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for we were dependent in great measure on our rifles for
subsistence, and a considerable number had to be killed,
as the men would not eat what they considered the
inferior parts of a deer.

I occasionally tried the rivers and streams for fish,
but without success. Lakes, as in New Mexico, are
conspicuous by their fewness in number indeed, I
might say by their absence ; for the few ponds and tarns
I found in the mountains were so small as scarcely to
merit the name of lakes. Some of them are beautifully
situated, and very pretty ; but the largest I saw could
not have exceeded 100 acres in area.

On the plains, what few ponds there are are saline.
Most of them have not a drop of moisture in their
beds at this time of the year, if they ever have, which
seems doubtful. I take them to be permanently dried-
up lakes. The total absence of vegetation near most of
them seems to justify this opinion. Reeds, at least, are
sure to grow where there is the least moisture during
the winter season ; but here the stones around the
shallow depressions scarcely showed discolouration from
the humblest lichens, while the ground was often an
inch or two deep with a deposit of salt, which glittered
in the sun and irradiated the prismatic colours.


It is difficult to give a description of the Colorado
plain which shall convey a clear idea of its appearance.
However, if a quantity of plaster of Paris is mixed
rather loosely, placed in a large open vessel, as a tub
for instance, and dried by exposure to the sun ; as it
desiccates cracks of various sizes will form on its surface.
Let there be one large crack running irregularly across
the tub, and several other large cracks on either side
joining the main one at right angles. This will give
a tolerably good idea of the Colorado plain, with the
river and its chief tributaries. The lesser cracks will
represent the crevices with which the plain is thickly

The general level of the plain seems to be quite flat,
with here and there a butte, or isolated mass of rock,
rising above the basse-terre. The appearance of the
plain, as viewed from a distance, is almost as barren and
uninteresting as the surface of the plaster-tub. A few
scattered bushes, nowhere in sufficient numbers to form
a thicket, is the only vegetable growth which can be
perceived, though, on a nearer approach, we find that
tufts of grass are growing on the plain, especially in the
shelter of the gullies. Even in the canons there is no
tree-growth worth mention. The Colorado, in fact, in
the Grand Canon, may be described as a buried river :
so deep down does it lie that the surrounding country
does not reap the least benefit from its waters.

The whole interest of this part of the country centres
in the river and its wonderful canons. These are the
deepest in the world, the most rugged, the most
picturesque, and the most remarkably coloured. The
Great Canon is a sort of double canon, or canon within a
canon. The first is as much as 10 miles wide in places,
though the width varies greatly in the 3OO-mile course,


which is about the length of the Great Canon, and its
appendages, the Marble and Black Canons.

I feel that I cannot improve on the descriptions of
these canons given in my first book, and I recommend
that the account there given should be read simul-
taneously with the supplementary notes which I now

The second canon is that of the actual course of the
river, a deep seam, often considerably more than 6000
feet deep, rising so nearly perpendicularly from the
river-bed that one can look straight down into the
water. For fully 180 miles this canon is unbroken,
though the height varies, being sometimes not more
than looo feet, while in another part it is nearly 7000.
There are places where an ascent to the plain above
can be made, but for miles and miles not even a goat
could climb up. It is appalling to look up to the dizzy
vertical heights ; it is still more appalling to stand
above and look down on the rugged pinnacles and
jagged rocks below ; yet the grandeur of the sight is
such that its very horror has a charm, and the
spectator feels that he cannot tear himself away, but
must return again and again to let his eye dwell on
the never completely surveyed details of the marvellous
gully. Every view seems fresh, for the eye always
finds some new beauty or weirdness in the millions of
rock-forms, which are as varied and intricate as the
finest lace pattern. Yet every point of the rock-masses
seems to lie below the level of the plateau r -plain above.
The river has cut down thus deep into the ground, the
edges of the cutting have been weathered into their
present fantastic and beautiful shapes that is the
impression left on my mind, and it is probably the
correct one. Not only is every kind of human


