IN SENATE— February 24, 1855.

Resolved, That there be printed, for the use of the Senate, ten thousand copies of the several reports of surveys f road to the Paciiic. made under the direction of the Secretary of War; and also of the report of F. AY. Lander. > i neer, of a survey of a railroad route from Puget's Sound, by Fun

the report of John C. Fremont, of a route for a railroad from the head-waters of the Arkansas river into the State fornia; together with the maps and plates accompanying said reports, ninwan to i'.! .-;:.,: the same; and 1 htradi ed copies be printed for the use of the Secretary of War, and fifty copies aanding officers

in said service.



Sect. 10. And be it further enaekd, That the Secretary of War be, and he is hereby authorized, under the direction of the President of the United States, to employ such portion of the Corps of Topographical Engineers, and such other persons as he may deem necessary, to rnal: Mil surveys as he may deem advisable, to ascertain the most practicable

and economical route for a railroad from the Mississippi river to the Pacific ocean, and that the sum of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, or so much thereof as may be necessary, be, and the same is hereby, appropriated out of any money in the treasury not otherwise appropriated, to defray the expense of such explorations and surveys.

Approved March 3, 1853.


Appropriation : For deficiencies for the railroad surveys between the Mississippi river and the Pacific ocean, forty thou- sand dollars.

Approved May 31, 1854.


Appropriation : For continuing the explorations and surveys to ascertain the best route for a railway to the Pacific, and for completing the reports of surveys already made, the sum of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Approved August 5, 1854.










Washington, December 31, 1854.

Sir : I have the honor herewith to submit to you the following report of a reconnaissance and surveys on partial routes in California, connected with surveys for ascertaining the most practicable railroad route from the Mississippi river to the Pacific ocean.

I present in connexion with this report a geological report by Mr. W. P. Blake, geologist and mineralogist of the expedition, illustrated by maps, sections, and views.

Dr. A. L." Heermann, the physician and naturalist of the expedition, made a large natural history collection ; and among the fish, reptiles, and plants are found many species hitherto unknown. The collection of California birds is a very fine one, it containing more than one hundred and twenty species.

These collections in different departments of natural history have been examined, and the descriptions, accompanied by figures, will appear in a separate volume. Dr. Heermann will present a report on the birds ; Professor Spencer F. Baird, of the Smithsonian Institution, on the mammalia ; Dr. E. Hallowell on the reptiles ; and Charles Girard on the fish. The plants will be described by Dr. Hilgard and Mr. Durand, of Philadelphia.

The sketches which accompany this report were made by Charles Koppel, assistant civil engineer, and they will serve as aids in forming a correct idea of the nature of the country.

I have to thank my associates in this survey for the great interest they took in the expe- dition, and the cheerful and thorough manner in which the work was performed. Lieutenant Stoneman, commanding the escort, rendered me every assistance in his power. Lieutenant Parke was of very great assistance to me, taking charge of a party whenever the main party was divided, which was generally the case. Mr. Smith proved himself to be a very competent civil engineer. The reports of Dr. Heermann and Mr. Blake at once show the nature of their labors, and the manner in which they were performed. In fact, every member of the party was unceasing in his endeavors to advance the objects of the expedition. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. S. WILLIAMSON, Lieutenant U. S. Top. Engineers.

Hon. Jefferson Davis,

Secretary of War.









GEOLOGICAL REPORT : 5sq., Geologist and Mineralogist to the Expedition


BOTANICAL REPORT : Mr. E. Durand and T. C. Hiloai

MlU^ «^p^<&*>


No. 1.— Mammals, by Professor S. F. Baird.

No. 2. Birds, by Dr. A. L. Hekemajj, Physician and Naturalist to

No. 3. —Reptiles, by Dr. Edward Hallowell.

No. i.— Fishes, by Dr. Charles Girakd.










War Department, Washington, May 6, 1853. Under the 10th and 11th sections of the military appropriation act approved March 3, 1853, directing such explorations and surveys to he made as might he deemed necessary M to ascertain the most practicable and economical route for a railroad from the Mississippi river to the Pacific ocean," it has been determined to organize a party to operate in California, to survey and explore the country lying west of the lower Colorado, and a route connecting that portion of California with the Pacific ocean.

