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Sierra de San Pedro, a solid rock many feet in height, and resembling the dome of a cathedral. Some god is supposed to inhabit this range. Near it is a second peak, called the “broken dome.” To the east, and extending south, are Cone mountain, of the Santa Isabel range, and the Sierra de la Gila; Antelope peak is the principal one of the latter. To the southeast, mountain after mountain rises up; to the south, those of Lower California are plainly visible, so high that snow envelopes their tops ; and when the southwest winds blow, they are more chilly than those from the north, bearing along with them the cold air of the snow-clad peaks. From a distance these mountain ranges look rugged in the extreme, although here and there, as you watch the play of the sun, you see reflected back perpendicular walls of smooth, white rock.
The atmosphere is so clear that you are able to see at long distances. In the morning a beautiful sight is afforded by the mirage. It has the effect, apparently, of raising the mountains and bringing them more plainly to view, and many are the fantastic and peculiar shapes that are represented.
We turn from this barren view and look with pleasure upon the bright green foliage which marks the course of the Colorado. The river-bottom, varying in width, is generally broad and fertile—an alluvial deposite, covered with a thick growth of timber. Large cotton-wood trees, different varieties of willow thickly matted together, and impenetrable thickets of arrow and grease-wood, grow near the river; further back the mezquite of two kinds—the flat-pod and the screw-bean-thrive and flourish. The bottom is intersected by innumerable lagoons and sloughs, which during the annual rises fill to overflowing, and irrigate the soil. The earth is consequently impregnated with the salts of potash, magnesia, and soda, which are held in solution by the water. No vegetation will grow beyond the influence of these overflows, and when a white efflorescence appears upon the surface of the ground it is useless to plant, as nothing edible for man or beast will grow there.
The delta of the Colorado and Gila is below high-water mark, and is subjected to overflows. The soil is a mixture of clay and sand. There are some few varieties of grass very scatteringly distributed. The distance from Fort Yuma to the mouth of the Colorado is about one hundred and sixty miles. The whole of the country strongly resembles the Rio Bravo del Norte in the general appearance of its vegetable forms; varieties of cacti, the maguey plant, Larrea Mexicana, and the fouquiera, are all found here. Although both regions are probably of the same geological structure, they are not equal in richness, that upon the Rio Grande being the most fertile. To add to the interest of this section of our land, we find it is subject to earthquakes, by which it is sometimes depressed and sometimes elevated. To quote from a very interesting account given by Major Heintzelman of a visit made to the scene in November, 1852, he says: “The low ground was full of cracks, from many of which there gushed forth sulphurous water, mud, and sand. At the time, great changes were made in the river-bed. The earthquake appears to have been occasioned by an accumulation of gases and steam in the caverns of the earth. The elasticity of these forced an escape through a pond forty-five miles below, on the desert between the river and coast mountains, the repeated escapes causing rumbling and shocks. It is an old orifice, that has been closed several years, so that the first effort occasioned the most violent explosion. The steam rose in a beautiful snowy jet more than a hundred feet in the air, and spread, appearing above the tops of the mountains like a white cloud, and gradually disappeared. This was repeated several times, but on a much smaller scale."
When the Major visited the place three months later," these jets took place at irregular intervals of fifteen or twenty minutes, and had a beautiful effect as they rose, mingled with the black
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water and mud of the ponds. The temperature in the principal pond was 118°, and in a smaller one 135o. One of the mud-holes from which gas escaped was 170°. The air was filled with sulphuretted hydrogen, and in the crevices were beautiful yellow crystals of sulphur. The ground was covered with a white efflorescence, tinged with red and yellow.”
The climate of this region is in accordance with everything else relating to it. Encamped
changes in temperature were very great; the thermometer during part of this time as high as 90° Fahrenheit, and then as low as 30°. The days were sometimes uncomfortably warm, and the nights intensely cold. Living and sleeping in tents all the time, we seldom had occasion to have a camp-fire except at early dawn. Owing to the clearness of the skies, the radiation is extremely rapid, and ice forms quickly.
Having returned the following August to Fort Yuma, the thermometer in the shade at the post was found to be 1160 Fahrenheit, and over 120° in the shade along the river. The heat, commencing to be excessive in May, becomes almost unendurable in the months of June, July, and August. Even in winter the sun is so hot, and the direct as well as reflected light upon the sand-plains so dazzling, that, excepting a couple of hours after daybreak and an hour before sunset, it is only possible to see objects through the best instrumental telescopes in the most distorted shapes—a thin white pole appearing as a tall column of the whitest fleece.
