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Cheyenne, October 26, 1878. SIR: In compliance with your request of August 9, I submit herewith a concise statement of the resources, progress, and present condition of Wyoming, with some suggestions concerning what appear to be the leading wants of the Territory.
It is proper to remark at the outset that considerable portions of the Territory have been as yet only partially explored, and that comparatively little has been published concerning such portions as are occupied or have been examined. For these reasons I should have been unable to meet even quite moderate demands for information had I not early in the season entered the field as an observer of quite extensive regions but little known, besides visiting those already occupied and undergoing improvement.
I may be allowed to say, therefore, by way of indicating the original source of much of the information contained in this report, that during the past season I have not only visited the many towns and settlements on the railroad and other thoroughfares, the several districts devoted to grazing purposes, the lumber regions, the mining districts, and numerous locations of reported mineral deposits, but that I have likewise made tours of observation in the extreme northern portions, so lately occupied by the Sioux and other hostile Indians—in a word, that I have made such journeys over the plains of Wyoming, in the valleys of its principal rivers, and in the mountain ranges, as have given me a personal knowl. edge of its characteristic features, as well as a general idea of its industrial capabilities.
In the prosecution of these labors I have been greatly aided by vari ous corporate bodies, by officers of the Army, and by numerous citizens. My acknowledgments are especially due to the Union Pacific Railway Company, the Sweetwater Stage Company, and the Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage Company, for transportation facilities; to General George Crook, commanding this military department; Capt. J. Hayes, commanding at Camp Brown; Capt. E. M. Coates, in command of Fort Fetterman; Paymaster Henry G. Thomas; Maj. C. J. von Herrmann, commanding at Fort McKinney, and General Wesley Merritt, commanding the Fifth Cavalry in the field (then Northern Wyoming), for many extraordinary favors, without which some of my most interesting and useful expeditions could not have been made. Acknowledgments are also due to Col. S. W. Donney, Dr. J. H. Hayford, and General Worth, all of Laramie City; to Dr. George B. Graff, of Omaha, and to Capt. H. G. Nickerson, of Miners' Delight, for generous courtesies in aid of my travels in the Wind River and Laramie Valleys, and in the mining districts of Carbon and Sweetwater Counties.
The Territory of Wyoming was formed by act of Congress approved July 25, 1868, the southwestern portion of Dakota being united to lesser portions of Utah and Colorado for that purpose. It embraces all that portion of the country lying between the forty-first and forty-fifth degrees of latitude, and between the one hundred and fourth and one hundred and eleventh meridians west from Greenwich. It has an area, therefore, of nearly 100,000 square miles—as great as those of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey combined, or more than one and one-half times as great as that of all New England. While the eastern portion belongs to that vast division of the West known as the Plains, being a continuation of the plains of Nebraska, much the larger proportion, indeed nine-tenths of the whole area, lies within the Rocky Mountain region. This, however, conveys a very incorrect idea of the geographical features of the Territory. For strictly speaking the whole Territory is a region of vast plains relieved by numerous broken and detached ranges and spurs of mountains.
Commencing at the southeast corner—the part first touched by the Pacific Railway-we first encounter the Laramie Range, which extends in a northwesterly course nearly 200 miles. It is this range of mountains that is crossed by the Union Pacific Railroad at an elevation of 8,242 feet, and which has its culmination in Laramie Peak, near its northern extremity. Its width, with straggling flanks and spurs, varies from 15 miles to 40.
Proceeding westward, along the southern boundary, after crossing the southern portion of Laramie Plains, we next come to the Medicine Bow Mountains, which project into Wyoming about 50 miles, and have a lateral extent about half as great. Crossing the valley of the North Platte, which, with its little tributaries, occupies a breadth of 10 or 15 miles, we come now to the main chain of the Rocky Mountains, so called—a chain consisting of an almost continuous, but, nevertheless, broken, series of ranges extending thence through Wyoming in a northwesterly direction into Montana and the British possessions. Straggling portions of these mountains are interrupted by streams of water, some of which are tributary to the Platte and flow eastward, finding their final outlet in the Gulf of Mexico, while others are tributaries of Green River, and flow westward and southward into the Colorado, and finally into the Pacific Ocean. Beyond the broad valley of Green River, which has a southeasterly course through the southwestern portion of the Territory, and crosses the Colorado line exactly where that State corners on Wyoming and Utah, five degrees of longitude west from the eastern boundary of Wyoming, we touch the northern edge of the Uinta Mountains and the Bear River Mountains, which also lie mainly in Utah, but extend northwesterly into Idaho.
