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FROM THE 111TH MERIDIAN OF LONGITUDE TO THE PACIFIC OCEAN.
REPORT OF LIEUT. MICHLÊ R.
FORT YUMA.“-COLORADO AND GILA.---SLOUGHS OR ARROYOS. - SITE OF AN OLD PRESIDIO.---BOUNDARY LINE.-SAND BELT.--- DESERT.
PANORAMA OF MOUNTAIN RANGES.-—MIRAGE. --BOTTOM LAND AND VEGETATION.—EARTHQUAKES AND MUD VOLCANOES. ---CLIMATE. DUST STORMS.-INDIANS. -INITIAL POINT ON THE COLORADO. —TINAJAS ALTAS.--TULE. --SALADO.--AGUA DULCE.-QUITOBAQUITA. ---CABEZA PRIETA.--SONOYTA.-ROAD ALONG THE GILA.-MARICOPAS. -PIMOS.-TUCSON. -SAN JAVIER. -TUBAC.-TOMOCACORI.--SOPORI. ---ARIBACA.-SİERRAS ALONG THE AZIMUTH LINĖ. --PAPAGOS.----- TIERRA CALIENTE?' OF SONORA. ---SANTA MONICA. - SANTA ISABEL.--HEIGHT AND ABRUPTNESS OF MOUNTAIN RIDGES.--EASTERN SLOPE. --COLORADO DESERT.-NEW RIVER. ----DISTANCES.
OFFICE UNITED STATES AND MEXICAN BOUNDARY SURVEY,
Washington, July 29, 1856. SIR: The following extract is taken from your orders to me, dated Washington, D. C., August 29, 1854 : “You are charged with the important service of running that part of the boundary
English miles below or south of the junction of that river and the Gila, until you meet the party running the line under my immediate direction, from El Paso westward."
Having complied with your instructions, I now have the honor to submit to you a report of the manner in which the work has been executed, and describe that portion of the country to which our duty particularly confined us, and the Indian tribes frequenting the immediate neighborhood of the line.
Sailing from New York on September 20, 1854, inyself and assistants proceeded, via Aspinwall, Panama and San Francisco, to San Diego. All necessary instruments having been provided before leaving the eastern cities, preparations for the transportation, subsistence, and organization of a party occupied my attention in the last named places. These completed, we left San Diego on the 16th of November, for Fort Yuma, which place was reached, after journeying over mountains and deserts, on the 9th of December. This road, the most difficult I have ever travelled for heavily-loaded wagons, has been already spoken of in your military reconnoissances in New Mexico and California, and a further description would be unnecessary. Its distance, measured with a viameter, is 217 miles.
On the right bank of the Colorado, and in a bend opposite the mouth of the Gila, rises up a low irregular hill, from seventy to eighty feet in height; on the water-side there is a perpendicular cliff; the other sides are less steep, but equally rugged. This hill is of Plutonic origin, and presents a bleak, dreary appearance. The surface is covered with sharp, volcanic rocks, cutting like glass under the tread, and is destitute of every form of vegetation, except the euphorbia, a rank poison, and used by the Indians as an antidote against the bite of the rattlesnake. Such is the site of the military post of Fort Yuma. This hill, cleft by the Colorado at
its junction with the Gila, and extending a short distance, unites with a larger mass of the same formation. A mile further south is another isolated hill, about 250 feet high, called Sierra Prieta, with its base imbedded in the white sands of the desert. These hills were once one and the same; one river runnning around its north, and the other its south base, (their old beds being still traceable,) and both uniting on the west. By some freak in the laws of nature, an eruption in the bowels of the earth caused an upheaving of this whole section of country, and changed the beds of these rivers: the one now runs due south, and the other due north, before uniting. Their currents act on the same line and are diametrically opposed, and as the waters meet, neither willing to yield, they open a passage through the highest part of the hill, turning at right angles to their original courses and flowing towards the west. The cleft thus made is about 240 feet in width. The Colorado furnishes more than two-thirds of the water. At an average stage at the junction, the quantity discharged per second was found, from a mean of several experiments, to be 6,249 cubic feet, and the velocity three feet per second. At the same point the depth of the channel is about eighteen feet. It then widens, and becomes more shallow. By daily observations with the barometer, the level of the rivers at their confluence was found to be 275 feet above that of the sea at San Diego. The Colorado, as its name signifies, is of a reddish color, and carries down immense quantities of sand and mud. The water is sweet, and excellent for drinking, but does not bear keeping long, as it soon putrifies. The Gila is clearer, and its temperature warmer, but somewhat brackish in its taste, owing to the large quantity of earthy salts held in solution.