I. The party for this exploration and survey will he commanded by Lieutenant R. S. Williamson, topographical corps, who will be aided by Lieutenant J. G. Parke, topographical corps, and by the following civil assistants, viz : one mineralogist and geologist ; one physician and naturalist ; two civil engineers ; one draughtsman : who, in addition to their stipulated compensation, will be allowed the actual cost of their transportation to and from California. Packers, &c, will be employed in California, at prices not exceeding those paid by the Quarter- master's department for such employes.

II. The party will rendezvous at Benicia, in California, and, having organized, will proceed to examine the passes of the Sierra Nevada leading from the San Joaquin and Tulare valleys, and subsequently explore the country to the southeast of the Tulare lakes, to ascertain the most direct practicable railroad route between Walker's Pass, or such other pass as may be found preferable, and the mouth of the Gila; from this point the survey will be continued to San Diego.

III. In this exploration, great attention will be paid to every point connected with the loca- tion of a railroad. A general profile of the route explored will be determined by means of barometric measurements ; and, generally, the topography, meteorology, geology, natural history, the character of the Indian tribes of the country, &c, will be studied as closely as circumstances will permit.

IV. The commanding general of the Pacific division will assign an escort of mounted troops to accompany the expedition, consisting of not less than three non-commissioned officers and twenty-five privates. Picked men and horses only will be sent on this duty ; and the com- manding officer of the escort will be instructed to furnish Lieutenant Williamson such aid and assistance as will tend to facilitate his operations. Transportation for the provisions, equipage, &c, of the escort, will be furnished by the Quartermaster's department.

V. Lieutenant George B. Anderson will be detailed for duty with Lieutenant Williamson's

VI. The Quartermaster and Commissary departments will furnish to Lieutenant Williamson such animals, equipments, stores, provisions, and other public property, as he may need for the use of the expedition, and which can be spared, to be paid for out of the appropriation for the survey, at cost at the places of delivery. On the requisitions of Lieutenant Williamson, the Ordnance department will furnish arms, &c, and the Medical department medicines, &c, for his party.

VII. The object of the expedition having been accomplished, all employes whose services may be no longer required will be discharged, and Lieutenant Williamson, with the office corps, will proceed to prepare as full a report as possible, to be laid be&re Congress, as required by the act above cited, on or before the first Monday in February next, to be followed at a later period by a more elaborate report, showing in full the results of the expedition.

VIII. The sum of thirty thousand dollars is sot apart, from the appropriation, for the expenses of the survey thus intrusted to Lieutenant Williamson.


Secretary of War,






From Benicia to Livermore's

Livermore's Pass.

Tulare valley

Depot Camp Future plans.

Walker's Pass _•

Hum-pah -ya-mup Pass

Tah-ee-chay-pah Pass

TheTejon .

The Tejon Pass

General remarks on the passes of the Sierra Nevada..

The Great Basin

San Francisquito Pass

Mr. Smith's survey.

San Fernando Pass.

CajonPass .-.

Lieutenant Parke's route San Gorgonio Pass


Colorado Desert

General deductions

Concluding remarks


. View of Benicia from the west, front p

Entrance of Livermore's Pass ^ _

Plain between the San Joaquin and King's rivers

Valley of the Kah-wee-ya river (Four Creeks)

Plain between Kah-wee-ya and King's river

Entrance of the Tej on Pass and a portion of the Tejon

. Mountains near the entrance of the Canada de las Uvas

. The Great Basin from the Cafia. In de las I'vas, with Lust Mountains in the distance.

Lost Mountain in the Great Basin

, Colorado Desert and Signal Mountain

Mission of San Diego

. Straits of Carquines and Martinez, as seen from Benicia. -.

Monte Diable Valley - -

Livermore's Valley.