architecture represented in these rock-forms, every
kind of building or erection, as churches, cathedrals,
and fortresses, but many of the serrated masses look
like distant cities of the first class and then the colour I
4 * Vermilion Cliffs" is so far from being exaggerated
nomenclature that it would scarcely convey a sufficiently
clear idea of the brilliancy of the colour in many parts
of the canon lower down than the Vermilion Cliffs. In
some spots there are streaks of bright scarlet, and
between this and the dullest crimson every imaginable
shade of red may be found, and the effect, when the clear
rays of the setting sun (clouds are rare here in summer)
shine full upon them, is that of crimson fire. Sunset
is the time when the most remarkable and romantic
effects are produced ; if the canon is not seen at sunset,
the grandest, most awe-inspiring of all Nature's scenes
is missed. The man who takes the pains to come here,
even if a mere "doer" of sights, must have some little
liking, if not love, for the beauties of the earth ; and if
he sees one sunset in the Grand Canon, he will not be
content, he will wish to see another, and the sight will
make a lifelong impression on his mind. But if the
Virgin Nature is indeed his patron saint, he will with
difficulty tear himself from this, one of the most enchant-
ing of her many enchanted haunts.

The river itself, like the Rio Grande, is a com-
paratively puny stream. The current is swift, strong,
full of eddies and cataracts ; but the water is not deep.
The bed is often full of rocks, and the boat navigation
exceedingly dangerous ; nevertheless, canoes can run
down long reaches of it, and have done so. I do
not know that rapid and dangerous rises of its waters,
similar to that described on the Rio Grande, ever take
place. There are no such narrow and tortuous gorges


here as on the Grande, and the rocks do not indicate
any great rise, though the water certainly deepens in
the spring of the year. It is not the river, but the
terrific rocky gorge, that is the attraction on the
Colorado. Only those who have actually experienced
the sensation caused by looking up or down a practically
vertical wall \\ mile high can realise the awe it strikes
to the nerves of even the most daring of men.

Of course, it is only at certain spots that such
enormous walls close in to the river, and in most, or
indeed all, detailed accounts which I have read of
this wonderful region, there seems to be some confusion
of ideas on the part of the writers. The usual assertion
is that the higher rocks stand back several miles from
the river canon proper, and so in truth they do, in
general even as much as 10 miles in places. But in
other spots, or in one portion of the Grand Canon in
particular, they close in on the river, with the result
that what I have said above is literally correct. The
rocks may not be absolutely vertical, because, as a matter
of fact, at the spot I have in mind, there are five
distinct masses, superimposed one on the other, the
topmost pinnacle being clearly visible to a person in
the canon below ; and trusting to the eye, and certain
comparative measurements, I say with confidence that
the wall is here at least from 2000 to 2300 or 2400 yards
high about ij mile.

At the bottom end of the Grand Canon, at that part
of it known as the Black Canon, the height is not so
great, but yet this is perhaps the gloomiest part of the
gorge. The rocks here close in very close to the water,
are to all appearance quite vertical for long stretches of
the river, and are certainly not less than 500 yards high.
The lower parts of the rocks are very dark here black,


in fact, merging into a dingy dirty colour, and light
crimson at top. In places there are streaks and patches
of scarlet, light red, and deep orange. Below, on what
may be called the actual banks of the river, there is
space for men to walk or camp, but they could not
proceed far in this way. In many spots the waters
wash the sheer rocks, so that not even a mouse could
find foothold.

Two trappers are thought to have been the first
men to navigate the waters of the Grand Canon, the
Indians certainly never having braved the dangers of
its rushing current. It seems that a trapper named
James White and a young relative or connection came
into this region under the influence of the gold-fever,
in the hope of making placer discoveries. They ran a
canoe down from the upper Green River, stopping to
examine the country on either hand, and safely arrived
at a spot somewhere east of the Vermilion Cliffs, which
are near the commencement of the canon. Here the
Indians got on their track and gave them trouble ; and
finding it impossible to return or escape the arrows of
the bloodthirsty Navajos, they, in sheer desperation, and
as the last chance of escape, threw themselves on the
mercy of the fierce Colorado current, and rushed into
the awful mystery of the mightiest gorge on earth.

