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The tract described above is the only alkaline soil we saw on the “Great Salt Plain,” which certainly is a misnomer, as I stated in my report of last year. That an extensive, treeless, and in some parts waterless plain, extends west and northwest from the Touchwood Hills I admit, but I do not admit, and am prepared to disprove that an alkaline plain thirty miles wide extends either on the Carlton trail or any other line west or northwest from the Touchwood Hills. There is undoubtedly a saline depression extending from Quill Lakes to Long Lake, the worst parts of which are largely made up of white mud swamps or brackish marshes, but there are no data to show that it covers twenty per cent. of the area assigned to it.

The country around the flanks of the Touchwood Hills is much broken or undulating, and has a good rich soil varying from dark colored clay loam to sandy loam. It is always covered with a certain amount of dark earth, and frequently, when gravel is seen on the surface, none is found by digging. The subsoil is usually a light colored clay loam, containing more or less gravel, which is generally covered with carbonate of lime. A line of broken country connects the Little Touchwood Hills and Last Mountain, and is more or less covered with small poplar copse. Were the country level no wood could grow, as fires constantly sweep over the level ground without obstruction, and destroy all the young wood.

I left my party when we reached the trail leading from Qu'Appelle to the Mission, and found the Missionary getting in his potatoes and other roots. His crops this year were very fine, the frost having done them no harm. He showed me over four hundred bushels of as fine potatoes as I ever saw, and told me all the Indians had abundance of them. Owing to the broken nature of the surface, farming by white men at this point would not be profitable, but it seems just the place for Indians. Patches of good arable land, interspersed with little lakes and hay marshes, were seen everywhere, and from the abundance of feathered game at this time (October 1st) it might be called the hunter's paradise. In three or four days any man with a breech loading shot-gun could have supplied himself with his winter's meat, as all lakes and ponds at that time were alive with ducks of many species. Indeed, from the middle of August until the lakes and ponds freeze up for the winter, water fowl are very plentiful everywhere. Multitudes breed in the country, and about the middle of September the sea ducks begin to arrive, and myriads of them crowd every pond.

A ride of fifteen miles over a very rough trail brought me to Touch wood Post, on the Carlton Trail. The country between these two points—especially the western part—is very rough and much broken up by ponds and lakelets, with intervening ridges, but except on the western side near the Mission, nothing worthy of being called a hill was seen. What is generally denominated the Touchwood Hills by travellers is merely the broken country lying between the Little and Big Touchwood Hills, the one lying to the right of the trail, the other to the left. In the vicinity of the Mission, on the Indian Reserve, are fine groves of large-sized poplar, well suited for house building, and, excepting this, very little but second growth aspen and brush was seen.

I may as well state in this connection that the Touchwood Hills and File Hills as regards altitude can scarcely be considered hills at all. They are merely elevated plateaux, or more strictly speaking watersheds, protected from fire by innumerable ponds and marshes, which are scattered everywhere over their surface, and in my estimation can never be first-clas, farming lands, though well suited for hay and stock farms. The Big Touchwood Hills extend eastward and merge into the Beaver Hills, and both are merely an elevated tract from which the small streams flowing to the Qu'Appelle on the south, or the White Sand River on the north receive their waters. Experience has taught me that


wherever trees and brushwood are found, there we may look for a broken country, and one that contains too much water, while the open treeless prairie, generally condemned to sterility, is by far the best farming land.

From the Elbow of the South Saskatchewan to its junction with the North Branch below Prince Albert, the river meanders through a valley of varying width, which cannot be better described than by reproducing the account written by Prof. Hind of his canoe voyage down the River from the Elbow in August, 1858.

