Excerpt from Grand Canon of the Colorado River, Arizona
The Colorado is one of the great rivers of North America. Formed in southern Utah by the confluence of the Green and Grand, it intersects the northwestern corner of Arizona, and, becoming the eastern boundary of Nevada and California, flows southward until it reaches tidewater in the Gulf of California, Mexico. It drains a territory of 300,000 square miles, and, traced back to the rise of its principal source, is 2, 000 miles long. At two points, The Needles and Yuma, on the California boundary, it is crossed by a railroad. Elsewhere its course lies far from Caucasian settlements and far fi om the routes of common travel, in the heart of a vast region fenced on the one hand by arid plains and on the other by formidable mountains. The early Spanish explorers first reported it to the civilized world in 1540, two separate expeditions becoming acquainted with the river for a comparatively short distance above its mouth, and another, journeying from the Moqui Puel)los northwestward across the desert, obtaining the first view of the Big Canon, failing in every effort to descend the cafion wall, and seeing the river only from afar. Again, in 1776, a Spanish priest traveling soutbward tln-ough Utah struck off from the Virgen River to the southeast and found a practicable crossing at a point that still bears the name Vado de los Padres. For more than eighty years thereafter the Big Canon remained unvisited, except by the Indian, the Mormon herdsman and the trapper, although the Sitgreaves expedition of 1851, journeying westward, struck the Colorado about one hundred and fifty miles above Yuma, and Lieutenant Whipple in 1854 made a survey for a practicable railroad route along the thirty-fiftli parallel, where the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad has since been constructed. The establishment of military posts in New Mexico and Utah having made desirable the use of a water-way for the cheap transportation of supplies, in 1857 the War Department dispatched an expedition in eharge of Lieutenant Ives to explore the Colorado as far from its mouth as navigation should be found practicable. Ives ascended the river in a specially constructed steamboat to the head of Black Canon, a few miles below the confluence of the Virgen River in Nevada, where further navigation became impossible; then, returning to The Needles, he set off across the country toward the northeast. He reached the Big Canon at Diamond Creek and at Cataract Creek in the spring of 1858, and from the latter point made a wide southward detour around the San Francisco peaks, thence northeastward to the Ioqui Pueblos, thence eastward to Fort Defiance and so back to civilization. That is the history of the explorations of the Colorado up to twenty-five years ago. Its exact course was unknown for many hundred miles, even its origin in the junction of the Grand and Green Rivers being a matter of conjecture, it being difficult to approaeh within a distance of two or three miles from the channel, wliile descent to the rivers edge could be hazarded only at wide intervals, inasmuch as it lay in an appalling fissure at the foot of seemingly impassable cliff terraces that led down from the bordering i)lateau; and an attempt at its navigation would have been courting deatb.
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