These men must have been of the old race of giants,
fellows with the indomitable will of gods, and the brave
indifference of those to whom it is meat and drink to
do or die. I would wager a greater stake than I dare
name that it was the iron determination to outdo and
disappoint the Indians, rather than the fear of death,
which induced this brace of heroes to face the danger of
the tremendous unknown. I know the kidney of the
breed full well, and am only sorry that it is not in my


power to give a full record of the skill and bravery that
took a frail canoe through that terrible 300 miles, and
baffled the Red wolves. A miracle was performed, for
afterwards, when some members of the Geological
Survey performed the same journey in a specially
prepared watertight boat, the Emma Dean, they had
more than one narrow escape of being dashed to pieces.
So what must have been the skill and pluck which took
a frail canoe through !

Rapids are of great frequency in many parts of the
Colorado's course, and in other places the bed is much
obstructed by rocks in midstream. Of the many
curiously-shaped, isolated rocks on the sides of the
canon I have only space to mention a few. In most
places throughout the 300 and odd miles occupied by
the Echo, Marble, Grand, Black and Pyramid Canons,
which form one unbroken gorge, the rocks on either side
are a mass of pinnacles, points, needles, and beetling
cliffs, with forms and shapes so multitudinous and various
that, as was hinted just now, the eye cannot take the
wondrous view in as a whole ; and the details are so
confusing, that it is not possible to do more on paper
than give a vague notion of them.

There are, however, a few stupendous isolated points
which stand in marked relief to the general mass of peaks
and spires. The " Pulpit Rock," for instance, near
the entrance to the Echo Canon, is a huge mass of
the "Devil's Cheese-ring" type. It is balanced on a
pedestal rock, and appears to be more than 60 feet high,
and to weigh several thousand tons. A person can walk
right round it under its overhanging mass on all sides.
It really forms a summit of a peak or hill, from which
the softer rocks seem to have weathered away on all
sides. Most peculiar forms are often the result of this

ix.] PULPIT ROCK 297

weathering. A case in point is the " Pump Rock,"
in which two sloping and projecting rocks give the
form of a pump with nozzle and handle complete. The
" Mandrake" is a similar formation : a cluster of forked
arms projecting at the top. Both these rocks are about
20 feet high, and both give indications of rapid weather-
ing away. The " Monument Rock" is an upright four-
sided column of great height and size. Although it is
supported on two sides by buttresses, it is practically
square in shape, though the top is broken and projects
on one side. I only had a distant view of it, as it
was on the opposite side of the river, which is not here
passable ; but it seemed to be several hundred feet in
height. Such formations are as plentiful as blackberries
throughout nearly the whole 2ooo-mile course of the

I know of no fordable places on the river, the
strength of the current being such that man or horse
would probably be instantly swept away ; but in the
adjoining territory of Utah, there are several established
ferries, used principally by miners, for this part of the
country is impracticable for herds : indeed it was not
without difficulty that we got the waggon through, the
number of crevices or cracks on some parts of the
plateau being so great that we constructed a sort of
portable bridge of logs and a few planks we had with us.
This enabled us to take horses and waggon over crevices
that did not exceed 6 feet in width, and thus save our-
selves many weary miles of roundabout travel.

Although the sky was nearly always cloudless, mists
were of almost nightly occurrence in the lower canon :
that is, the actual gorge of the river. These must have
arisen from the water, as there was no rain, and the
country was the most parched of any I ever saw in


North America, not even excepting the Deserts of Utah
to be presently described. These mists could not rise
above the height of the canon walls, and had, therefore,
no influence on the surrounding country. They were
often dense enough to prevent one seeing a dozen yards
ahead, and often did not disperse until the sun was
vertical at midday, at which time only its rays could reach
the bottom of the canon, in the narrowest parts. Here
the fog often hung persistently, but in a mobile state,
rolling over and along in immense greyish-coloured
clouds, sometimes rising to the top of the enclosing
rocks, then sinking and filling the lower half of the chasm,
while the sun was shining brilliantly on the pinnacles,
organ-rocks, and fortresses above, producing an extra-
ordinary effect, as if the rocks were hanging in the air.
Often, too, rainbows were formed above this mist,
reaching from side to side of the canon, as many as five
or six being sometimes visible at the same time. As we
advanced on our journey the continual looming up from
the mist of fresh rock-forms was an extraordinary sight ;
but we soon had to move inland, for there was no
crossing the side-canons which joined the Colorado : we
cannot, in every case, call them tributaries, for fully
half of them had no water in the beds at this time of
the year.

