Digital-Desert : Mojave Desert Visit us on Facebook -- Desert Gazette -- Desert Link
Introduction:: Nature:: Map:: Points of Interest:: Roads & Trails:: People & History:: Ghosts & Gold:: Communities:: BLOG:: :?:: glossary
Colorado River - Ives Expedition
Lt. Joseph Christmas Ives

Report upon the Colorado river of the West
(Excerpts from: Report upon the Colorado river of the West )



Camp 12, Yuma shoals, January 11. ~ It was the intention this morning to make an early start; but the last preparations, as usual, consumed several hours of time, and it was nearly 11 when all of our party were collected at the wharf, everything put aboard, and steam gotten up. Our friends at the garrison came down to see us oflF, and the sides of the bluflf were lined with Indians ~ men, women, and children assembled to witness our departure, and, in spite of their distrust, delighted to have something to see and talk about. The urgent request of Lieutenant Winder to the chief had not failed of its effect, and the latter engaged (though reluctantly) that two Indians should accompany us an old Diegeno, by the name of Mariano, and a young chief who had signalized himself by escaping unhurt from a recent memorable conflict with the Pimas and Maricopas, and whom it pleased to be called the 'Capitan.'' With an eye to theatrical effect, not at all uncommon with their race, my two recruits delayed making their appearance till the latest moment. We had bidden our friends good-bye, the plank was about to be hauled in, and I had begun to believe that the chief had played us a trick, when they came stalking

The Pimas and Maricopas live upon the Gila, one or two hundred miles above its mouth. They are peaceable, quietly- disposed Indians, and subsist principally upon the products they derive from cultivating the soil. They have always been friendly to whites, but, from the time of the earliest records, bitter foes to the Yumas and Mojaves, who have been disposed to regard them with contempt, as an inferior race.

In the year 1856 the principal chief of the Yumas became mortally ill. Upon his death-bed he charged his tribe not to be remiss in hunting down their hated enemies, and prophesied that if they would, during the following year, organize an expedition against them, it would result in the latter's complete overthrow.

After the chief's death the Yumas, regarding with superstitious reverence his dying injunctions, prepared for a secret attack upon the Pimas and Maricopas villages. They notified the Mojaves of their intention, and a large number of picked Mojave warriors united themselves to the party. The intended victims of the enterprise had meanwhile~ through the offices, as is supposed, of the Cocopas got wind of the meditated attack, and not only mustered the whole of their own force to repel it, but obtained assistance from the Papagos a warlike tribe living within the province of Sonora.

It was in the month of September, 1857, that the invading force, numbering between one hundred and one hundred and fifty of the most distinguished Yuma and Mojave warriors, set out for the Pimas villages, under the guidance of a prominent and ambitious Yuma chief. They had no suspicion that their movement was anticipated, and the unprotected appearance of the first village they entered convinced them that they had been succesnful in effecting an entire surprise. The few inhabitants that were sauntering about fled in apparent terror, and were hotly pursued. The attacking party followed them beyond the entrance of a small cafion, where they suddenly found themselves surrounded by an overpowering force. They attempted to fly, but finding that impossible, fought bravely to the last. The advantages of position and numbers were, however, altogether against them, and rendered resistance hopeless. The contest lasted less than an hour. Out of the whole number of assailants only three or four escaped to carry to these tribes the bitter tale of the discomfiture.

The moral effect of the defeat will long be felt. The very name of a Pima or Maricopa now inspires the Yumas and Mojaves with chagrin and dread.


along, and entering the boat, seated themselves on the rail with an air of indifference that did not altogether conceal that they thought they were embarked in a rather doubtful enterprise. Their friends on the shore, being out of the scrape themselves, were naturally delighted at seeing others in it. The men grinned, and the women and children shouted with laughter, which was responded to by a scream from the Explorer's whistle; and in the midst of the uproar the line was cast off, the engine put in motion, and, gliding away from the wharf, we soon passed through the gorge abreast of the fort and emerged into (he open valley above.

Fig 1.~ Yiinia Slioali.

The river here spread out over a wide surface, and was, ol course, shallow and full of bars and snags. The channel became at each moment more difficult to find, and when we hiid made but two miles we were brought to a dead stop by a bar. An anchor was put out ahead; but the bed being quicksand, it would not hold. It was necessary to lighten the boat, and finally most of the men got overboard, and having thus further diminished the draught, succeeded, after four hours and a half of hard labor, in forcing the steamer into the deeper water beyond the bar, Tlte delay would have been less annoying if it had occurred a little higher up. We were in plain eight of the fort, and knew that this sudden check to our progress was affording an evening of great entertainment to those in and nut of the garrison. As it was nearly dark when the bar was passed, after proceeding a mile we stopped at a point where there was wood, and went into camp.

Camp 13, Explorer's Pass, January 12. ~ A mile and a half of difficult navigation brought us to the end of the Tuma shoals. For ten miles the valley was then traversed without interruption, and at the head of a southeast bend, where the river again turned to the north, we reached the first of several ranges of low purple hills that cross the Colorado with a northwest and southeast trend. The pass through this range was not visible till we were almost at its mouth.

