CHAPTER XXIII. THE MEETING OF THE MOUNTAINS—ARIZONA'S NATURAL WONDERS...


Up: Contents Previous: CHAPTER XXII. THE EL PICACHOS—A LAND OF MASSACRES—COCHISE... Next: CHAPTER XXIV. REMARKABLE RUINS IN SOUTHERN ARIZONA...


[page 322]

THE MEETING OF THE MOUNTAINS—ARIZONA'S NATURAL WONDERS—THE MICROCOSM OF THE WORLD—THE COLORADO-ITS CANYONS—ITS PLATEAUS—ITS CAPRICES—A HOME FOR THE ‘‘REPEATER’’—THE INDIAN GUIDES OF THE COLORADO—A RIVER THAT ‘‘TELLS NO TALES.’’

IN Arizona is centered the three great mountain systems of the North American Continent. The Rocky mountains, the Sierras, and the great metal bearing Cordilleras of Mexico come together here, and cast themselves in her very midst. Here the series of metalliferous mountains to the north in Nevada, which has created so much furore over the whole country, and the mountains of untold wealth of Sonora in Mexico, come together as though they had some great difficulty to settle; and in the upheavals it seems as though they had spent all their force in the contest. What are the effects yet to be discovered, of such a clashing? In the very demonstrations of the conditions already known to exist,—that of the minerals


[page 323]

—will the interesting and more wonderful features of Arizona be brought to light.

By refering to a map of Arizona it will be noticed that a succession of mountainous regions find their way from the extreme southeastern part of the Territory, to the northwest where the great Colorado bends on its course east and south. In this succession or system is located the famous Santa Catarina and Santa Rita mineral districts of the extreme southeast; the great silver bonanza district of the ‘‘Stonewall Jackson’’ mine and the McMillen district; the rich mines in and around Prescott, in its high and beautiful mountain elevation; and lastly to the northwest, the rich and noted location of the McCracken mine, near the great bend of the Colorado, at which place, for natural wonders, Arizona may not be jealous, even of her sister State, California. In these higher regions platinum, too, is already traced.

Col. R. J. Hinton in his hand-book, says, in alluding to the peculiar and interesting mineral effects and phenomena in the highly charged electrical locations: ‘‘“Similar phenomena from this cause have been observed in the Libyan desert, and on the Congo and Orinoco Rivers, which with other circumstances as to climate, etc., indicate that the Pacific slope is a microcosm of the world, where Italy, Egypt, Arabia, Timbuctoo, Kamschatka, Brazil and the ‘gem of the sea’


[page 324]

can all be found within a week's travel of each other; more especially when the ‘missing links’ of railroad are complete.”’’

The Colonel could not have missed it, if be had used this similitude to all conditions of Arizona alike. In the great Marble canyon of the Colorado River, is a section where the walls rise to a height of six thousand feet. Imagine yourself standing by the side of the mighty El Capitan in the Yosemite Valley, increased to double its height. Can you conceive it? Hardly; you are entering the grand canyons of the Colorado. From the summit, inland, extends an immense plateau with its meadows, lakes, etc. Being in a high altitude eight thousand feet above the level of the sea, snow can be found late in the season; and yet sections of verdant hills and meadows are found in luxuriance. Immense herds of deer rove here at will; and as well as destined to become a retreat for the sight-seeing tourists in its grand canyons and gigantic walls, the huntsman's gun will ‘‘crack’’ in these regions with most profitable results for ages to come. This is the land of the Rai vav-it Indians. Pine forests are abundant. It is said there is one place in these canyons, where the walls are so high and so close together, that it makes the place just dark enough for one to see the light of the stars in the heaven at day-time. It seems to me this must be the location referred to in the latter


[page 325]

BUTTE IN THE UPPER COLORADO CANYON—COLORADO RIVER, ARIZONA.


[page 327]

part of the sixteenth century, by the early Spanish conquerors from Mexico, in their explorations to the north. They reported great and wonderful rivers, ‘‘“the banks of which were three or four leagues in the air.”’’ Imagine walls nine to twelve miles high. This was the report of the expedition of Don Garcia Lopez de Cardenas, under direction of Coronado, in 1540. Either they, in their continued enthusiasm of the new country grossly exagerated the height, or we have failed to retain a knowlege of the location referred to.

At one place there is a succession of these plateaus, each one of which is lower than the previous one, until from a plateau of country embracing all the climates of a temperate zone, you approach to that of a semi-tropical. Each one of these plateaus end with an abrupt break or wall descending to one below. Sometimes the drop from one plateau to the other will measure many hundred feet, and even approach to the thousands.