Once or twice we descended into the channels of
these dry canons, and travelled up their course. By
doing this we sometimes made good progress, though
the experiment was a dangerous one ; for if a heavy
shower had suddenly come on (and the rainfall of the
country is almost entirely made up of storm-showers)
we must have been swept away. Getting into these
canons was easy work in comparison to getting out
again. We have travelled 60 or 70 miles in a gorge


without finding a slope that a waggon and horses could
ascend. Indeed, in one canon there were sheer walls
300 to 800 feet high on either hand, which could not
have been ascended had life itself been at stake. Marks
on the vertical rocks showed that there was sometimes
30 feet of water in this gully, and the great rocks and
stones showed evident signs of sometimes being rolled
about like huge marbles. Yet we were glad to take all
risks and use this and similar channels as useful roads,
for the plateau above was a labyrinth of dangerous cracks,
of no great width in general 4 or 5 feet perhaps but
veritable death-traps to horses or unwary man. In
general these crevices were 30 or 40 feet deep, but
occasionally we came across some that were ten times
that depth. And so we entered the territory of Utah
the land of the Mormon, and of one of the strangest
religions ever invented by man.



THE precise spot where we entered Utah cannot be
indicated, for at the time the journey was made, I
had no knowledge of the limits of States in this part
of the country ; it was all " New Mexico " to me, except
in the immediate neighbourhood of the more important
settlements, and I accepted local nomenclature without
quibble. However, we crossed the border somewhere
in the south-east corner, and must have taken a wide
sweep into Colorado again, for we crossed the Grand
River well up towards the head-waters, and finally
made the passage of the Green River (as the upper
Colorado is called) somewhere about the middle of the
eastern side of Utah territory, after a search of several
days before we could find a fordable spot. The place
of crossing was in a formidable-looking canon, but
we contrived to find a way down on the one side and
up on the other, not without an accident or two ;
indeed, the previous three weeks was the roughest time
I ever experienced in any part of America, and there
was not a man in the party who had not an injury,
more or less serious, to show, nor one who had not
experienced a bad fall. Four dislocations and two
broken arms amongst my followers may serve to testify
that we had seen some roughish country in those three
weeks. My own escapes had been marvellous, but

300 *


I got off with some bad bruises and the loss of
nearly a dozen teeth knocked out in rolling down the
side of a gully. In crossing the Green Canon, I
had an even greater fall, horse and man going down
a very ugly slope at least 60 feet, yet both getting on
our pins again with very little seal hurt. This is
the more strange, as it was a comparatively slight
accident of a similar nature which spoilt my life
many years afterwards.

Needless to say, the rocks here were extremely
rugged ; and though I could perceive no particular
difference in their formation to those in North Arizona,
they seemed to be of an exceedingly slippery surface,
both waggon and riding horses frequently going down,
and half the animals broke their knees in this district
in spite of every precaution taken to prevent such

Generally the mountainous region of the east and
centre of the territory was exceedingly serrated, the
slopes covered with pine and cedar forests, and naked
peaks and rock-needles rising above the ridge of the
range. The lower elevations were more or less clothed
with broad - leaved trees of similar kinds to those
noticed in the last territory, but the variety was not
so great ; and an odd tamarack and hickory or two
seemed to indicate that we had approached the limit
of those trees in this direction, nor did we see many
oaks. But, taken as a whole, this territory can hold
no comparison as a forest country with Arizona, though
in all other respects it is a similar region. The open
plains, which all seem to be plateaus, are similar to
those of Arizona, and in the southern parts are well
provided with many different species of cacti and agave,
the Cereus gigantea covering large tracts.


