rugged heights, parallel to the coast, extending back some 20 miles, and elevated about 4000 feet above the sea. They modify greatly the climate of all maritime California. In both these ranges repose some of the loveliest lakes and lake scenery in the world, and around them are rich soil and dense forests of timber. Another range, known as the Sierra, only 1300 or 2000 feet high, except Mt. Diabolo, at the northern extremity, 3700 feet high—runs 40 miles from the coast, and encloses the great valley on the west. They are covered with vegetation in the rainy season, but, in the dry, it perishes from want of moisture, which is mostly condensed from the ocean winds by the coast mountains. These are the mountain ranges of California, and it will be seen, by reference to the map, that they cover a large proportion of the country. By their relative locations, they make the various climates of that region, and, breaking into the regular periodical seasons of the year usually prevailing elsewhere, they, in places, blend them all into a single one perpetually. Occasionally they reverse them—our winter corresponding to the California spring. When vegetation here, is destroyed by the frosts of December, it is there bursting into new life under the alternate shower and sunshine of our April season. The great valley is the most prominent and striking feature of this section, and constitutes mainly the sources of its agriculture. Our space does not permit a minute account of its different portions, and, with the reference to the pamphlets of Col. Frémont and Capt. Wilkes and to the book of Mr. Bryant—which is not only highly interesting but full of valuable, because varied and accurate, information, where the reader may be satisfied on all points, we must content ourself with a few general allusions to this Olnt. p The two noble rivers, San Joaquim and Sacramento, rise at opposite ends of the valley, 500 miles in length, flow towards each other, the one north and the other south, meet half way, forming a continuous water line, and empty together into the Bay of San Francisco. The Sacramento portion of the valley is divided into two distinct terraces, the one 60 feet above the other, by an irregular line of hills, and about 200 miles from the mouth of the river. The upper terrace is gravelly and not fertile; has grass and a large supply of timber, and yields wheat and some other grains. It will be the pasturage and timber region principally. At its foot are the main cascades of the river, which, in 20 miles, has a fall of 2000 feet, and affords sites for all the factories of the world. This will be the head of navigation, although perhaps the upper portion of the river may be used for boats also. The present head of navigation is now at the rapids, near the mouth of Deer river. The river is 140 yards wide at the falls, and widens gradually to 600 or more yards at the mouth. It is full and placid, and free from snags, rocks, and other obstacles to secure navigation. The lower terrace is alluvial, and contains much very fertile land. Wheat grows here in perfection, and all the grains would yield an ample reward to the agriculturist. Cotton has been tried here with some success. Hemp flourishes luxuriantly, as it would seem in anticipation of its frequent use in the early settlement of the country. There are several affluents to the river, and all from the eastern side. The principal ones are the Feather and American Fork rivers, both of which may be rendered navigable some distance for light draught boats, especially by removing the bars at their mouths. This valley rises, from the mouth of the river, about 4 feet to the mile—the upper portion being 900 feet above the sea. Capt. Sutter, of whom all travellers have given some account, is settled in this valley at the mouth of the American Fork, and his place is called New Helvetia. He is an enterprising and valuable citizen. He has mills and stores, and plants wheat very extensively. His produce was 25 bushels per acre, on an average, during the unfavorable year of 1846. With a good spring, his lands would have yielded double as much, and even quadrupled it. Lower down the valley, one hundred fold had been produced on the field of a Dr. Marsh, and report said that even this had been exceeded. In the dry season, some of these lands, exposed to the burning heat of 140°." Fahr., or more, (it was at 109° in the shade, at Sutters, during one of the warmest days,) crack into large fissures, very much like the rich bottom soil of parts of Texas. Here, irrigation becomes important for complete and large success. The pasturage here is equal to that of any region on the continent. The prairies are covered with wild oats and several varieties of clover. And no stronger proof need be offered of the numbers of game, than the fact that Frémont's party, while encamped near the “Buttes,” in one morning, before 9 o'clock, killed upwards of S0 elk, deer and bears. The climate of all this region is similar. Frémont compares it to that of Italy. The year is divided into wet and dry seasons. The first begins in October and continues until February or March, being of longer duration in the north. But the rain is by no means incessant. It falls like our showers in April, with intervals of bright sunshine. Occasionally, only, are there spells of drizzling and gloomy weather for several days together. Nor are the rains always cold. It is the spring season. In December, when our winter commences, vegetation begins to spring forth there; for at that period the parched and hardened earth is sufficiently moistened, and the gleaming rays of a genial sun vivify all nature. In January and February all California is enamelled with flowers, and her fields are glowing with the maturing oats, and clover, and various grasses. The rest of the year constitutes the dry season, though, in many places, particularly among the foot hills noticed already, there are occasional refreshing showers. In certain localities, however, and in certain seasons, scarcely, nay, not a drop of rain, falls between March and September, and vegetation is literally burnt up. The superiority of the grasses, of which there are many varieties, is in their large seed, which supply a food for animals equal almost to the grains of rye and oats. The thermometer ranges nearly at the same degrees during both seasons, with some exceptions. In July and August it is higher, and, under the direct rays of the sun, the heat is intense; but in the shade, even then, it is not oppressive. Frost is not often seen in the valleys, although there was snow last winter about Sutters. Ice is a rare phenomenon. It was seen but twice by Bryant, while he was there, as thin as window-glass. In the forests, where the soil is sheltered in some degree from both extremes, grass and flowers continue fresh and blooming, by successive crops, the year round. Our summer months are the sickly season in California. The rank growth of the fertile valleys dies and malaria is generated, yet the illness produced by exposure, has heretofore been a slight fever and ague, that yielded at once to treatment. Death, except from old age or by violence, is not common in that salubrious climate. The San Joaquim valley is several hundred feet above the sea, and is more than 200 miles long and 60 miles wide. The extreme southern sources of its river form two lakes, that are together 70 miles long and several miles broad. They are covered by tulans or bullrushes. Around them is some of the finest land in the whole country, and, by judicious draining, the lakes themselves could be rendered highly productive. Frémont suggests the extensive low grounds around the junction of the two rivers near San Francisco Bay as particularly adapted to the culture of rice, The tide rises some distance above the mouths of the rivers. In the wet season the lakes overflow and empty into the main river through a slough. The principal stream, which bears the name of the valley, rises among the Nevada Mountains, and descends into the valley lower down, or farther north. The eastern side of the valley is intersected by numerous tributaries—several from 100 to 200 yards wide—with broad and fertile bottoms well wooded. The intervening plains are mostly prairie, partly wooded, sparsely with oaks and other trees, which stand at intervals, as if planted and nurtured for ornamental purposes. There is no shrubbery nor undergrowth, but a clean, rich, and, in the season, a luxuriant grassy carpet. The western side has no streams to water it, and, lying under the Sierra, it is dry, comparatively unproductive, and may continue some time unsettled. When population crowds other portions of the Territory, it may become inhabited, and efforts may be made to render its rich soil cultivable by irrigation. Though difficult, from the absence of convenient streams, yet the labor of diverting the waters of the main river through canals, may one day be amply remunerated. The wet season is of shorter duration in this valley—the climate, as described in reference to the Sacramento, is generally applicable here, except that the sun is somewhat warmer, and the productions more southern. Some of the tropical plants flourish here in luxuriance, and here, too,