. Tejon Indians -

rulare Valley, from the summit of the Tejon Pass -

Side Ravine in the Tejon Pass

Tulare Valley and the entrance to the Caiiada de las Uvas

Lake Elizabeth, San Francisquito Pass... - -

Entrance of N ew Pass. -

Mormon Settlement in the San Bernardino Valley, with a view of the peaks of San Bernardino and S Gorgonio -

San Gorgonio Mountain -

Pass between San Felipe and Vallecito


The instructions from the War Department were received by me on the day after their date, and I immediately took steps for forming the party, and collecting the material necessary for the successful prosecution of the duties assigned to me ; and knowing the importance of the utmost despatch, as the season must necessarily be far advanced before we could reach California, I deferred all the preparations that could be made while the outfit was being prepared, and taking with me only such instruments as I knew could not be procured there, I embarked with my party at New York on the 20th May, on board the steamer Illinois, bound for Aspinwall.

The party which embarked with me consisted of Lieutenant J. G. Parke, topographical engineers ; Lieutenant G. B. Anderson, 2d dragoons ; Dr. A. L. Heermann, physician and naturalist ; Mr. Isaac Williams Smith, civil engineer ; Mr. Charles Koppel, assistant civil engineer and artist; Mr. Charles Preuss, draughtsman. Lieutenant George Stoneman, 1st dragoons, who had been detailed to command my escort, was also on board.

It will be perceived that an important member of the party, the mineralogist and geologist, was absent. I had used every exertion to obtain one, writing to many persons who had been recommended to me, but could find no one to fill this important post. My only resource was to request Professor Spencer F. Baird, of the Smithsonian Institute, to endeavor to engage some one for me, who would follow at a later period. Thanks to the kindness of this gentleman, and much to my satisfaction, Mr. W. P. Blake was engaged, and he arrived at San Francisco a fortnight after us, and has since filled the vacant post.

The party arrived safely in San Francisco on the 20th of June, the only incident of note to us that occurred on the voyage being the illness of Lieutenant Anderson. This officer was attacked with fever shortly after leaving Panama, and arrived in San Francisco in a precarious state so much so that the surgeon considered it would be dangerous for him to accompany us in the field. I therefore was forced to dispense with his services, but am happy to be able to state that he has since perfectly recovered.

I immediately repaired to Benicia, where preparations were at once commenced for fitting out the party. Such instruments as were required beyond those brought from New York were either obtained from the topographical office or purchased in San Francisco. A spring-wagon for their transportation was purchased. Four six-mule teams were furnished by the quarter- master for transportation of stores and baggage. Five teamsters and eight additional men for general duty as field-men and cooks were hired. In the mean time the escort had arrived, and it was found that to render it efficient it would be necessary to remount the men, whose horses, worn out in service, were condemned. Mules for this purpose were purchased by order of the


commanding general of the division. In fine, all the preparations were completed, and the part)' ready to leave Benicia, on the 10th of July.


Before proceeding to give a detailed narrative of our work in the field, I think it would tend to a more clear understanding of the subject if I were to give a concise description of the great topographical features of the country about to be examined, and the main objects, as I under- stood them, to be attained by this survey.

Benicia, the depot where the party was fitted out, is the northernmost point mentioned in my instructions. This town is situated on the Straits of Carquines, through which the waters of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers flow into San Francisco bay and the Pacific. From these straits to the southward, following the general course of the coast, is a range of moun- tains, extending beyond the southern boundary of this State into the peninsula of Lower California. This range often presents the appearance of several ridges, sometimes parallel, sometimes nearly at right angles ; but there is one line, or water-shed, nearly parallel to the coast, and distant from it from 50 to 70 miles, which is unbroken by any water-course from San Francisco bay to Lower California. From this water-shed numerous short streams flow, mean- dering between the spurs or secondary ridges of the one great and continuous range, and forming rich and fertile valleys. This range varies in height from 800 to 5,000 or 6,000 feet. It is generally known as the Coast range, and this will be understood as its meaning where this term is used in this report.

If from Benicia we travel due east for about 120 miles, we will be at the summit of a much higher range than the one last mentioned, and following its water-shed southwardly, we find it gradually approaches the coast, until, in latitude 35° 20' N., it actually joins itself to the Coast range, and the two are blended into one.