It was quite narrow, and soon after entering it we lost eight of tl ) valley above the fort, and felt for the first time that we were in a new part of the river. The bills are but a few hundred feet in height, and the scenery, tliongh picturesque, by no means grand; but it presents an agreeable change to the broad monotonous flats which we have been surveying for so many weeks. At tlie bend below the pass, which we call after our little steamboat, the Explorer's Pass, is the first grass camp yet seen on the river. Some rude Indian huts were standing near by, and scattered over the meadow were quite a number of mules and cattle grazing. Above the gnp a pleasant valley extends two or three miles to the north. The river crosses it in several channels, in neither of which was there much water, and, after heaving over the first bar, we camped at dark in a little grove on the west bank.

Hg. a.~ Explorot'B Paas.

A Yuma runner from the fort overtook us this morning, bringing the mail that arrived from San Diego last night. I quite astonished him by the munificence of the reward I gave him for what he thought a small service. I am in hopes that this encouragement may induce them to continue to act as mail carriers as long as we are upon the river.

Camp 16, Oanebrake canon, January )5. ~ Seven miles from Explorer's Pass another range of the Purple Hills crosses the river, forming almost a canon. To the south is a long bend, and the banks of the stream for the first time exhibit no appearance of having been recently formed or washed away, but are lined for some distance with a thick growth of tall reeds that hang over and dip into the water. The view from below of the even and sparkling belt of the river, clearly defined by its yellow frioge, and gradually disappearing in the windings of the pass, is exceedingly picturesque. In the Purple Hill Pass the scenery becomes wilder, and the variety of colors assumed by the rocks adds to its beauty.


Passing another basin, and a third and smaller range, we emerged from the Purple Hills find came in sight of an immense valley stretching far to the northwest and southeast, flanked beyond hy the lofty summits of the Dome Rock range. The river swept around to the west, and soon entered a gorge or ca5on more rugged and precipitous than any yet traversed. The overhanging rocks presented combinations of colors still more unusual and striking than those below, and at intervals would recede from and again approach to the brink of the water. On either side was a border of canes. The stream was open and unobstructed, and better deserved the name of a river than any part of it wo had navigated since leaving Fort Yuma.

Just before reaching our present camp, which is a little more than 20 miles from Explorer' s Piisa, a sudden turn brought Chimney Peak full in view. Its turretted pinnacles towered directly in front, and almost eeetned to block up the head of the caSon. The vista was beautiful, and the channel looked promising. There was a fine head of steam on, and we anticipated making at least ten miles before dark, when one ot the rudder stocks broke. We were obliged to haul up to the bank to make a new one, and darkness came on before this was accomplished.

The country through which we have passed is quito destitute of vegetation. Close to the river is an occasional growth of mczquite, cottonwood, or willow, which furnishes abundant materials for fuel; but the hills are bare, and the gravelly beds of the valleys sustain only desert shrubs. There are many varieties of cactus, among which the fluted columns of the cere'is gigantcus [Carnegiea gigantea] stand in conspicuous relief.

In the rocks which compose the Purple Hills, Dr. Newberry has discovered the presence of gold, iron, and lead. Veins of copper and argentiferous galena have been already worked, and with prospects of successful returns.



Camp 18, Oreat Colorado valley, January 17, ~ Provided with a new rudder we started yes- terday from camp in the Canebrake cafion, with an open looking atretch of water ahead that gave encouragement of a good day's run. We soon discovered that, as regards the navigation of the Colorado, no dependence can be placed upon appearance, for after proceeding two hundred yards the boat grounded upon a bar with such force .that it took nearly two hours to get her off. After this we pursued our way through the canon without difficulty. At a bend two miles above the head of the cafion, the river makes rapidly against and around the base of a massive perpendicular rock 100 feet high. The water appeared to be whirling and eddying at an unusual rate, and we discovered that the Explorer was making no headway, being just able to hold her own against the current. There was not a great deal of steam on, so Captain Robinson headed towards the bank, which fortunately presented an abrupt face, and when

Fig *.~ Purple Hill Pam,

near enough the men sprang ashore with a tow line, and pulled us along for one or two hundred hundred yards, when the current resumed its accustomed flow. A short distance north of the rapid several high rocks, arranged in a circular form, occupy the centre of the stream, leaving a narrow channel on either side. A swift current and some isolated rocks above made the passage dangerous, and we were somewhat startled, joet as we thonght it safely accomplished, by striking rather heavily upon a sunken rock, but fortunately without sustaining any damage. Looking back the rocks seemed to completely block the river, and the place appeared much more formidable than from below. From the entrance to Canebrake canon we had been pursuing a due westerly course, but now the river turned again to the north, winding between gravel bluffs that form a portion of the mesa which here extends to the water's edge. Passing out from these we noticed a short distance westward a cluster of slender and graceful spires surrounding a spur that runs


out from Chimney Peak, and appears to form a part of the Purple Hills. North of these, rendered conspicuous by lines of serrated peaks, is a range of chocolate colored mountains, from which the river emerges through a gate formed by a huge crag of vivid red rock.

