23. NATURAL CURIOSITIES.—GRAND SCENERY, ETC.


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A MINUTE and full description of the grand scenery, and wonderful natural curiosities of Arizona, would fill volumes, and would be of exceeding interest to all who love to read descriptions of nature's works, or who delight in nature's wonderful domain. But few of these can be described in this work, and they in a brief manner only.

There are numerous cañons in the Territory, of great depth and extent. These are deep gorges, worn out by the erosion of running water, during the countless ages of the unknown past. They are grand and sublime to the highest degree. They are often many miles long, with abrupt and precipitous wall rocks on either side, thousands of feet in height.

The Grand Cañon of the Colorado, which is in Northern Arizona, is three hundred miles in length, and there are but few places in the whole distance where men can enter or emerge from its wonderful depths. This cañon has been worn through the hard granite, limestone, slate, trachyte, and other hard


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rocks, to a great depth. It can only be explored by entering it from its upper end, in Southern Utah, in boats prepared for the purpose, as did Major Powell and party in 1869, and then it is a most dangerous undertaking, fraught with a thousand dangers to life and limb. This grand cañon has no equal in the world, and when once seen can never be forgotten. For grandeur and sublimity, it has never been excelled by nature in her wildest moods. The description given of it by Major Powell, of the many scenes and incidents which occurred during the passage through its wonderful recesses, of the dangers to be overcome, as day by day they floated down with the rapid current of the Colorado, the fails and whirlpools met with, and overcome by almost superhuman energy and determination, the narrow escapes from death, and the many dangers encountered,—it is all of the most thrilling character. For a full description the reader is referred to Powell's reports to the Department at Washington. Entering the Grand Cañon at many different points, are lateral cañons of equal height as the main one, some of which are so narrow, it would seem that one could leap from side to side across the chasm. That of the Chiquito Colorado is the largest of the lateral ones.

In passing down the Colorado, after emerging from the Grand Cañon, several others are met with of from five to twenty miles in length, and of great interest to the explorer.


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From Stone's Ferry of the Colorado River, which is 640 miles above its entrance to the Gulf of California, explorers can go down the Colorado in a strong open boat in comparative safety; and from Hardyville down, a distance of 513 miles, the river steamers of the Colorado Steam Navigation Company make regular trips. A trip up and down the river on one of these steamers is of exceeding interest, and the explorer and traveler, who visits that far off country, should by all means make the journey, which will occupy but one or two weeks. Three cañons are passed on the way, one of which is the Black Cañon of the Needles, thirty miles below Camp Mohave. It is nearly twenty miles long, and as the staunch steamer rushes with the speed of the race horse through the rushing, roaring whirlpool of waters, turning now to the right, and now to the left, under the guidance of Captain Mellen and the pilot, one looks on with bated breath, catching here and there visions of almost every conceivable object in the worn and eroded rocks on either hand, sometimes a minaret, tower, or steeple, and anon the image of some giant Titan, as if carved by the hand of man. After passing this cañon the steamer enters the beautiful Chimuehueva Valley, which opens up to the view a scene of quiet beauty, where all nature seems quiet and serene. The raging waters of the cañon above are now still and smoothly flowing,


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presenting a contrast to the wildness and grandeur above, quieting to the nerves, and soothing one into silent meditation, and peaceful thought.

The Bill Williams Cañon below Aubrey, and the Picacho Cañon above Castle Dome, are similar in character to the Black Cañon, though not so exceedingly wild, grand, or picturesque.

There are scores of other cañons in the Territory at almost every point in the mountains, and the mountain plateaus. Some of them are found where no permanent streams now exist, but where evidently there were in ancient times rivers of some magnitude. Others are found in the mountain plateaus where, at a distance, the smooth surface is apparently level and unbroken, and where the course of the explorer is suddenly checked by one of these great cañons, which it is impossible to pass without making a detour of many miles; others again are found where a tiny trickling stream of water runs through its length for many miles, a stream hardly deep enough to cover a lady's shoe.

One of the most interesting of these is the Aravaipa Cañon, one hundred and twenty miles from Tucson. It is eighteen miles long, and the wall rock rises in places from one thousand to three thousand feet perpendicular. A tiny brooklet, the Aravaipa Creek, runs through its whole distance, with deep pools in places, well stocked with fish. When once


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in the cañon, it is next to impossible to get out until one goes to the extreme end, or retraces his way to the point of entrance. It is in a few places one hundred yards wide, and again not over one hundred feet. A few lateral cañons enter it of equal depth, but only a few feet wide, from the depths of which, in looking upwards, one can see what would be vulgarly called a crack or hole in the sky, with a sight above of stars at noonday.

