Here to return to
FROM GREEN RIVER CITY TO FLAMING GORGE
MAY 24, 1869. — The good people of Green River City turn out to see us start. We raise our little flag, push the boats from shore, and the swift current carries us down.
Our boats are four in number. Three are built of oak; stanch and firm; double-ribbed, with double stem and stern posts, and further strengthened by bulkheads, dividing each into three compartments.
Two of these, the fore and aft, are decked, forming water-tight cabins. It is expected these will buoy the boats should the waves roll over them in rough water. The little vessels are twenty-one feet long, and, taking out the cargoes, can be carried by four men.
The fourth boat is made of pine, very light, but sixteen feet in length, with a sharp cut-water, and every way built for fast rowing, and divided into compartments as the others.
We take with us rations deemed sufficient to last ten months; for we expect, when winter comes on and the river is filled with ice, to lie over at some point until spring arrives; so we take with us abundant supplies of clothing. We have also a large quantity of ammunition and two or three dozen traps. For the purpose of building cabins, repairing boats, and meeting other exigencies, we are supplied with axes, hammers, saws, augers, and other tools, and a quantity of nails and screws. For scientific work, we have two sextants, four chronometers, a number of barometers, thermometers, compasses, and other instruments.
The flour is divided into three equal parts; the meat and all other articles of our rations in the same way. Each of the larger boats has an ax, hammer, saw, auger, and other tools, so that all are loaded alike. We distribute the cargoes in this way, that we may not be entirely destitute of some important article should any one of the boats be lost. In the small boat, we pack a part of the scientific instruments, three guns, and three small bundles of clothing only. In this, I proceed in advance, to explore the channel.
J. C. Sumner and William H. Dunn are my boatmen in the Emma Dean; 1 then follows Kitty Clyde’s Sister, manned by W. H. Powell 2 and G. Y. Bradley; next, the No Name, with O. G. Howland, Seneca Howland, and Frank Goodman; and last comes the Maid of the Cañon, with W. R. Hawkins and Andrew Hall.
Our boats are heavily loaded, and only with the utmost care is it possible to float in the rough river without shipping water.
A mile or two below town, we run on a sand-bar. The men jump into the stream, and thus lighten the vessels, so that they drift over; and on we go. In trying to avoid a rock, an oar is broken on one of the boats, and, thus crippled, she strikes. The current is swift, and she is sent reeling and rocking into the eddy. In the confusion, two others are lost overboard and the men seem quite discomfited, much to the amusement of the other members of the party.
Catching the oars and starting again, the boats are once more borne down the stream until we land at a small cottonwood grove on the bank, and camp for noon.
During the afternoon, we run down to a point where the river sweeps the foot of an overhanging cliff, and here we camp for the night. The sun is yet two hours high, so I climb the cliffs, and walk back among the strangely carved rocks of the Green River bad-lands. These are sandstones and shales, gray and buff, red and brown, blue and black strata in many alternations, lying nearly horizontal, and almost without soil and vegetation. They are very friable, and the rain and streams have carved them into quaint shapes. Barren desolation is stretched before me; and yet there is a beauty in the scene. The fantastic carving, imitating architectural forms, and suggesting rude but weird statuary, with the bright and varied colors of the rocks, conspire to make a scene such as the dweller in verdure-clad hills can scarcely appreciate.
Standing on a high point, I can look off in every direction over a vast landscape, with salient rocks and cliffs glittering in the evening sun. Dark shadows are settling in the valleys and gulches, and the heights are made higher and the depths deeper by the glamour and witchery of light and shade.
Away to the south, the Uinta Mountains stretch in a long line; high peaks thrust into the sky, and snow-fields glittering like lakes of molten silver; and pine-forests in somber green; and rosy clouds playing around the borders of huge, black masses; and heights and clouds, and mountains and snow-fields, and forests and rock-lands, are blended into one grand view. Now the sun goes down, and I return to camp.
May 25. — We start early this morning, and run along at a good rate until about nine o’clock, when we are brought up on a gravelly bar. All jump out, and help the boats over by main strength. Then a rain comes on, and river and clouds conspire to give us a thorough drenching. Wet, chilled, and tired to exhaustion, we stop at a cottonwood grove on the bank, build a huge fire, make a cup of coffee, and are soon refreshed and quite merry. When the clouds “get out of our sunshine,” we start again. A few miles farther down, a flock of mountain-sheep are seen on a cliff to the right. The boats are quietly tied up, and three or four men go after them. In the course of two or three hours, they return. The cook has been successful in bringing down a fat lamb. The unsuccessful hunters taunt him with finding it dead; but it is soon dressed, cooked, and eaten, making a fine four o’clock dinner.
