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Geographical notes upon Russian America and the Stickeen River, being a report addressed to the Hon.… United States. Department of State; Blake, William P. (William Phipps), 1826-1910 1868

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1868.  40th Congress, »    HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
2d Session.      )
| Ex. Doc. 177,
(       Part 2.
A  resolution of the House of Vbth December last, calling for information
relative to Russian America.
April 21, 1868.—Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and ordered to be printed.
To the House of Represe?itatives:
In further reply to tbe Resolution adopted by the House of Representatives
on the 19th of December, 1867, calling for correspondence and information in
relation to Russian America, I transmit a report from the Secretary of State and
±he papers which accompanied it.
Washington, April 2, 1868..
Department of State,
Washington, April 2, 1868.
The Secretary of State, referring to his report of the 17th of February
last, placing before the President a copy of the correspondence called for by the
resolution of the House of Representatives of the 19th of December, 1867, in
Telation to Russian America, has the honor to lay before the President, as supplemental to that report, the accompanying notes upon that subject, and a map
of the Stickeen river, by Professor W. P. Blake, of California.
Respectfully submitted:
The President.
Washington, March, 1868.
Sir : At the expiration of my engagement with the Tycoon's government in
■Japan, I received permission from the commodore of his imperial Russian
Majesty's squadron, in the north Pacific, to accompany Commander Bassarguine,
of the corvette Rynda, to Russian America.
We left Hakodadi on the 22d of April, 1863, and were 22 days under sail
crossing to Sitka, arriving there on the 14th day of May. 2 RUSSIAN  AMERICA,
During my stay there I received much attention from the governor and other
officials, and gathered some general and special information upon the nature and
resources of the country, which I have embodied in the following pages.
From Sitka the corvette sailed to the mouth of the Stickeen river, and a survey of the lower portion of this stream was made by the Russian officers.
Three parties were fitted out: one to make soundings and a map of the estuary;
one to survey and sound the channel for some 30 miles up, (probably to the
supposed boundary;) and a third party to ascend the river as far as possible in
the two weeks allowed for explorations.
As this river had not been ascended by any exploring party, and the nature
of the country along it, and even the course of the river was unknown to geographers, I accepted an invitation to join the expedition.   The results of my
observations, together with my journal and a sketch-map of the stream, are
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward,
Secretary of State, Washington.
On approaching the northwest coast of America from the Pacific the mountain chains of the interior are seen to be lofty and Alpine in character. The
ridges are sharply serrated and rise into needle-like pinnacles, giving an outline
against the skv that contrasts strongly with the gently-sloping sides of the trun-
cated cone of Edgecombe, a fine, extinct volcano which marks the entrance to
the harbor of Sitka. This mountain and the ranges along the coast are densely
wooded with pines, firs, and spruce, but the upper portions or summits are without vegetation, being shrouded in snow. This* often appears to be in immense
drifts and overhanging masses upon the crests of the range. In the winter and
as late as May this snow stretches far down the sides of Edgecombe and buries
the upper portions of the forest from sight, or leaves only the tops of the tall
spruces protruding from the snow, like little shrubs.
Some of the principal valleys of the mountain range of the mainland are
filled with magnificent glaciers, rivalling those of the Alps. No glaciers are
found upon the coast at Sitka, or south of it, for under the influence of the warm
currents of the Pacific the climate is comparatively mild, while a short distance
in the interior, beyond the influence of the warm currents, the climate is more
severe, and the winters and summers are strongly marked.
The topography of the interior opposite Sitka has been almost unknown.
The Stickeen river, for example, (known also as the Frances river,) is usually
represented as running nearly east and west, and as heading far to the south of
its mouth. This is erroneous; it rises to the northward and eastward of its
mouth, and its general course is northwest and southeast, or parallel with the
coast. The interior appeals to he broken into a succession of sharply-defined
mountain ranges separated by narrow and deep valleys, similar to those between
the islands of the coast. In fact, the topography of the archipelago is a type of
that in the interior. A submergence of the mountain region of the mainland
would give a similar succession of islands separated by deep and narrow fiords.
