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Illustration of his map of Oregon and California, by John Charles
JANUARY 2, 1849. Resolved, That twenty thousand extra copies of Colonel Frémont's last report to the Senate,
On the second day of February, in the year 1847, during my absence on my third expedition of topographical survey, in the western part of this continent, a resolve was passed by the Senate directing the construe. tion of two maps—one of the central section of the Rocky mountains, and the other of Oregon and Upper California-from the materials collected by me in the two previous expeditions, and with the additions which the then existing expedition might furnish; and Mr. Charles Preuss, my as. sistant in the first and second expeditions, was employed to commence the work.
On my return to the United States, in the month of September last, I found Mr Preuss closely engaged upon the work on which the Senate had employed him; and, from that time to the present, I have myself given all the time that could be spared from other engagements to supply the additions which the last expedition has enabled me to make. Conceiving that the map of Oregon and California was of the most immedi. ale and pressing importance, I first directed my attention to its prepara. tion, in order to bring it into a condition as soon as possible to be laid be. fore the Senate ; which is now done.
In laying this map of Oregon and Upper California before the Senate, 1 deem it proper to show the extent and general character of llie work, and how far it may be depended on as correct, as being founded on my own or other surveys, and how far it is conjeetural, and ouly presented as the best that is known,
In extent, it embraces the whole restern side of this continent between the eastern base of the Rocky, mountains and the Pacific ocean, and be. tween the straits of Fuca and the gulf of California, taking for its outline, on the north, the boundary line with Great Britain, and on the south, in. Tippin & Streeper, printers.
cluding the bay of San Diego, the head of the gulf of California, the rivers Colorado and Gila, and all the country through which the line of the late treaty with Mexico would run, from El Paso del Norte to the sea. To complete the view in that quarter, the valley of the Rio Del Norle is added, from the head of the river to El Paso del Norte, thereby including New Mexico. The map has been constructed expressly to exibit the two countries of Oregon and the Alta California together. It is be. lieved to be the most correct that has appeared of either of them; and it is certainly the only one that shows the structure and configuration of the interior of Upper California.
The part of the map which exhibits Oregon is chiefly copied from the works of others, but not entirely, my own explorations in that territory having extended to nearly two thousand miles. The part which exhibits California, and especially the Great Basin, the Sierra Nevada, the beautiful valley of Sacramento and San Joaquin, is chiefly from my own surveys or personal view, and in such cases is given as correct. Where my own observations did not extend, the best authorities have been fol. lowed.
The profile view in the margin, on the north side of the map, exhibits the elevations of the country from the South Pass in the Rocky mountains to the bay of San Francisco, passing the Utah and the Great Salt lake, following the river Humboldt through the northern side of the Great Basin, crossing the Sierra Nevada into the valley of the Sacramento, where the emigrant road now crosses that sierra forty miles north of Nue. va Helvetia. This line shows the present travelling route to California. The profile on the south side of the map exhibits the elevations of the country on a different line-the line of exploration in the last expedition
- from the head of the Arkansas by the Utah and Salt lake, and through the interior of the Great Basin, crossing the Sierra Nevada into Sacramento valley at the head of the Rio de los Americanos. These profile views are given merely for their outlines, to show the structure of the country between the Rocky mountains and the sea, and the rise and fall occasioned by mountains and valleys. Full and descriptive profile views on a large scale are wanted, marking the geological structure of the country, and exhibiting at their proper altitudes the different products of the vegetable kingdom Some material is already collected for such a purpose, extending on different lines from the Mississippi to the Pacific, but not sufficient to complete the work.
The Arabic figures on different parts of the map indicate the elevation of places above the level of the sea; a knowledge of which is essential to a just conception of the climate and agricultural capacities of a country.
The longitudes established on the line of exploration of the last expedition are based on a series of astronomical observations, resting on four main positions, determined by lunar culminations. The first of these main positions is at the mouth of the Fontaine' qui Bouit river, on the Upper Arkansas; the second is on the eastern shore of the Great Salt lake, and two in the valley of the Sacramento, at the western base of the Sierra Nevada. This line of astronomical observations, thus carried across the continent, reaches the Pacific ocean on the northern shore of the bay of Monterey.
