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Journal of Jedediah Smith: Second Expedition to California

Suffering from Thirst

The day was extremely warm and consequently we suffered much from thirst, my men more than myself, for they had not been accustomed to doing without water as much as I had. We found some relief from chewing slips of the Cabbage Pear, a singular plant which I think I have before described; very juicy although frequently found growing on the most parched and Barren ground.

My men were much discouraged, but I cheered and urged them forward as much as possible and it seemed a happy providence that lead us to the little spring in the edge of the Salt Plain, for there was nothing to denote its place and the old trail was filled up with the drifting sand. Two of the men had been obliged to stop two or three miles before we got to the spring, and although it was just night two of the men took a small kettle of water and went back, found and brought them up. After dark we proceeded on across the Salt Plain and stopt at the holes I had dug when I passed before and there remained for the rest of the night.

On the following day I moved on to inconstant River. It was still dryer than when I passed the year before. I think it reasonable to suppose that the Salt of the Plain has been formed by a deposit at different times from the overflowing of Inconstant River. The water of the river is sufficiently brackish and the country near the place where it is finally lost in the sand is sufficiently level to justify the conclusion that in some seasons of the year, when the water is most abundant, it spreads over the Plain, and as the dry season approaches the water disappears and leaves a deposit of salt which has in the course of years produced the beautiful encrustation found in the Salt Plain.

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ecology: wildlife - plants - geography: places - MAPS - roads & trails: route 66 - old west - communities - weather - glossary
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