It appears from the testimony of miners who have penetrated far into the interior
in search of gold, that there is a broad plain stretching northwest and southeast,
which separates the mountainous zone of the coast from a lofty range, tailed by
them the " Blue mountains." This is at the head waters of the Stickeen and
other streams that cut through the narrow strip of our recently acquired territory,
and it is probably the main dividing range or prolongation of the Rocky mountains.
The principal mineral wealth of Alaska, so far as it is at present known, consists chiefly in coal, copper, and gold.
Coal.—Coal beds have been worked by the Russians at several points, but
chiefly at Kennai, on Cook's inlet. The quality, however, is not equal to that
of the coal from Nanaimo, on Vancouver's island, to the southward.
It is here important to note that the many islands along the northwest coast,
from Vancouver's northward, are not formed of volcanic rocks, as is generally
supposed and stated by some writers, but that they consist of stratified formations, chiefly sandstones and shales, which are favorable to the existence of coal-
beds, indications of which have been found at various points.
It is probable that the formations of Baranoff or Sitka island, and of Prince
of Wales island, indeed of all the islands of that extensive archipelago, are
equivalents in age of coal-bearing strata of Vancouver's island and Queen
Chai lotte's island. On the latter the existence of beds of a very superior quality
of anthracite coal has lately been made known, and samples of it have been tested
in San Francisco with satisfactory results. The extent and value of these beds
have not been ascertained, but their existence is a most significant fact, and
suggests that a continuation of them may be found in the prolongation of the same
formation in the islands to the northward, within the limits of the recently acquired
The points at which I made an examination of the stratified rock formations
were at Sitka and the adjoining islands, and at the mouth of the Stickeen river.
At these places they consist of sandstones and shales regularly stratified, and
passing in some places into hard slates which project along the shores in thin
kni'e-like reefs. All these strata are upl.fted at high angles, aud they give the
peculiar saw-like appearance to the crests of the ridges. Some of the outcrops
are so sharp that they have been used by the savage Koloshes as saws, over
I which their unfortunate captives were dragged back and forth until their heads
were severed from their bodies.
Coal has been noted upon the island of Oubga, on the west side of Takharoos-
kai bay, in two places. The beds are horizontal, and are probably lignite.
Vancouver noted coal on Cook's inlet. The miners who worked for gold upon
the upper part of the Stickeen river in lS62-'63, reported coal as existing there,
but no satisfactory description of it has been obtained. Coal of superior quality,
in broken aud drifted specimens, has recently been found by ray brother, Mr.
Theodore A. Blake, geologist of the Alaska expedition of 1867, along the course
of &, small stream which empties into St. John's bay, north of Sitka. The beds
could not be found, and their extent is consequently unknown. *
It is surprising that during the hmg occupation of the northwest coast by the
Russians little or no attention was given to explorations of the interior. Even the
island of Sitka has not been explored.
Copper —It has long been known that large masses of native copper are found
along Copper river, whieli flows into the Pacific between Mount St. Elias and
the peninsula of Kennai. Some of these masses, shown to me by his excellency
Governor Fournhelm, at Sitka, very closely resembled the specimens formerly
picked up on the shores of Lake Superior. From all the information which I
received, I am inclined to believe that a copper-bearing region, similar to that
! — S
* Reports on Russian America, Ex. Doc. No. 177, 40th Congress, 2d session, p. 320. 4 RUSSIAN  AMERICA.
of Lake Superior, exists in the interior. It is interesting that large masses of
native copper have recently been found in northern Siberia. A large mass was
exhibited at Paris, in the Exhibition, from the Kirghese steppes. It contained
native silver, in isolated masses, identical in its appearance and its association
with the singular masses of Lake Superior. Native copper, associated with
silver, thus appears to be a characteristic mineral of the northern regions of both
Gold.—The stratified formations of the archipelagos along the coast are not
favorable to the existence of gold-bearing veins, for the metamorphosing agencies
which usually accompany the formation of miueral veins do not appear to have
acted upon the rocks with sufficient strength. East of the islands, however, and
in the first range of mountains of the mainland, the conditions are different. The
rocks are changed into mica slate, gneiss and granite, and are traversed by quartz
veins which are presumed to be gold bearing. However this may be, it is certain
that extensive sources of gold exist in the interior, for the sands of the streams
that descend to the coast all contain gold.