For twenty miles above the post the Colorado spreads out into a wide and low sheet of water ; but above that point, to the entrance of the Great Cañon, it becomes more narrow and deep. An expedition under Major Heintzelman ascended this river in boats in September, 1852. Another is contemplated, when it is the purpose to carry a steamboat up as far as possible, provided the government will render some assistance by an appropriation sufficiently large to insure the safety of the boat. The belief is entertained and strongly advocated, that the Colorado. will be the means of supplying the Mormon territory, instead of the great extent of land transportation now used for that purpose. Its head-waters approach the large settlements in Utah, and may one day become the means of bearing away the produce and stock of these pioneers of the far West. With this idea prominent in the minds of speculators, a city on paper, bearing the name of " Colorado City," has already been surveyed, the streets and marked out, and many of them sold. It is situated on the left bank, opposite Fort Yuma.
From the description given me of the Great Cañon, it must resemble in appearance and character those along the Rio Bravo del Norte, upon which I have already reported.
The Colorado is said to have but few tributaries; the Gila has several, emptying in above and below the Pimos villages. The annual rise in both rivers usually takes place in the
snows in the mountains near their head-waters; the freshets are not of long duration. Frequently the one stream will be up and the other down. The Gila becomes so low that a sand-bar forms at its mouth during the summer, and at no time does it supply much water. The Colorado, on the contrary, is navigable for small steamers, drawing two and two and a half feet water, as high up as Fort Yuma. Sailing-vessels take stores from the Pacific through the Gulf of California, and up the river, sixty miles above its mouth, to Point Invincible, or near Hardy's Colorado, and there discharge their cargoes upon the river steamers; the latter then transport them ninety miles to the junction--the present contract price per ton being seventy-five dollars, and
the boat carrying from fifty to sixty tons. This is a great saving, as the cost of transportation of stores by trains across the desert is enormous. The navigation is pretty good, but, like all streams of the same nature, the channel frequently changes, owing to the shifting sands and the instability of its banks. The nature of the latter varies; thirty miles above the junction, the river is walled in by mountains throughout nearly its whole extent; and fifteen miles lower down, it påsses for a short distance through the Santa Isabel range. From there to the salt marshes near the mouth, except at the junction with the Gila, the banks are alluvial, caving in and shifting with every rise and fall; they become very low and flat, and are overflowed for miles during spring tides ; a heavy bore then rushes in, swell upon swell, and renders it very dangerous for small boats. The tides ascend for thirty-seven miles. The lowest depth of the channel is three feet, its mean or average stage of water six, and its highest about twenty feet. During very high freshets the water flows back for many miles through the arroyos or sloughs which intersect the country : large lagunas or lakes are thus formed, such as the “Big Laguna," and "New River” or “Providence creek,” found on the road from San Diego, and also Hardy's false Colorado; these remain filled for a long time-some nearly the entire year. Whenever they occur a broad slough, north and west of the post, is filled, and completely isolates it from the main land, communication being had only by means of boats.
There are only three kinds of fish, that are at all palatable, caught in the Colorado-the hump-back, trout, and buffalo—all very soft and of a muddy flavor, full of small bones and of most inferior quality
Fort Yuma is well located for defence against the Indians; the only point (Sierra Prieta) commanding it is beyond the reach of arrows. It affords a distant and fine view of the surrounding country. In the very interesting report of Major Heintzelman, made to the commanding general of the Pacific department, in July, 1853, he says: “ The post is on the site of a Presidio established about seventy-seven years ago by the Spaniards. Padre Pedro Garces came out here with a San Gabriel Indian, and reported this a favorable position for a mission. The next year he and Padre Kino came out with troops and established a mission at the junction, and José Maria Ortegas, son of Don Francisco Ortegas, captain and commandante of the expedition of the discoverers of Alta California, founded the Presidio. The position is described between the sierras of San Pedro and San Pablo. A little east of north from here, forty-five miles, on the top of a ridge of barren mountains, is a detached rock, several hundred feet high, resenibling a dome, which may have given it the name of St. Peter; and in a direction west of north, about eighteen miles distant, on another range of mountains, rises a solitary rock, five hundred feet high, which we have called Chimney Peak, and which must have borne the other name.”