“ The banks of the river slope gently from the prairie on the southwest side to an altitude of about 250 feet, they then become abrupt. On the northwest side the Sandstone cliff, varying from thirty to sixty feet in altitude, rises abruptly from the river, then follows a hilly slope to the prairie level. Trees, consisting chiefly of aspen, are found in patches on both sides. The river continues about half a mile broad, with numerous sand-bars and low alluvial islands. The drift above the sandstone is gravelly, and many small sand dunes occur on the hill bank sloping to the prairie, and have progressed beyond the prairie to a considerable distance. A treeless prairie, boundless and green, except where the patches of drifting sand occur, is visible on either hand from the top of the bank; below, the river glides with a strong current two and two and-a-half miles an hour, filling the broad trench or valley it has eroded. The June berry, La Poire, is very abundant; shrubs or trees, eighteen to twenty feet high, loaded with this fruit, perfectly ripe and of excellent flavor, are numerous in every grove; the berries are of the size of large black currants, very juicy and sweet. This shrub is the La Poire of the Red River Voyageurs.

“About twelve miles from our camp, or sixty miles from the Elbow, forests of aspen begin to show themselves on the banks, after passing through a low country, which is an

expansion of the river valley. Ripple marks are numerous on the fresh mud, the furrows lying parallel to the course of the stream. They are quite recent and similar to those observed on Red River in spring. The ash-leaved maple begins to show itself, but the aspen is the prevailing tree. The woods are not continuous, and the prairie on either side of the river remains bare ; it is fast regaining its former altitude. Sand hills are visible in the distance from the top of the bank La Poire is very abundant and fine flavored. The exposed cliffs consist of reddish loam, and the rock is no longer seen below them. At a point fifty-three miles from the Elbow, we made a careful section of the river, and found its breadth to be nearly one-third of a mile (28 chains); its greatest depth was ten feet on the east side, but on the west side there is another channel with nine feet of water.

“As we approached the Moose Woods we passed for several hours between a series of low alluvial islands, from ten to twelve feet above the water. They sustain some fine elm, balsam, poplar, ash, ash-leaved maple, and a vast profusion of La Poire. The river valley is bounded by low hills leading to the prairie plateau four to eight miles back. The country here furnishes an excellent district for the establishment of a settlement. The spot where we camped for the night is an extensive, open, undulating meadow, with long rich grass, and on the low elevations rose-bushes, in bloom, grow in the greatest profusion. It is only ten feet from the water, yet it does not appear to be flooded in the spring; water-marks and ice-marks are nowhere seen above four feet from the present level of the broad river.

“ The region called the Moose Woods, which we entered last evening, is a dilatation of the Saskatchewan flowing through an extensive alluvial flat six miles in breadth, and cut into numerous islands by the changing course of the stream. This flat is bounded by sand hills, some of which are nothing more than shifting dunes. The woods are in patches. and in the low land consist of balsam poplar, white wood, and aspen. Small aspen clumps cover the hills, but no living timber of importance has been seen as yet, although many fine dead trunks are visible, probably destroyed by fire. The river continues to flow through a broad alluvial flat for about twenty-five miles. Its water is very turbid like that of the Mississippi, holding much solid matter in mechanical suspension.

“ Beyond the Moose Woods the banks close upon the river, and have an altitude not exceeding sixty feet. The breadth of the stream contracts to 250 yards, with a current fully three miles an hour. On the east bank the prairie is occasionally wooded with clumps of aspen, on the west side it is treeless, and shows many sand hills. During the afternoon we landed frequently to survey the surrounding country. Nothing but a treeless, slightly undulating prairie was visible; many large fragments of limestone not much water-worn lie on the hill banks of the river, which is about 100 feet in altitude. The river continues very swift, and maintains a breadth of 250 yards. Frequent soundings during the day showed a depth of ten to twelve feet. A little timber displays itself occasionally on the east bank below the level of the prairie.

“At 8 A.M. we arrived at a part of the river where it showed an increase in breadth; it is now about a quarter of a mile broad, still flowing through a treeless plain, in which only one low hill is visible. This character continues for many miles, the hill banks then begin to increase in altitude, and are about 100 feet high, but the river flows through a dreary treeless plain for thirty miles from our camp, after which “ The Woods,” as they are termed, begin; they consist of a few clumps of aspen on the hill flanks of the deep valley of the river. The face of the country is changing fast, it is becoming more undulating, and patches of aspen woods appear on the prairie; here and there, however, the

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