Gold has for many years been known to exist upon the Stickeen, the Takou,
and the Nass rivers. It has since been reported from many other places widely
separated. Upon the Stickeen considerable mining has been carried on by both
United States and English miners who followed the gold-bearing zone from Fra-
zer's river northwards. It is to these miners that we are indebted for the discovery of the metal in paying quantities upon these streams, and for much of our
geographical knowledge of the interior.
There is every reason to believe that this gold region of the interior extends
along the moun ains to the shores of the icy sea, and is thus connected with the
gold regions of Asia.
At the time of my visit to the Stickeen river, in 1863, an account of which is
annexed, there was conclusive evidence of the existence of a gold field of considerable extent in the so-called " Blue mountains," at the sources of the rivers
mentioned. It is probable that there are zones of gold-bearing veins in those
mountains which supply the gold to the detritus of the rivers. The severe climate, which prevents all placer or deposit mining, where water is used, during
the 'winter months, would not materially hinder vein mining operations carried
on below the surface. In this point of view a region of gold veins along those
mountains has great prospective importance. The Stickeen river and other
streams cutting through to the coast afford the most direct and cheapest routes
to that region, and all information upon them has an immediate practical value.
Some observations in detail upon the gold deposits along the Stickeen will be
found in the general description of that river.
Platina is said to be abundant with the gold of the north fork of the Stickeen.
It is probable that the ice of some of the large glaciers which descend from
the mountains to the navigable waters of the coast may be shipped with profit
to San Francisco and other places.
Although the ice is not as clear and transparent as that taken from lakes and
ponds, it is nevertheless quite firm and solid, and may be used for ordinary purposes. Ice of this character can be obtained from the end of the second glacier
on the Stickeen river.
In this connection the following notes upon the occurrence of great bodies of
ice, undoubtedly glaciers, in the more northern parts of Russian America, have
a special interest:
According to Sir Edward Belcher* the shores of Icy bay, at the foot of Mount
Voyage of the Sulphur, i, 78-80. RUSSIAN   AMKRICA. 5
St. Elias, lat. 60°, are lined with glaciers. "The whole of this bay, and the
valley above it, was found to be composed of (apparently) snow-ice, about 30
feet in height at the water cliff, and probably based on a. low muddy beach."
At Cape Suckling, in the, same latitude, and west of Icy bay, the same voyager
observed a vast mass of ice sloping to the sea, the surface of which presented
a most singular aspect, being "one mass of four-sided truncated pyramids."
He was not able to account for this and observes, " What could produce these
special forms ? If one could fancy himself perched on an eminence about 500
feet aliove a city of snow-white pyramidal houses, with smoke-colored flat roofs
covering many square miles of surface and rising ridge above ridge in steps, he
might form some faint idea of this beautiful freak of nature."
Vast bodies of ice terminating in cliffs upon the sea are numerous in Prince
William sound, and the thundering noise of the falling of large masses of ice
was heard by Vancouver.*
On the shores of an arm of Stephens's passage (northwest of Sitka) a compact
body of ice extended for some distance at the time of Vancouver's visit,
and from the rugged valleys in the mountains around, immense bodies of ice
reached perpendicularly to the sea, so that boats could not land. Similar observations are made, in general, of the mountains of the coast opposite Admiralty
island. Two large open bays-north and west of Point Couverdeen are terminated by solid mountains of ice rising perpendicularly from the water's edge.
From these various observations we may conclude that the mountain region
of Russian and British North America, from latitude 55° to the Polar sea, is
dotted with glaciers, cutting and scoring the mountains as they descend, and
pushing their accumulations of rocky debris either into the ocean or the rivers
of the interior.