Fig. 5. Red Rock Gate.

While turning a bend, a little while after passing the gate, we suddenly noticed upon the summit of a little hill on the left bank a ludicrous resemblance to a sleeping figure. The outlines tind proportions were startlingly faithful, and the following sketch, hurriedly taken as the steamer passed, scarcely gives a true idea, and certainly not an exaggerated one, of the accuracy of the likeness which presented itself from different positions for nearly a mile.

This portion of the river assumes almost the character of a canon, and the navigation was attended with some risk to us who knew nothing of the obstacles that were ahead. In one of the bends too sharp rocky points extended from the banks, and another point jutted out midway from the opposite side. The channel glanced by all three, and a lone rock near the middle of the stream embarrassed the passage. Not far above a circular pinnacle of rock, which at a distance resembles a light-house, blocks the centre of the river, leaving a very narrow but fortunately unobstructed channel. A short hazardous pass followed. At its northern entrance are high cliffs of porphyry, through which the Colorado breaks into the range below. Passing these solid portals, we issued from the Chocolate mountains into the great valley that was noticed after leaving the Purple Hills.

For the first time since entering the Explorer's Pass, we are in the desert region, and the river looks very much as it did immediately above Fort Yuma, dissipating any hopes we might have entertained of finding the navigation improve with the ascent. The surface was so spread out, and the sand bars and snags so numerous, that I was a little apprehensive of having reached a premature head of navigation, but one or two miles were accomplished without any trouble before reaching camp.


The BDEigs we bave seen are productive of inconvenience, but of little danger, not being heavy or rigid enough to penetrate the bottom of the boat. Not a great many rocks have been passed, though enough to make it evident that they may at any time be encountered. The low stage of the river permits os to fix the position of those that would be dangerous at

Fig. B.~ Sloeper'g Bend.

other seasons. The water ia perfectly opaque, but the rapid current occasions a ripple upon the surface, which, when the atmosphere is still, distinctly marks the presence of either a sunken rock or snag, and enables it to be avoided. If the wind is blowing, and the surface is agitated, the ripple of course is not perceptible; and when this is the case, while passing a suspicious looking locality, we proceed very slowly and uncomfort^ably till the danger is over. While the boat ia in motion a man is stationed at the bow with a sounding pole, and constantly calls ont the depth of the water and the character of the bottom. This is not so much for the benefit of the pilot as to gratify the anxious curiosity of the passengers, and to enable Mr. Bielauski and Mr. Egloffstein, who sit on the wheel-house with their note-books delineating the river and the surrounding country, to keep an accurate record. Captain Robinson, for his part, is able, as a general rule, to predict exactly when the water will shoal or deepen, and to select, with unerring accuracy, from a labyrinth of channels, the most practicable. His success in avoiding difficulties is not greater than the fertility of resource he displays in extri- cating us from them, and if the ascent of the river is accomplished, it will be due to his skill and good management. The labor attending the crossing of a bar, carrying out the anchors and lines, heaving upon the windlass, handling the boat poles, and lightening the boat of the cargo by carrying it ashore in the skiifs, is by no means small; and to enable the men to undergo it with less fatigue, they are dividisd into two gangs or watches, which alternately work and rest for a day. The working party remains near the bow, and the others distribute themselves


as they best can over the limited accommodations afforded by the wood piles on either side of the boiler, what little space is left about the boiler, when the luggage is all aboard, is taken up by the fireman and by Mr, Carroll. The latter is incessantly occupied in responding to the hails of the pilot from the deck overhead to go slower or faster, or to stop, or to back, or to go ahead, and thinks the Colorado the queerest river to run a steamboat upon that he has ever met with in his experience as an engineer.

Fig. T,~ Light-hoDM Rock.

Very few Indians have been seen. In the rough and mountainous region that we have traversed they were not likely to be encountered, their villages being confined altogether to the alluvial bottoms. In the valley which we have now entered they will doubtless reappear. Every form of vitality is rare. The scarcity of vegetation has been alluded to; of fisli, but a single one ~ and that a poor variety ~ has been caught; and game is seldom met with. An occasional flock of ducks or geese is observed flying past, and this morning a dozen mountain sheep ("big horns") were seen scampering over a gravel hill near Light-house Rock, but not within shot from the bank of the river.

At this time of year few reptiles and insects are about; and Mr. Mollhausen finds it hard to make additions to his zoological collections. Dr. Newberry, who is now quite restored to health, has found a more productive field of labor. The mineral wealth of the country some- what atones for its animal and vegetable poverty, and in a geological point of view possBSBes a high degree of interest. The steamboat affords facilities for transportation not ordinarily enjoyed by exploring parties nor scientiBc collectors, and the doctor hiis already laid in a large assortment of specimens. The mountains passed to-day ~ Chimney Peak, the Spires, and the Chocolate range ~ have exhibited a rare diversity of outline, colors, and tints; and the brilliancy of the atmosphere heightens the effect of every shade and line. The weather, since


leaving Fort Yuma, has been uniformly pleasant; the nights are becoming sensibly colder, but the days are still warm and delightful.

