John Wesley Powell Frederick Samuel Dellenbaugh.

A canyon voyage: the narrative of the second Powell expedition down the ... online

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and while we were working with the Canonita^ our good chef
prepared the dinner and we stopped long enough to fortify
ourselves with it. Having to build a trail in some places in order
to carry the goods across ridges and boulders, it was not alone
the work on lowering the boats which delayed us. While we
were absorbed in these operations the camp-fire of the morning
in some way spread unperceived into the thick sage-brush and
cedars which covered the point, and we vacated the place none
too soon, for the flames were leaping high, and by the time we
had finished our dinner at the foot of the rapid, the point we
had so recently left was a horrible furnace. The fire was jump-
ing and playing amidst dense smoke which rolled a mighty
column, a thousand feet it seemed to me above the top of the
canyon ; that is over 3000 feet into the tranquil air.

At two o'clock all three boats were again charging down on
a stiff current with rather bad conditions, though we ran two
sharp rapids without much trouble. In one the Nell got on a
smooth rock and came near capsizing. The current at the
spot happened to be not so swift and she escaped with no
damage. Then we were brought up by another rapid, a very
bad one. Evening was drawing on and every man was feeling



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46 A Canyon Voyage

somewhat used up by the severe exertions of the day. Camp
was therefore ordered at the head of this rapid in the midst of
scenery that has probably as great beauty, picturesqueness, and
grandeur as any to be found in the whole West. I hardly know
how to describe it. All day long the surroundings had been
supremely beautiful, majestic, but at this camp everything was
on a superlative scale and words seem colourless and futile.
The precipices on both sides, about 2200 feet high, conveyed
the impression of being almost vertical. Our camp was
several hundred yards from the rapid and we could talk with
some comfort. After supper I wandered alone down beside
the furiously plunging waters and came upon a brood of young
magpies airing themselves on the sand. The roar of the fall
prevented their hearing and I walked among them, picked one
up and took it to camp to show their comicality, when I let it
go back to the rendezvous. I was censured especially by the
Major, for cruelty to animals.

The next day was Sunday and it came with a radiance that
further enhanced the remarkable grandeur around us. Near by
was a side canyon of the most picturesque type, down which a
clear little brook danced from ledge to ledge and from pool to
pool, twenty to thirty feet at a time. We named it Leaping
Brook. The rocks were mossy, and fir trees, pines, cedars, and
cottonwoods added the charm of foliage to the brilliant colours
of the rocks and the sheen of falling water, here and there lost
in the most profound shadows. Beaman made a number of
views while the rest of the men climbed for various purposes.
Steward, Clem, and I by a circuitous route arrived at a point
high up on Leaping Brook where the scene was beyond de-
scription. To save trouble on the return we descended the
brook as it was easy to slide down places that could not be
climbed. In this manner we succeeded in getting to the last
descent near camp, to discover that it was higher than we
thought and almost vertical with rough rocks at the bottom.
As we could not go back and had no desire to break a leg, we
were in trouble. Then we spied Jack in the camp a short dis-
tance away and called to him to put a tree up for us. Good-
natured Jack, always ready to help, assumed a gruff tone and



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End of Lodore 47

pretended he would never help us, but we knew better, and
presently he threw up a long dead pine which we could reach
by a short slide, and thus got to the river leveL It was now
noon, and as soon as dinner was over the boats were lowered
by lines past the rapid beside camp and once below this we
shot on our way with a fine current, soon arriving at two
moderate rapids close together, which we ran. This brought
us to a third with an ugly look, but on examination Prof, and
the Major decided to run it. Getting a good entrance all the
boats went through without the slightest mishap. A mile below
this place we landed at the mouth of a pretty little stream
entering through a picturesque and narrow canyon on the left.
We called it Alcove Brook.

Beaman took some negatives here. This was not the easy
matter that the dry-plate afterwards made it, for the dark tent
had to be set up, the glass plate flowed with collodion, then
placed in the silver bath, and exposed wet in the camera, to be
immediately developed and washed and placed in a special box
for carriage.

