There are several islands adjacent to the main land, which now deserve our attention. The most important of these, is Vancouver's island, which is two hundred and sixty miles in length, and fifty in width, and like the main land in its vicinity, its surface is broken and mountainous, yet it has some plains and valleys, of considerable extent and fertility. An abundance of good fresh water is produced by its numerous springs and streams, which rise in its interior; and it is generally well timbered, and in all respects well adapted to grazing and agricultural purposes. Washington, or Queen Charlotte's island is about one hundred and fifty miles in length, and thirty in width. It is quite similar to Vancover's island in its adaptation to grazing and agricultural purposes, and it has also an abundance of good fresh water, which is produced from its numerous springs and rivulets rising in its interior. Its surface is also broken and hilly, having however, many small valleys and plains, which are very rich, and which abound with good timber; it, like Vancover's island, is well adapted to the support of a small community. Besides these, there is also an archipelago of islands, near the southern extremity of Vancouver's island. The surface of these islands, is, generally, much broken, and they are much less fertile, than those just described. They generally, have a sufficiency of timber, but an insufficiency of fresh water, which is, no doubt, the cause of their being uninhabited. There are a few other islands also, near the main land, which are called the Prince Royal islands, and which are uninhabited, and in all other respects, quite similar to those last described. The first two above described, are as thickly inhabited as the main land, by various tribes of Indians, who resort to them, in large numbers, for the purpose of hunting and fishing.
Very few safe harbors are found in all Oregon. As has been elsewhere remarked, all the various rivers, which empty into the ocean, have extensive sand bars at their mouths, which render them extremely difficult, and dangerous of entrance. These bars are formed by the immense quantities of sand, which are brought down by the water, during the annual overflows, and which, are thrown back into the mouths by the lashing surf. Thus, the waters of the rivers, pressing upon the one side, and the surf upon the other, the sands are formed into bars, which so much interrupt the navigation of all those otherwise navigable, and important streams. Permanent bars, are not however, thus formed; the constant action of the water, having a tendency to confine the sand within indefinite limits, but not to render it permanent. Hence it is, that the bars are constantly changing their positions, from side to side, which renders the entrance into all those rivers, the more difficult and dangerous. The pilot who well understands the channel this year, knows nothing of it the next. Entrance or departure, through many of these channels, is entirely impracticable, the greater part of the year. These bars are not only changing their positions, but they are constantly increasing; yet the fact that the depth of the water upon them, has never been known to diminish, induces the belief, that notwithstanding the changes, and increase of the sands, they will never afford any greater obstruction to the navigation, than they do at present. Gray's harbour is considered very safe, when entered, but vessels only of a small class can enter it, there being but about ten feet of water at the entrance, and the anchorage which it affords although safe, is very limited. The northern part of Oregon affords many extensive and safe harbours, the principal of which, are those of the straits Juan de Fucas. Many of these harbour are very extensive, and entirely secure, and are capable of receiving any class of vessels. They are, no doubt, ample for all the commercial purposes of northern Oregon, but that portion is the least fertile, and the least valuable part of all that country, consequently, commercial advantages, in that section of the country, are of much less importance. Much of that part of the coast north of latitude 49? north, is cut and intersected, in almost every direction, by innumerable deep inlets, which have high perpendicular walls, of solid rock, but which, afford no anchorage or harbors. But the sterility and roughness of that portion of the country are such, that harbors there, would be of little or no importance. Some of the islands of which I have spoken, have a few very good harbors, but they are very limited in extent of anchorage. Vancover's island affords the best, but Queen Charlotte's island affords some very good ones, so also do several others of the larger islands. South of the Columbia, there are but two harbors, of any importance which are found at the mouth of the Umpqua and Rogues rivers, and which have vast sand bars at their entrances, that render ingress and egress, not only very difficult, but extremely hazardous. A further and more serious objection, to all those harbors formed by the rivers, is, that after an entrance is effected, the anchorage is entirely insecure, owing to the exposure of vessels, to the winds, and surf of the ocean, to which they are dangerously exposed, everywhere in the vicinity of the mouths of all these rivers. There is not, in fact, a good, convenient, or safe harbor, on all the coast of Oregon, south of the straits of Juan de Fucas, and the gulf of Georgia.