Occasionally a large cinnamon bear will be met in this cañon, which it would be well to avoid, also a flock of wild turkeys, one of which would make a choice meal for a number of hungry men. A few chaparral bushes and cottonwood trees grow in places in the cañon, and far up in the cliffs of the overhanging rocks, specimens of the giant cactus, the Cereus giganteus, spread out their giant arms as if in wonder at the scene below.

The mountainous parts of Arizona, which comprise nearly or quite two thirds of its area, are literally cut up and filled with these wonderful gorges, some of which have never yet been explored by white men, and which would require years of time to fully explore. The formation is generally granitic, with occasional heavy dykes of hard lime and sandstone, slate, porphyry, and in places trachyte, through whose hardened surfaces these chasms have been worn in the lengthened ages of the past.


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In addition to the cañons, Arizona is filled with numerous other natural curiosities and scenery, sufficient to keep the explorer in a continued state of wonder and surprise.

The southern portion of the Territory has numerous sugar-loaf mountains, which rise abruptly from the surface of the great plains and valleys to a height of hundreds and thousands of feet, and are called there picachos. Many of them are entirely isolated, and have no connection with any mountain range.

Their formation is a mystery, and a subject of deep thought and study. They may have had originally a connection with other mountains, but the degradation of the connection is so complete, that not a vestige now remains.

An interesting formation is that known as Castle Dome, thirty miles northeast from Yuma. On the highest point of the Colorado River range of mountains, about ten miles east of the river, is a rock formation hundreds of feet square, which, at a distance, looks like a great castle. This can be seen for a hundred miles or more in different directions, and is a noted landmark of the country.

Another noted landmark is the Four Peaks, which are four mountain peaks near Salt River, and but a few miles from Camp McDowell. They rise to a height of several thousand feet, and can be seen for hundreds of miles.


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Farther up Salt River is an extensive salt formation through which Salt River runs. It is some one hundred miles or more above Phœnix. The salt is so extensive that the whole volume of water in the river is impregnated with it, rendering it so salt a stranger can barely drink of it, though in other respects it is clear and pure. To obtain a full idea of this immense saline formation, one must bear in mind the fact that the river, where it emerges from the mountains, has a width of two hundred feet and a depth of nearly twenty inches, with a swift current. For at least two hundred years there has been no abatement in the saltness of the water of the river, which was named the Rio Salido (River of Salt) over two centuries since, by the early Spanish and Jesuit explorers.

In different parts of the Territory are peculiar mountain formations, resembling the thumb of a man, which are called Thumb Buttes. One of these is a few miles west from Prescott, and is a conspicuous object in the mountain scenery of that region.

The grandest mountain in all Arizona is San Francisco Peak, eighty-five miles north of east from Prescott. It rises to an altitude of over thirteen thousand feet, and is plainly distinguishable at a distance of over two hundred miles. It rises to a height far above the timber line, and its hoary head, “rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun,” is considered by the simple Zuñi


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Indians to be one end of the earth. The Zuñis live nearly two hundred miles far to the northeast of the mountain, and it is no wonder that they should attach much importance to this great mountain, whose bald crown rises so high above all other mountains, and whose rocky sides are covered with snow for ten months in the year.

The great Tonto Basin is a natural depression in the mountains, midway between Prescott and Camp Apache, where the great Tonto and other creeks rise, and flow south into Salt River. It is fifty miles or more across, and surrounded most of the way by precipitous wall rocks, and almost unapproachable. For many years it was the resort of hostile Apaches, who fled to its recesses where they were in comparative safety. A few renegades yet seek its fastnesses as a secure hiding place from their pursuers. This basin is as yet almost wholly unknown, except to the military, who from time to time have pursued the hostile Indians into its wonderful cañons and gorges.

The Zuñi Lake is near the eastern line of Arizona, some thirty miles from the Milligan Settlement, which is on the upper waters of the Chiquito Colorado River. It is in one of the most desolate regions on the continent, surrounded by bleak, barren, desolate, volcanic mountains, with no outlet, and is nearly one mile across in its widest part. The water is in no place over five feet deep. In the southern part of


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the lake is a volcanic cone about eighty feet above the surface of the lake, and from this cone there issues a stream of salt water, somewhat impregnated with saltpetre, which flows continually into the lake, keeping up a uniform height. The heat of the sun evaporates the water and leaves the salt as a residuum in a crystallized form.

The depth of the deposit of salt is unknown, but it has been opened over five feet deep, and is found pure at that depth. It is an excellent quality for preserving meat, and for table and other purposes. The hollow cone from which the water issues is two feet in diameter and of great depth. Ropes have been sunk to a depth of nearly one hundred feet without touching bottom.