This would have been an ideal place for a hunter. Numerous
fresh tracks of grizzlies were noticed 'all around, but we did
not have the good luck to see any of the animals themselves.
Happy grounds these canyons were at that time for the bears,
and they may still be enjoying the seclusion the depths afford
The spot had an additional interest for us because it was here
that on the first trip the brush caught fire soon after the party
had landed, and they were forced to take to the boats so uncere-
moniously that they lost part of their mess-kit and some
clothing.

On leaving Alcove Brook we ran a rapid and then another
a little farther on, but they were easy and the river was much
calmer though the current was still very swift. At the same
time the walls to our satisfaction began to give indications of
breaking. They became less high, less compact, and we ven-
tured to hope that our battle with the waters of Lodore was
about over. The Major said that, as nearly as he could remember,
the end of the great gorge was not very far below. Though the
sky was beginning to show the evening tints we kept on and ever



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48



A Canyon Voyage



on, swiftly but smoothly, looking up at the sky and at the
splendid walls. The sun went down. The chasm grew hazy
with the soft light of evening and the mystery of the bends
deepened. There was no obstruction and in about three miles
from Alcove Brook we rather abruptly emerged into a beautiful
small opening, where the immediate walls were no more than
six hundred feet high. A river of considerable size flowed in on
the left, through a deep and narrow canyon. This was the
Yampa, sometimes then called Bear River. By seven o'clock
we had moored the boats a few yards up its mouth and we
made a comfortable camp in a box-elder grove. We had
won the fight without disaster and we slept that night in
peace.

Lodore is wholly within the State of Colorado. It is 2of
miles long with a descent of 420 feet/ mostly concentrated be-
tween Disaster Falls and Hell's Half-Miie, a distance of about
12 miles. The total descent from the Union Pacific crossing
was 975 feet in a distance, as the river runs, of about 153 miles.

' In my Romance of the Colorado River these figures were changed to 275
because of barometrical data supplied me which was supposed to be accorate.
I have concluded that it was not.




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Echo Park.

Mouth of Yampa River in Foreground, Green River on Right.

Photograph by E. O. Bra man, 1871.



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CHAPTER V

A Remarkable Echo— Up tbe Canyon of the Yampa — Steward and Clem Try a
Moonlight Swim — Whirlpool Canyon and Mountain Sheep— A Grand Fourth-
of-Joly Dinner — ^A Rainbow-Coloared Valley — The Major Proceeds in Advance
—A Split Mountain with Rapids a Plenty— Enter a Big Valley at Last.

THE little opening between canyons we named Echo Park,
first because after the close quarters of Lodore it seemed
very park-like, and second because from the smooth bare cliff
directly opposite our landing a distinct echo of ten words was
returned to the speaker. I had never before, and have never
since, heard so clear and perfect an echo with so many words
repeated. We were camped on the right bank of the Yampa
as the left was a bottom land covered with cedars and we pre-
ferred higher ground. This bottom was an alluvial deposit
triangular in shape about a mile long and a quarter of a mile
wide with the Yampa and Green on two sides and a vertical
sandstone wall on the third. Behind our camp the rocks broke
back in a rough, steep slope for perhaps a quarter of a mile, and
this with the bottom-land and the lack of height in the walls
near the river conveyed an impression of wide expanse when
compared with the narrow limits in which we had for eight days
been confined. The Green was here about 400 feet wide and
was held in on the western side of the park by the Echo Cliff
which was a vertical wall some 600 feet high composed of homo-
geneous sandstone, and consequently almost without a crack
from top to bottom where its smooth expanse dropped below
the surface of the water. It extended down river about three-
fourths of a mile, the river doubling around its southern end.

The next day after arriving here most of us dia not feel
like doing any climbing and remained around camp, mending
clothes and other articles, adjusting things that had become
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so A Canyon Voyage

deranged by our rough work in the last canyon, recording
notes, and making entries in diaries. Prof, took observations
for latitude and longitude to establish the position of the
Yampa so that it could be properly placed on the map. The
Major during an exploring trip from the eastward in 1868 had
reached the Yampa Canyon, but he could not cross it. He now
decided to go up with a boat as far as possible in three days to
supplement his former observations as well as to study the
canyon in generaL He had estimated its length at thirty miles,
and this has proved to be correct. The Dean was unloaded,
and with three days' rations the Major started with her in the
morning manned by Jack, Beaman, Jones, and Andy. Of course
they were all still tired from the strain of Liodore, and they were
not enthusiastic about seeing the Yampa. In such work as was
common through Lodore, it is as much the tension on the
nerves, even though this is not realised at the time, as it is the
strain on the muscles in transporting the cai^oes and the boats,
which makes one tired. I was •entirely satisfied not to go with
the Yampa party and I believe all the others left behind felt
much the same.