A more particular description of the face of the country will now, be given. In giving this description, I commence with the Eastern section, or that section which lies between the Rocky, and Blue mountains. It is much diversified in surface, as it is intersected in almost every direction. by innumerable spurs of the Rocky and Blue mountains. Very little level land is to be found, in any portion of this section, but many extensive, broken and hilly prairies, are found, which are entirely sterile, producing neither grass nor timber; the only vegetation seen being the prickly-pear and the wild wormwood, or artemisia. The only vegetation which is found in any part of this section, is in the vicinity of the streams, with occasional patches of "bunch grass" off the streams. Persons in traveling through this section, are under the necessity of traveling a certain number of hours each day, and at a certain rate of speed, in order to reach those places, where water and grass may be found, for the sustenance of themselves and their horses. Notwithstanding the general sterility, of this section, it has some tolerably, and some very rich valleys and plains, all of which, however, are extremely limited in their extent. The first of them, which I shall notice, is the valley of the great Bear river. The river upon which this valley lies, is of considerable importance; rising east of the Rocky mountains, it runs through the great southern pass, at latitude 42? north, and empties into the great Salt lake, or lake Timpanagos, in Upper California. The valley of this river, lies principally in California also, but my present purpose is to describe that portion only of it, which lies in Oregon. Much of this valley is very rich, producing vegetation in great abundance, but its principal importance, consists in its peculiar local situation. It is through this valley, that the route from the United States to Oregon and California, is destined forever to pass. Being the most eligible, and in fact, the only practical wagon route, that has, as yet, been discovered by which, the emigrant may travel with ease and comfort; it is destined, beyond any doubt, to become the great thoroughfare to all the western country. When we reflect that even now, hundreds and thousands of our citizens are annually passing by that route down this valley, we can not fail to arrive at the conclusion, that this must soon become a vastly, important region. At some point in this valley, will be found the most favorable point, on the whole route from the Atlantic to the Pacific, for the emigrant to encamp for a few days, in order to acquire that relaxation and repose, which he so much needs, after his long and fatiguing journey, as well as to obtain supplies, and to refit, for the residue of his toilsome expedition. But this is not the only importance, attached to this peculiar section of country. In this valley, are found the soda springs, the "steam-boat springs," and numerous other wonderous objects, which are well calculated to attract the attention of the curious, and the admirer of nature.
The soda springs are situated about one hundred miles west of the dividing ridge, of the Rocky mountains, and about fifty miles east of Fort Hall, within twenty rods of Bear river, on its north side, and near latitude 42? north. They are in the midst of a beautiful grove of small cedars, and -surrounded by rich valleys and plains, high, rolling hills, and volcanic vales and mountains. Upon approaching within their vicinity, you are struck at once, with the extraordinary appearance which they present, as well as the hissing noises which they produce, occasioned by the perpetual effervescence of their bubbling noisy waters. There are six of these, which are from five to ten feet in diameter; the waters of which, are from two to three feet, below the surface of the earth. Their waters are perfectly clear, and very delicious to the taste, and in all respects, like the water obtained at our common soda fountains in civilized life. When dipping the water from the springs, the effervescence is still going on in your cup, until you place it to your lips, when, if you can withstand its suffocating fumes, you have a most delicious draught. In the vicinity of these springs, there are also, several other soda springs, which, however, are much less important, than those just described. Near them also, are several very singular conical elevations, about five or six feet in height, in the apex of each of which, is an aperture, of about six inches in diameter, from which the water gushes out, and running down the sides of these cones, it leaves upon them a sediment, which thrown up by the water, and which has, no doubt, in the process of time, produced these extraordinary conical formations, which now much more resemble the work of art, than that of nature. These singular evomitions of water and sediment, are produced by the escape of great quantities of gas, generated by the evolving waters in the subterraneous caverns below. The ceaseless commotion of the waters, in those vast reservoirs, produce a constant rumbling and gurgling sound, which is distinctly heard a distance of several rods from the springs, and the emition of gas, produces a kind of puffing, and blowing sound, which is also heard several rods. About one hundred rods below these springs, is the "steam boat spring," as it is called, which discharges water and gas in the same manner, as those just described, but in much greater quantities, and with a report quite similar to that produced by the emition of steam from the escape pipe of a steam-boat, hence the name "steam-boat spring." These evomitions of water and gas, are from the face of a vast rock, and are frequently beard a hundred rods. In the immediate vicinity of the soda springs are innumerable other springs, the waters of which, are highly impregnated with soda and sulphur; and north, and in fact, in every direction from them, the whole country wears a striking and volcanic appearance, especially, at the north, where the entire earth, seems to have been burnt out, leaving scarcely any thing, but masses of burnt rock and lava. Numerous hot springs are also found, in the immediate vicinity of these springs, which produce water from blood heat, to the boiling point, in many of which, meat is cooked perfectly done, in less than four minutes. The whole surrounding country here, affords ample evidences of former, vast, and numerous volcanic eruptions. This valley, and especially that portion of it, in the immediate vicinity of these springs, is really a very extraordinary section of country, and is destined, beyond any kind of doubt, to become immensely important and valuable; because of its peculiarly favorable locality; its extraordinary, wonderful, and delightful scenery; and perhaps, the medicinal properties of its inexhaustible mineral waters.
