Here to return to
FROM ECHO PARK TO THE MOUTH OF THE UINTA RIVER
THE Yampa enters the Green from the east. At a point opposite its mouth, the Green runs to the south, at the foot of a rock, about seven hundred feet high and a mile long, and then turns sharply around it to the right, and runs back in a northerly course, parallel to its former direction, for nearly another mile, thus having the opposite sides of a long, narrow rock for its bank. The tongue of rock so formed is a peninsular precipice, with a mural escarpment along its whole course on the east, but broken down at places on the west.
On the east side of the river, opposite the rock, and below the Yampa, there is a little park, just large enough for a farm, already fenced with high walls of gray homogeneous sandstone. There are three river entrances to this park: one down the Yampa; one below, by coming up the Green; and another down the Green. There is also a land entrance down a lateral cañon. Elsewhere the park is inaccessible. Through this land-entrance by the side cañon there is a trail made by Indian hunters, who come down here in certain seasons to kill mountain sheep.
Great hollow domes are seen in the eastern side of the rock, against which the Green sweeps; willows border the river; clumps of box-elder are seen; and a few cottonwoods stand at the lower end. Standing opposite the rock, our words are repeated with startling clearness, but in a soft, mellow tone, that transforms them into magical music. Scarcely can you believe it is the echo of your own voice. In some places two or three echoes come back; in other places they, repeat themselves, passing back and forth across the river between this rock and the eastern wall.
To hear these repeated echoes well you must shout. Some of the party aver that ten or twelve repetitions can be heard. To me, they seem to rapidly diminish and merge by multiplicity, like telegraph poles on an outstretched plain. I have observed the same phenomenon once before in the cliffs near Long’s Peak, and am pleased to meet with it again.
During the afternoon, Bradley and I climb some cliffs to the north. Mountain sheep are seen above us, and they stand out on the rocks, and eye us intently, not seeming to move. Their color is much like that of the gray sandstone beneath them, and, immovable as they are, they appear like carved forms. Now a fine ram beats the rock with his front foot, and, wheeling around, they all bound away together, leaping over rocks and chasms, and climbing walls where no man can follow, and this with an ease and gracefulness most wonderful. At night we return to our camp, under the box-elders, by the river side. Here we are to spend two or three days, making a series of astronomic observations for latitude and longitude.
June 18. — We have named the long peninsular rock on the other side Echo Rock. Desiring to climb it, Bradley and I take the little boat and pull up stream as far as possible, for it cannot be climbed directly opposite. We land on a talus of rocks at the upper end, to reach a place where it seems practicable to make the ascent; but we must go still farther up the river. So we scramble along, until we reach a place where the river sweeps against the wall. Here we find a shelf, along which we can pass, and now are ready for the climb.
We start up a gulch; then pass to the left, on a bench, along the wall; then up again, over broken rocks; then we reach more benches, along which we walk, until we find more broken rocks and crevices, by which we climb still up, until we have ascended six or eight hundred feet; then we are met by a sheer precipice.
Looking about, we find a place where it seems possible to climb. I go ahead; Bradley hands the barometer to me, and follows. So we proceed, stage by stage, until we are nearly to the summit. Here, by making a spring, I gain a foothold in a little crevice, and grasp an angle of the rock overhead. I find I can get up no farther, and cannot step back, for I dare not let go with my hand, and cannot reach foot-hold below without. 1 I call to Bradley for help. He finds a way by which he can get to the top of the rock over my head, but cannot reach me. Then he looks around for some stick or limb of a tree, but finds none. Then he suggests that he had better help me with the barometer case; but I fear I cannot hold on to it. The moment is critical. Standing on my toes, my muscles begin to tremble. It is sixty or eighty feet to the foot of the precipice. If I lose my hold I shall fall to the bottom, and then perhaps roll over the bench, and tumble still farther down the cliff. At this instant it occurs to Bradley to take off his drawers, which he does, and swings them down to me. I hug close to the rock, let go with my hand, seize the dangling legs, and, with his assistance, I am enabled to gain the top.
Then we walk out on a peninsular rock, make the necessary observations for determining its altitude above camp, and return, finding an easy way down.
June 19. — To-day, Howland, Bradley, and I take the Emma Dean, and start up the Yampa River. The stream is much swollen, the current swift, and we are able to make but slow progress against it. The cañon in this part of the course of the Yampa is cut through light gray sandstone. The river is very winding, and the swifter water is usually found on the outside of the curve, sweeping against vertical cliffs, often a thousand feet high. In the center of these curves, in many places, the rock above overhangs the river. On the opposite side, the walls are broken, craggy, and sloping, and occasionally side cañons enter. When we have rowed until we are quite tired we stop, and take advantage of one of these broken places to climb out of the cañon. When above, we can look up the Yampa for a distance of several miles.