The principal river in the vicinity of Sitka is the Stickeen, which rises in
the Blue mountains, opposite the head waters of the Mackenzie, and flows in a
general southeasterly direction, parallel with the coast, until it breaks through
the mountains east and a little south of Sitka. When the snows are melting
the river becomes much swollen, and is then navigable, with some difficulty,
by small steamboats for 125 miles or more above the mouth. The valley is
generally narrow, and is not bordered by a great breadth of alluvial land, except
near the first great bend or turn of the river, where it breaks through the mountains of the coast. At this point there is a broad valley extending far to the
southeast, along which Indians can travel to Fort Simpson in six days.
The sides of the mountain ranges are steep and rugged, and are covered,
where there is sufficient earth, with a dense forest of con ferous trees, the timber
of which is thought to be superior to that on the coast for spars and other purposes. The upper portions of the high ranges and peaks are covered with
snow, and are truly Alpine in their character.
The narrow strips of bottom land on the sides of the river, and the islands
between the different channels and sloughs, .are almo?t all low, and seem to be
liable to occasional inundations. The soil of such lauds is loose and sandy,
but fertile, and supports a vigorous growth of alders and the Cottonwood, or an
allied species of poplar. This poplar is abundant and attains a large size, often
three feet in diameter. The wood is soft and light, is easily wrought, and is
especially well adapted for the interior portions of cabinet furniture. The
Indians use this wood for their canoes, cutting them out of a single log.
Immense numbers of these trees are carried down by the stream, and are lodged
*iii, 145, (1794.) |       .      .    ,,
t A portion of the following description of the Stickeen was published by the writer in tne
Sacramento Union, California, July 21,1863. /f
in heaps on the sand-bars and islands, or are left as snags' in the channel,
anchored by the roots and pointing down stream, as in the Mississippi. The
broad flats at the month of the river are also strewn with these trees, and many
are doubtless carried fir out into the sound
My knowledge of the upper portions of the Stickeen river is derived from
the miners who came down from the mining settlement during our exploration
of the river. One of these miners was an old Californian, and a native of
Vermont, and gave me much information which he had obtained in his travels
and sojourn upon the upper portions of the river.
The head stream or branch of the river is said to flow in a north westerly
course along the foot of the Blue mountains, receiving many small tributaries
from the valleys. Nearly under the parallel of 60 degrees it turns to the southeast, and for fifty miles cuts across a comparatively level country, described as
a great plain with no obstruction to the vision. The stream here receives a fork
or branch from the northwest and enters a very mountainous region, and for
eighty miles is hemmed in on both sides by«,preeipitous and overhanging masses
of rock. This is called the Great canon, and its upper portions are very imperfectly known. The river is said to make some very great bends, which, together
with the dangers of the canon, have been avoided by the miners. rl hey leave
the stream and cut across the country on foot. In one place the walls approach
so closely that the stream during floods has not room to pass freely, and the
waters are dammed up so as to produce a cataract some sixty feet high. The
space between the walls at the top, where the surface of the. flood rushes
through, is considered to be only six feet wide. Just below this waterfall a
tributary enters from the southeast and is known as the South fork, and still
lower down the valley, the Second North fork and the First North fork enter
the right bank from the northwest, and within six miles of each other. These
•two streams extend far to the northwest, and have been worked for gold.
Near the mouth of the First North fork there is (1863) a village of Stickeen
Indians, and below the caSon, at intervals of five or six miles, there are several
mining camps, known, respectively, as Buck's bar, Carpenter's bar, and Fiddler's
bar, down to Slick's bar on the right bank.
From Shek's bar downward the course of the river is nearly southeast and
parallel with the coast." Fifty miles below the river canons again and runs with
great force through a narrow gorge, with vertical precipices on each side.
This is known as the Little canon, and. is much dreaded by the Indians and
those who ascend the river. It does not, however, offer any great obstacle to
the passage of a steamboat.
