder, and if they could produce disorder and tumult to the extent that they desired, they, no doubt, intended to make a direct attack upon us, not only with the view of stealing and robbing, but also with a determination to effect our indiscriminate extermination. By the above system of caution, however, we finally, succeeded in crossing the river, in perfect safety, and were enabled to leave them to enjoy the wild howlings of their timid confusion, without the loss to ourselves of either life or property. Upon emerging from the boisterous confusion of these more than barbarous beings, we continued our journey for several days without anything worthy of remark until we met a company of cattle drovers and emigrants who were on their way from California to Oregon, the former with cattle for the Oregon market, and the latter designing to locate in Oregon, where they hoped to find refuge from the oppression which they had suffered in California, of which I shall speak more fully hereafter.
Upon meeting this party, both parties immediately encamped, where we remained together all that day and night, as well as a part of the ensuing day, which time was spent in discussing the comparative advantages and disadvantages of our respective places of destination. We, of course, had nothing very favorable to say of Oregon, for we were then in search of a desirable place of abode which in our view could not be found in Oregon; nor had they much to say in favor of California. They all concurred in the opinion that California was, beyond any doubt, one of the most delightful countries in the known world, both in point of mildness of climate and fertility of soil, but they remarked that they had been seriously oppressed there, and that they would seek refuge, for the time being, in Oregon. This discussion terminated in very disastrous consequences to us, for about one third of our party was prevailed upon to return to Oregon. This reduced our number of armed men to sixteen, and that too in a region where our full forces were more than anywhere else required, in a country where we were everywhere surrounded by a numerous and hostile foe; where our "sixteen" were at any time liable to be attacked by thousands of unrestrained and barbarous Indians. But the most distressing circumstance at this particular juncture was that our guide also left us with a view of returning to Oregon, contrary to our wishes and repeated solicitations to remain. This left us not only without a force sufficient for our future protection, but also without any knowledge of the route or any means of obtaining that knowledge, and also without any knowledge of the haunts and prowess of the countless savages, with whom we were now everywhere surrounded. The time of our separation had now arrived when we proceeded to take our leave of these our friends of long standing, with whom we had traversed the great western prairies, immersed in doubt and surrounded with fearful dangers innumerable; and with whom we had penetrated the deep, wild recesses of Oregon, amid the howls of beasts of prey, the yells of frantic savages and desolation and death in all their various and varied forms. We were sad, sad indeed, and grieved too, even to the shedding of tears. Much did we regret the necessity which impelled our separation, and as much did we dread the danger attendant upon that separation; but to accomplish our purpose we were determined, regardless of all consequences. So leaving our friends we traveled on, silently and solemnly, contemplating the cheerless past and the fearful future.
As I moved on, in this mood of mind, a half or three quarters of a mile, in advance of the party, my meditations were interrupted by the sudden appearance of two Indians, who were in close pursuit of a fine fat cow which had strayed from the party to which I have just alluded. I immediately gave chase to these intruders upon my solitude, without being observed by them, until I had approached within about thirty yards of them, when I fired upon them, but whether I wounded either of them I could not ascertain; but at all events I so alarmed one of them, that he yelled most furiously, and with tremendous leaps soon reached a deep ravine which afforded him a secure retreat, as its banks were thickly studded with willows. Turning to the other, I found him still in hot pursuit of his intended prey; but as he saw that I had turned my attention to him he also fled with unusual rapidity and took refuge with his comrade among the same willows, near to which I had no inclination to approach, as willows are thought by mountaineers to be "dangerous things." The party soon came up and the cow very soon fell a victim to our returning appetites, but we saw no more of our noble competitors. Perhaps the one was engaged, in some secluded place, extracting buckshot from the lower limbs of his fellow. As we continued our journey we frequently saw the Indians far upon the mountain's height, viewing us as we wound our serpentine way through low, deep valleys, up high, towering hills, or over beautiful, expansive plains. Thus, remaining upon the extreme height of the surrounding mountains, they always kept their eyes fixed upon us, until we had encamped at night, when they would approach us, with a view of stealing or killing our horses. We, however, met with no serious difficulty with the Indians, until we arrived at a small tributary of Rogue's River called the Shasta River, where we encamped for the night. About midnight we were attacked by them, the first indication that we had of which was the cry by one of the guards of "Indians," "Indians," which soon brought the men "to arms," when a brisk, random fire commenced in all directions from the camp, which soon dispelled our midnight assailants, not, however, until they had severely wounded one man and two horses. The man who was wounded was a Mr. Bellamy, who happened to be posted as guard at the most vulnerable part of the camp, and near the river. He was the guard who gave notice of the attack, which however, he did not do until several arrows had been thrown. The first knowledge which he had of the presence of the Indians was the reception of an arrow in his back, which, I suppose, he thought to be "striking proof," "pointed evidence," of their presence, if not of their omnipresence. The arrow was immediately extracted, but from the intensity of the pain, which it appeared to produce, it was feared, by some, that it would be attended with fatal consequences. In the morning, it was thought, from the increased pain, that in all probability, the spinal marrow was affected, and hence that it would be unsafe to move that day, but we determined to make the attempt, which we accordingly did, and were happy to find that it was not attended with serious consequences. From this encampment, we now moved on, without any thing worthy of remark, until we arrived at the Sacramento River, in California, about one hundred and fifty miles above the bay of St. Francisco. [pages 64-67]