From the summit of the immediate walls of the cañon the rocks rise gently back for a distance of a mile or two, having the appearance of a valley, with an irregular, rounded sandstone floor, and in the center of the valley a deep gorge, which is the cañon. The rim of this valley on the north is from two thousand five hundred to three thousand feet above the river; on the south, it is not so high. A number of peaks stand on this northern rim, the highest of which has received the name Mount Dawes.
Late in the afternoon we descend to our boat, and return to camp in Echo Park, gliding down in twenty minutes on the rapid river a distance of four or five miles, which was only made up stream by several hours’ hard rowing in the morning.
June 20. — This morning two of the men take me up the Yampa for a short distance, and I go out to climb. Having reached the top of the cañon, I walk over long stretches of naked sandstone, crossing gulches now and then, and by noon reach the summit of Mount Dawes. From this point I can look away to the north, and see in the dim distance the Sweetwater and Wind River Mountains, more than a hundred miles away. To the northwest, the Wasatch Mountains are in view and peaks of the Uinta. To the east, I can see the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains, more than a hundred and fifty miles distant.
The air is singularly clear to-day; mountains and buttes stand in sharp outline, valleys stretch out in the perspective, and I can look down into the deep cañon gorges and see gleaming waters.
Descending, I cross a ridge near the brink Of the Cañon of Lodore, the highest point of which is nearly as high as the last mentioned mountain.
Late in the afternoon I stand on this elevated point, and discover a monument that has evidently been built by human hands. A few plants are growing in the joints between the rocks, and all are lichened over to a greater or less extent, showing evidences that the pile was built a long time ago. This line of peaks, the eastern extension of the Uinta Mountains, has received the name of Sierra Escalanti, in honor of a Spanish priest, who traveled in this region of country nearly a century ago; and, perchance, the reverend father built this monument.
Now I return to the river and discharge my gun, as a signal for the boat to come and take me down to camp. While we have been in the park, the men have succeeded in catching quite a number of fish, and we have an abundant supply. This is quite an addition to our cuisine.
June 21. — We float around the long rock, and enter another cañon. The walls are high and vertical; the cañon is narrow; and the river fills the whole space below, so that there is no landing-place at the foot of the cliff. The Green is greatly increased by the Yampa, and we now have a much larger river. All this volume of water, confined, as it is, in a narrow channel, and rushing with great velocity, is set eddying and spinning in whirlpools by projecting rocks and short curves, and the waters waltz their way through the cañon, making their own rippling, rushing, roaring music. The cañon is much narrower than any we have seen. With difficulty we manage our boats. They spin about from side to side, and we know not where we are going, and find it impossible to keep them headed down the stream. At first, this causes us great alarm, but we soon find there is but little danger, and that there is a general movement of progression down the river, to which this whirling is but an adjunct; and it is the merry mood of the river to dance through this deep, dark gorge; and right gaily do we join in the sport.
Soon our revel is interrupted by a cataract; its roaring command is heeded by all our power at the oars, and we pull against the whirling current. The Emma Dean is brought up against a cliff, about fifty feet above the brink of the fall. By vigorously plying the oars on the side opposite the wall, as if to pull up stream, we can hold her against the rock. The boats behind are signaled to land where they can. The Maid of the Cañon is pulled to the left wall, and, by constant rowing, they can hold her also. The Sister is run into an alcove on the right, where an eddy is in a dance, and in this she joins. Now my little boat is held against the wall only by the utmost exertion, and it is impossible to make headway against the current. On examination, I find a horizontal crevice in the rock, about ten feet above the water, and a boat’s length below us, so we let her down to that point. One of the men clambers into the crevice, in which he can just crawl; we toss him the line, which he makes fast in the rocks, and now our boat is tied up. Then I follow into the crevice, and we crawl along a distance of fifty feet, or more, up stream, and find a broken place, where we can climb about fifty feet higher. Here we stand on a shelf, that passes along down stream to a point above the falls, where it is broken down, and a pile of rocks, over which we can descend to the river, is lying against the foot of the cliff.
It has been mentioned that one of the boats is on the other side. I signal for the men to pull her up alongside of the wall, but it cannot be done; then to cross. This they do, gaining the wall on our side just above where the Emma Dean is tied.