In one place, by a manoeuvre of the river, two plateaus are thrown in such a relation to each other that you can stand on one where snow is not an uncommon thing in July, and where pines live and potatoes grow, and throw a stone into a little semi-tropical valley where the sub-tropical plants grow luxuriantly, and the fig and the orange; and the sugar cane and rice are being cultivated now by a sparse population.


[page 328]

New ‘‘El Capitans,’’ new ‘‘Fort Rocks’’ and ‘‘Bridal Veils,’’ and other Yosemite freaks will, we may suppose, be opened at no very distant day to the sightseer and the tourist.

The length of the Colorado River is two thousand miles. About four hundred miles from its mouth, the river takes an easterly course, and extending a distance of two hundred miles in the northern part of Arizona; and running up into Utah are the great Marble, Glen, and Grand canyons of the Colorado. In these canyons exist the glories of this river. The lower portion of the river is mainly on a level with the sea; but in these canyons the river and plateaus range from four to fourteen thousand feet above the level of the sea; and in this distance of two hundred miles, the river falls five thousand feet. After leaving the region of the canyon the river takes a direct southerly course and opens out upon a broad stretch of alternate flat lands, prairies, and deserts. The grand gorges of the upper Colorado and its ponderous canyons have been passed, but you have entered a river, which, for its whims and caprices, can scarcely be equaled by any navigable stream. Lacking the potent, ponderous stability of its upper portions, the lower, like a man jealous of his defeat in love or accomplishments, tries how far he can hate, or what a distorted compound he can make of himself, seems to


[page 329]

MARBLE CANYON OF THE COLORADO RIVER.


[page 331]

glory in its very caprice and its contrariness. Running through a region often of sands and disintegrated earth, the river will often change its entire course in twenty-four hours. Boats coming down the river this week will find, in going up next week, the channel of the river has been completely changed, and that new islands have been formed, old ones washed away; barriers, where before there had been plain sailing. Today this or that piece or strip of land, will be in Arizona. To-morrow in California. Land speculations along the banks of this river at present would puzzle the brains of our shrewdest lawyers. To-day the river would take a sweep around a section of land upon which had settled some thrifty farmer, cutting his farm in two, taking part of his land over to Arizona, and the next day continue its incursions and take the rest of his land, house and all, over with it. One day he lives in Arizona the next in California. This would be a good place for a ‘‘repeater’’ to live; or a sorry place for a good honest voter.

These conditions, it will be seen, necessitates a constant changing of the course of traveling. Each successive trip is an exploration for ‘‘a new passage to the north’’ or south. Each steamboat, as it plys the river, and on each and every trip, has stationed at its bow, with lead and line, or pole (the river for the most part over these plains being very shallow), a stalwart


[page 332]

Indian measuring the depth of the water as the boat proceeds. In quaint accents of the true American Indian, and decidedly broken English, this half-clad Zuma or Apaché will shout: ‘‘Three!’’ ‘‘Three and a half!’’ ‘‘Two and a quarter!’’ ‘‘Two!’’ ‘‘Two and a half!’’ etc. etc. It sounds as though he said: ‘‘Thee!’’ ‘‘Thee 'n ha!’’ ‘‘To!’’ etc. etc.; and as his voice goes forth smothered by the deadening sound of the steamboat, and in the stillness of the surroundings, you will fancy you are on a voyage up the Nile to discover its source.

This again calls to mind the number of experiences all through Arizona, that will so thoroughly act as substitutes for distant travels in foreign lands, or among the different people and nations of the earth. Not only is this river whimsical in its course, but especially capricious in its actions. Often some new feature of its unruly nature will be told. It is a river, they say, that does not give up its dead. A story of one of its manoeuvres was told me while at Yuma.

It seems that in the river there will often appear on the top of the water a sort of air bubble; after remaining a moment it bursts with the noise of a pop gun. Then commences a vociferous action of the water, assuming a circular motion resembling a whirlpool. These are very powerful at first, but decrease as they become larger and finally die out. For a goodly distance,


[page 333]

THE GREAT CANYON OF THE COLODORA RIVER—ARIZONA.


[page 335]

however, their power is sufficient to take a small boat within their grasp, when it and its freight is never heard from more, for the bodies never rise.

Up: Contents Previous: CHAPTER XXII. THE EL PICACHOS—A LAND OF MASSACRES—COCHISE... Next: CHAPTER XXIV. REMARKABLE RUINS IN SOUTHERN ARIZONA...




© Arizona Board of Regents