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so marked as to cause any parties to leave off farming for the
purpose of prosecuting it. That fine flour gold is deposited on the bars each year is certain, but where it comes from, or whether it exists in large quantities, is still a matter of doubt.
Beaver River flows in a valley parallel to the North Saskatchewan, from a point nearly north of Edmonton to the Meridian of Carlton, a distance in a straight line of nearly 300 miles. It turns north at Green Lake, 150 miles north of Carlton, apparently into a valley of which Green Lake is a part. When the Beaver river is high in spring, it fills Green Lake by means of a small stream connecting the two, but as its waters lower the current changes and the Lake begins to empty itself. The valley of Beaver River contains very rich land, but future experiments are necessary before wheat can be relied on as a sure crop.
Green Lake is about eighteen miles long by from one to two wide. It is surrounded on all sides by a very fine poplar or aspen forest. The soil is rich and the climate suitable for the growth of wheat. Beaver River and Green Lake, like all the northern rivers and lakes, are full of whitefish. Throughout all the northern forests the Chipweyan locates himself on the margin of a lake, builds himself a house, clears a potato patch, and sets his nets. A visit to these nets twice a day gives him his food the year round, and his potato patch in the fall, and a few bears furnish him with a change before winter sets in. When he retires to his winter hunting ground, near a lake, he sets his nets under the ice, and is still independent of four-footed game
The Athabasca country is very little known, as it is all covered with forest and difficult of access. Much of it is wet, and that section through which the old C. P. R. line passes is very wet and marshy, and full of muskegs. These are veritable peat bogs being composed of the same material as the bogs of Ireland and Scotland.
The Athabasca at Fort Assiniboine, northwest of Edmonton, is fully 300 yards wide, being rather larger than the Saskatchewan at this point and flowing in a wider and deeper valley. About sixty miles northeastwards from this place it receives the discharge of Little Slave Lake from the west. The valley of this river is generally level and the soil on either side of the stream seems excellent sandy loam, and where free from timber abounds in rich
vine. Ascending the Athabasca from this point the first river met with is the Pembina, a stream about thirty yards wide, flowing from the southwest. This stream rises further out on the plain than any other belonging to the Arctic basin. It is known to show large exposures of coal in many parts of its course of a quality much superior to that of Edmonton.
Proceeding still to the southwest we pass the mouth of the McLeod, a large stream one hundred yards wide. Here the banks of the Athabasca become 300 feet high. Below this stream a sandstone cliff 100 feet high, having a coal seam five feet thick, is passed. Proceeding still up stream we reach Baptiste's River, a tributary from the west which is ninety yards wide. On this stream there is abundance of fine timber of various species, the spruce as on all other streams, proving to be the best.
Jasper House is beautifully situated on an open plain, about six miles in extent within the first range of the Rocky Mountains. As the valley makes a bend above and below, it appears to be completely encircled by mountains which rise from 3000 to 4000 feet, with bold craggy outlines. The little group of buildings which form the “ fort,” has been constructed in harmony with the picturesqueness of the situation, after the Swiss style, with overhanging roofs and trellised porticoes. The dwelling house and two stores form three sides of a square, and these with a little detached hut constitute the whole of this remote establishment. The climate of this valley is remarkable and is worthy of a passing
notice. Mr. W. Moberly, C.E., who spent the winter of 1872-3 in the Jasper valley, twenty-two miles from the summit of the Rocky Mountains, says in his report to Mr. Fleming :“ The total fall of snow in the winter of 1872-3 at our depot in Jasper Valley, twenty-two miles east of the summit of the Yellow Head Pass, was two feet one and a half inches, and the greatest depth on the ground at one time was six and one-half inches. Jasper Valley from the Miette, and as far down the River Athabasca as I have been, viz., about forty miles below Jasper House, has a dry climate. With the exception of a few occasional drops, I never saw any rain. There were some spells of frost in November, and a continuance of very cold weather in December; it was cold in January, and four or five days in February; at other times during the winter the weather was comparatively warm, frequently not even reaching the freezing point. The winds that blow with much violence render Jasper Valley unpleasant in the winter; the northeast wind always brought cold, and the southwest warm weather.
“From the beginning of March to the 20th May, with the exception of a little snow on the 26th and 27th April, the weather was remarkably fine. This is the best season for field work as the flies do not make their appearance until the beginning of June. Comparatively speaking, the winter months in the district referred to are not as severe as at Toronto. To give an instance, I will mention that the pack animals (horses and mules) with the expedition, after an unusually hard season's work of about nine months duration, when they were very much worn out and nearly starved, after packing the supplies over the Rocky Mountains by the Athabasca Pass, the altitude of which is 6025 feet above the sea, and at a time when severe weather and snow storms were almost incessant,—the animals were turned out about the 20th January to shift for themselves, as we had no fodder for them. Not a single one of them died and they were all in fair condition when they resumed work the following March."
This exceptional climate is only found along the base of the mountains, because when Mr. Moberly started east in March, he found a moister and cooler climate in the valley of the McLeod as he moved in the direction of Edmonton. It is extremely probable, as he states in another part of his report, that the warm currents of air that cause this dry and warm climate at the head of the Jasper Valley, come up the valley of the Columbia, from the “Great Columbian Desert” east of Walla Walla and pass through the mountains by the Athabasca and Yellow Head Passes.
Although the country lying between Jasper Valley and Lac St. Ann's is supposed by many to be of little value on account of bog and marsh, later explorers show that this opinion is in part groundless, as Mr McLeod, C. E., speaks in high terms of certain tracts on the McLeod and Pembina rivers which were before thought to be marshy.
The “Fertile Belt” of Palliser is that section of the arable lands which we have been describing in this and the preceeding chapter. The opinions of Palliser were based on the vegetation alone, and where he met with prairie and short grass this he pronounced a desert, while he praised exceedingly the rich but moist lands lately denuded of forest. It is now known that the prairie lands are better suited for immediate settlement, and less subject to summer frosts, which prove so injurious to late sown grain on the more elevated and moister sections of the country. All the land on the Saskatchewan is not equally suited for agriculture, but there is no tract where there will not be continuous settlement, and when we speak of summer frosts and too much water and muskeg, and late harvests, we do not wish to be understood as being afraid of these, but only to state that these drawbacks exist.
All the wet land in the country can be very easily
drained, as there is plenty of fall. Even at present it is a question whether there is too much water in any part recently settled. There are summer frosts in some localities, and late grain has been injured, but in the year 1880 none was damaged that was sown before the 10th June. Surely this is late enough when seeding commences over the whole country by April 20th. For the last three years I have been recommending fall sowing as a sure means of escaping injury from frost. By fall sowing I mean seeding so late that germenation will not take place before spring. This has been tried by Mr. Bannatine of Winnipeg, and he reaped his grain two weeks ahead of that sowed in the spring.