Our camp lay opposite the military post, on the left bank of the Colorado, between the Plutonic ridge on the east, and a low range of sand and gravel hills, called the Yuma hills, on the west ; these latter end abruptly at the water's edge, no trace of them being seen on the opposite side, and extend south to the base of the Sierra Prieta. They were interesting from the beautiful specimens of quartz found upon them, among which were fortification and moss agates, chalcedony, jasper, and opals, and various fine pieces of petrifactions of mezquite, cottonwood, and indigenous plants, and one of palm-wood. Seven miles and a half by the river, below the post, is another high, prominent, and isolated hill, called Pilot Knob, similar in general appearance and formation to those spoken of. The boundary line from the initial point on the Pacific ocean runs tangent to the southern base of this butte, until it intersects the middle of the Colorado, a short distance below the south ferry. An iron monument formerly marked the
MICHLER’S REPORT. line near this place, on a high knoll, but has been broken into a thousand pieces by the Indians ; its locality, however, is well defined. From this point of intersection the boundary follows down the middle of the stream to a point 20 English miles, in a straight line, below the junction of the Gila and Colorado.
Near Pilot Knob, a large belt of white, glistening sand encroaches upon the river to within a short distance of its right bank; it is fifteen miles long by five wide, and about forty feet high; from its gradual approachment, it threatens to dislodge the river and efface its present bed. Twelve miles above the junction, a spur of the “Sierra de la Gila," a mass of sharp, angular, igneous rocks, thrown together in the most incongruous shapes, sets into the Rio Gila ; its bearing is northwest and southeast, and it extends as far as the eye can see. From the base of this mountain, along its whole length, extends out towards the Gila and Colorado a level plain of gravel and sand, in breadth from twenty to fifty miles, and stretching far south until it mingles with the hillocks of white sand which define the eastern shore, along the Gulf of California. It limits the bottom-lands, sometimes touching the river, as at Ogden's landing, and again recedes, leaving a fertile tract of several miles in width. The latter is from two to ten feet above the surface of the water, and the former rises in bluff banks from twenty to forty feet in height. The plain is a perfect desert, marked by an entire absence of water, and destitute of vegetation, save some few sickly plants: the Larrea Mexicana and the Fouquiera, the natural growth of such barren localities, only add to the gloomy sensation produced by the scorched sterility spread out to view, with jagged ridges of hills lying in the back-ground. The bottomland on the right bank of the Colorado is bounded by a similar plain, which extends south to the base of the mountains of Lower California. This whole country is truly a desolate region ; rich, however, in geological and mineralogical material.
Standing on the top of the Sierra Prieta, you have a magnificent panorama of the high peaks, rugged sides, and angular outlines of the mountain ranges which encircle you. From this point, looking westward and following the points of the compass round towards the north, your eye first rests upon Avie Quah-la-Altwa, (Avie signifying mountain, in the Indian tongue,) or Pilot Knob, as known to emigrants; a little further on, Avie A-re-ña Hampan, connecting with the low ranges of white sand-hills already spoken of; then Avie Qui-a-sa viño; to the northwest a light and a dark range, Avie Qui-a-sa and Avie Haz-e-nas; afterwards Avie Sut-ma-mou-raall isolated ridges. Ranging across the north is Avie Mil-li-ket, its highest peak called by the Americans - Chimney Peak,” and by the old Jesuits “San Pablo.” The Indian name is in honor of a learned and wise chief, who became a deity after his death. He occupies a large cavern in the mountains, the entrance to which is guarded by a raccoon, a pet during his stay
by his foot-prints. He seems to enjoy long intervals of sleep, and when aroused from his slumbers by the wickedness of his worshippers, he is believed to change his position, and the act of rolling over causes the rumbling earthquakes which are frequently felt throughout this section of country. During the last shock experienced there, it is reported that a large piece of the peak of Mil-li-ket, solid rock as it is, was broken off, and rolled into the plain beneath. The Indians, considering it a part of their religious duty, make regular visits to the spot, like Mahomedans to the shrine of Mahomet. To the east of Mil-li-ket is another remarkable-looking peak, called Pin-chie, the allegorical allusion scarcely bearing mention; the two are almost in juxtaposition. Avie Mil-li-ket is quite an extended range, and is about twenty-four or five miles north of Fort Yuma. To the northeast, and about forty-five miles distant, is Avie Tok-a-va or Dome mountain, or