This is the Sierra Nevada, and varies in height from 4,000 to 8,000 and 10,000 feet. These mountains have a numerous population of miners, and though they have not been examined instrumentally but at two or three points, they have been so thoroughly " prospected " by the miners, that it is well known in the latitude of Benicia they are high and rugged, whereas near their junction with the Coast range they are much lower.

Mr. Blake considers the mountains south of this point of junction as the prolongation of the Sierra Nevada rather than the Coast range, and in his report he has proposed the name Bernar- dino Sierra for that portion of the chain extending from the end of the Sierra Nevada to the peak of San Bernardino.

Between the western base of the Sierra and the eastern base of the Coast range is the vast plain of the San Joaquin and Tulare valleys, being 300 miles long, and averaging 65 miles in breadth. These valleys are well watered by numerous streams flowing from the Sierra, though not one of consequence reaches them from the Coast range. The result of this is, that the traveller going along the western side of these valleys will find no stream, while on the eastern side he will find one every few miles. In the southern part of the plain are several lakes, called the Tulare lakes, and hence this part receives the name of the Tulare valley ; while farther north, the San Joaquin river, coming from the Sierra, flows through the middle of its valley— a continuation of the other in a northwest direction, receiving numerous tributaries from the east.

To the east of both the Sierra and Coast range, the country is very little known, and very


different accounts have been given of it by the few who have explored small portions of it. It has been represented by many as being in parts vast plains, while others, who have explored perhaps different parts, make it very broken and mountainous. No streams flow from it through the Coast range ; and as most of the streams known to exist in it are known to lose themselves, it has been called, very properly, the " Great Basin."

It is evident that any railroad approaching the Pacific coast from the east must cross a portion of this Great Basin, when it will reach either the base of the Sierra Nevada or the Coast range, and, to reach the ocean, it must cross one or both of them. One main object of this survey is to ascertain if a railroad can cross the Sierra and Coast range ; the other to explore the Great Basin, to ascertain its adaptability for such constructions.

As it is well known there is no impediment to the construction of a road to the Tulare valley from the waters of San Francisco bay, in order to accomplish the above objects I determined to proceed at once to the head of that valley, where the Sierra is supposed to be the lowest, and there examine all the passes leading into it.


Benicia, formerly the capital of the State of California, is situated on the Straits of Carquines, which connect Suisun and San Pablo bays. It is on the north side of these straits, and is

twenty-five miles above San Francisco. Adjoining the town is a military post and arsenal, and the principal depot of quartermaster and commissary stores for the department of the Pacific.



The depot and machine-shops of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company are also at this place, A view of a portion of the town and the landing is presented in Plate I. The double peak if Monte Diablo, distant fifteen miles, is seen in the backgiound.

On the 10th of July I left Benicia, crossing my train and party to Martinez in the little ferry- boat which plies across the straits.

This town is situated in a pretty little valley, having a range of low hills on either hand that on the east separating it from the San Joaquin valley. To reach this latter, from Martinez, on horizontal ground, would be very easy following the shore of the bay and turning the point of hills. But this route would be rather circuitous, and I therefore preferred to take the ordinary road, and cross the Coast range more to the south, at a pass known as Livermore's ; which pass I believed would, upon examination, prove a practicable one. The whole of the first day was occupied in crossing our teams and mules, and the next morning we moved, in a southeasterly direction, up the little creek upon which Martinez is built. To our left was Monte Diablo, a fine peak in the Coast range, and nearly 4,000 feet high the highest for a long distance. At its base is the finest and most beautiful valley in this vicinity, about fifteen miles long and three or four broad. It is covered with oaks, and is somewhat celebrated for its excellent quarries of limestone.

In proceeding towards Livermore's valley, we have a the right abounding in red-wood. Several saw-mills Francisco with large quantities of lumber. Our road \

>ge of hills on either hand ; that on established there, and supply San in the intermediate valley, which is

livermore's pass.


from one-half to two miles wide, and, to the eye, perfectly level. We are, however, at first ascending the little stream which waters Monte Diablo valley, and subsequently get upon ground descending in the contrary direction. The greater part of Livermore's valley is of a gravelly soil, and unfit for cultivation.