There are several very extensive valleys in the vicinity of Fort Hall, upon the river, as well as extensive plains, which produce a great sufficiency of vegetation and timber, but the surrounding country, more remote from the fort, is extremely hilly, mountainous, and sterile, generally producing neither timber, nor vegetation. There are also several very extensive plains and valleys, in the immediate vicinity of Fort Boisia, which are quite fertile, and capable of producing grain and vegetables, in great abundance; yet, the surrounding country, is generally, barren and mountainous. About seventy miles below Fort Boisia, in a direction northwest by north, is a valley of very considerable extent, which abounds with various kinds of vegetation, of most luxurious growth. This valley is situated upon a tributary of Lewis' river, which appears to afford a great sufficiency of durable water. In the midst of this valley, is a single pine tree, which is called l'arbour seuel, the lone tree, from which circumstance, the valley is called the "Lone Tree valley." There is not a sufficiency of timber in the immediate vicinity of this of this valley, but in the surrounding mountainous region, there is perhaps, ample timber, and that of a very good quality. Forty or fifty miles south southeast from this valley, the country has a very romantic, and volcanic appearance. Large extents of country appear to have been visited by earthquakes, which have torn the stupendous mountains of rock asunder, and strewed the plains below, with their confused fragments; while other sections, having been the seat of desolating volcanoes, are thickly covered with vast, massive heaps of burned rock and lava. Here innumerable hot and boiling springs are also found, the waters of which, are so hot, as to cook any kind of flesh, sufficiently for the table, in a very few minutes. These springs are not unfrequently, found within a few feet of running streams of pure cold water, into which, they pour their boiling waters, which are so hot, even when commingled with this cold water, as to kill the fish in an instant, which happens to be swimming within its caloric influence. About forty miles northwest, from the "lone tree," in the midst of the Blue mountains, is a very extensive valley, which is rich and productive, and which is well timbered, and well watered. It is about fifty miles in extent, in either direction, and is surrounded in every direction, by hills and mountains, which, in many places, are covered with luxuriant growths of pine and cedar. The form of this valley is nearly circular, hence its name, "la Grande rounde," the Grand round. This is one of the most fertile valleys, found any where in this section, and is perhaps, as well adapted to agricultural and grazing purposes, as any portion of Oregon. It has some timber upon its streams, but not sufficient for all purposes, yet the surrounding hills and mountains abound with the best of timber. This valley is destined soon, to be occupied, and to become a very valuable, and important section of country. All the northern part of this section, is one vast concatenation of hills and mountains, which are generally, spurs of the Rocky and Blue mountains, and which, in many places, are thickly clad with timber and vegetation, but they are generally, entirely destitute of either. Many of these hills and mountains are densely covered with forests of huge firs, pines and cedars; so also are many of the valleys which are found upon the rivers and smaller streams. Besides the few limited valleys, which are found in this part of the Eastern section, there are also, many undulating prairies, elevated plains, and depressions of some extent, which are tolerably rich, and which have a most beautiful and picturesque appearance.
The face of the country, in the Middle sections, presents a continued series of rolling hills, high cliffs, and undulating plains, which are almost everywhere, intersected by innumerable, stupendous mountain spurs, which are offsets of the Blue, and Cascade mountains, and which are generally, covered with a kind of short fine grass, called "bunch grass," wormwood, and prickly-pear. Some of these, in the northern part, are also thickly covered with forests of lofty, firs, pines and cedars. In this section too, there are numerous small valleys, worthy of notice, several of which, however, have received partial notice, upon another page. There is a very beautiful valley on the Wallawalla river, in the vicinity of Dr. Whitman's mission. This valley is sufficiently large for forty or fifty farms, and is very well adapted to farming purposes. There are also other valleys in this vicinity, of considerable extent, and of more than ordinary fertility, which are situated upon John Day's, Umatilla, Quisnell's and de Chute rivers, and which, together, afford a large extent of very excellent country. These valleys are well watered, not only by the rivers just referred to, but also, by numerous other smaller streams and rivulets, through them, in every direction. There are also several small valleys in this vicinity, on the Columbia, which are very rich and productive, though of much less importance, because of their very limited extent. The principal valleys of this section, south of the Columbia river, are those in the extreme southern portion, between latitude 43 deg. north, and the southern boundary, where several very productive and extensive valleys are found, which are admirably adapted to farming purposes, much the greater portions of which, are better adapted to the purposes of pasturage. The scarcity of timber, in all this portion of the section, will however, in all probability, forever remain, an insuperable barrier, to its extensive and successful cultivation or occupation; though some of these valleys may, perhaps, be supplied with timber, from the surrounding mountains, many of which, afford timber in considerable abundance, especially, the spurs of the Cascade mountains. Timber is also occasionally found, on some of the streams, which water these valleys, though generally, in very small quantities, and of inferior quality. That part of this section, which lies north of the Columbia river, is much more broken and mountainous than the southern part, but unlike that portion, it is, in many places, thickly covered with compact forests of lofty firs and pines. In this portion also, are many small, though productive valleys, of several of which, I have spoken in the description of the rivers. Besides these, there are several others, of much greater extent, but of less fertility, as well as several high, rolling prairies, many of which, are tolerably well adapted to the purposes of pasturage, though but illy adapted to farming purposes, because of the extreme variableness of the climate.