In my published map, of the year 1845, the line of the western coast was laid down according to Vancouver. When the newly established positions were placed on the map now laid before the Senate, it was found that they carried the line of the coast about fourteen miles west, and the valleys of the Sacramento and San Joaquin about twenty miles east; making an increase of more than thirty miles in the breadth of the country below the Sierra Nevada. Upon examination, it was found that these positions agreed nearly with the observations of Captain Beechey, at Monterey. The corrections required by the new positions were then accordingly made; the basin of the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys was removed to the eastward, and the line of the coast projected farther west, conformably to my observations, retaining the configuration given to it by the surveys of Vancouver.
The error in the position of the San Joaquin, Sacramento, and Wahlahmath valleys still exists upon the most authentic maps extant; and it appears that, upon the charts in general use, a greatly erroneous position is still given to the coast.
By the return of the linited States sloop of-wår Portsmouth, Commander Montgomery, from the Pacific ocean, it is learned that two British shipsof-war are now engaged in making a new survey of the gulf and coast of California. It is also known that an American whale ship was recently lost on the coast of California in consequence of the errors in the charis now in general use, locating the coast and islands, from Monterey south, too far east. **
The astronomical observations made by me across the continent, in this my third expedition, were calculated by Professor Hubbard, of the National Observatory, (Washington city,) during the present winter; and a note from him on the subject of these observations is added as an ap. pendix to this memoir. My attention having been recently called to this subject, (the true position of the coast of California,) I find it worthy of remark that the position given to this coast on the charts of the old Spanish navigators agrees nearly with that which would be assigned to it by the observations of the most eminent naval surveyors of the present day. The position adopted for Monterey and the adjacent coast, on the map now laid before the Senate, agrees nearly with that in which it had been placed by the observations of Malaspina,t in 1791.
In constructing this map it became necessary to adopt the coast line of the Pacific, as found in maps in general use, to give it completeness. It was no part of my design to make a chart of the coast. Finding an error when I came to lay down the bay of Monterey, I altered my map to suit it. I knew nothing then of the errors in the coast. It is satisfactory now to find that my astronomical observations correspond with those previously made by Beechy and Belcher, and very gratifying to be able to
* Naval. The United States sloop-of-war Portsmouth, Commander John B. Montgomery, arrived at Boston on Friday, from the Pacific ocean, last from Valparaiso, February 23; Conmander Montgomery states that the British frigate “ Herald," and the brig“ Pandora," are engaged in making a new survey of the gulf and coast of California.
The whale ship "Hope," of Providence, was recently lost on the coast, in consequence of an error in the charis now in general use, which locate the coast and islands from Monterey to cape St. Lucas from 15 to 40 miles too far to the eastward --Nalional Intellig:ncer.
f Of this skilful, intrepid, ond unfortunate navigator, Humboldt (Essay on New Spain) says;
“The peculiar merit of his expedition consists not only in the number of astronomical observations, but principally in the judicious method which was employed to arrive at certain resulle. The longitude and latitude of four' points on the coast (Cape San Lucas, Monterey, Nootka, and Fort Mulgrave,) were fixed in an absolute manner."
add some testimonial to the correctness of those made by Malaspina long before either of them. Vancouver removed the coast line as fixed by Malaspina, and the subsequent observations carry it back.
In laying this map before the Senate, and in aplicipa:ion of the full work which my explorations (with some further examinations) may en. able me to draw up hereafter, I deem it a proper accompaniment to the map to present some brief notices of CalifORNIA, with a view to show the character of the country, and its capability or otherwise to sustain a considerable population. In doing this, no general remarks applicable tv the whole of California can be used. The diversity in different parts is too great to admit of generalization in the description. Separate views of different parts must be taken ; and in this brief sketch, the design is to limit the view to the two great divisions of the country which lie on the opposite sides of the SIERRA NEVADA, and to the character of that monttain itself, so prominent in the structure of the country, and exercising so great an influence over the climate, soil, and productions of its two drvi. sions.