It is used principally as a cattle rancho, and numerous herds were grazing on different parts of the plain as we passed. This valley is about eleven miles long and six broad. A view of its surface is presented in the annexed wood-cut.

Several beds of streams intersect it, which in winter may be called rivers, but in summer are perfectly dry. The banks of these are well timbered with cotton-wood and oak, but elsewhere no timber is to be seen. Springs abound at the base of the hills. The waters of this valley accumulate at its western end, forming a lake, from which the water, after flowing through a canon in the hills, finds its way to San Francisco bay.

LIVERMORE'S i reached Liv

On the afternoon of July 13 we reached Livermore's house, and encamped at a spring about a mile in its rear, and nearly four miles from the entrance of the pass. Here I determined to stop a sufficient length of time to enable me to make a survey of the pass, in which is the wagon-road usually travelled by those going from San Jose to the lower San Joaquin valley ; and for this reason this pass is much better known than several others lying a little to the south of it. There is, however, good cause for supposing that some of these other passes are better adapted for a railroad than the one known as Livermore's. The hills here are destitute of


timber, and in the spring covered with a luxuriant growth of wild oats. As the season advances, the rain ceases, and the burning sun converts the once green hills into barren-looking mounds. These hills are rounded, and so symmetrical as to give them an artificial appearance. The three following days were consumed in making a survey of the pass. The spring-wagon was taken to carry the odometer, and the courses were taken with a prismatic compass, on a small tripod, while at every prominent point a reading of the barometer was taken. We found the entrance to the pass to be 481 feet above the level of the sea, and its summit 686 feet, while the altitude of the eastern base of the hills was but 89 feet. This gave a grade of about 60 feet in ascending from the west, and 87 feet in descending towards the east. There would be little difficulty in winding, and thus increasing this distance, to reduce those grades, should it be desirable. Upon reaching the summit, the wagon-road does not at once cross and commence the descent, but continues to ascend more than 200 feet more, in order to find better ground for wheeled vehicles. If it were desired to construct a railroad over these hills, I have little doubt that a proper examination would result in the discovery of much better places than this pass, although this is determined to be practicable. The rounded hills interlocking, cause the road to be exceedingly tortuOus, and it would require a great deal of excavation and embank- ment to make curves with a sufficiently large radius.


On the 17th we left camp early, and went through the pass with the wagons without much difficulty, and camped at the eastern base of the hills, near a solitary house, which is known as Elkhorn post office. From here we had, to the east, the broad expanse of the San Joaquin valley. The river had overflowed its banks, and the valley was one vast sheet of water, from 25 to 30 miles broad, and approaching within four to five miles of the hills. It had been my intention to cross at the lower ferry and follow up the eastern side of the valley ; but this was evidently impossible. The first point on the river which presents banks high enough to pre- vent an overflow is at Grayson, one of the cities of California, which looks very well on paper, but in which there are but two houses at present. It is two or three miles above the mouth of the Tuolumne river, the principal branch of the San Joaquin, and 27 miles southeast of Elkhorn. About a mile above Grayson a ferry has been established, and here we crossed with our teams and animals, (the work of a whole day,) and camped on the Tuolumne, five or six miles from its mouth.

This river, as indeed are all the rivers flowing into the San Joaquin and the lakes, is fringed with trees. In the summer and autumn, when the water is low, these trees are 20 and 30 feet above the river ; but in the spring, when the snow melts, the waters rise very rapidly, and often overflow their roots. Extensive side-channels or "sloughs" are thus formed, and these are most numerous near the mouths of the streams. On this account permanent bridges crossing these streams must be much longer than otherwise. There is no difficulty in finding good points for crossing. The Tuolumne would require a bridge from 200 to 300 feet. We followed up this river for 25 miles, when we struck the ordinary wagon-road, and thence proceeded to Fort Miller, a military post on the San Joaquin, in the foot-hills of the Sierra Nevada. As there is no doubt of the practicability of constructing a railroad to the extreme head of the Tulare valley, I do not think it expedient to enter into a detailed description of this vast plain, but refer to the few remarks at the commencement of this report, and the maps and tables accompanying it, for such geographical and topographical information as may be required.