The third boat is out of sight, whirling in the eddy of a recess. Looking about, I find another horizontal crevice, along which I crawl to a point just over the water, where this boat is lying, and, calling loud and long, I finally succeed in making the crew understand that I want them to bring the boat down, hugging the wall. This they accomplish, by taking advantage of every crevice and knob on the face of the cliff, so that we have the three boats together at a point a few yards above the falls. Now, by passing a line up on the shelf, the boats can be let down to the broken rocks below. This we do, and, making a short portage, our troubles here are over.
Below the falls, the cañon is wider, and there is more or less space between the river and the walls; but the stream, though wide, is rapid, and rolls at a fearful rate among the rocks. We proceed with great caution, and run the large boats altogether by signal.
At night we camp at the mouth of a small creek, which affords us a good supper of trout. In camp, to-night, we discuss the propriety of several different names for this cañon. At the falls, encountered at noon, its characteristics change suddenly. Above, it is very narrow, and the walls are almost vertical; below, the cañon is much wider, and more flaring; and, high up on the sides, crags, pinnacles, and towers are seen. A number of wild, narrow side canons enter, and the walls are much broken. After many suggestions, our choice rests between two names, Whirlpool Cañon and Craggy Cañon, neither of which is strictly appropriate for both parts of it; but we leave the discussion at this point, with the understanding that it is best, before finally deciding on a name, to wait until we see what the cañon is below.
June 22. — Still making short portages and letting down with lines. While we are waiting for dinner to-day, I climb a point that gives me a good view of the river for two or three miles below, and I think we can make a long run. After dinner, we start; the large boats are to follow in fifteen minutes, and look out for the signal to land. Into the middle of the stream we row, and down the rapid river we glide, only making strokes enough with the oars to guide the boat. What a headlong ride it is! shooting past rocks and islands! I am soon filled with exhilaration only experienced before in riding a fleet horse over the outstretched prairie. One, two, three, four miles we go, rearing and plunging with the waves, until we wheel to the right into a beautiful park, and land on an island, where we go into camp.
An hour or two before sunset, I cross to the mainland, and climb a point of rocks where I can overlook the park and its surroundings. On the east it is bounded by a high mountain ridge. A semicircle of naked hills bounds it on the north, west, and south. The broad, deep river meanders through the park, interrupted by many wooded islands; so I name it Island Park, and decide to call the cañon above Whirlpool Cañon.
June 23. — We remain in camp to-day to repair our boats, which have had hard knocks, and are leaking. Two of the men go out with the barometer to climb the cliff at the foot of Whirlpool Cañon and measure the walls; another goes on the mountain to hunt; and Bradley and I spend the day among the rocks, studying an interesting geological fold and collecting fossils. Late in the afternoon, the hunter returns, and brings with him a fine, fat deer, so we give his name to the mountain — Mount Hawkins. Just before night we move camp to the lower end of the park, floating down the river about four miles.
June 24. — Bradley and I start early to climb the mountain ridge to the east; find its summit to be nearly three thousand feet above camp, and it has required some labor to scale it; but on its top, what a view! There is a long spur running out from the Uinta Mountains toward the south, and the river runs lengthwise through it. Corning down Lodore and Whirlpool Canons, we cut through the southern slope of the Uinta Mountains; and the lower end of this latter cañon runs into the spur, but, instead of splitting it the whole length, the river wheels to the right at the foot of Whirlpool Cañon, in a great curve to the northwest, through Island Park. At the lower end of the park, the river turns again to the southeast, and cuts into the mountain to its center, and then makes a detour to the southwest, splitting the mountain ridge for a distance of six miles nearly to its foot, and then turns out of it to the left. All this we can see where we stand on the summit of Mount Hawkins, and so we name the gorge below Split Mountain Cañon.
We are standing three thousand feet above its waters, which are troubled with billows, and white with foam. Its walls are set with crags and peaks, and buttressed towers, and overhanging domes. Turning to the right, the park is below us, with its island groves reflected by the deep, quiet waters. Rich meadows stretch out on either hand, to the verge of a sloping plain, that comes down from the distant mountains. These plains are of almost naked rock, in strange contrast to the meadows; blue and lilac colored rocks, buff and pink, vermilion and brown, and all these colors clear and bright. A dozen little creeks, dry the greater part of the year, run down through the half circle of exposed formations, radiating from the island-center to the rim of the basin. Each creek has its system of side streams, and each side stream has its system of laterals, and, again, these are divided, so that this outstretched slope of rock is elaborately embossed. Beds of different colored formations run in parallel bands on either side. The perspective, modified by the undulations, gives the bands a waved appearance, and the high colors gleam in the midday sun with the luster of satin. We are tempted to call this Rainbow Park. Away beyond these beds are the Uinta and Wasatch Mountains, with their pine forests and snow fields and naked peaks. Now we turn to the right, and look up Whirlpool Cañon, a deep gorge, with a river in the bottom — a gloomy chasm, where mad waves roar; but, at this distance and altitude, the river is but a rippling brook, and the chasm a narrow cleft. The top of the mountain on which we stand is a broad, grassy table, and a herd of deer is feeding in the distance. Walking over to the southeast, we look down into the valley of White River, and beyond that see the far distant Rocky Mountains, in mellow, perspective haze, through which snow fields shine.
