G.W. Heap, 1853

G.W. Heap, 1853

Rafting Across the Grand River

“June 24: We encamped a few miles below the Uncompagre, on the left bank of Grand River, upon a bluff from which we had a fine view of its course, and of the Pareamoot Mountains opposite. Our tormentors, the mosquitos, did not fail to welcome us with a loud buzz, whilst the drone of the gadfly,which might with truth be termed the furia-infernalis of the plains, gave notice that he was about, thirsting for our blood. Whereever he inserted his proboscis, the sensation was like that of a redhot darning needle thrust into the flesh, and was flowed by a stream of blood. The mules and horses suffered terribly by these flys.

“Our Provisions, by losses in the river and damage by the water, were fast diminishing, and it was deemed prudent at this time to put ourselves on a limited allowance, for it was uncertain how long we might be detained in crossing this river, the Avonkaria, and Upper Colorado.

“The back lost with the mule drowned in the Uncompagre contained many articles of importance to us, besides all our pinole (parched cornmeal), and some of the men lost all their clothing.

“It was late when we got to camp, and after a day of toil, exposure, and annoyance, nothing more could be done than to select the tree out of which to make a canoe, and the place to launch it; for all idea of crossing on a raft was abandoned. A few miles below the encampment the river was shut in by a canon, towards which it drove with great swiftness; a fact carried into it would have been torn to pieces in a moment, without a chance for the men on it to save their lives. Day’s travel, 5 miles; total 956 miles.

“June 25: At early dawn most of the party commenced working on the canoe; their only tools were two dull axes and two hatchets. A large cottonwood tree was felled for this purpose, and it was hoped to have the canoe finished the next day. The wood, being green and full of sap, was hard to cut, and so heavy that chips of it sank when thrown into the water.

“The river still maintained the same level, and the bottom land was overflowed and marshy. The high lands on which we were encamped were composed of a loose, rotten soil, producing no vegetation except stunted sage bushes. The only game we had seen for two days was an occasional sage rabbit, so called from its flesh having a strong flavor of the wild sage (artemisia), on which it feeds. The sun was very hot and mosquitos tormenting; we removed out camp to the bluffs in the hope of avoiding them, but with little success.

“At this point, the general course of the river was parallel with the Pareamoot Mountains, from northeast to southwest. The later appeared to rise in terraces, upon which much timber could be seen.

“The work on the canoe was continued steadily all day, though some of the party entertained grave doubts about crossing in it; besides, the two rivers beyond Grand River were said to be larger and their current swifter than this. Archilete stated that he had never seen the rigger so high, and that it was owing to the unusual quantity of snow which had fallen in the mountains during last winter. The wind rose at ten o’clock and blew with violence until sunset, which relieved us in a measure from the torment of mosquitos, but they returned in fresh swarms as soon as it lulled.

“June 26: Opposite to our encampment was old ‘Fort Roubdieau,’ now abandoned and in ruins. It was formerly a trading post belonging to the brothers Roubideau, of St. Louis, Missouri, who carried on a lucrative trade with the Utahs for peltries.

“Beavers are quite numerous on all these rivers, and have greatly multiplied of late years since the demand for their furs has diminished.

Heap, G W. Central Route to the Pacific, from the Valley of the Missippi to California, 1854, 45-47.