CHAPTER X. FROM THE JUNCTION OF THE GRAND AND GREEN TO THE MOUTH OF THE LITTLE COLORADO.
A long neck of rock extends toward the mouth of the Grand. Out on this we walk, crossing a great number of deep crevices. Usually the smooth rock slopes down to the fissure on either side. Sometimes it is an interesting question to us whether the slope is not so steep that we cannot stand on it. Sometimes, starting down, we are compelled to go on, and when we measure the crevice with our eye from above we are not always sure that it is not too wide for a jump. Probably the slopes would not be difficult if there was not a fissure at the lower end; nor would the fissures cause fear if they were but a few feet deep. It is curious how a little obstacle becomes a great obstruction when a misstep would land a man in the bottom of a deep chasm. Climbing the face of a cliff, a man will without hesitancy walk along a step or shelf but a few inches wide if the landing is but ten feet below, but if the foot of the cliff is a thousand feet down he will prefer to crawl along the shelf. At last our way is cut off by a fissure so deep and wide that we cannot pass it. Then we turn and walk back into the country, over the smooth, naked sandstone, without vegetation, except that here and there dwarf cedars and pinon pines have found a footing in the huge cracks. There are great basins in the rock, holding water, - some but a few gallons, others hundreds of barrels.
The day is spent in walking about through these strange scenes. A narrow gulch is cut into the wall of the main canyon. Follow this up and the climb is rapid, as if going up a mountain side, for the gulch heads but a few hundred or a few thousand yards from the wall. But this gulch has its side gulches, and as the summit is approached a group of radiating canyons is found. The spaces drained by these little canyons are terraced, and are, to a greater or less extent, of the form of amphitheaters, though some are oblong and some rather irregular. Usually the spaces drained by any two of these little side canyons are separated by a narrow wall, 100, 200, or 300 feet high, and often but a few feet in thickness. Sometimes the wall is broken into a line of pyramids above and still remains a wall below. There are a number of these gulches which break the wall of the main canyon of the Green, each one having its system of side canyons and amphitheaters, inclosed by walls or lines of pinnacles. The course of the Green at this point is approximately at right angles to that of the Colorado, and on the brink of the latter canyon we find the same system of terraced and walled glens. The walls and pinnacles and towers are of sandstone, homogeneous in structure but not in color, as they show broad bands of red, buff, and gray. This painting of the rocks, dividing them into sections, increases their apparent height. In some places these terraced and walled glens along the Colorado have coalesced with those along the Green; that is, the intervening walls are broken down. It is very rarely that a loose rock is seen. The sand is washed off, so that the walls, terraces, and slopes of the glens are all of smooth sandstone.
In the walls themselves curious caves and channels have been carved. In some places there are little stairways up the walls; in others, the walls present what are known as royal arches; and so we wander through glens and among pinnacles and climb the walls from early morn until late in the afternoon.
July 21. - We start this morning on the Colorado. The river is rough, and bad rapids in close succession are found. Two very hard portages are made during the forenoon. After dinner, in running a rapid, the "Emma Dean" is swamped and we are thrown into the river; we cling to the boat, and in the first quiet water below she is righted and bailed out; but three oars are lost in this mishap. The larger boats land above the dangerous place, and we make a portage, which occupies all the afternoon. We camp at night on the rocks on the left bank, and can scarcely find room to lie down.
July 22. - This morning we continue our journey, though short of oars. There is no timber growing on the walls within our reach and no driftwood along the banks, so we are compelled to go on until something suitable can be found. A mile and three quarters below, we find a huge pile of driftwood, among which are some cottonwood logs. From these we select one which we think the best, and the men are set at work sawing oars. Our boats are leaking again, from the strains received in the bad rapids yesterday, so after dinner they are turned over and some of the men calk them.
Captain Powell and I go out to climb the wall to the east, for we can see dwarf pines above, and it is our purpose to collect the resin which oozes from them, to use in pitching our boats. We take a barometer with us and find that the walls are becoming higher, for now they register an altitude above the river of nearly 1,500 feet.
July 23. - On starting, we come at once to difficult rapids and falls, that in many places are more abrupt than in any of the canyons through which we have passed, and we decide to name this Cataract Canyon. From morning until noon the course of the river is to the west; the scenery is grand, with rapids, and falls below, and walls above, beset with crags and pinnacles. Just at noon we wheel again to the south and go into camp for dinner.