Page images
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

occupied by timber." The next day "in the afternoon the people seemed to suffer for want of water. The road led along a high, dry ridge; dark lines of timber indicated the heads of streams in the plains below; but there was no water near, and the day was very oppressive. Along our route the amorpha canescens has been in very abundant but variable bloom, in some places bending beneath the weight of purple clusters, in others without a flower. It seems to love best the sunny slopes, with a dark soil and southern exposure. Everywhere the rose is met with, and reminds us of cultivated gardens and civilization. It is scattered over the prairies in small bouquets, and, when glittering in the dews and waving in the pleasant breeze of the early morning, is the most beautiful of the prairie flowers. The artemisia, abzinthe, or prairie sage, as it is variously called, is increasing in size, and glitters like silver as the southern breeze turns up its leaves to the sun. All these plants have their insect inhabitants, variously colored, generally taking the hue of the flower on which they live."

The party had by this time crossed the line of 40°, which is the northern line of Kanzas. The notes which follow continue the narrative of the journey in Nebraska to the river of that name.

"Our mid-day halt was at Wyeth's Creek, in the bed of which were numerous boulders of dark, ferruginous sandstone, mingled with others of the red sandstone already mentioned. At the close of the day we made our bivouac in

some well timbered ravines near the Little Blue. Crossing, the next morning, a number of handsome creeks with clear water and sandy beds, we reached, at ten A. M., a very beautiful wooded stream, about thirty-five feet wide, called Sandy Creek, and sometimes, as the Ottoes winter there, the Ottoe Fork. The country has become very sandy, and the plants less varied and abundant, with the exception of the amorpha, which rivals the grass in quantity.

"At the Big Trees, where we had intended to noon, no water was to be found. The bed of the little creek was perfectly dry, and on the adjacent sandy bottom cacti, for the first time, made their appearance. We made here a short delay in search of water, and, after a hard day's march of twenty-eight miles, encamped, at five o'clock, on the Little Blue, where our arrival made a scene of the Arabian desert. As fast as they arrived, men and horses rushed into the stream, where they bathed and drank together in common enjoyment. Our route the next morning lay up the valley, which, bordered by hills with graceful slopes, looked uncommonly green and beautiful. The stream was about fifty feet wide, and three or four deep, fringed by cotton-wood and willow, with frequent groves of oak tenanted by flocks of turkeys. Game here, too, made its appearance in greater plenty. Elk were frequently seen on the hills, and now and then an antelope bounded across our path, or a deer broke from the groves. The road, in the afternoon, was over the upper prairies, several miles from the river, and

[ocr errors]



we encamped, at sunset, on one of its small tributaries, where an abundance of prêle (equisetum) afforded fine forage to our tired animals.

"The road of the next day kept the valley, which is sometimes rich and well timbered, though the country is generally sandy."

It will be understood that in this journey Col. Fremont was passing constantly westward, and was thus approaching the wide sandy plains which make the second division of the country to one travelling in that direction. The next day he crossed the high prairie ridge, destitute of water, between the Blue and Nebraska rivers, and came to the head of Grand Island, near where Fort Kearney is now located.

In his expedition of the next year, Col. Fremont passed up the valley of the Republican Fork, and the notes of his journey, therefore, describe yet another region of Kanzas, passing from the fertile section through the sandy plains to the mountains.

[ocr errors]

Leaving at the ford the usual emigrant road to the mountains, we continued our route along the southern side of the Kanzas, where we found the country much more. broken than on the northern side of the river, and where our progress was much delayed by the numerous small streams, which obliged us to make frequent bridges. On the morning of the 4th we crossed a handsome stream, called by the Indians Otter Creek, about one hundred and thirty feet wide, where a flat stratum of limestone, which

forms the bed, made an excellent ford. We met here a small party of Kanzas and Delaware Indians, the latter returning from a hunting and trapping expedition on the upper waters of the river; and, on the heights above, were five or six Kanzas women engaged in digging prairie potatoes (psoralea esculenta).

"We arrived, on July 8th, at the mouth of the Smoky Hill Fork, which is the principal southern branch of the Kanzas, forming here with the Republican or northern branch the main Kanzas river. For several days we continued to travel along the Republican, through a country beautifully watered with numerous streams, handsomely timbered; and rarely an incident occurred to vary the monotonous resemblance which one day on the prairies here bears to another, and which scarcely require a particular description. Now and then we caught a glimpse of a small herd of elk; and occasionally a band of antelopes, whose curiosity sometimes brought them within rifle range, would circle round us, and then scour off into the prairies.

"The bottoms which form the immediate valley of the main river were generally about three miles wide, having a rich soil of black vegetable mould, and, for a prairie country, well interspersed with wood. The country was everywhere covered with a considerable variety of grasses, occasionally poor and thin, but far more frequently luxuriant and rich. We had been gradually and regularly ascending in our progress westward, and, on the evening of the 14th,



when we encamped on a little creek in the valley of the Republican, two hundred and sixty-five miles by our travelling road from the mouth of the Kanzas, we were at an elevation of one thousand five hundred and twenty feet.

"On the morning of the 16th, bearing a little out from the river, with a view of heading some of the numerous affluents, after a few hours' travel, over somewhat broken ground, we entered upon an extensive and high level prairie, on which we encamped towards evening at a little stream, where a single dry cotton-wood afforded the necessary fuel for preparing supper.

"The country afforded us an excellent road, the route being generally over high and very level prairies, and we met with no other delay than being frequently obliged to bridge one of the numerous streams, which were well timbered with ash, elm, cotton-wood and a very large oak, the latter being occasionally five or six feet in diameter, with a spreading summit. Sida coccinea is very frequent in vermilion-colored patches on the high and low prairie, and I remarked that it has a very pleasant perfume. The wild sensitive-plant (schrankia angustata) occurs frequently, generally on the dry prairies, in valleys of streams, and frequently on the broken prairie bank. I remark that the leaflets close instantly to a very light touch. Amorpha, with the same psoralea, and a dwarf species of lupinus, are the characteristic plants.

"June 21. During the forenoon we travelled up a branch

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »