width at the top is about a third of a mile.
The east wall is nearly vertical for its entire height, and presents an
almost unbroken face. The west wall is much cut by re-entering angles,
or steep, lateral ravines, leaving between them rocky, projecting points,
or cliffs, from which can be obtained a magnificent view of the falls and
cañon. These cliffs have perpendicular faces, varying
from four to eight hundred feet in height, below which the cañon,
composed mostly of the débris which have fallen from above,
slopes steeply to the water's edge.
The immense depth of this
gorge almost overcomes the roar of the falls, and a short distance from
the edge of the cañon the sound of the waters is unheard.
The general color of the cañon is yellow, owing to the sulphureous
fumes which rise from many steam-jets near the bottom; but in places the
rock is of a reddish hue, while in others it is dazzlingly white.
Days would be required to examine thoroughly and fully appreciate the vicinity
of the falls, which, in many respects, are the most remarkable in America.
Leaving the falls the first
morning in autumn, we took the trail through the timber, in a south-west
direction. We soon found ourselves in an open, rolling country, gradually
sloping down to the river. About six miles from the falls, and a
half-mile back from the river, we came to three white hills, of a volcanic
nature, thrown up entirely by deposits from hot and boiling mineral springs,
which were between and around them. The largest was forty feet by
sixty. It was perfectly quiet, and looked like any other deep, muddy
pond; its peculiarity being that, although it was easy for any one to handle
it, he who attempted any such familiarity was sure to get scalded.
The spring which attracted most attention was about seven feet by ten,
and threw whitish, hot water from eight to ten feet above the rim of its
basin. It also puffed like a steamboat, throwing off vast quantities
of steam, and much resembled the Steamboat Geyser, in Sonoma County, California.
Its rim was incrusted with sulphur, some specimens being quite pure.
Within a space of half a mile
square, at least seventy-five different springs and steam-jets occur.
The mounds, or hills, at the bases of which are these springs, are nearly
three hundred feet high. They are covered with small holes and fissures,
from which issue hot air and steam. No vegetation of consequence
grows on them, but a few clumps of trees are scattered between the springs
at their base. Many of the craters contain a grayish, pasty-looking
substance, about the consistency of mush nearly cooked. Other springs
have waters of blue, pink, yellow, and brown tinges. One small, bubbling
spring, of clear water, has an intensely sour, acrid taste.
It is said that Indians do
not go above the grand cañon of the Yellowstone. Whether
this is true I know not, but I imagine that the unscientific savage finds
little to interest him in such places. I should rather suppose he
would give them a wide berth, believing them sacred to Satan. If
a person should be cast into one of these springs, he would be literally
immersed in a lake of burning brimstone.
There being no good grass
near Crater Hills, after stopping a few hours to examine them we moved
to a point on the Yellowstone, about three miles above. Near this
camp were several mineral springs, all hot, and many of them boiling.
Most of them were ordinary, bubbling, spluttering mud-springs, but three
of them were quite remarkable. Of these the first, or lowest down
the river, is a cave-spring, with an opening of ten feet in width by six
in height, in solid rock, with an almost perfect, oval arch. The
water is clear as crystal, of boiling heat, and a vitriolic taste.
As you look into Go
to next page
to Table of Contents
back to Yellowstone Historical Almanac
Go back to
Yellowstone History Guide
Go back to The Magic
of Yellowstone front page