Mariano and the Capitan have made themselves quite at home in our party, and even evince some interest in our fortunes and progress. They sit all day on a particular portion of the rail, qqiet. observers of what is going on. The many mishaps and detentions on the bars must give them a low opinion of our skill in navigation; but they are too polite to show it, and when the boat grounds upon a bar will remain by the hoar immovable, without manifesting the least impatience, till she is again afloat. When we make a landing to take in wood they instantly disappear, and refresh themselves with the absence of civilization until the whistle signals that it is time to start; and similarly at night, after receiving their rations, they go oflf to a distance, out of sight of our roaring camp-fires, and cook their food over a few smouldering embers, in the most quiet and secluded nook that they can find. Each has been presented with a pair of blankets, and these, with full and regular rations, doubtless do much to reconcile them to their involuntary trip.

Camp 24, Half -way mountain^ January 23. ~ Since leaving the Chocol|ite mountains we have travelled sixty -five miles, and are still in the Great Colorado valley, entered at Porphyry Gate. The character of the river has been similar to that below Fort Yuma; but the navigation has proved easier than was anticipated. The water has been frequently divided into several chan- nels, or spread over a wide surface, and filled with snags; but several of the most unfavorable looking places have aflForded a clear and unobstructed passage. Bars, as usual, have been of constant occurrence, and at a place named the Dismal Flats, ten miles north of Camp 18, the obstacles were numerous, and we experienced a long detention, but got through at last without any worse, adventure than the loss of a rudder and some dents made in the wrought-Iron hull by thumps from snags. A few miles above the flats a little stream ~ Carroll's creek ~ comes in from the west. Through the whole of the Colorado valley the course of the river has been circuitous, and in the bends, along the concave banks, the channel is almost always good.

The greater part of the valley is a desert plain, a hundred feet or more above the river, limited by clay and gravel blufis that often abut close upon the edge of the water and form little canons. There is a good deal of bottom land, and some of it is fertile; but much of it, as I am informed by Dr. Newberry, is so charged with alkali as to be unproductive.

The Yumas cultivate the better portions, which are watered during the summer overflow. A well-conducted system of irrigation would wash out the salt from the Roil and increase the amount of productive land.

Fifteen or twenty miles above Porphyry Gate we came in sight of some high mountains on the west bank of the river. Mariano informed me that these were half-way between the fort and the Mojave villages. Our present camp is near their southern base; they do not cross the river, but are skirted by it for many miles. Two or three short and low ranges intervene between the Half-way mountains and the foot of the valley, which otherwise extends unbroken southward to the base of the Chocolate mountains, and west to the parallel chains that form the Dome Rock range.

The Yumas have been constantly encountered since we have been in this valley. They collect in knots upon the banks to watch us pass, and their appearance is invariably the pre- cursor of trouble. Whether their villages are near places where the river is most easily forded, or whether they select for points of view the spots where they know we will meet with detention, we cannot tell; but the coincidence between their presence and a bad bar is so unfailing that Mr. Carroll considers it a sufficient reason to slow down the engine when he sees them collected upon the bank. Their fields and villages have not been seen from the river; for wherever there is much bottom land there is a thick growth of trees near the water, that intercepts the view of the country beyond. Large numbers of these trees are dead and sun- dried, and furnish excellent fuel.


The Yumas present a sorry appearance. Many of them, if left in their natural state, would be fine looking; but for everything that resembles clothing they have a passion, and a tall warrior, with a figure like an Apollo, will strut along in a dilapidated hat and a ragged jacket or pair of trowsers, made for a man two or three sizes smaller, and think that he is amazingly beautified by his toilet, A knot of them gathered together exhibits a ludicrous variety of tawdry colors and dirty finery- Mariano and the Capitan, when we entered the valley, asked permission to go and spend a day or two with their friends, promising to overtake the boat above. It would have been useless to decline giving what they could at any time with perfect ease take; and I told them they could go, with little expectation that they would ever return. Mariano came back, however, yesterday, and Capitau this morning. The former brought along an urchin whom he introduced as his son, and requested me to furnish with some white cotton. As to the first part of his statement, I concluded, from the boy's features and complexion, that either Mariano was trying to impose upon me, or had himself been grossly imposed upon; but the white cotton, or "manta, " as the Indians call it, was provided, to the great satisfaction of the young gentle- man in question.

Fig, 6. ~ lUvereldG Moimltunt.

The Capitan has late news, through some of his friends, from tho Mojaves, and informs me that the chiefs are anxiously expecting our arrival; are disposed to be friendly, and intend to visit as in state as we approach their territory. He states also that two or three white men have been among them lately for some time, which is confirmatory of what we heard below,

A small party belonging to a tribe called the Chemehuevis came into camp this evening. They live in the valley adjoining that which we are now traversing, but are altogether different in appearance and character from the other Colorado Indians, They have small figures, and


Bome of them delicate, nicely-cut features, with little of the Indian pbysic^nomy. Unlike tlieir neighbors ~ who, though warlike, are domestic, and seldom leave their own valleys ~ the Gbemebueris are a wandering race, and travel great distances on hunting and predatory excur- sions. They wear sandala and hunting shirts of buckskin, and carry tastefully-made quivers of the same material. They are notorious rogues, and have a peculiar cunning, elfish expres- sion, which is a sufficient certificate of their rascality. One of them tried to cheat me while fulfilling a bargain for a deerskin; but I detected him at it, and, in spite of his denial, proved the fraud upon him. Ho was highly amused at being fairly caught, and it raised me very much in his estimation; if I had tried to cheat him, and had succeeded, his admiration would have been unlimited.