The surface of the Western section only, now remains to be described. That portion of this section, which lies north of the Columbia river, has innumerable mountain spurs, high cliffs, and rolling hills, interspersed throughout almost every portion. These are generally, thickly clad with compact forests, of high and enormous trees, of centuries growth, the like of which, is seldom, if ever seen. In many places also, the undergrowth of shrubs, bushes, vines and briers, is so dense, that it is actually impenetrable; in such places, however, the soil is extremely productive. Many small, though rich valleys, tolerably fertile plains, and prairies, are also found, throughout this northern portion, which are very well adapted both, to the purposes of pasturage and farming. Several prairies and plains are also found, on the Columbia and Cawlitz, some of which, are quite extensive and productive. There is a very rich section of conntry in the immediate vicinity of Fort Vancouver, which, by trial, is found to produce the various kinds of northern grains and fruits, with much luxuriance. Below this fort, are several valleys and prairies, of considerable importance, especially on the Cawlitz, where some rather extensive valleys and prairies are found, though they are not, generally, very productive. Above, and in the vicinity of this fort, a number of plains and valleys are also found, which are very fertile, though much less extensive, than that just described. In the various portions of the timbered country, many plains are found, which are surrounded with almost impenetrable forests, of majestic firs and pines, of unequaled growth. Adjacent to Pugets' sound, large tracts of Prairie country are also found, which are sufficiently rich, for all agricultural purposes, and which yield a great abundance of vegetation. At and in the vicinity of the straits de Fucas, are some extensive plains and prairies, which, although not sufficiently rich, for farming purposes, afford every advantage for grazing. All the plains and valleys of the northern portion of this section, are much better suited to the rearing of herds, than the growing of grain, though there are several of them which are adaptable to the latter purpose, as well as the former, yet not with the same prospects of success.
The portion of this section, which is found south of the Columbia river, contains much the most extensive and productive plains and valleys of all Oregon, which are in all respects, by far, the most valuable portions of that country. The most extensive valley here found, is the Wallammette valley, which lies upon the Wallammette river, and is about one hundred and fifty miles in length, and thirty or forty in width, on each side of the river. It is a very beautiful and productive valley, and as it is well timbered, well watered, and as it yields a superabundance of all the grasses, and the various other kinds of vegetation, it is admirably suited to agricultural, and grazing purposes. In the vicinity, and northwest from this valley, are the Fualitine plains, which are about fifty miles in length, and fifteen in width. These are equal in beauty and productiveness, if not superior to the Wallammette valley. They produce the various kinds of vegetation, with much profusion, and they are very well timbered, and well watered; hence their adaptation to the purposes of grazing and farming, are readily seen. Further south, numerous other beautiful, and rich valleys, are also found, the first of which, I shall notice, are those lying upon the Umpqua river. In the immediate vicinity of Fort Umpqua, a valley of about thirty miles in length, and ten in width, is found, which is everywhere surrounded by an extensive, broken and mountainous country, but which is a very beautiful and rich valley, abounding with all the various grasses, and good timber. There is also another valley upon this river, of much greater extent, which commences about ten miles above the eastern extremity, of that just described, and extends up, and south of the river, about seventy miles. This is among the most beautiful, and productive valleys of all Oregon; abounding with the various grasses, and good timber of most luxuriant growth, and having an unusually deep, rich soil, it is peculiarly fitted both, to the purposes of grazing and farming. South of this, upon Rogue's river, are several other very extensive and unusually rich valleys. The principal of them is found upon that river, about sixty miles from the ocean. It is about eighty miles long, and averages from ten, to forty miles in width, on each side of the river. For beauty of scenery, richness of soil, abundance of timber, and vegetation; and for its peculiar adaptation to both, grazing and agricultural purposes, this valley much surpasses all others, in any part of Oregon. Besides this, there are also, several others, which are found upon, and in the vicinity of this river, and which, are much less extensive, but equally productive of both, timber and the various grasses. All these valleys, however, are surrounded by stupendous mountains, high hills, and elevated plains, which are generally, entirely destitute of timber, and, in many places, devoid of all vegetable productions. The only valleys which remain to be noticed, are those found upon the Klamet river, where numerous valleys are to be found, which, although very limited in extent, possess a very rich soil, and yield a superabundance of good timber, and most luxuriant vegetation. Throughout all this section, besides the various valleys before enumerated, and more particularly described, there are numbers of others, which are equally productive and valuable, though of much less extent. Upon, and in the neighborhood of the Umpqua, Rogue's and Klamet rivers, there are not only the valleys referred to, but there are also several others, as well as numerous sections of high lands, undulating, elevated plains, and rolling prairies, which are also very productive, and which, are admirably suited to the purpose of grazing, as well as that of farming. This southern portion of the Western section, is by far, the most valuable and delightful portion of Oregon, and in point of richness and productions, it very much resembles the unequalled plains and valleys of California.