A load of this salt was brought to Prescott in July, 1876, which sold for five cents per pound. The distance from Prescott to the lake is over two hundred miles. At one point a wagon can approach the lake, and being driven into it, the salt is shoveled up like so much sand or gravel. There is a spring of pure water four hundred yards to the south of the lake, which is the only good drinking water for many miles around.

From time immemorial, the Zuñi Indians have obtained salt from the lake, and they hold it sacred, going there for salt only at stated times and seasons. They do not like to have other tribes or people go there, but now permit the whites to do so.


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In the northern and northeastern portions of Arizona are a number of curious and interesting lakes, or, as some of them are called, “wells,” of pure fresh water. One near the Navajoe Springs is called Jacob's Well. Another is known as Stoneman's Lake. Several are found near Bill Williams Mountain, and one, which will be briefly described, is about fifty-five miles north of east from Prescott, and is called Montezuma Well.

This well, or lake, is near Beaver Creek, twelve miles northeast from Camp Verde, on the Verde River, and two miles east from Mr. Arnold's ranch or farm. It is in a limestone formation, and on a piece of tableland or mesa, elevated above the creek about one hundred feet. This mesa is level, and its surface is the bare limestone rock, with no bush, tree, or verdure on it. The opening to the well is circular, and as perfect as though made by the hand of man, and is about six hundred feet across. From the surface of the mesa to the water, is seventy feet. The water is clear and pure, and nearly or quite one hundred feet deep. The inner walls of the opening are perpendicular, and access to the water is almost impossible, except on the southeast side, where the walls are partially broken down, and where ladies can approach the water with assistance.

On the northwest side are three or four cave dwellings, about midway between the water and the surface


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of the mesa. These dwellings are from twelve to twenty feet across in front, and about the same depth, and are walled up in front. They were evidently inhabited by the old prehistoric people described in another chapter. The eastern and south-eastern borders of the well approach Beaver Creek within thirty to one hundred feet, and it is separated from the creek by a rim of the inclosing limestone rock. This rim of rock was built up with stone buildings its whole width, and about one hundred feet in length. The walls of these old buildings are yet standing to a height of twenty feet in places.

On the southeast side of the well is another old cave dwelling, which can be explored fully one hundred feet. It is near the surface of the water of the well, which runs off under the cave and discharges the water into the creek some two hundred feet to the south, in a pretty cascade of about one hundred inches of water.

This stream is continuous the whole year. The whole surface surrounding the well is strewn with broken pottery ware of various sizes, forms, and patterns. In walking around the rim of the well, the limestone rock gives forth a ringing metallic sound, as though it had been subjected at some former time to extreme heat. Below the well, on the creek flat, are two or three dykes of volcanic lava. From all the surroundings, it is quite evident that the well was at


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one time, in the far distant past, the crater of a long since extinct volcano. Mr. Arnold, who lives two miles below, has a small row boat on the lake or well, in which one can ride across its smooth and glassy surface, which is ever quiet and unruffled by wind or storm.

This is a pleasant resort for picnic and other parties from Prescott, Camp Verde, and elsewhere, who find it exceedingly interesting. Both male and female visitors can enter the large cave, where, seated on the limestone slabs of rock, they can enjoy its coolness, drink of the crystal water, and lunch in the most approved romantic style.

Some large open-mouthed bottles have been placed on the shelving rock of the great cave, where visitors leave their cards with such inscriptions as seem appropriate to the time and place.

Though evidently, as before stated, the crater of an extinct volcano, future critical examinations by wise men and savants may determine otherwise. Whatever the final decision may be, the well is one of the most interesting of the many natural curiosities of this or any other country, and is worth a trip across the continent to see.

There are but few thermal springs in Arizona compared to the numbers found in California, and of these but little is yet satisfactorily known as to their chemical constituents or curative qualities. Some of


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them have been found beneficial in rheumatic and kindred complaints. They may in the future become noted resorts for invalids.

One of the best known is that of the Agua Caliente, near Stanwix Station, ninety-five miles east from Yuma, owned by the Hon. King S. Woolsey.

A series of hot sulphur springs are in the Sulphur Spring Valley, seventy miles east from Tucson. There are others in the Santa Catarina Mountains, and in the Pueblo Viejo Valley, as well as in other localities in the Territory. Future examination, and an analysis of these waters, is necessary to determine as to their value as curative agents.

The foregoing is but a faint and imperfect description of a few of the many natural curiosities found in Arizona, a country so filled with objects of interest, of an all absorbing character, one can never tire in his explorations, and can feast on new and wonderful formations from day to day, and year to year.

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