* Bryant, p. 304.

“The purple vintage clusters in the sun.” There are other valleys in California which cannot be

entirely overlooked. If less in extent, they yet present some advantages over the great valley, in more agreeable climates and proximity to the ocean, in the greater variety of products and in the unsurpassed beauty of some of their natural scenery. Of the many, in all parts of the country, we can only notice a few of the most prominent. One of them opening upon the sea, at and below San Buena Wentura, Frémont speaks of as growing the greatest variety of fruits and plants. It is, perhaps, 50 miles long, and confined to the stream, of which we have little account. A second, running 17 miles back, and broader than the other, leads to Santa Barbara, in latitude 34° 20'. It produces equally with the other. Bryant describes it fully in page 384 of his book. Another, 50 miles long, and 6 or 7 wide, and watered by the Salinas river, opens upon the bay of Monterey. It widens, in its lower part, to 20 miles, and assumes the name of La Solidad. It is remarkably fertile, and is destined to add much to the position of the city of Monterey for commercial prosperity. Another follows the Nappa river or creek, which pours its waters into the eastern side of San Pablo bay. This is larger than the others named—is well wooded with pines and oaks; its stream is already occupied with mills, and its soil is a deep alluvial of great fertility. It is farther north, and its productions will be of a character more northern. A city is planted a few miles eastward of the mouth of the Nappa, which is destined, in all probability, to be the emporium of California. The reciprocal advantages of their conjunction will no doubt render the valley as desirable, in all respects, for a residence, as any part of that country. But the valley of San Juan is, of all locations, from the accounts we have of it, best calculated to warm the imagination and induce a severance from old localities in the wish to dwell there. It is between the latitudes 36°30' and 37° 30'. It is 55 miles long, and from 15 to 20 miles broad, widening as it descends, until it envelopes the southern part of the bay of San Francisco, where it bears the name of San José. The coast mountains overlook it on the west, intercepting the cold winds of the ocean; and the Sierra bounds it on the east—both ranges being densely and variously wooded. The valley has open groves of oaks, with a beautiful green carpet beneath. The soil is rich, yielding sixty-fold of wheat, without irrigation, and producing all the other grains, and many of the Southern fruits. The climate is the most even, and the air balmy beyond

« ElőzőTovább »