June 25. — This morning, we enter Split Mountain Cañon, sailing in through a broad, flaring, brilliant gateway. We run two or three rapids after they have been carefully examined. Then we have a series of six or eight, over which we are compelled to pass by letting the boats down with lines. This occupies the entire day, and we camp at night at the mouth of a great cave.
The cave is at the foot of one of these rapids, and the waves dash in nearly to its very end. We can pass along a little shelf at the side until we reach the back part. Swallows have built their nests in the ceiling, and they wheel in, chattering and scolding at our intrusion; but their clamor is almost drowned by the noise of the waters. Looking out of the cave, we can see, far up the river, a line of crags standing sentinel on either side, and Mount Hawkins in the distance.
June 26. — The forenoon is spent in getting our large boats over the rapids. This afternoon, we find three falls in close succession. We carry our rations over the rocks, and let our boats shoot over the falls, checking and bringing them to land with lines in the eddies below. At three o’clock we are all aboard again. Down the river we are carried by the swift waters at great speed, sheering around a rock now and then with a timely stroke or two of the oars. At one point, the river turns from left to right, in a direction at right angles to the cañon, in a long chute, and strikes the right, where its waters are heaped up in great billows, that tumble back in breakers. We glide into the chute before we see the danger, and it is too late to stop. Two or three hard strokes are given on the right, and we pause for an instant, expecting to be dashed against the rock. The bow of the boat leaps high on a great wave; the rebounding waters hurl us back, and the peril is past. The next moment, the other boats are hurriedly signaled to land on the left. Accomplishing this, the men walk along the shore, holding the boats near the bank, and let them drift around. Starting again, we soon debouch into a beautiful valley, and glide down its length for ten miles, and camp under a grand old cottonwood. This is evidently a frequent resort for Indians. Tent poles are lying about, and the dead embers of late camp fires are seen. On the plains, to the left, antelope are feeding. Now and then a wolf is seen, and after dark they make the air resound with their howling.
June 27. — Now our way is along a gently flowing river, beset with many islands; groves are seen on either side, and natural meadows, where herds of antelope are feeding. Here and there we have views of the distant mountains on the right.
During the afternoon, we make a long detour to the west, and return again, to a point not more than half a mile from where we started at noon, and here we camp, for the night, under a high bluff.
June 28. — To-day, the scenery on either side of the river is much the same as that of yesterday, except that two or three lakes are discovered, lying in the valley to the west. After dinner, we run but a few minutes, when we discover the mouth of the Uinta, a river coming in from the west. Up the valley of this stream, about forty miles, the reservation of the Uinta Indians is situated. We propose to go there, and see if we can replenish our mess kit, and, perhaps, send letters to friends. We also desire to establish an astronomic station here; and hence this will be our stopping place for several days.
Some years ago, Captain Berthoud surveyed a stage route from Salt Lake City to Denver, and this is the place where he crossed the Green River. His party was encamped here for some time, constructing a ferry boat and opening a road.
A little above the mouth of the Uinta, on the west side of the Green, there is a lake of several thousand acres. We carry our boat across the divide between this and the river, have a row on its quiet waters, and succeed in shooting several ducks.
June 29. — A mile and three quarters from here is the junction of the White River with the Green. The White has its source far to the east, in the Rocky Mountains. This morning, I cross the Green, and go over into the valley of the White, and extend my walk several miles along its winding way, until, at last, I come in sight of some strangely carved rocks, named by General Hughes, in his journal, “Goblin City.” Our last winter’s camp was situated a hundred miles above the point reached to-day. The course of the river, for much of the distance, is through cañons; but, at some places, valleys are found. Excepting these little valleys, the region is one of great desolation: arid, almost treeless, bluffs, hills, ledges of rock, and drifting sands. Along the course of the Green, however, from the foot of Split Mountain Cañon to a point some distance below the mouth of the Uinta, there are many groves of cottonwood, natural meadows, and rich lands. This arable belt extends some distance up the White River, on the east, and the Uinta, on the west, and the time must soon come when settlers will penetrate this country, and make homes.