Incidentally I shall mention several birds, mammals,
and other animals as they were met with, but, generally,
this seems to be a poor game country. Mile after mile
of the plain country was traversed without our meeting
anything worth a charge of powder and shot. Great
spiders of the poisonous sort, centipedes several inches
in length, and small scorpions were plentiful, and
could always be seen scuttling away before us, and,
to our disgust, were every morning shaken from our
blankets. Besides these, ants and a kind of flea gave
us no little trouble : the former inflicting wanton bites
which were painful, and the latter preventing much-
needed rest at night. Bot-flies tormented the horses
here more than usual, and other flies offended us by
crowding on any article of food which was left un-
covered for a moment. But these troubles were met
with in a greater or less degree in all the States, though
not previously mentioned.

On the plains were a few hares, keeping mostly
near the sparsely-wooded foot-hills, or in the gullies,
where there was plenty of herbage ; but on the more
arid parts there was an annoying number of prairie-
dogs, whose burrows were so numerous, and placed
so closely together, that it was often impossible to
avoid them ; and those who have had the misfortune
to be compelled to ride over a prairie-dog-infested
country will know what an intolerable nuisance they

There were wolves in the mountains, ' though, we
think, not in great numbers, and coyotes were abundant
on all the plains. These Central Western States are
indeed, it would seem, the coyote paradise. At any
rate, they are numerous in every suitable locality,
which is any open plain or prairie. I never noticed


this handsome (as I consider it) little animal, the
wild dog of North America, in the mountains, which
are the favourite haunt of the wolf ; although the latter
wandering animal will occasionally show itself on any
kind of ground, even marshy land, in spite of its
general dislike to wet localities.

I may mention that I have known the coyote to
take to strange food on occasion, though I believe
that the bulk of its food consists of small rodents (rats
and mice) and ground - dwelling birds. I have seen
them, however, eat frogs and small snakes, and on
one occasion saw a coyote seize a rattlesnake as it
issued from a hole. It at once gnawed the reptile's
head off, being evidently aware of the dangerous
character of the poison fangs, and then proceeded to
feast on the writhing body.

Rattlesnakes are unpleasantly numerous on the
Utah plains, and some of them are unusually large
nearly 7 feet long. I disturbed several when riding
among the prairie-dog colonies, by breaking into
the holes of the latter ; they hurried forth from their
underground lurking-places in angry mood, rearing
up the fore part of the body in threatening attitude,
slightly swaying the head to and fro as if uncertain
whether to deliver an attack. To save the horses
from a possible bite, I shot them down quickly,
but these creatures quiver, and sometimes wriggle
away after the head is completely shattered. The vital
part of these, and most other snakes, seems to be in the
tail. A sharp blow on that region effectually disables
them and prevents pursuit, which they will some-
times attempt when they have been provoked ; and
as they can move very quickly, it is sometimes difficult
for a man to escape, especially as a blow from a stick

3 o 4 UTAH [CHAP.

must be a heavy one if aimed at the head, for they
will fly forward and bite when the skull is broken.
A touch on the tail, however, at once paralyses the
body ; and even when the head is chopped off, a tap
on the tail will cause the body to wriggle, showing
the great sensitiveness of this organ. As to the
venomousness of the rattlesnake, there can be no
question that its bite is generally followed by death ;
but there are cases in my knowledge where persons
have not only recovered from the bite, but on some
occasions have not even experienced any pain or
discomfort beyond the temporary smart of the wound.
We passed the winter months in Utah, but the
weather was not such as to interfere with travel ; and
the amount of rain which fell during that season was so
small as scarcely to be worth mention. Perhaps this
was an exceptionally dry year ; but judging from the
appearance of the country I should think that rain is
remarkable for its scarcity at all seasons and in all years.
What little did fall invariably did so with more or less
disturbance of the atmosphere ; and as in Colorado, we
had terrific thunderstorms accompanied by comparatively
little rain ; nor could this rain have had much effect on
the arid soil, for a heavy shower was immediately

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Online LibraryPaul FountainThe eleven eaglets of the West → online text (page 22 of 27)