In this belt of country rain seldom falls; in the distance dark clouds may be seen hanging over the California and Sonoranian mountains, but they seldom visit the intermediate localities. During the whole of one year they had but two inches of rain. After our arrival a few drops from some passing cloud fell in the two winter months, December and January, and in the following February .07 of an inch. The coast rains take place during the winter; and the rainy season in Sonora, the Mexican state south of the boundary line, in the months of July, August, and September. Spring, in the intermediate section, puts forth its thick green foliage in February, without any rains to refresh and cool the parched ground.
Instead of storms of rain during the winter and spring, they have those of dust and sand. These are caused by high and strong winds sweeping over the desert plains, coming principally from the northwest, raising and carrying before them, like mist, clouds of pulverized sand and dust. You can watch them in their progress as they approach for hours beforehand, and when they reach you the dust penetrates into every crevice, the finest silk not being impervious to it. They last generally a day; sometimes three. The winds blow up quickly and violently, and it is useless to attempt to work with nice instruments. These dust-storms were our great drawbacks, as it was impossible to see many feet distant, and then only at the risk of being blinded. The gusts of wind which produce this unpleasant effect in winter are in summer like the simoons of the Sahara—they sweep over and scorch the land, burning like the hot blasts of a furnace. !
Think of those officers and soldiers who are so unfortunate as to be stationed at Fort Yuma. Two companies of artillery now garrison the post; their quarters have heretofore been Mexican jacals-upright mezquite poles, plastered with mud and covered with a thatching of arrow-wood; like so much powder, a single spark ignites them, and they burn like a flash in the pan. Dust and rain, as well as the eyes of the curious, penetrate through the crevices, the sun only being denied admission. When I left they were engaged in building new quarters of adobes, (sundried brick.) As every other comfort is denied them, their dwellings at least should be substantial and cool.
Among the curiosities of the country are its aborigines. On the road from San Diego to Fort Yuma we passed through several Indian settlements of the Diegeño tribe, at San Pasqual, Santa Isabella, San Felipe, &c. These Indians were converted by the Jesuits, who many years ago organized missions throughout this country; they became partly civilized, and were industrious and happy, and collected many comforts about them. Naturally lazy, and incapable of self-government, and deeply imbued with all the traits of the wild Indian, they easily degenerated after the missions had fallen from under the rule of the church, and have become absolutely worse than in their original condition. Then they were simply children of nature, following the bent of their inclinations, with few comforts, and fewer wants; now they have learned sufficient to be exceedingly avaricious and unscrupulous-a herd of drones and beggars, their dispositions thievish, and forever on the watch to commit some petty larceny. They call themselves “ Christianos.” The degradation of the Indian woman is only surpassed by that of those off-scourings of creation, the male white population who wander over the country.
The women are beautifully developed, and superbly formed, their bodies as straight as an arrow; their features, however, are coarse and uninviting, their persons filthy, and their actions still more disgusting. They imitate the whites in dress, and in a single Indian group you see the odds and ends of clothing from all parts of the globe most fancifully and grotesquely worn. Don Tomas, the chief of the Santa Isabella Pueblos, is quite a fine-looking person, and has considerable reputation as a man and warrior. He goes about dressed in a full-dress soldier's coat and shirt, but no breeches ; carries an old sabre as a sword of justice and rod of correction, judging from the way I saw him use the flat, of it on the back of a drunken Indian..
The opposite picture is a lithograph of a Diegeño, wife and child—the one leading and the other riding a mule—as we: met them travelling to the Agua Caliente,'? near Warner's rancho..
: ::: : : There are many Indian tribes scattered throughout this part of California ; but I will confine my remarks particularly to those dwelling on the Colorado and Gila. From about sixty miles above Fort Yuma to within a few miles of the most southern point of that part of the Colorado forming the boundary, live the Cuchanos, or Yumas. A belt of land of some few miles in width, forms neutral ground between them and the Cocopas, the latter living below, and near the mouth of the Colorado, within the limits of Mexico, and the former almost entirely in the United States. These, together with the ·Maricopas, who now live up the Gila among the Pimos, originally formed one tribe. Disagreeing upon the choice of chiefs, they separated ; until recently, they have been deadly enemies, carrying on a war of extermination to the knife. The continued warfare with each other has compelled them to manifest a seeming friendship for the whites, has occasioned great loss of life and property, and been detrimental to their increase: In consequence of their great suffering the Cuchanos have found it necessary and expedient to live near the post ; every day, numbers are seen loitering about the parade-ground, and through the quarters of officers and men. These tribes speak the same dialect, follow the same habits and customs, and dress in the same manner and of the same materials. The Maricopas, however, are fast becoming embodied with the Pimos, and seldom visit their kinsmen. The Yumas and Cocopas arė said to be very treacherous races; they conquer not by fair and honorable contest, but by craft and cunning, and midnight attack; they steal upon their enemies under the cover of night, and beat out the brains of their unsuspecting foes with clubs; or, under the garb of friendship and peace, invite each other to feasts, and suddenly