June 30. — We have a row up the Uinta to-day, but are not able to make much headway against the swift current, and hence conclude we must walk all the way to the agency.
July 1. — Two days have been employed in obtaining the local time, taking observations for latitude and longitude, and making excursions into the adjacent country. This morning, with two of the men, I start for the Agency. It is a toilsome walk, twenty miles of the distance being across a sand desert. Occasionally, we have to wade the river, crossing it back and forth. Toward evening, we cross several beautiful streams, which are tributaries of the Uinta, and we pass through pine groves and meadows, arriving just at dusk at the Reservation. Captain Dodds, the agent, is away, having gone to Salt Lake City, but his assistants received us very kindly. It is rather pleasant to see a house once more, and some evidences of civilization, even if it is on an Indian reservation, several days’ ride from the nearest home of the white man.
July 2. — I go, this morning, to visit Tsaú-wi-at. This old chief is but the wreck of a man, and no longer has influence. Looking at him, you can scarcely realize that he is a man. His skin is shrunken, wrinkled, and dry, and seems to cover no more than a form of bones. He is said to be more than a hundred years old. I talk a little with him, but his conversation is incoherent, though he seems to take pride in showing me some medals, that must have been given him many years ago. He has a pipe which, he says, he has used a long time. I offer to exchange with him, and he seems to be glad to accept; so I add another to my collection of pipes. His wife, “The Bishop,” as she is called, is a very garrulous old woman; she exerts a great influence, and is much revered. She is the only Indian woman I have known to occupy a place in the council ring. She seems very much younger than her husband, and, though wrinkled and ugly, is still vigorous. She has much to say to me concerning the condition of the people, and seems very anxious that they should learn to cultivate the soil, own farms, and live like white men. After talking a couple of hours with these old people, I go to see the farms. They are situated in a very beautiful district, where many fine streams of water meander across alluvial plains and meadows. These creeks have quite a fall, and it is very easy to take their waters out above, and, with them, overflow the lands.
It will be remembered that irrigation is necessary, in this dry climate, to successful farming. Quite a number of Indians have each a patch of ground, of two or three acres, on which they are raising wheat, potatoes, turnips, pumpkins, melons, and other vegetables. Most of the crops are looking well, and it is rather surprising with what pride they show us that they are able to cultivate crops like white men. They are still occupying lodges, and refuse to build houses, assigning as a reason that when any one dies in a lodge it is always abandoned, and very often burned with all the effects of the deceased, and when houses have been built for them they have been treated in the same way. With their unclean habits, a fixed residence would doubtless be no pleasant place. This beautiful valley has been the home of a people of a higher grade of civilization than the present Utes. Evidences of this are quite abundant; on our way here yesterday we discovered, in many places along the trail, fragments of pottery; and wandering about the little farms to-day, I find the foundations of ancient houses, and mealing stones that were not used by nomadic people, as they are too heavy to be transported by such tribes, and are deeply worn. The Indians, seeing that I am interested in these matters, take pains to show me several other places where these evidences remain, and tell me that they know nothing about the people who formerly dwelt here. They further tell me that up in the cañon the rocks are covered with pictures.
July 5. — The last two days have been spent in studying the language of the Indians, and making collections of articles illustrating the state of arts among them.
Frank Goodman informs me, this morning, that he has concluded not to go on with the party, saying that he has seen danger enough. It will be remembered that he was one of the crew on the No Name when she was wrecked. As our boats are rather heavily loaded, I am content that he should leave, although he has been a faithful man.
We start early on our return to the boats, taking horses with us from the reservation, and two Indians, who are to bring the animals back.
Whirlpool Cañon is fourteen and a quarter miles in length, the walls varying from one thousand eight hundred to two thousand four hundred feet in height. The course of the river through Island Park is nine miles. Split Mountain Cañon is eight miles long. The highest crags on its walls reach an altitude above the river of from two thousand five hundred to two thousand seven hundred feet. In these cañons, cedars only are found on the walls.
The distance by river from the foot of Split Mountain Cañon to the mouth of the Uinta is sixty-seven miles. The valley through which it runs is the home of many antelope, and we have adopted the Indian name, Won’-sits Yu-av — Antelope Valley.
1 Major Powell had only one arm. (Ed.).