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Journal of Jedediah Smith: First Expedition to California

Crossing the Colorado

The next day S E 15 m to the large river of which my guides had spoken. It was about 200 yards wide 73 deep and a strong current. Coming from the N N E and from this place running south it could be no other but the Colorado of the west which in the Mountains we call seetes-kee-der. Up the River the country presents a hilly Barren appearance and below and all around Barren Stony hills. In some places are a few small trees along the bank of the Colorado. The guides said it would be necessary to cross the river at this place. I there formed a raft of drift wood on which to carry over my goods. The horses were driven in and crossed over after crossing all over moved down the River a mile and enc. Where we crossed the river an Indian and his family were living. They had pumpkins squashes and Beans growing on a small spot of alluvial soil on the River bank. I purchased of the different kinds and he showed me where he had wheat sown or rather planted in the hills 20 or 30 grains in the hill. The River entering a low but rugged mountain below  I found it would be necessary to turn off from it to the left and as my guides informed me that it was more than a days travel to the next accessible point on the river between which place and this no water could be found I determined to wait until the heat of the day was over and travel as much as possible in the night. At the proper time we moved on keeping a south East course up a wide gravelly ravine the course of which was nearly parallel with the obstructing range of Mt.  At 11 or 12 o clock at night we unpacked and hobled our horses and slept untill the first appearance of light when we prepared and moved on for three hours in the direction of yesterday the Mt. then becoming lower we turned through a low place S S W and after traveling 2 hours more over terrible rocks we arrived at the river where although we found water which we verry much needed yet there was nothing for the hungry and weary horses to eat.  The indians had carried water in the bladder of an antelope which they divided with us yet it was nothing among so many. Just below camp the river again enters the rocks.

Colorado River through Black Canyon
The River entering a low but rugged mountain below I found it would be necessary to turn off from it to the left and as my guides informed me that it was more than a days travel to the next accessible point on the river between which place and this no water could be found

The next morning we started early leaving the river and traveling S E 4 or 5 miles up a ravine we got where the hills are fewer and more detached. The country of that same Barren and rough kind I have so often described. My guides had left me in the morning but I had been able to follow their tracks in the sand. The trail turning in toward the river through a range of rough hills by a narrow and deep ravin frequently obstructed by rocks I was apprehensive I would not be able to pass with my horses. As I was some distance ahead of the party and on foot I pushed on briskly to see the worst. I found some verry difficulty places but seeing no other chance for proceeding after taking a drink from the River I returned to meet the company. They had been clamberring and winding among the rocks and were now about three miles from the river. Being now night and a place before us that would require some hours to pass I had the horses unpacked and left them as they could not go back on account of the steep places we had come down.

One of the men who was so lame that he could not walk was obliged to remain while the party moved on to the river on foot. As soon as light the next day we returned and with cords lowered our goods down the precipice. where a mistep would have been in its consequences inevitable destruction.* (* It was at this place a party from Taos saw my trail.)  But fortunately we passed in safety and packing up pushed on to the river where there was a little grass for our horses. The next day I moved 10 miles down the river the hills not so bad as they had been heretofor. In the course of the day some indians met us having some dried pumpkins. finding tolerable grass I remained two days. I killed a Mt sheep and we caught some pretty good fish with the hook and line. One of my men found a singular substance Some hard and transparent pieces of stone about twice as large as a large pea were firmly fixed in the side of a flat stone. Appearance of an abundance of Iron ore are seen here. and most certainly if a country produces minerals in proportion to its barrenness this must be rich in mineral productions.

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