Camp 32, Beaver island, January 31. ~ Forty-two miles of navigation generally similar to that of the preceding week have brought us to the head of the Great Colorado valley. For twenty miles of this distance tho Half-way range bounds the west bank. A broad and even swell extends from the water to the edge of the acclivity. At the northern extremity of the range are two prominent peaks. The most northerly, which is the highest, stands close to the river side, and forms a conspicuous feature in the scenery for a long distance above and below. We are now at the verge of the foot-hills of a continuous chain of mountains, that crosses the Colorado ten miles above, and has been in sight for many days. Among the group of fantastic peaks that surmount this chain is a slender and perfectly symmetrical spire that furnishes a

IHg, 9 ~ Monument MounbitnB.

striking landmark, as it can be seen from a great way down the river in beautiful relief against the sky. Through a gap in the range some lofty snow-topped summits are visible to the north. Between ua and the Riverside mountains the blufi's of the desert come to the brink of the river; but below this confined passage is a stretch of several miles, which we call the Sand Island


shoals, where the Colorado is divided by islands into numerous channels, and the navigation is more diflScult than any yet experienced. One bar would scarcely be passed before another would be encountered, and we wero three days in accomplishing a distance of nine miles. A boat drawing six inches less water, and without any timbers attached to the bottom, could have probably made the same distance in three hours. The ascent of the river, under the circum- stances, promises to be a tedious business; and as our provisions are half consumed. Lieutenant Tipton took advantage of an opportunity afforded a few days ago by our meeting Captain Johnson, with Lieutenant "White and party, returning to the fort, and went back with them in order to bring up the pack-train.

This slow progress and the long detentions, though dull enough for us, have been a source of intense satisfaction and fun to the spectators on the banks. The Yumas are no longer seen. Our sharp witted friends, the Chemehuevis, seem to have exclusive possession of the upper end of the valley. Not having the same experience in steamers as the former tribe, for they seldom go to Fort Yuma, they have doubtless watched with great curiosity for the long- expected boat. If we had anticipated inspiring them with awe or admiration, we should be sadly disappointed, for I am sure they regard our method of ascending the river with unaffected contempt. They have been demonstrating to Mariano and Capitan ~ who are disposed to espouse our side, and yet are a little ashamed of being in such ridiculous company ~ how vastly inferior our mode of locomotion is to theirs. They can foot it on the shore, or pole along a raft upon the river without interruption; and that we should spend days in doing what they can accomplish in half as many hours, strikes them as unaccountably stupid. The gleeful consciousness of superiority at all events keeps them in an excellent humor. When we reached the Sand Island shoals, as usual, they were awaiting the approach of the steamer at points opposite to the bars. At first our troubles occasioned them unqualified delight. They watched the boat with breathless eagerness as we tried in vain to get through one place after another, and every time she ran aground a peal of laughter would ring from the bank; but after a while our mishaps appeared to move their compassion, and some one of them would run ahead, and point out to Captain Robinson the part of the bar that had the greatest depth upon it, which their frequent fording of the stream often enabled them to know. An old woman, among others, endeavored to help the captain along, but as we approached the place she indicated his knowledge of the river showed him that it would not do, and he sheered off without making the trial. The benevolence of the old hag was at once converted into rage, and with clenched fists and flaming eyes she followed along the bank, screaming at the captain, as long as he was in hearing, a volley of maledictions.

At evening, when we go into camp, they come to visit us in great numbers. As long as their women and children are about we know that they have no hostile intentions, but sentinels are always posted, and exactly at sunset I make every Indian leave the camp limits. At first I think they entertained a dim mistrust of my right to eject them thus summarily from their own premises, but habit is everything, and now they all go away at sundown as a matter of course. A few evenings ago, being visited by a chief of apparently some importance, I pre- vailed upon him to send a runner to Fort Yuma for the mail, and after a little trouble he found a volunteer. A great deal of haggling and changing of mind had to be gone through with before a bargain was concluded, but finally the Indian was satisfied, and promised to return for our letters on the next day. After once making an agreement, I have never known one of them to recede from it, and punctually at the time appointed he came for the package. We were near falling out from his demanding to be paid in advance, |^but the matter was com- promised by his receiving a red blanket^ and consenting to wait till his return for the balance of the payment agreed upon. He told me that he would reach the fort in three days, rest a day, return in three days, and that in one more day he could accomplish the distance that we


woTtld have made during the intervening seven ~ not an improbable Bupposition at our recent rate of travel.