Steward with Clem, when the Yampa expedition had gone,
started back over the cliffs for Alcove Brook to geologise,
leaving Prof, busy with observation. Cap. plotting the topo-
graphical notes and making his map thereby, and me with no
special duty at the time. Every man who wants to be efficient
in the field must learn to cook. This was my opportunity as
Andy was absent and the others had their special work on
hand, so I turned my attention to the culinary realm. A few
directions and an example from Cap. who was a veteran gave
me the method and I succeeded as my first offering, in placing
before my comrades some biscuits hot from the Dutch oven,
which compared favourably with those of Andy himself. With
the constant practice Andy by this time had become an expert.
The day wore away and at evening I got supper with more
biscuits of which I was proud, but Steward and Clem failed to
come to partake of them as we expected. Darkness fell and
still there was dead silence outside of our camp. Much con-
cerned we then ate supper momentarily expecting to hear their



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Swimming a Whirlpool 51

voices, but they did not come. Something had happened, but
we could not follow their trail till morning to find out what it
was. At ten o'clock we gave them up for the night deeply
troubled about them. I had been isitting alone by the fire
keeping the coffee hot and listening, when suddenly I heard a
crackling of the bushes between me and the river and in a sec-
ond or two Clem, laughing as over a joke, came to the fire with
the water runhing off him in streams. While I was trying to
get an explanation Steward also appeared in the same condition.
At first they would not tell what had occurred but finally they
confessed on condition that I would keep the matter a secret.
They had made a long hard climb and late in the afternoon had
come to a place where Steward found it necessary to descend
to the river in examining the strata. They intended to climb
back, but when the work was done the sun had set and it was
too late to venture up as they could not climb in the dark.
Rather than stay there all night they made a raft of two little
dead cedars and tying their shoes upon it, they waited for the
moon to rise. This was very soon and they slipped into the
current relying on the raft merely to keep their heads above
water. They knew there were no rapids between them and
camp but they did not properly estimate the velocity of the
river and the eddies and whirlpools. They kept near the left
wall so as not to be carried past camp and in this they made a
great mistake for they were caught in a whirlpool caused by a
projection, and the raft was wrenched from them while they
were violently thrown around. Steward being a powerful
swimmer succeeded after nearly going under for good in re-
gaining the raft which Clem meanwhile had been losing and
recovering quickly several times. He was not a good swimmer.
After this whirlpool was passed they reached the locality of our
camp with no further adventure. They were very desirous that
the story be kept from the rest of the party but they had hardly
finished telling me when Prof, came and insisted on knowing
what had occurred. Their punishment for this indiscretion was
the hard climb back again to where they had left a rifle and
other things that must be recovered.

A delightful episode of this camp was a row which several



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$2 A Canyon Voyage

of us made up the Yampa in the moonlight. As far as we went
the current was not swift and we were able to pull gently along
under the great cliffs in shadows made luminous by the bril-
liancy of the moon. A song the Major was fond of singing.
Softly and Sweetly it Comes from Afar^ almost involuntarily,
sprang from us all, though our great songster, Jack, was not
with us. Jack had an extensive repertory, an excellent voice,
and a hearty, exuberant spirit. He would sing Write Me a
Letter from Home^ The Colleen Bawn^ The Lone Starry Hours^
Beautiful Isle of the Sea^ and many others in a way that brought
tranquillity to our souls. We missed him on this evening but
nevertheless our song sounded well, echoing from wall to wall,
and we liked it. Somehow or other that night remains one of
the fairest pictures I have ever seen.