About 60 miles below this canon the river turns westward and breaks throngh
the Coast mountains for some twenty or thirty miles to. the mouth in the straits
or sounds between the Islands that border the coast. The total length of the
river is estimated at about 300 miles. Further data upon this point will be
found in the journal.
The velocity and strength of the current throughout the whole length of this
river, except perhaps the portion above the great canon, is, perhaps, its most
remarkable feature. Without any falls or impediments the current sweeps down
with great uniformity, aud in most places is so swift and strong that it is use-
>les8 to attempt to make headway against it with oare, and when the bed or
hanks are not suitable for towing or tracking the only way to force a boat up is
by means of poles, taking advantage always of the least forcible parts of the
The line for towing a boat should be from 200 to 300 feet long. The
velocity of the current was measured at several places, and in the portions of the
river below the Little canon probably averages five miles per hour, aud in the
lower portion, or for about 30 miles above the mouth, about four miles per hour. RUSSIAN   AMERICA. * 7
The depth of the water is of course variable, but even at low water is seldom
less than three feet in the main channel. The highest water, or season of the
greatest floods, is in the month of July, when the snow is melting on the mountains most rapidly under the summer sun. At these times the height of the river,
judging by the appearance of the banks, does not appear to be very greatly
increased, probably not more than six feet; but the water spreads out over the
low banks and islands, and the stream is thus greatly changed in its appearance
and in the form and direction of its banks. The water is always charged with
a very fine light colored powder or sediment, so that it is opaque and the bottom
of the stream is not visible. This suspended material is probably derived from
the glaciers, or may perhaps be washed down from soft stratified formations
along the sources of the stream.
The mountains of the Stickeen valley, from the Little canon down to near the
coast, are formed of syenite and granite, with some metamorphic beds at intervals.    The walls of the Little caiiou are granite.
At the mouth of the river and below to the Indian-villages the rocks are quite
different, being formed of the great sandstone and shale formation already
described. The direction of uplift of these strata is about north SO3 west, magnetic. The formation is some thousands of feet thick, and resembles the rocks
of San Francisco, but is more changed by metamorphic action. They are probably of the secondary period. It appears to pass into mica-slate just above the
site of an old stockade or fort of the Hudson Bay Company, where I found a
locality of garnets like those of Monroe in Connecticut.
In the drift of the river below the Little canon there is an abundance of fragments of gran5te, porphyry, and limestone, and a notable absence of fragments
of lava, from which I conclude that volcanic formations are not developed to a
great extent in the interior.
Gold can be found in small quantities by panning the drift of the bed and bars
of the river. I almost invariably found the color, but in particles so minute as
to be difficult to see and more difficult to save. This, of course, was to be
expected in trials of the sand and gravel from the surface. It is what is termed
flour gold, and to collect it would require blankets, quicksilver, and greater care
and attention than is generally given in the rapid methods of California. There
was not time to make any excavations to the bedrock, where, doubtless, the
coarse gold lies. Very good results can, however, be obtained in the layers of
gravel above it, and the miners informed me that they seldom attempted to reach
the bed-rock, it was so far below the surface. Some of the best results of their
mining were obtained in a layer of gravel about 18 inches below the surface.
This 18 inches of gravel is skimmed off and thrown aside, and the next five or
six inches of gravel below is washed in cradles or rockers. The principal mining at Fiddler's and at Carpenter's bars in 1862 was of this description. One
claim of 200 feet square, worked by two men, yielded $2,000; and the bars are
reckoned to yield from $3 to $10 a day to the hand. Nearly all the bars will
yield from $1 to Si 50 per day. The extent of paying ground is much increased
as the river falls, and doubtless the bed of the river is extremely rich. Unfortunately the time of lowest water is during the winter months, when all is locked
in ice, and, of course, washing is then impossible.
The gold from the North fork of the river is the coarsest which has yet been
found or reported upon the Stickeen, (1862-63.) One lump was worth $9 75.