The plains "between the streams are destitute of foliage, and the soil generally gravelly and poor. It is very dry in summer from the effects of the sun, but in winter it absorbs vast quan- tities of water, and becomes so soft as often to prevent the passage of vehicles, or even animals.

We were obliged to stay at Fort Miller a week, to have our wagons repaired, and to have many of our mules shod, there not having been time to do this at Benicia. We also here obtained an additional supply of provisions and quartermaster's stores. This post is distant, by the way we travelled, 1H miles from Martinez.


Having completed all our arrangements on Saturday, July 30, the next day we bid good-bye to our friends at the fort, and long before daylight were on the road, to advance to King's river, over a dry, barren plain, on which not a drop of water was to be found ; and the heat of the sun may be imagined, knowing the fact that the thermometer had stood the day previous at Fort Miller at 115° Fahrenheit in the shade. We had the pleasure of meeting on the road Mr. Senator G-win, returning from a trip to the Tejon Pass, where he had been to examine personally the adaptation of the country for a railroad. King's river, called on many maps Lake Fork, is a deep and rapid stream, about eighty yards wide. When it first emerges from the mountains it divides itself into seven or eight different streams, which reunite near the place we struck it. From there to its delta near the lake it has only one bed. An American had established a ferry about twelve miles below our camp, and having marched there, we occupied the rest of the day in crossing.

The next stream we came to was the Pi-pi-yu-na, or Kah-wee-ya, and very commonly known as the Four Creeks. Immediately upon leaving the mountains, like King's river, it divides itself into several streams ; but, unlike those of that river, they do not unite, but continue to diverge, forming a delta, whose base is over fifteen miles long. The whole of this delta is covered with a luxuriant growth of oak. The soil is rich, producing spontaneously many kinds of grasses. The contrast between this beautifully-green spot and the arid plains on each side is very striking. It is well shown by Plates IV and V, which are views taken from the same point. Plate IV is a view looking eastward towards the Sierra Nevada, whose snow-capped summits are seen in the distance, and the bottom land of the river, covered with timber, is seen in the foreground. Plate V is a view in the opposite direction, and shows the arid plains between the Kah-wee-ya and King's river.

The Kah-wee-ya is divided into four small streams where the road crosses, the extreme ones being four and a half miles apart. Two of them, though narrow, are quite deep, and required bridging.

This delta is fast filling up with American settlers. Already on the second creek is the town of Woodville, which, however, when we passed, contained but one house. Ilere I was fortunate, enough to meet with Mr. Alexander Gocley, a most excellent and experienced mountaineer, and who knew more, perhaps, about the mountain passes in the Sierra Nevada— which I was about to examine than any one in the country. He had just returned from the Tejon, where he had been with the hope of meeting Mr. Edward Beale, superintendent of Indian affairs, who had been expected for some weeks. I proposed to him to accompany me, and he finally agreed, with the understanding that he was to be allowed to leave as soon as Mr. Beale should arrive.

Leaving Woodville, we continued in a southeast direction, travelling for seventy miles near the base of the mountains, and crossing numerous small streams, or dry beds of streams, when


we came, August 6, to O-ro-ya, or Pose creek, seven miles nortli of Kern river. We learned from Godey and others t i. t on Kern river there was i o grass, while here we had fine grass in abundance. We were now near the head of the valley, and the passes to be examined, and I therefore determined to select this point for a depot camp, from which future operations would be conducted.


O-co-ya creek, at this season, is not here a running stream, but water in holes is found in abundance, and is very good. I am told it never fails entirely.

My plan was to go with a small party first to Wa'ker's Pass, and having examined it from baso to base, to return to the summit, and from thence follow, as closely as the configuration of the country would permit, the water-shed, or "backbone" of the mountains, till I had reached the point where the Sierra and Coast range unite. I would by this means be certain of seeing v.1 y 'ep s ; on in the mountains. I would then endeavor to ascertain the accessibility of these depressions from either base. By this plan I supposed I would gain a good knowledge of the general character of the Sierra in this vicinity, and would be able to select judiciously the best passes for minute survey.

