quite a range of hills, now grown up with timber, but which were formerly craters of immense geysers. Around their bases are ponds of tepid water, and the deposit of the great marsh rises high up on their slopes. Near the lower end of the valley a large stream comes into the Firehole from the north, just above its junction with the Madison. This stream runs through a deep and beautiful valley in the range, and judging from the color and deposits from its waters, has large systems of thermal springs somewhere on the line of its course. The Madison comes in a mile below, in a stream fifty yards wide, and two feet deep, a mountain torrent, running on a bed of solid lava, and having its source in Henry Lake, about forty miles above. The whole valley has a singularly ruinous and melancholy aspect. The few groups still in activity, and the thousands of extinct and broken craters, attest the grandeur of its former phenomena. An air of desolation settles upon the landscape which renders it almost painful to contemplate.

Following down the river bank through a deep cañon of volcanic rocks, in many places broken in huge fragments, we presently came to rapids, having a fall of perhaps 40 feet in a half mile. At this point the channel narrows to 150 feet, and is shut in by perpendicular rocks. We were obliged to scale the ridge above, and follow down the steam on its summit, through dense timber and steep ravines, with considerable difficulty. In three miles we reached a level bottom, on the river, at the junction of a large creek coming in from the northeast. Camped at the junction. Distance 18 miles.

Barometer, 23.50; thermometer, 43°; elevation, 6,594 feet.

Thirtieth day -- September 20. -- We now thought ourselves clear of the geysers, but in the morning were surprised to see a graceful column of steam ascending to the height of 300 feet on the opposite side of the creek and in the elbow of a mountain range. We did not visit this group, but forded the Madison twice just below camp, and followed down its right bank. The river is here shut in by a cañon of high lava mountains rising with a perpendicular front of from 1,000 to 2,000 feet. The bare rocks stand out in impassable walls seamed with fissures and scarred by storms of centuries. Huge fragments in many places overhang the narrow path. In others the summits of the wall are composed of trachyte, overlaid with masses of basaltic columns of immense height.

Often the grassy, narrow shelf on the margin of the stream is covered with débris, and we were frequently obliged to take to the river, which runs on a ledge of lava full of deep cavities and strewn with large boulders. After threading our way thus for twelve miles through the grandest vistas of volcanic mountain scenery, the ranges suddenly fell away to the right and left, and we entered up on a great plateau, heavily timbered, and sloping to the west. This was the upper valley of the Madison, and is within the limits of the Great basin. We passed rapidly down this uniform sloped for ten miles, all the way through timber, in many places deadened by fire, coming in on the river bank in the center of the valley, and thence followed down to an open district, in the middle of which rise two hills of considerable altitude. Mr. Langford and myself ascended to the summit of the highest of these and obtained a full view of the surrounding country. The valley is nearly circular, about twenty miles in diameter, with the Madison running from south to north through its center. The land slopes gradually to the river from east and west. Two large streams head in the east and west points, skirting the margin of the valley through rolling prairie lands, and joining the Madison near the north point. The land is open all around the edges of the valley, but its central Go to next page

Go back to Yellowstone Historical Almanac
Go back to Yellowstone History Guide
Go back to The Magic of Yellowstone front page
Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10
Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19 Page 20
Page 21 Page 22 Page 23 Page 24 Page 25 Page 26 Page 27 Page 28 Page 29 Page 30
Page 31 Page 32 Page 33 Page 34 Page 35 Page 36 Page 37 Page 38 Page 39 Page 40