Even on this stream the bed-rock has not been seen except at one or two places,
and it was believed that to reach and work the gravel upon it, derricks, pumps,
and other machinery would be necessary. The miners say that this North fork is
■subject to extensive landslides along its course, which bring masses of earth f
and rocks into the stream and obstruct it until the force of accumulated water
above sweeps everything clean before it.
I wasimpressed in ascending this river by the absence of any well-defined
terraces or old deposits of drift along the mountain sides or on the low ridges.
No terrace was seen until we were near the Little canon, where they are .well-
defined and extend for a mile or two on either one side of the river or the other,
and they are also found above the canon. They rise some fifty feet above the
stream, and are made up of coarse, heavy dri t. If at such places the bed-rock
could be reached above the level of the river, there is little doubt that they would
pay well for working. No favorable hill or dry diggings have yet been found
above. An explanation of their absence may be found in the fact that the valley
is so narrow aud the current so strong that all drift accumulations, are swept
The gold which has been brought by the Indians from the Takoun river
further north is coarser than that found upon the Stickeen.
At the time of my visit—the last; part qf the month of May—the poplars
and other deciduous trees were just budding, and in some places the young
leaves had spread out. The nights, though cold, were not frosty ; the thermometer seldom indicating less than 40 degrees. It was quite hot in the sun
during the day, though in the shade the mercury seldom rose above 65 degrees.
It is much hotter in midsummer At Sitka, in the same latitude or a little north,
there is not as great a difference between the summer and winter as upon the
Stickeen. The winter at Sitka is not severe, and in 1862 there was not a crop
of ice. The climate is said to be like a continued autumn. On the Stickeen,
and in that interior valley, shut out from the influence of the ocean current, the
seasons are strongly marked. The winters are cold, and the summers are hot.
The river closes in December, freezes over, I am told, from its mouth up, and
it opens in May. In the winter of l&62-'63 it was open as late as December 17,
and in the spring the ice broke up about the 1st of May, and the previous year
on the 9th of May. As soon as the warm days of spring cause the snows to
melt, the river begins to rise, and so breaks up the ice. There is then a short
season of rising and falling, after which come the continuous floods of the hot
months. Very little rain falls during the summer in the upper part of the valley. Little or nothing was known in 1863 of the climate of the mountain
region at the head of the Stickeen. At the mining camps at and near Shek's
bar the winter is said to be very severe. Snow commences to fall in October,
but is most abundant in December, and covers the ground to a depth of from
four to fourteen feet or more all winter. In lb62 four feet of snow on a level
fell in one day. In December the mercury sank below zero, and in February
was solid in the bulb for nine days continuously. There was no thawing or rain
during the winter.
It is perhaps this alternation of the seasons that causes the timber of the interior to be superior (according to report) to that of the coast.
Salmon, halibut, and other good fish abound at the mouth of the Stickeen.
When the salmon ascend the river in June and July the Indians follow, and
catch them in great numbers. They split them along the back, remove the
backbone, cut them in long-strips, and dry and smoke them. When well cured
they are very fine, and are very convenient in camp Ducks and geese may be
shot on the river, and grouse in the foreBts of the shores. Bears are plenty in
the mountains, and the mountain sheep or goat in the rocky places. Beaver
and otters are taken in great numbers by the Indians of the Valley and its-
tributaries. RUSSIAN   AMERICA.
Under the orders of Admiral Popoff, of his imperial Russian majesty's navy,
an expedition for the survey of the Stickeen river was organized by Lieutenant
Bassarguine, commanding the corvette Rynda, when at Sitka in 1863.
The corvette steamed from Sitka to a convenient anchorage a few miles below
the mouSi of the Stickeen and near the south shore of its broad estuary. The
party detailed consisted of Lieutenant Pereleshin, Mr. Audreanoff, a Russian
engineer in the service of the Russian Am •rican Company, six Russian sailors,
expert oarsmen, and the writer, who accompanied the party as a guest for scientific purposes. The commander's gig, a boat sharp at both ends and modelled
like a whale-boat, was selected as best adapted for the purpose, and was fitted
out with mast and sail, a long line for towing, and was provisioned for two weeks.