Returning now to the western base of the Laramie Range, and tracing a course westward and north of the forty-second parallel, after crossing the Laramie Plains, nearly 100 miles in breadth, an east and west range of mountains is found, which, constituting the southern wall of the Sweetwater Valley, deserves to be called the Sweetwater Mountains, but which, in fact, bears several names, to wit, Sweetwater, Seminole, and Lewis. They are not more than 3 to 15 miles in breadth from north to south, including the elevated plateaus between their scattered spurs; but in length they stretch across three degrees of longitude. Beyond their western extremity is an open and somewhat broken country, 60 to 70 miles across, being the valley of Green River. West of this, and bounding it, are the Wasatch Mountains, part of an extensive north and south range, belonging mainly to Idaho, but lapping over upon the western border of Wyoming perhaps 40 miles, for a distance north and south of over 100 miles.
Returning again to the eastern boundary, and sweeping across the remaining portion of the Territory, even to the northern boundary, we find, first, the Black Hills, about one-third of which lie on the Wyoming side of the Dakota line, and together with the Little Missouri and the Wolf Mountains, both of which are north and south ranges of high hills, occupy much of the northeastern corner of the Territory. Passing westward over the beautiful valleys, watered by the Powder and its tributaries, occupying a breadth of 50 to 100 miles, we come to that magnificent range, the Big Horn Mountains, a range 30 to 50 miles in breadth, and having a length of nearly 150 miles in Wyoming. Beyond flows the Big Horn River, having a course nearly due north in general terms, and, with its tributaries from the west, occupying a north and south basin 50 to 100 miles in width. Beyond and southwest of this belt are found the Owl Creek, Rattlesnake, and Wind River Mountains; the last named being the most extensive, and having a direction southeast and northwest, corresponding to that of the Rocky Mountains in general, of whose main chain it forms a part, and extending from near the western end of the Sweetwater Range a distance of some 200 miles into the Yellowstone National Park. West of this lie the upper basins of the Green and Snake Rivers; the two being separated by a short east-and-west spur, known as the Wyoming Mountains, connecting the Wind River Range with the Wasatch, already referred to as constituting for about 100 miles the western wall of the Territory.
It will appear from this general description of the position, course, and extent of mountain ranges, that they are widely distributed over the Territory, leaving large areas of valley and plain. As the plains themselves have an average elevation of about 6,000 feet above sea-level, it may be inferred that many of the higher peaks have a great elevation. But few accurate measurements have been made, but it is known that Laramie Peak in the Laramie Range, Snow Range in the Medicine Bow Mountains, Emmons' Peak in the Uintas, Fremont's Peak in the Wind River Range, and Cloud Peak in the Big Horn chain, have an altitude of 12,000 to 14,000 feet.
The Territory is thus, in general terms, a vast expanse of undulating plains, rising abruptly and irregularly at many places into mountain ranges, with elevated spines and lofty peaks; the intervening lower levels broadly grooved or deeply furrowed in every possible direction by a dozen or more important rivers with their numberless branches.
GENERAL GEOLOGICAL FEATURES.
Speaking in the most general terms, the crests of the mountain ranges, and indeed the masses of them, are composed chiefly of feldspathic granite, syenite, and gneiss, followed on their downward slopes by the Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous rocks; some appearing in one locality, others in another, according to extent of upheaval or the amount of erosive action. The elevated plains are to a large extent Cretaceous, overlaid by sandstones, assumed to be Tertiary, by gravel and drift. Viewed in detail there are, of course, various exposures resulting from as many and various geological causes. Thus, over a broad stretch of country on the east side of the Laramie Range we find the surface overlaid with marls, sands or sandstones, and clays of what is known as the White River group. Sometimes these rest on older rocks properly intervening between them and the granites, sometimes directly on the granites themselves. Crossing over this range we have all along exposures of the Carboniferous and of a formation between them and the granites, and resting upon the latter a series of fine and coarse sandstones. There is also a great exposure of red sandstones all along the west margin of the range-a rock, either Triassic or Jurassic-while at several points there are outcroppings of Jurassic limestones; and again, as along the Laramie and Medicine Bow Rivers, of Cretaceous rocks.
In the central and southern portion of the Territory there are extraordinary evidences of upheaval. Indeed, as Professor Hayden has observed, there is in the neighborhood of Rawlins, on the Union Pacific Railroad, an exposure of all the formations, from the granites to the Cretaceous. In soine places there are siliceous rocks, with Carboniferous limestone superimposed; in others, exposures of red syenite, with a very decided dip and with numbers of the Lower Silurian group lying in nearly horizontal positions upon it. But throughout the Tertiary rocks of comparatively modern date, the Cretaceous, Triassic, Jurassic, and Tertiary prevail, with but exceptional exposures of the rocks of the primary series.