The soil of all the Eastern section is, for the most part, extremely poor; that of the plains is generally, a light, sandy loam; that of the valleys, especially in the immediate vicinity of the rivers, and smaller streams, is rich and alluvial, while the hills and mountains generally present a most barren and desolate surface, which for many miles together, presents nothing but burning sands, and hills and mountains of unsurpassed sterility. Here, however, every variety of soil is found, from the extreme sterility of the burning sands of the Arabian deserts, to the deep rich alluvial soil of the most fertile Egyptian valleys. The prevailing rock of this section is generally, basalt, granite, pudding stone and talcon slate, which in many places, extend entirely to the surface, for several miles together. It may be estimated, with a close approximation to exactness, that not more than one twentieth part of all this section, is, in any wise, suited to agricultural purposes, while one tenth part of it, may perhaps, be found to be tolerably well adapted to pasturage. The soil of the Middle section is, as a general thing, a light yellow sand, clay or loam; that of the valleys, is usually, a black, alluvial, vegetable loam. South of the Columbia, the hills and mountains present a surface of extraordinary sterility; but those north of that river, have a soil of a light, brown loam, or a thin, brown, vegetable earth. The rock of this section is, generally, confined to the hills and mountains, and in the northern part, it consists principally, of granite, pudding stone and basalt; that of the southern part, consists chiefly, of granite, basalt, talcon slate and hornblend. Although this variety of rock will be found highly serviceable, in the ultimate improvement of the country, yet as it rises entirely to the surface, for miles together, it adds very much to the sterility, and impenetrability, of many portions of this, otherwise, sufficiently sterile, and forbidding region. Of all this section not more, perhaps, than one tenth part, is at all, susceptible of successful cultivation, nor is more than one fifth part of it, well suited to grazing purposes. The soil of the Western section, varies very much, in the different portions. North of the Columbia river, that of the hills and mountains, is generally, a light, brown, loam or vegetable earth, upon a stratum of gravel or sand; that of the plains and prairies, is usually, a deep, brown, vegetable mould, having a subsoil of sand and clay; and that of the valleys and lower sections, is a deep black loam, upon a substratum of clay or trap rock. The principal rock of this part of the section, appears to be granite and pudding stone, especially in the extreme north, but in many parts of the more southern portion, are found basalt and hornblend. South of the Columbia river, the soil of the valleys is very fertile, being generally, decomposed basalt or a deep, black, vegetable loam, upon a stratum of gravel, sand or unctuous clay; that of the plains, is usually, a deep, brown, vegetable loam, the substrata being stiff clay, gravel and sand: and that of the hills and mountains, is a light, brown, and thin vegetable earth, upon a stratum of gravel or sand. Many of the hills and mountains, however, are entirely sterile, and are principally composed of basalt, stone and slate, yet in the extreme southern part, the rocks are usually primitive, and consist principally of talcon slate, hornblend and granite. Of this section, about one fifth part, is arable land, and one third is, perhaps, seldom surpassed in its adaptation to grazing purposes. I am well aware that the fertility and productiveness of Oregon, are viewed, by many who have visited that region, in a much more favorable light, than the above and foregoing, would seem to indicate; but however that may be, I design merely to give facts, as they occur to me, leaving their corroboration to the concurring testimony of others, and the developments of time.
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