The question as to the compirative value of a barometric profile, as compared with one made from measurements with the level, was one that had never been answered definitely. We knew that the results would not coincide exactly, but the limit of probable error had not been deter- mined. If, therefore, I should survey one or more of the passes with both instruments, and, comparing the results, find that they agreed closely, it would be presumptive evidence that those profiles, made from barometric measurements alone, would agree equally as close ; whereas, if a great disagreement was found, it would shew that the barometric profiles were not reliable. For these reasons I resolved to run a line of levels, from base to base of the Sierra, through one or more passes, as the results of the preliminary reconnaissance might determine. I was aware that this would occupy several weeks ; but as the bearing of the result would not be upon the one pass only, but upon every one examined during the survey, and perhaps upon the barometric profiles of the other parties whose extended lines did not permit them to use the level, I believed the time could not be devoted to a better object.

While the preliminary examination was going on, the wagon-train was to return empty to Fort Miller, to obtain a further supply of provisions and barley, and Lieutenant Stoneman, with that portion of the escort not otherwise engaged, was to remain in Depot camp to guard the stores and other property left there.

On the morning of August 10, the wagon-train started from Fort Miller; and I, accompanied by Lieutenant Parke, Mr. Smith, civil engineer, Mr. Preuss. draughtsman, Mr. Godey, as guide, and five men of my party, started for the passes in the mountains. We had an escort of a corporal and nine men. We carried with us two barometers, besides the aneroid, a sextant, and the other usual instruments for a surveying party. In giving the result of the reconnais- sance, I will, for more convenient reference, separate it under different heads, according to the pass to which the particular part may refer.


Upon leaving camp we followed up Pose creek till it took a bend coming from the northeast, when we left it and took up a dry branch, with here and there a spring, our general course

walker's pass. 15

being a little north of east. We could see the open valley of Kern river to the south and southwest. Higher up, this river canons ; and it was to avoid this canon that we were obliged to keep the ridge, where there is a good pack-trail, but impracticable for wagons. We camped in a little hollow in the mountain, and the barometer indicated the altitude above Depot camp to be 3,400 feel . As we had descended somewhat to find a camping-place, the highest point we passed over must have been over 4,000 feet above that camp, or nearly 5,000 feet above the level of the sea. Directly opposite us, on the other side of the river, was a mountain which we called Caiion mountain, still higher than the one we were on ; and these two mountains, approaching each other with precipitous side-slopes, formed the caiion above mentioned.

The next day, after ascending a short distance, we began to descend. We could see the river far below us, white with foam, looking like a thread of silver as it dashed among the rocks with a very rapid current. There was the appearance of a large valley at the base of the mount- ain. Godey told us that the river there received a tributary, and that it was near the head of that stream that we should find Walker's Pass. The descent was very steep ; so much so that in many places it was dangerous to ride, and it was more easy to slide down than to walk. We arrived on the banks of the river, at the base of the hill, just in time to allow me to get a series of circummeridian altitudes of the sun, about half a mile below the mouth of the branch.

The river was very rapid, and apparently deep. We tried to find a ford in several places, but did not succeed till we had gone up stream three miles ; and here the water came nearly up to the mules' backs. To keep our packs dry we had to have them carried across by the men. After crossing, we went up the valley of the creek for four or five miles, and made a camp in fine grass on its banks. The valley is from one to three miles wide, with a poor soil, except in the bottoms near the creek, where the grass grows luxuriantly. Following up the valley, which averaged more than a mile in width, with a gentle ascent, gradually increasing all the way, we found, about twelve miles from the mouth of the creek, a small branch coming in from the south, now dry, but having apparently a long and wide valley. Five miles further, the creek, now a small brook, came from the mountains to the north, while from the southwest there was an open valley from a quarter to half a mile in width. This valley we followed up ; and having arrived within a mile and a half of the summit, we were fortunate enough to find a fine spring and plenty of coarse grass. Here we made our camp ; and, it being early in the afternoon, I rode up to the summit, where I had a fine view of the basin. There appeared to the eastward a strip, twenty or thirty miles wide, of unbroken ground ; and beyond this the view was limited by masses of mountains. The pass is nowhere less than a quarter of a mile wide, and the ascent and descent both gradual. In fact, it is an excellent natural wagon-road. The mountains on either side are composed mostly of granite, and are rough and precipitous.