This Sierra is part of the great mountain range, which, under different names and with diferent elevations, but with much iiniformity of direction and general proximity to the coast, extends from the peninsula of California 10 Russian America, and without a gap in the distance through which the water of the Rocky mountains could reach the Pacific ocean, except at the two places where the Columbia and Frazer's river respectively find their passage. This great range is remarkable for its length, its proximity and parallelism to the seacoast, its great elevation, often more lofty thal the Rocky mountains, and its many grand volcanic peaks, reaching high into the region of perperial show. Rising singly, like pyramids, from heavily timbered plateaux, to the height of fourteen and seventeen thou. sand feet above the sea, these snowy peaks constitute the characterizing feature of the range, and distinguish it from the Rocky mountains and all others on our part of the continent.
That part of this range which traverses the ALTA CALIFORNIA is called the Sierra Nevada, (Snowy mountain)-a name in itself implying a great elevation, as it is only applied, in Spanish geography, to the mountaius whose suinmits penetrate the region of perpetual snow. It is a grand feature of California, and a dominating one, and must be well understood before the structure of the country and the character of its different divi. sions can be comprehended. It divides California into two parts, and ex. ercises a decided influence on the climate, soil, and productions of each. Stretching along the coast, and at the general distance of 151) niiles froni it, this great mountain wall receives the warm winds, charged with vapor, which sweep across the Pacific ocean, precipitates their accumulated nois. ture in fertilizing raios and snow's upon its western flank, and leaves coid and dry winds to pass on to the east. Hence the characteristic differences of the two regions--mildness, fertility, and a superb vegetable kingdoin on one side, comparative barrepuess and cold on the other.
The two sides of the Sierra exhibit two distinct climates. The state of vegetation, in connexion with some thermometrical observations made during the recent exploring expedition to California, will establish and
illustrate this difference. In the beginning of December. 1845, we crossed this Sierra, at latitude 39° 17' 12', at the present usual emigrant pass, at the head of the Salmon Trout river, 40 miles north of New Helvetia, and made observations at each base, and in the same latitude, to determine the respective temperatures; the two bases being, respectively, the western about 500, and the eastern about 4,000 feet above the level of the sea; and the Pass, 7,200 feet. The mean results of the observations were, on the eastern side, at sunrise, go; at noon, 44°; at sunset, 300; the state of vegetation and the appearance of the country being at the same time (second week of December) that of confirmed winter—the rivers frozen over, snow on the ridges, annual plants dead, grass dry, and deciduous trees stripped of their foliage. At the western base, the mean temparature during a corresponding week was, at sunrise 290, and at sunset 520 ; the state of the atmosphere and of vegetation that of advancing spring; grass fresh and green, four to eight inches high, vernal plants in bloom, the air soft, and all the streams free from ice. Thus December on one side of the mountain was winter, on the other it was spring.
THE GREAT BASIN.
East of the Sierra Nevada, and between it and the Rocky mountains, is that anomalous feature in our continent, the GREAT Basin, the existence of which was advanced as a theory after the second expedition, and is now established as a geographical fact. It is a singular feature : a basin of some five hundred miles diameter every way, between four and five thousand feet above the level of the sea, shut in all around by mountains, with its own system of lakes and rivers, and having no connexion whatever with the sea. Partly arid and sparsely inhabited, the general character of the GREAT Basin is that of desert, but with great exceptions, there being many parts of it very fit for the residence of a civilized people; and of these parts, the Mormons have lately established themselves in one of the largest and best. Mountain is the predominating structure of the interior of the Basin, with plains between the mountains wooded and watered, the plains arid and sterile. The interior mountains conform to the law which governs the course of the Rocky mountains and of the Sierra Nevada, ranging nearly north and south, and present a very uni. forin character of abruptness, rising suddenly from a narrow base of ten to twenty miles, and attaining an elevation of two to five thousand feet above the level of the country. They are grassy and wooded, showing snow on their summit peaks during the greater part of the year, and affording small streams of water from five to fifty feet wide, which lose themselves, some in lakes, some in the dry plains, and some in the belt of alluvial soil at the base; for these mountains have very uniformly this belt of alluvion, the wash and abrasion of their sides, rich in excellent grass, fertile, and light, and loose enough to absorb small streams. Between these mountains are the arid plains which receive and deserve the name of desert. Such is the general structure of the interior of the Great Basin, more Asiatic than American in its character, and much resembling the elevated region between the Caspian sea and northern Persia. The rim of this Basin is massive ranges of mountains, of which the Sierra Ne. vada on the west, and the Wah satch and Timpanogos chains on the east, are the most conspicuous. On the north it is separated from the waters