The geology of Northwestern Wyoming is in general quite similar, except that there appears to be less frequent exposure of the Cretaceous rocks.
The plateaus east and west of the Wind River Range are chiefly Carboniferous, Triassic and Jurassic. The elevated plains, though mostly Cretaceous, are generally overlaid with Tertiary sands, gravel, and drift. So likewise in the basin of the Sweetwater and of the Platte below their confluences; while the granitic rocks (largely feldspathic), with an occasional show of trap and basalt, form the crests of the higher ridges and mountains which mark the physical geography of that region; the more recent formations occupy the plains and valleys. The sandstones more especially present themselves to the eye, but in many places the limestones also come to the surface, not unfrequently of a quality very suitable for economic uses.
Northeastern Wyoming is not very materially different in its geological features from the region last named. There are several ranges of mountains embraced, as before observed, but the rock formations are not peculiar. Erosive action has done its work there as elsewhere, so effectually that what were once ranges of mountains between the Tongue and Powder Rivers have been worn down to what are now only high hills, many of them grassed over to their summits. South of the socalled Wolf Mountains, and throughout that whole region of elevated plains north of Fort Laramie and between the Black Hills on the east and the Big Horn Mountains on the west, eroded sand hills and lofty buttes present conclusive evidence of the great changes wrought since the subsidence of the waters which once occupied this region of plains and washed the bases of the mountains above named.
From the foregoing account it will appear that the popular notion of the sterility of that part of the Rocky Mountain region lying within the boundaries of Wyoming is far from correct—that the rock formations underlying its plains and lapping upon its mountains are of the very character to produce fertile soils. Loam in the valleys, sandy loam on the plateaus and mountain slopes, these in general are the soils of the Territory.
Observation and experience confirm theory by showing that except in limited localities where the surface has been covered to a considerable depth by drifts of quite pure sand, or where there is a superabundance of alkali, the soil either produces or is capable of producing not only excellent growths of the native grasses but thrifty growths of the tame grasses, grains, and vegetables. Even the alkali soils, so called, are rich in the elements of fertility and are readily improvable by means of irrigation-by washing, so to speak—and in course of time become very productive. The apparent barrenness which marks large areas in certain districts now producing little but sage-brush (Artemisia tridentata) and greasewood (Sarcobatus verniculatus) is very deceptive, therefore. Indeed, where these native growths are vigorous and close their mere destruction by fire, or otherwise, is sufficient to insure a firm growth of grass in one or two years.
THE RIVERS OF WYOMING.
Hardly any other Territory is so well watered. Besides being a portion of the divide of the continent and hence a grand water-shed, its mountains are so scattered, as already remarked, that there are many sources of streams in all sections and of course drainage in all directions. Thus the central, eastern, and southeastern portions are remarkably well watered by the North Platte and its numerous affluents, waters which at length empty into the Missouri in Southeastern Nebraska; Northeastern Wyoming, by the forks of the Cheyenne River, which empties into the Missouri in Dakota, and by the Powder and its many branches flowing northward into the Yellowstone in Montana; the middle and northwestern portions, by the Tongue and Big Horn, with their several tributaries, which also empty into the Yellowstone; the western and southwestern portions, by the Snake, whose waters flow northwestward through Idaho into the Columbia River, the Bear, which empties into the Great Salt Lake of Utah, and the Green, whose final course is southwestward into the Gulf of California.
The most important of the rivers are the North Platte, the Powder, the Big Horn, and the Green.
The North Platte has its source in the North Park of Wyoming and Colorado. It flows northward nearly 150 miles to where it receives another considerable stream, the Sweetwater, whose origin is in the Wind River Mountains, and whence, by a grand curve, it sweeps northward around the head of the Laramie Range past Fort Fetterman, and thence in a southeasterly course to Fort Laramie, where it is increased by the quite large and beautiful Laramie (also from the mountains of Colorado) and finally passes out into Nebraska. Its entire length in Wyoming cannot be less than 400 miles, and besides the large tributaries above named it receives scores of beautiful little streams from either side, the whole system watering an area but little less than one-fourth of the whole Territory. The Platte and all its branches are remarkably clear and sweet waters.
The Green, although a very considerable river, with a deep and strong current, has fewer important branches, and waters an area not more than half as large. Still, with the help of Bear River and the Snake, it drains and supplies the southwestern one-sixth of the Territory. The streams