Lansford W. Hastings, The Emigrants' Guide to Oregon and California, 1845
December 10.--The country began to improve, and about 11 o'clock we reached a spring of cold water on the edge of a savanna, or grassy meadow, which our guides informed us was an arm of the Klamath Lake, and a few miles further we entered upon an extensive meadow, or lake of grass, surrounded by timbered mountains. This was the Klamath Lake. It was a picturesque and beautiful spot, and rendered more attractive to us by the abundant and excellent grass, which our animals, after traveling through pine forests, so much needed, but the broad sheet of water which constitutes a lake was not to be seen. Overlooking it, immediately west, were several snowy knobs, belonging to what we have considered a branch of the Cascade Range. A low point covered with pines made out into the lake, which afforded us a good place for an encampment, and for the security of our horses, which were guarded in view on the open meadow. The character of courage and hostility attributed to the Indians of this quarter induced more than usual precaution, and, seeing smokes rising from the middle of the lake (or savanna) and along the opposite shores, I directed the howitzer to be fired. It was the first time our guides had seen it discharged, and the bursting of the shell at a distance, which was something like the second fire of the gun, amazed and bewildered them with delight. It inspired them with triumphant feelings, but on the camps at a distance the effect was different, for the smokes in the lake and on the shores immediately disappeared.The point on which we were encamped forms, with the opposite eastern shore, a narrow neck, connecting the body of the lake with a deep cove or bay which receives the principal affluent stream, and over the greater part of which the water (or rather ice) was at this time dispersed in shallow pools. Among the grass, and scattered over the prairie lake, appeared to be similar marshes. It is simply a shallow basin, which, for a short period at the time of melting snows, is covered with water from the neighboring mountains, but this probably soon runs off, and leaves for the remainder of the year a green savanna, through the midst of which the River Klamath, which flows to the ocean, winds its way to the outlet on the southwestern side.
December 11.--No Indians made their appearance, and I determined to pay them a visit. Accordingly, the people were gathered together, and we rode out towards the village in the middle of the lake, which one of our guides had previously visited. It could not be directly approached, as a large part of the lake appeared a marsh, and there were sheets of ice among the grass, on which our horses could not keep their footing. We therefore followed the guide for a considerable distance along the forest, and then turned off towards the village, which we soon began to see was a few large huts, on the tops of which were collected the Indians. When we had arrived within half a mile of the village, two persons were seen advancing to meet us, and, to please the fancy of our guides, we ranged ourselves into a long line, riding abreast, while they galloped ahead to meet the strangers.
We were surprised, on riding up, to find one of them a woman, having never before known a squaw to take any part in the business of war. They were the village chief and his wife, who, in excitement and alarm at the unusual event and appearance, had come out to meet their fate together. The chief was a very prepossessing Indian, with very handsome features, and a singularly soft and agreeable voice--so remarkable as to attract general notice.
The huts were grouped together on the bank of the river, which, from being spread out in a shallow marsh at the upper end of the lake, was collected here into a single stream. They were large round huts, perhaps 20 feet in diameter, with rounded tops, on which was the door by which they descended into the interior. Within, they were supported by posts and beams.
Almost like plants, these people seem to have adapted themselves to the soil, and to be growing on what the immediate locality afforded. Their only subsistence at this time appeared to be a small fish, great quantities of which, that had been smoked and dried, were suspended on strings about the lodge. Heaps of straw were lying around, and their residence in the midst of grass and rushes had taught them a peculiar skill in converting this material to useful purposes. Their shoes were made of straw or grass, which seemed well adapted for a snowy country, and the women wore on their head a closely woven basket, which made a very good cap. Among other things were particolored mats about four feet square, which we purchased to lay on the snow under our blankets, and to use for table cloths.
Numbers of singular-looking dogs, resembling wolves, were sitting on the tops of the huts, and of these we purchased a young one, which, after its birthplace, was named Klamath. The language spoken by these Indians is different from that of the Shoshone and Columbia River tribes, and otherwise than by signs they cannot understand each other. They made us comprehend that they were at war with the people who lived to the southward and to the eastward, but I could obtain from them no certain information. The river on which they live enters the Cascade Mountains on the western side of the lake, and breaks through them by a passage impracticable for travelers, but over the mountains, to the northward, are passes which present no other obstacle than in the almost impenetrable forests. Unlike any Indians we had previously seen, these wore shells in their noses. We returned to our camp, after remaining here an hour or two, accompanied by a number of Indians.