Each Bucceesive range of mountaina passed presents more striking varieties and combinations of color, imparting a strange and novel beauty to the barren rocks. Ab the rays of the setting sun fall npon the ragged face of the Riverside mountain, and illuminate its crevices and hollows, tints of purple, blue, brown, almond, and rose color are brought out in gorgeous relief, and contrast singularly with the dull monotonous gray of the desert. Dr. Newberry found, in this mountain, indications of the presence of gold, silver, lead, iron, and copper, and discovered veins resembling the gold-bearing rocks of California, The nature of our duties does not permit any lengthy examinations. A careful search might develop ample stores of treasure, which the close proximity of water transportation would greatly enhance in value.

Camp 3S, mouth of BiU fViUtam^s Fork, February I. ~ A few miles above camp the river wound around the base of a massive rock, into which a deep groove had been cut by the cease- less flow of the stream. This point may be considered the southern entrance of the canon

Fig. 10.~ Cnner Bock.

through the Monument mountains. Immediately above the river grew narrower and deeper, and the hills crowded closely npon the water's edge. The regular slopes gradually gave place to rough and confused masses of rock, and the scenery at every instant became wilder and more romantic. New and aarprising effects of coloring added to the beauty of the vista. In the foreground, light and delicate tints predominated, and broad surfaces of lilac, pearl color, pink, and white, contrasted strongly with the sombre masses piled up behind. In their very midst a single pile of a vivid blood red rose in isolated prominence. A few miles higher a narrow gateway opened into the heart of the mountains. On one side of the entrance was a dark red column, on the other a leaning tower of the same color overhung the pass, the pofld^PQiig rock seeming ready to fall as we passed beneath. Rich hues of blue, green, and


purple, relieved here and there by veins of pink and white, were blended in brilliant confusion upon the aides of the cjiflon, producing a weird-like and unearthly effect, which the fantastic shapes and outlines of the enclosing walls did not diminish. For six miles we followed the windings of the river through this fairy-like pass, where every turn varied and heightened the

Ftg. Il. ~ Honument Caffon.

interest of the pageant, and then the lines of cliff stopped, and we issued suddenly from the cafSon into a comparatively open valley. Low foot-hills,from the range on the west side of the river, skirt the bank, but on the east side they recede, leaving a few gravelly spurs, and beyond these a belt of bottom land. The whole appearance of the country indicated that we had reached the Chemehuevis valley and the mouth of Bill Williams's Fork, which is the only important tributary to the Colorado between the Yirgen and the Gila. Having accompanied, in 1853, the expedition of Lieutenant Whipple to explore for a railroad route along the 35th parallel, and having, with that party, descended Bill Williams's Fork to its confluence with the Colorado, I was confident of the locality. The mouth of the stream was at that time, which happened to be in the present month, February, about thirty feet wide, and several feet deep. I now looked in vain for the creek. The outline of the bank, though low, appeared unbroken, and for awhile I was quite confounded. My companions were of opinion that I had made a great topographical blunder, but I asked Captain Robinson to head for the left shore, proposing to camp and make an examination. As we approached the bank I perceived, while closely scanning its outline, a small dent, and after landing repaired to the spot, and found a very narrow gulley, through which a feeble stream was trickling, and this was all that was left of Bill Williams's Fork. The former mouth is now filled up, and overgrown with thickets of willow. An unusual drought must have prevailed for two or three years past in the regions


that furnish its supply. The Colorado, according to the Indians, is as low, proportionally, as its tributary.

The party of Lieutenant Whipple contained one hundred men, two hundred mules, and four wagons, but the trail is entirely obliterated. Not a trace, even of the wagons, remains.

The navigation to-day has been generally good, but we struck one sunken rock, and passed several that are now visible, but that would be dangerous at a higher stage of water unless their position were accurately known. The iron put into the hull of the Explorer must have been of excellent quality or she would have been sunk long ago by some of the thumps she has experienced.

We met, in the canon, two Chemehuevis, with their wives, children, and household effects, . paddling towards the valley below, on rafts made by tying together bundles of reeds. There being no bars to interrupt us we passed them under a full head of steam, and made a great impression. They drew their rafts into a little cave when they saw us coming, and peered out at the steamboat, as it went puflSng by, with an amusing expression of bewilderment and awe. Having, themselves, heavy loads to carry, I imagine they appreciated, better than their friends below, the advantage of being able to stem the current without manual labor.