An Indian named Jack accompanied us as a guide.
May 23, 1863.—Corvette to Camp 1.—We left the corvette in the morning
and rowed up the stream, following the left or southern bank. The space, between
the mountains occupied by the estuary is apparently from two to three miles
wide, and there are several channels or mouths separated by islands bordered by '
extensive sand-banks, where numerous large trees brought down by floods have
been stranded. The mountains on the south side come nearly to the water's
edge. They are apparently from 1,500 to 3,000 feet high, and are heavily timbered with firs and spruce. The rocks are granitic and metamorphic, an.l they
project in long po nts, at one of which we stopped at noon to dine, opposite an
island called Koknook by Jack, our Indian guide.
Mica slate in large blocks lay along the beach, and several beautiful crystals
of garnet were picked up. These are about the size of filberts and ch,sely
resemble the garnets found in similar slate at Monroe, in Connecticut. The
color is good, but the crystals are not transparent or free from flaws, and
therefore have no value for the lapidary, although interesting to mineralogists.
This rock shows a high degree of metamorphism.
One of these rocky points, where there is some flat land, is occupied by an
Indian village, at which we procured some very fine smoked salmon. The fish
has a fine red color, is very fat, and has an excellent flavor.
Beyond Koknook island the channel narrows rapidly and the course of the
stream is nearly northeast and southwest. The shore on the north and west is
quite low. The mountains on the south descend nearly to the shore and appear
to be the ends of ridges trending northwest and southeast. The principal
mountain abuts upon the river and forms a conspicuous point about five miles
above the island. We camped at this point at 6.30 p. m. The river appears
to be not over 200 yards wide, and the valley begins to narrow. The ranges
on the north side approach the right bank.
We gave the name of the corvette to the mountain above our camp, and the
name of the commander to the mountain opposite it on the right or north bank.
Both of these mountains appear to be formed of a dark-colored gneiss, whichat
the camp trends northwest and southeast, and is nearly vertical. It is a metamorphosed sedimentary rock.
May 24.—Camp I to Camp 2.—We left camp at 5 a. m. A short distance
above, and on the left bank, there is an extensive sand-flat which is bare, during
low stages of water. There is a belt of alluvial or bottom land beyond it, while
on the north or right bank the mountain impinges upon the stream. About two
miles above camp the conditions are reversed ; the alluvial land is on the north
side, and the mountains on the south jut out into the river iu a series of rocky
points, which the guide called Stinenia. The rocks are gneiss and granite.
From this point there is a fine view of a glacier descending between the mountains a mile or two westward. It has a high inclination and a very rugged and
broken surface.    The sides of the mountain along its course show freshly broken 10
cliff-, which are clearly the result of the eroding action of the ice. We designated this as the "Popoff glacier" in honor of the admiral. The Soynai or
Ice-water river, according to our guide, enters the Stickeen a short distance
above and probably flows from the glaeer. The point of land between the Soynai and the Stickeen appears to be formed chiefly of coarse river drift, with
probablv considerable debris from the glacier, and it contains gold. It had been
marked off into claims by some miners who had passed up the river in Indian
canoes. This gold is said to be quite fine and is in thin scales. Ahoth e'r stream,
called the Ketili, enters on the right bank a short distance above, and a brook,
the Shuktusay flows in nearly opposite it.
The course of the Stickeen for several miles above is nearly east and west,
and there are no rapids or impediments to navigation by vessels of light draught.
There are several long sand-bars and low islands on the south side of the m iin
channel. On the north the banks are low, and the mountains recede from the
river towards the northwest.
The deciduous trees along the bottom lands are just budding out, and the air
during the day is mild and spring-like, although there is yet some snow remaining along the banks on the north side, and on the low bars that have been above
water during the winter.
About four miles above the mouth of the Soynai, the river turns suddenly to the
north and then to the northwest. At the bend, the mountains on the south side
rise abruptly from the water, and are composed of syenitic grauite.