In order to recruit a little the strength of our animals, and obtain some acquaintance with the locality, we remained here for the remainder of the day. By observation, the latitude of the camp was 42° 56' 51", and the diameter of the lake, or meadow, as has been intimated, about 20 miles. It is a picturesque and beautiful spot, and under the hand of cultivation might become a little paradise. Game is found in the forest, timbered and snowy mountains skirt it, and fertility characterizes it. Situated near the heads of three rivers, and on the line of inland communication with California, and near to Indians noted for treachery, it will naturally, in the progress of the settlement of Oregon, become a point for military occupation and settlement.
From Klamath Lake, the further continuation of our voyage assumed a character of discovery and exploration, which, from the Indians here, we could obtain no information to direct, and where the imaginary maps of the country, instead of assisting, exposed us to suffering and defeat. In our journey across the desert, Mary's Lake, and the famous Buenaventura River, were two points on which I relied to recruit the animals and repose the party. Forming, agreeably to the best maps in my possession, a connected water line from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, I felt no other anxiety than to pass safely across the intervening desert to the banks of the Buenaventura, where, in the softer climate of a more southern latitude, our horses might find grass to sustain them, and ourselves be sheltered from the rigors of winter and from the inhospitable desert. The guides who had conducted us thus far on our journey were about to return, and I endeavored in vain to obtain others to lead us, even for a few days, in the direction (east) which we wished to go. The chief to whom I applied alleged the want of horses, and the snow on the mountains across which our course would carry us, and the sickness of his family, as reasons for refusing to go with us.
December 12.--This morning the camp was thronged with Klamath Indians from the southeastern shore of the lake, but, knowing the treacherous disposition which is a remarkable characteristic of the Indians south of the Columbia, the camp was kept constantly on its guard. I was not unmindful of the disasters which Smith and other travelers had met with in this country, and therefore was equally vigilant in guarding against treachery and violence.
According to the best information I had been able to obtain from the Indians, in a few days' traveling we should reach another large water, probably a lake, which they indicated exactly in the course we were about to pursue. We struck our tents at 10 o'clock and crossed the lake in a nearly east direction, where it has the least extension--the breadth of the arm being here only about a mile and a half. There were ponds of ice, with but little grass, for the greater part of the way, and it was difficult to get the pack animals across, which fell frequently, and could not get up with their loads unassisted. The morning was very unpleasant, snow falling at intervals in large flakes, and the sky dark. In about two hours we succeeded in getting the animals over, and, after traveling another hour along the eastern shore of the lake, we turned up into a cove where there was a sheltered place among the timber, with good grass, and encamped. The Indians, who had accompanied us so far, returned to their village on the southeastern shore. Among the pines here, I noticed some five or six feet in diameter.
December 13.--The night has been cold, the peaks around the lake gleam out brightly in the morning sun, and the thermometer is at zero. We continued up the hollow formed by a small affluent to the lake, and immediately entered an open pine forest on the mountain. The way here was sometimes obstructed by fallen trees, and the snow was four to twelve inches deep. The mules at the gun pulled heavily, and walking was a little laborious. In the midst of the wood, we heard the sound of galloping horses, and were agreeably surprised by the unexpected arrival of our Klamath chief, with several Indians. He seemed to have found his conduct inhospitable in letting the strangers depart without a guide through the snow, and had come, with a few others, to pilot us a day or two on the way. After traveling in an easterly direction through the forest for about four hours, we reached a considerable stream, with a border of good grass, and here, by the advice of our guides, we encamped. It is about thirty feet wide and two to four feet deep, the water clear, with some current, and, according to the information of our Indians is the principal affluent to the lake, and the head water of the Klamath River.
A very clear sky enabled me to obtain here tonight good observations, including an emersion of the first satellite of Jupiter, which give for the longitude 121° 20' 42", and for the latitude 42° 51' 26". This emersion coincides remarkably well with the result obtained from an occultation at the encampment of December 7th to 8th, 1843, from which place the line of our survey gives an easting of thirteen miles. The day's journey was 12 miles.