Another day I went with Steward down across the trian-
gular bottom to the lower end of the park where we climbed
out through the canyon of a little brook to a sandy and deso-
late plateau. Currant bushes laden with fruit abounded and
there were tracks of grizzlies to be seen. Possibly some may
have been lying in the dense underbrush, but if so they kept
their lairs as these bears generally do unless directly disturbed.

On the 30th of June Prof., Steward, and Cap. went for a
climb. They proceeded to the lower end of the park by boat
and through the little canyon that came in there, got out to the
plateau where Steward and I had before been, but there they
went farther. After a very hard climb they succeeded in reach-
ing the crest where they had a broad view and could see nearly
all of the next canyon with its rapids which we would have to
pass through; the canyon the Major had called Whirlpool on
his first trip. They could also see the Yampa River for twenty
miles and discovered the Dean coming back down that stream,
their attention being attracted by a gunshot in that direction,
which they knew could be only from our own men. In camp
during the day I again experimented in the culinary depart-
ment, and produced two dried-apple pies, one of which Clem
and I ate with an indescribable zest, and the other we kept to
astonish the absentees with when they should reach camp. I
have since learned that my method of pie-making was original



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Whirlpool Canyon 53

I soaked the dried apples till they were soft then made a crust
which had plenty of bacon grease in it for shortening and put
the apples with sugar between, baking the production in the
Dutch oven.

About five o'clock the Yampa explorers came. They were
raggedy tired, and hungry having had nothing to eat all day, and
not enough any day, as the Major had not taken sufficient
supplies in his desire to make the boat light. They were all
rather cross, the only time on the whole expedition that such a
state existed, but when they had eaten and rested their genial
spirits came back, they even liked my pie, and they told us
about their struggle up the canyon.

We were all rather sorry to pull away from this comfortable
camp at the mouth of the Yampa on July 3d, but the rapids
of Whirlpool were challenging and we had to go and meet
them. At the foot of Echo Park the Green doubles directly
back on itself for a mile as it turns Echo Rock, the narrow
peninsula of sandstone 600 feet high. The canyon became
suddenly very close and assumed a formidable appearance.
We listened for the roar of a rapid but for some time nothing
was heard. The splendour of the walls impressed us deeply
rising 2000 feet, many coloured, carved, and terraced elabor-
ately. Our admiration was interrupted by a suggestive roar
approaching and suddenly a violent rapid appeared. There was
ample room and we got below it by a let-down, that is by
lowering the boats one at a time with their cargoes on board,
along the margin, working in and out of the side currents.
Then we had dinner while waiting for the Canonita which had
remained behind for pictures.

A part of my work was to make a continuous outline sketch
of the left wall for the use of the geologists and this I was able
to do as we went along. I had a pocket on the bulkhead in
front of my seat in which I kept a sole leather portfolio, which
I could use quickly and replace in the waterproof pocket.

The walls of the canyon became more flaring as soon as the
rapid was passed at noon, but they lost none of their majesty.
We now expected very bad river and whirlpools from the
experience of the first party, but the river is never twice alike.



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54 A Canyon Voyage

Not only does its bottom shift, but every variation in sts^e of
water brings new problems or does away with them entirely.
It was an agreeable surprise to be able to run three rapids with
ease by four o'clock, when we saw on some rocks two hundred
feet above the stream a flock of mountain sheep. An immediate
landing was made with fresh mutton in prospect. UnluckHy
our gans in anticipation of severe work had all been securely
packed away, and it was some moments before they could be
brought out. By that time the sheep had nimbly gone around
a comer of the wall where a large side canyon was now dis-
covered bringing in a fine creek. It was useless to follow the
sheep though one or two made a brief trial, and camp was made
in a Cottonwood g^rove at the mouth of the creek. Cottonwoods
fringed the stream as far as it could be seen from our position.
Brush Creek we called it believing it to be the mouth of a stream
in the back country known by that name. The next day, two
or three miles up, a branch was found to come from the south,
and as this was thought to be Brush Creek, the larger one was
named after Cap., and "Bishop's Creek" was put on our map.
Doubtless there are plenty of trout in this creek and in others
we had passed, but we had no proper tackle for trout and be-
sides seldom had time for fishing when at these places. Jack,
when not too tired, fished in the Green and generally had good
success. Our present locality would have been a rare place for
a month or two's sojourn had we been sportsmen with time on
our hands. Sheep, deer, and bear existed in abundance as well
as smaller game, but we had to forget it though none of us cared
about shooting for fun. Our minds were on other things. Often
we went out leaving rifles behind as they were heavy in a climb.
Scarcely had we settled ourselves in this beautiful camp
when we discovered that we ourselves were the hunted, and by
an enemy that we could not vanquish — ants. There was no
place in the neighbourhood that was out of their range. The
best I could do was to make my bed two feet from the nearest
hill and let them have their way. Morning was hailed with
unusual delight for this reason and also because it was the "glo-
rious Fourth," a day that every American remembers wherever
he may be. We fired several rounds as a salute, and the Major