As Captain Robinson and myself were walking out this evening we suddenly came upon two Indians reclining on the top of the bank, in sight of the steamer. I at once knew them to be Mojaves. One of them must have been nearly six feet and a half in height, and his proportions were herculean. He was entirely naked, excepting the ordinary piece of cotton about his loins, and his chest and limbs were enormously developed. A more scowling, sinister looking face than that which surmounted this noble frame I have seldom seen; and I quite agreed with a remark of the captain, that he would be an unpleasant customer to encounter alone and unarmed. His companion was smaller, though a large man, and had a pleasant face. Neither took the slightest notice of us, but both continued looking at the steamboat, the taller man with an expression that indicated a most unamiable frame of mind. Doubtless they were sent down from the valley above to learn something in regard to our party. I am sure that the report of one of the two will be anything but complimentary to the steamboat and ourselves. I can scarcely blame him for his disgust, for he must suspect that this is the first step towards an encroachment upon the territory of his tribe. ^

Camp 38, Chemehuevis Bend, February 7. ~ For two or three days a norther has been blowing, similar to those experienced almost weekly at the mouth of the river. At times it has made the boat unmanageable, and the surface of the water having been so agitated that it was impos- sible to distinguish the channel. Our progress has been difficult and slow, and scarcely tw^enty- five miles have been made since leaving the mouth of Bill Williams's Fork. While the gale lasted we were nearly blinded and choked by drifts of fine sand, that darkened the air and penetrated into the luggage, bedding, provisions, fire-arms, and the very pores of one's skin.

The bed of the stream has been covered in spots with gravel, and two or three times, when the water was shoal, we have had the unpleasant sensation of having the bottom of the boat grinding upon the rough edges of the stones.

Our course has been for some days very much to the west. A little below camp the river turns to the north, and continues in that direction till it enters a chain of mountains twelve or fifteen miles above. This chain, which we call the Mojave range, separates the Chemehuevis and Mojave valleys. A cluster of slender and prominent pinnacles, named by Lieutenant Whipple *'The Needles,'' is in close proximity to the river. The Monument mountains bar the view towards the south. The region which we are travelling scarcely deserves the name of valley. It is a basin of the desert, bounded by the Monument and Mojave mountains, and by spurs projecting from them. There is very little alluvial land or vegetation. One place was passed


to-day that looked somewhat inviting, where wheat and corn fields, dotted with groves of raez- quite, extended to a considerable distance back from the river.

The mountain econery is beautiful ; with every change of position it presents new varieties of fanciful and bold groupings. The Needles and a high peak of the Monnment range, which I have called Mount Whipple, are the most conspicuous landmarks, and designate the points where the river enters and leaves the Chemehuevis valley.

Fig. 12. ~ Monument Range from Hie North.

On the evening of the 3d the Indian sent for the mail returned with letters and papers brought by the last express from San Diego. When one day'sjourney from the fort he had met a Yuma that had been despatched by Lieutenant Winder to bring the letters to us, and had thus been spared a two day's journey. The Yamas, who perhaps have derived an exaggerated notion of ouc poverty from the Cocopas, liad told oar messenger that we would take the letters and would not pay him. This I learned during the evening from Mariano, and it accounted for the anxious look that the mail carrier was observed to wear during the hour or two that I was busy in reading the intelligence that had been brought. When I went to hunt him up, I found him seated under a tree a little retired from camp, looking very blue and gloomy. Our stock of Indian goods is large, and selected with a special view to the peculiar tastes of the Colorado tribes, and I was anxious to have it clearly understood that a faithfully performed service would be well paid for; so I conducted him to the boat, a crowd of his friends following with looks of eager expectation, and unlocking one of the boxes of valuables selected and gave him enough manta, beads, mirrors, red cloth, and fancy articles, to overcome for once his Indian stoicism, and make him grin with pleasure and his companions stare with envy.

An old acquaintance came to see me a day or two ago. We were steaming under good headway, abreast of a wooded bank that skirted one of the patches of bottom land, when a


member of the Chemehuevis appeared, earnestly gesticulating and making signs to as to stop. Thej displayed so much anxiety and eagerness that I asked Captain Robinson to head for the bank. It tarned oat that a little Chemehnevis chief, who had been a good deal in Lieutenant Whipple's camp, had taken this cool method of calling himself to our attention, thereby bringing open himself some reSections from the pilot, which were not complimentary. Having no

Fig. 13~ Honnt Whipple.

time to stop, I asked him to step on board, and before he was aware of the manoeuvre he found himself a passenger and rapidly leaving his tribe and home behind. Happily both he and his followers looked upon the proceeding as a high compliment.

We have now been absent from Fort Yuma for four weeks and have but two weeks rations left. Should the pack train meet with detention we should be on short allowance, and, unlike a land party, have no mules to fall back upon. I have been anxious for some time to increase the stock of provisions by trading with the Indiana, and took advantage of the chiefs presence to open negotiations upon the subject. He promised before he left that evening that his people should bring some beans and corn to trade for manta and beads. Our camp is at the bead- quarters of the Ghemebuevis nation, and great numbers of all ages and both sexes have visited it to-day. They have been perfectly friendly, and considering their knavish character and restless inquisitive dispositions, have behaved very well and given little trouble. The amount of cultivable land in their valley is so inconsiderable, and they themselves so inclined to vagrancy, that I could not expect to find them with much provision to spare, but last evening about two dozen brought baskets and earthen bowls of corn and beans. I saw that they had come prepared for a long haggling, and I made tbem place their burdens in a row on some boards that were laid out for the purpose; asking each in turn whether he preferred beads or mauts, I placed what I thought s fair amount of the desired article opposite to the proper


Leap of provisions. The whole tribe had crowded around to look on, and tbeir amusement, during this performance, was extreme. Every sharp face expanded into a grin as I weighed the different piles in succession in my hand, and gravely estimated their contents; and when, the apportionment .heing over, I directed two of my men to bag the corn and beans, and coolly walked away, the delight of the bystanders, at the summary method of completing the bargain, reached its climax and they fairly screamed with laughter. A few of the traders seemed not quite to comprehend why they should have had so little say in the matter, but having been really well recompensed, according to their ideas of things, the tariff of prices was established, and this morning, when fresh supplies were brought, they received the same rate of payment without question or demur.

