CHAPTER X. FROM THE JUNCTION OF THE GRAND AND GREEN TO THE MOUTH OF THE LITTLE COLORADO.
While the cook is preparing it, Bradley, Captain Powell, and I go up into a side canyon that comes in at this point. We enter through a very narrow passage, having to wade along the course of a little stream until a cascade interrupts our progress. Then we climb to the right for a hundred feet until we reach a little shelf, along which we pass, walking with great care, for it is narrow; thus we pass around the fall. Here the gorge widens into a spacious, sky-roofed chamber. In the farther end is a beautiful grove of cottonwoods, and between us and the cotton-woods the little stream widens out into three clear lakelets with bottoms of smooth rock. Beyond the cottonwoods the brook tumbles in a series of white, shining cascades from heights that seem immeasurable. Turning around, we can look through the cleft through which we came and see the river with towering walls beyond. What a chamber for a resting-place is this! hewn from the solid rock, the heavens for a ceiling, cascade fountains within, a grove in the conservatory, clear lakelets for a refreshing bath, and an outlook through the doorway on a raging river, with cliffs and mountains beyond.
Our way after dinner is through a gorge, grand beyond description. The walls are nearly vertical, the river broad and swift, but free from rocks and falls. From the edge of the water to the brink of the cliffs it is 1,600 to 1,800 feet. At this great depth the river rolls in solemn majesty. The cliffs are reflected from the more quiet river, and we seem to be in the depths of the earth, and yet we can look down into waters that reflect a bottomless abyss. Early in the afternoon we arrive at the head of more rapids and falls, but, wearied with past work, we determine to rest, so go into camp, and the afternoon and evening are spent by the men in discussing the probabilities of successfully navigating the river below. The barometric records are examined to see what descent we have made since we left the mouth of the Grand, and what descent since we left the Pacific Bailroad, and what fall there yet must be to the river ere we reach the end of the great canyons. The conclusion at which the men arrive seems to be about this: that there are great descents yet to be made, but if they are distributed in rapids and short falls, as they have been heretofore, we shall be able to overcome them; but may be we shall come to a fall in these canyons which we cannot pass, where the walls rise from the water's edge, so that we cannot land, and where the water is so swift that we cannot return. Such places have been found, except that the falls were not so great but that we could run them with safety. How will it be in the future t So they speculate over the serious probabilities in jesting mood.
July 24. - We examine the rapids below. Large rocks have fallen from the walls - great, angular blocks, which have rolled down the talus and are strewn along the channel. We are compelled to make three portages in succession, the distance being less than three fourths of a mile, with a fall of 75 feet. Among these rocks, in chutes, whirlpools, and great waves, with rushing breakers and foam, the water finds its way, still tumbling down. We stop for the night only three fourths of a mile below the last camp. A very hard day's work has been done, and at evening I sit on a rock by the edge of the river and look at the water and listen to its roar. Hours ago deep shadows settled into the canyon, as the sun passed behind the cliffs. Now, doubtless, the sun has gone down, for we can see no glint of light on the crags above. Darkness is coming on; but the waves are rolling with crests of foam so white they seem almost to give a light of their own. Near by, a chute of water strikes the foot of a great block of limestone 50 feet high, and the waters pile up against it and roll back. Where there are sunken rocks the water heaps up in mounds, or even in cones. At a point where rocks come very near the surface, the water forms a chute above, strikes, and is shot up 10 or 15 feet, and piles back in gentle curves, as in a fountain; and on the river tumbles and rolls.
July 25. - Still more rapids and falls to-day. In one, the "Emma Dean" is caught in a whirlpool and set spinning about, and it is with great difficulty we are able to get out of it with only the loss of an oar. At noon another is made; and on we go, running some of the rapids, letting down with lines past others, and making two short portages. We camp on the right bank, hungry and tired.
July 26. - We run a short distance this morning and go into camp to make oars and repair boats and barometers. The walls of the canyon have been steadily increasing in altitude to this point, and now they are more than 2,000 feet high. In many places they are vertical from the water's edge; in others there is a talus between the river and the foot of the cliff; and they are often broken down by side canyons. It is probable that the river is nearly as low now as it is ever found. High-water mark can be observed 40, 50, 60, or 100 feet above its present stage. Sometimes logs and driftwood are seen wedged into the crevices over-head, where floods have carried them.