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Whirlpool Canyon.

Mouth of Bishop Creek — Fourth of July Camp.

Photograph by E. O. Beam am, 187 i.



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A Canyon Banquet 55

concluded to keep this camp till the next morning. To enable
Andy to have a day off and a climb out with a party to the
open, I agreed to run the cook outfit, and felt highly compli-
mented that they were willing to trust me after the pie episode.
I immediately resolved to try my skill again in that quarter
and expected to astonish the camp. I succeeded. The bill of
fare which I evolved was ham, dried-apple pie, dried apples
stewed, canned peaches, sugar syrup, bread, coffee, and some
candy from Gunther's in Chicago. The candy had been pre-
sented to me at Green River Station by some passing friends,
and I had hidden it in my bag waiting for this grand occasion.
Ham was quite as much of a luxury as candy, for we had
started with but three or four, and only used them on special
days. As for the canned peaches, they were the only ones we
had. The supper was a memorable one; not a grumble was
heard from anybody, indeed they all praised it, and the only
drawback, from my point of view, was that the scouting party
did not return early enough to taste it in its prime. The Major
threatened to expel the member who had smuggled in the candy
as all the men declared they would go no farther unless they
could have a plate of it for desert at every meal!

The next morning we were on the river early, glad to get
away from the army of ants. The canyon walls ran along at
about the same height as on the previous day, about 2400 feet,
and while the river was swift and full of rapids everything
seemed to favour us. Before halting for dinner we had run five
rapids, three rather ugly, as well as letting down past one with
lines. From where a stop was made for Andy's noonday oper-
ations, a flock of sheep was seen on the opposite side, and
several went after them with no result but disappointment.
When we started again we ran a rapid at once, then let down
past the next, and followed that by running two more, the last
the worst. The boats bumped occasionally on hidden rocks,
but no harm was done them. The whole canyon was exceed-
ingly beautiful, nevertheless we did not mourn when late in
the afternoon, just after running the last rapid, the magnificent
cliffs fell back and we saw more sky than at any time since
leaving Brown's Park. On the right the rocks melted away into



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56 A Canyon Voyage

beautiful rainbow-coloured hills while on the left they remained
steep, though retreating a mile or so from the water. The
stretch of sky seemed enormous. Breathing appeared to be
easier. The eye grows weary with the short range views, and
yearns for space in which to roam.

The valley we were now in was not long ; about four miles
in a straight line, with a width of two. In this space the river
meanders nine miles, one detour being very long. It spreads
also amongst a number of islands, and the numerous channels
became shallow till our keels grated here and there. Then they
concentrated once more and we floated along on waters deep
and black and slow. The marvellous colouring in the sur-
rounding landscape impressed us, and the Major was for a time
uncertain whether to call this "Rainbow" or "Island" Park,
the decision finally being given to the latter. Shortly before
sunset our meanderings terminated at the foot of the valley
where the river once more entered the rocks, in a gateway as
abrupt, though not as imposing as that of Lodore. A fine
grove of box-elders on the right just above this gate, offered an
attractive camping place, and there we stopped.

We were now in Utah again, having crossed the boundary
somewhere in Whirlpool Canyon. The altitude was 4940 feet,



Online LibraryJohn Wesley Powell Frederick Samuel DellenbaughA canyon voyage: the narrative of the second Powell expedition down the ... → online text (page 6 of 27)