December 14.--Our road was over a broad mountain, and we rode seven hours in a thick snow storm, always through pine forests, when we came down upon the head waters of another stream, on which there was grass. The snow lay deep on the ground, and only the high swamp grass appeared above. The Indians were thinly clad, and I had remarked during the day that they suffered from the cold. This evening they told me that the snow was getting too deep on the mountain, and I could not induce them to go any farther. The stream we had struck issued from the mountain in an easterly direction, turning to the southward a short distance below, and, drawing its course upon the ground, they made us comprehend that it pursued its way for a long distance in that direction, uniting with many other streams, and gradually becoming a great river. Without the subsequent information, which confirmed the opinion, we became immediately satisfied that this water formed the principal stream of the Sacramento River, and, consequently, that this main affluent of the Bay of San Francisco had its source within the limits of the United States, and opposite a tributary to the Columbia, and near the head of the Klamath River, which goes to the ocean north of 42°, and within the United States.
December 15.--A present, consisting of useful goods, afforded much satisfaction to our guides, and, showing them the national flag, I explained that it was a symbol of our nation, and they engaged always to receive it in a friendly manner. The chief pointed out a course by following which we would arrive at the big water, where no more snow was to be found. Traveling in a direction N. 60° E. by compass, which the Indians informed me would avoid a bad mountain to the right, we crossed the Sacramento where it turned to the southward, and entered a grassy level plain--a smaller Grand Ronde, from the lower end of which the river issued into an inviting country of low rolling hills. Crossing a hard-frozen swamp on the farther side of the Ronde, we entered again the pine forest, in which very deep snow made our traveling slow and laborious. We were slowly but gradually ascending a mountain, and, after a hard journey of seven hours, we came to some naked places among the timber, where a few tufts of grass showed above the snow, on the side of a hollow, and here we encamped. Our cow, which every day got poorer, was killed here, but the meat was rather tough.
December 16.--We traveled this morning through snow about three feet deep, which, being crusted, very much cut the feet of our animals. The mountain still gradually rose, we crossed several spring heads covered with quaking asp; otherwise it was all pine forest. The air was dark with falling snow, which everywhere weighed down the trees. The depths of the forest were profoundly still, and below we scarce felt a breath of the wind which whirled the snow through their branches. I found that it required some exertion of constancy to adhere steadily to one course through the woods, when we were uncertain how far the forest extended, or what lay beyond, and, on account of our animals, it would be bad to spend another night on the mountain. Towards noon the forest looked clear ahead, appearing suddenly to terminate, and beyond a certain point we could see no trees. Riding rapidly ahead to this spot, we found ourselves on the verge of a vertical and rocky wall of the mountain. At our feet--more than a thousand feet below--we looked into a green prairie country, in which a beautiful lake, some twenty miles in length, was spread along the foot of the mountains, its shores bordered with green grass. Just then the sun broke out among the clouds, and illuminated the country below, while around us the storm raged fiercely. Not a particle of ice was to be seen on the lake, or snow on its borders, and all was like summer or spring. The glow of the sun in the valley below brightened up our hearts with sudden pleasure, and we made the woods ring with joyful shouts to those behind, and gradually, as each came up, he stopped to enjoy the unexpected scene. Shivering on snow three feet deep, and stiffening in a cold north wind, we exclaimed at once that the names of Summer Lake and Winter Ridge should be applied to these two proximate places of such sudden and violent contrast.
We were now immediately on the verge of the forest land, in which we had been traveling so many days, and, looking forward to the east, scarce a tree was to be seen. Viewed from our elevation, the face of the country exhibited only rocks and grass, and presented a region in which the artemisia became the principal wood, furnishing to its scattered inhabitants fuel for their fires, building material for their huts, and shelter for the small game which ministers to their hunger and nakedness. Broadly marked by the boundary of the mountain wall, and immediately below us, were the first waters of that Great Interior Basin which has the Wasatch and Bear River mountains for its eastern, and the Sierra Nevada for its western rim, and the edge of which we had entered upwards of three months before, at the Great Salt Lake.
When we had sufficiently admired the scene below, we began to think about descending, which here was impossible, and we turned towards the north, traveling always along the rocky wall. We continued on for four or five miles, making ineffectual attempts at several places, and at length succeeded in getting down at one which was extremely difficult of descent. Night had closed in before the foremost reached the bottom, and it was dark before we all found ourselves together in the valley. There were three or four half dead dry cedar trees on the shore, and those who first arrived kindled bright fires to light on the others. One of the mules rolled over and over two or three hundred feet into a ravine, but recovered himself, without any other injury than to his pack, and the howitzer was left midway [down] the mountain until morning. By observation, the latitude of this encampment is 42° 57' 22". It delayed us until near noon the next day to recover ourselves and put everything in order, and we made only a short camp along the western shore of the lake, which, in the summer temperature we enjoyed today justified the name we had given it. Our course would have taken us to the other shore, and over the highlands beyond, but I distrusted the appearance of the country, and decided to follow a plainly beaten Indian trail leading along this side of the lake. We were now in a country where the scarcity of water and of grass makes traveling dangerous, and great caution was necessary.
John C. Fremont, Report of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1843, 1845, pages 203-207
Last revised December 2, 2017