“All aboard,” and down the river for another dozen miles. On the way, we pass the mouth of Black’s Fork, a dirty little stream that seems somewhat swollen. Just below its mouth, we land and camp.
May 26. — To-day, we pass several curiously-shaped buttes, standing between the west bank of the river and the high bluffs beyond. These buttes are outliers of the same beds of rocks exposed on the faces of the bluffs; thinly laminated shales and sandstones of many colors, standing above in vertical cliffs, and buttressed below with a water-carved talus; some of them attain an altitude of nearly a thousand feet above the level of the river.
We glide quietly down the placid stream past the carved cliffs of the mauvaises terres, now and then obtaining glimpses of distant mountains. Occasionally, deer are started from the glades among the willows; and several wild geese, after a chase through the water, are shot.
After dinner, we pass through a short, narrow cañon into a broad valley; from this, long, lateral valleys stretch back on either side as far as the eye can reach.
Two or three miles below, Henry’s Fork enters from the right. We land a short distance above the junction, where a cache of instruments and rations was made several months ago, in a cave at the foot of the cliff, a distance back from the river. Here it was safe from the elements and wild beasts, but not from man. Some anxiety is felt, as we have learned that a party of Indians have been camped near it for several weeks. Our fears are soon allayed, for we find it all right. Our chronometer wheels are not taken for hair ornaments; our barometer tubes, for beads; nor the sextant thrown into the river as “bad medicine,” as had been predicted.
Taking up our cache, we pass down to the foot of the Uinta Mountains, and, in a cold storm, go into camp.
The river is running to the south; the mountains have an easterly and westerly trend directly athwart its course, yet it glides on in a quiet way as if it thought a mountain range no formidable obstruction to its course. It enters the range by a flaring, brilliant, red gorge, that may be seen from the north a score of miles away.
The great mass of the mountain-ridge through which the gorge is cut is composed of bright vermilion rocks; but they are surmounted by broad bands of mottled buff and gray, and these bands come down with a gentle curve to the water’s edge on the nearer slope of the mountain.
This is the head of the first cañon we are about to explore — an introductory one to a series made by the river through this range. We name it Flaming Gorge. The cliffs or walls we find, on measurement, to be about one thousand two hundred feet high.
May 27. — To-day it rains, and we employ the time in repairing one of our barometers, which was broken on the way from New York. A new tube has to be put in; that is, a long glass tube has to be filled with mercury four or five inches at a time, and each installment boiled over a spirit-lamp. 1t is a delicate task to do this without breaking the glass; but we have success, and are ready measure the mountains once more.
May 28. — To-day we go to the summit of the cliff on the left and take observations for altitude, and are variously employed in topographic and geological work.
May 29 — This morning, Bradley and I cross the river, and climb more than a thousand feet to a point where we can see the stream sweeping in a long, beautiful curve through the gorge below. Turning and looking to the west, we can see the valley of Henry’s Fork, through which, for many miles, the little river flows in a tortuous channel. Cottonwood groves are planted here and there along its course, and between them are stretches of grass land. The narrow mountain valley is inclosed on either side by sloping walls of naked rock of many bright colors. To the south of the valley are the Uintas, and the peaks of the Wasatch Mountains can be faintly seen in the far west. To the north, desert plains, dotted here and there with curiously carved hills and buttes, extend to the limit of vision.
For many years, this valley has been the home of a number of mountaineers, who were originally hunters and trappers, living with the Indians. Most of them have one or more Indian wives. They no longer roam with the nomadic tribes in pursuit of buckskin or beaver, but have accumulated herds of cattle and horses, and consider themselves quite well-to-do. Some of them have built cabins; others still live in lodges.
John Baker is one of the most famous of these men; and, from our point of view, we can see his lodge three or four miles up the river.
The distance from Green River City to Flaming Gorge is sixty-two miles. The river runs between bluffs, in some places standing so close to each other that no flood-plain is seen. At such a point, the river might properly be said to run through a cañon. The bad-lands on either side are interrupted here and there by patches of Artemesia, or sage-brush. Where there is a flood-plain along either side of the river, a few cottonwoods may be seen._________________________
1 Mrs. Powell’s maiden name. (Ed.)
2 Capt. Walter Powell, the Major’s youngest brother. Besides the two Powells, Sumner, Bradley, and Hawkins were ex-soldiers. (Ed.)