There were quite a number of Indians, both on the creek and at the spring near our camp. At first they fled, but soon gained confidence, and came into camp. They seemed at this season of the year to be principally employed in collecting a kind of bulrush or cane, upon the leaves of which is found a substance very like sugar, which to them is a not unimportant article of food. They cut the cane and spread it in the sun to dry, and afterwards, by threshing, separate the sugar from the leaf. The cane itself had no sweet taste. As the creek had no name that I knew of, I endeavored to ascertain its Indian name, and found it to be Chay-o-poo-ya-pah the accent strong on the last syllable. This name I have adopted on the map. I understand it to mean the creek of the bulrushes.

The following day was occupied in examining the pass fully, and obtaining data for making 3C


a barometric profile. We descended from the summit more than eight miles, and found the belt of unbroken ground to extend as far as we could see along the base of the mountains, in both directions. I will now state the results of the subsequent calculations of our observations, from which an opinion of the practicability of the pass for railroad purposes may be formed.

Starting from Kern river, at the m uth of Chay-o-poo-ya-pah, and ascending to the point where the latter comes from the mountains, a distance of 17 miles, we have a gentle ascent, viz : 5f miles on a grade of 13 feet per mile, 6^ miles of 29 feet per mile, and the remaining 5 miles at 17 feet per mile. From here over the summit to the point we reached in the basin is 16£ miles, and this part may be considered the pass proper. Here the grades are of an entirely different character. We have for the first miles (which brings us to our camp) an average grade of 272 feet to the mile less than this at first, but gradually increasing as the summit is approached ; from camp to the summit, 1| mile, at 428 feet per mile ; and from the summit to the base of the mountains, miles, at 265 feet per mile.

These steep grades, for so long a distance, would at once render this pass out of the question, even admitting them to be practicable, unless it can be shown that there is no better one, or that it has a pre-eminently favorable position.

That there are passes with better grades, will appear in t';e sequel. As to its position, I consider it one of the worst of all the known passes in the Sierra Nevada. As far as we know the country, (and its general features are well known,) the whole portion east of Walker's Pass, for two or three degrees of longitude, is a mountainous desert, almost destitute of wood, water, and grass. It is universally conceded that any road reaching this pass must have come either from the Vegas de Santa Clara, the Mohave river, or from the south. If coming from the Vegas, in anything like a direct course, the position of the pass would be preferable to one farther south ; but this desert would have to be crossed, and the practicability of such a route is still a problem. For any road coming from the Mohave, or from the south, a pass farther south would possess a preferable position.

But suppose a road arrives at Walker's Pass, and, surmounting the obstacles of steep grades, enters the valley of the Chay-o-poo-ya-pah, and follows it down to Kern river ; there is, then, no other course of proceeding open but to follow down this river, for the high mountains on each side afford no chance of a passage. The canon before mentioned is said to be five miles long, and, according to information obtained from the Indians, the precipitous rocks, jutting into the stream first from one bank then from the other, preclude the possibility of even a foot- trail through it. It is probable, also, that here the river is very rapid. The point where we struck the river, near the mouth of Chay-o-poo-ya-pah, according to the barometer, is 2,600 feet above the level of the sea, and Kern lake, at the head of the Tulare valley, is but 400 feet. The distance, as taken from the map, is forty miles. Adding one-fourth for sinuosities, and we have an average grade of forty-four feet to the mile. The course of the stream is southwest, at right angles to the proper direction of a road that is to traverse the Tulare and San Joaquin valleys.

After due consideration of the foregoing facts, I think I am justified in saying that Walker's Pass