Mr. MoUhausen has enlisted the services of the children to procure zoological specimens, and has obtained, at the cost of a few strings of beads, several varieties of pouched mice and lizards. They think he eats them, and are delighted that his eccentric appetite can be gratified with so much ease and profit to themselves.

There has been lately a remarkable disparity between the temperatures of the day and night. Almost every night it is cold enough to form a thin crust of ice upon the little lagoons and inlets, while at midday the thermometer in the shade sometimes stands at 85°, and in the sun it is oppressively warm.

Fig. H^ItcmuiliB of Oraud Mesa in Chcmi'hueviB Valley.

Camp 40, head of Mojave Canon, February 9. ~ The norther continued yesterday, and, aa is apt to be the case towards its close, blew with redoubled violence. The force of the gale being felt principally upon the cabin and after deck, it was impossible to steer the boat, and after a day passed in swinging about from one shoal to another, rubbing over bars, and scrap- ing rocks, nightfall found na advanced just three miles.


To-day has been perfectly serene," and the atmosphere indescribably. soft and limpid. For several miles the river assumed a new aspect, being straight and broad, having high banks, and presenting n placid unbroken sheet of water ~ not a bar being visibie above the surface. To one viewing the noble looking stream from- the bank, it would have appeared navigable for vessela of the heaviest draught, but the depth of water was scarcely su^cientto enable the Explorer to pass without touching. - .

Entering the foot hills of the MojaVe range, the channel was again tortuous, and after travers- ing a narrow pass the Needles came in view directly'in front. As we approached the mouth of the canon through the Mojave mountains,- a roarmg poise ahead gave notice that we were coming tp a rapid, and soon we reached the foot of a pebbly island, along either side of which the water was rushing, enveloped in a sheet of foam.

~Fig. la.~ Uouth of Mojave Cation.

After ascending a few yards a harsh grating noise warned us that we were upon a rocky shoal, and Captain Robinson at once backed the Explorer out and went up in a skiff to recon- noitre. He found good water, excepting for a short distance at the lower end, where the depth was three feet, and the bottom sprinkled with rocks. There was danger that the after part of the boat in passing might catch upon a rock, and the bow be swung around by the rapid current against another with such violence as to knock a hole in the bottom. An anchor was carried to a point some distance up stream, and a line taken from it to the bow. This line was kept taut, while, with a high pressure of steam, the Explorer^ivas forced up the rapids, once or twice trembling from stem to stern as she grazed upon a rock, but reaching the still water above without sustaining damage.

A low purple gateway and a splendid corridor, with massive red walls, formed the entrance to the cQflon. At the head of this avenue frowning mountains, piled one above the other,


seemed to block the way. An abrupt turn at the base of the apparent barrier revealed a cavern-like approach to the profound chasm beyond. A scene of such imposing grandeur as that which now presented itself I have never before witnessed. On either side majestic cliffs, hundreds of feet in height, rose perpendicularly from the water. As the river wound through the narrow enclosure every turn developed some sublime effect or startling novelty in the view. Brilliant tints of purple, green, brown, red, and white illuminated the stupendous surfaces and relieved their sombre monotony. Far above, clear and distinct upon the narrow strip of sky, turrets, spires, jagged statue-like peaks and grotesque pinnacles overlooked the deep abyss.

The waning day found us still threading the windings of this wonderful defile, and the approach of twilight enhanced the wild romance of the scenery. The bright colors faded and blended into a uniform dark gray. The rocks assumed dim and exaggerated shapes, and seemed to fiit like giant spectres in pursuit and retreat along the shadowy vista. A solemn stillness reigned in the darkening avenue, broken only by the plash of the paddles or the cry of a solitary heron, startled by our approach from his perch on the brink of some overhanging cliff.

The obscurity was rapidly increasing, when a turn of the river threw a sudden light upon the way, and we found that we were passing out of the canon, having reached the low foot hills beyond. A short distance further, coming to a good camping place, we hauled up to the bank for the night.

End of Chapter III

Editor's notes:

Figures referred to, being abominable at best, have just been ommitted. Ultimately, these references will be remarked out.
Introduction:: Nature:: Map:: Points of Interest:: Roads & Trails:: People & History:: Ghosts & Gold:: Communities:: BLOG:: :?:: glossary
Country Life Realty
Wrightwood, Ca.
Mountain Hardware
Wrightwood, Ca.
Canyon Cartography
Links to Desert Museums

Grizzly Cafe
Family Dining

Custom Search

Abraxas Engineering
Copyright ©Walter Feller. All rights reserved.