We camped a short distance above, on the right bank, and nearly opposite
the month of a stream which enters the Stickeen from the southeast. It is
called Keteie by our guide. Another stream, or a branch of the first, enters
about a mile below, and was designated as the Kekkikacie\ The ground at
our camp was low, and formed of the alluvium of the river, thickly overgrown
with alders and shrubs.
This flat extends for a considerable distance to the west, and back to the
mountains. The guide says that there is a lake, or large pond, at the foot of
the mountains, where there is an abundance.of geese and ducks. The river
abouuds with the finest salmon.
May 25 —Camp 2 to Camp 3.—We left camp at 6 o'clock in the morning,
and rowed for some distance; temperature of the air 44°. The first prominent
rocky point is formed by the end of the range on the north, which here terminates the belt of bottom-land. The rocks are gneiss and mica slate, with the
stratification nearly vertical, and trending northwest by west. This point is
well adapted for a-settlement or supply station, as there is a good landing, and
it is sufficiently elevated to be secure from floods. The Indian calls this point,
and the mountain above it, Kokaydai.
From our camp this morning, and along the river below it, there is a fine view
of a ridge of the mountains, with the most remarkable serrations and sharply
cut peaks of rock, looking like the sharp points of crystals penetrating the air.
There appears to be a branch of the river just opposite Kokaydai Point, and
a broad opening, extending far to the southeast, indicates a valley in that direction. This is distinctly seen about three miles higher up the river, where a stream
enters, called the Scoot, but which may be another mouth or branch of the
stream which drains the valley. The Indian describes it, as nearly as I could
understand him, as a very large stream, extending a great distance. The valley
afiords tine hunting and fishing, and has many Indians who trade with the
Suck Indians. This valley affords a direct route to Fort Simpson, and an
Indian can traverse the distance in six days.
In an abrupt point of rocks jutting into the river half a mile below the Scoot,
a quartz vein, some ten inches thick, was observed. The rocks are homblendic
and very dark-colored. The end of a magnificent glacier i3 visible on the right
bank of the river, a few miles above. I RUSSIAN AMERICA. 11
At a point a short distance above the Scoot there is an Indian village. These
Indians are quite different from the Koloshes of the coast, and are evidently of
the great Chippewyan family. They offered skins of the sable for sale or barter,
and had several fine skins of cubs of black bear recently killed.
The glacier above presents a splendid appearance in the sunlight, and extends
for about two miles along the stream. The background is formed by beautiful
snow-covered peaks, from between which the glacier issues, but its source cannot be seen. The slope of the glacier is very gentle, and the vast body of ice
appears to be unbroken until it reaches the valley of the river, where it breaks
down in massive ledges and pinnacles of the purest crystal. The foreground
along the stream consists of an ancient moraine now covered with trees, among
which willows and poplars are conspicuous in their delicate green foliage of
spring. Some very large blocks of granite standing in the river bear witness to
the vast transporting power of ice and to a much greater extension of this glacier
in former periods.
From this part of the river a line of high and rugged peaks is visible on the
right or eastern side of the valley, and at a considerable distance from the
The accumulations at the foot of the glacier have evidently pushed the river
outward, and they have acted as a dam to the waters, which above the moraine
are quite deep and flow smoothly. We encamped at 8 o'clock on a gravelly
beach, diagonally opposite the glacier.
May 26.— Camp 3 to Camp 4—We left our camp at 3 o'clock in the
morning, and found the ascent of the river more difficult than it had been, owing
to the increased velocity of the current and the irregularity of the banks. The
stream turns more to the west and is quite crooked. The valley is narrower;
large poplar trees are abundant along the banks, and many that have been
uprooted by the undermining action of the stream are stranded upon the sandbars and along the shores.
At 9 o'clock we stopped to rest the men, who were fatigued with the incessant
hard labor of rowing and tracking the boat. Temperature of the air 63° Fah.
in the shade. The sun shone out bright and was quite hot. We came in sight
of another and very beautiful glacier, flowing from a valley on the west. It is
remarkable for its symmetry, regular slope, thickness of the ice, and for the contrast with the dense forest on each side of it, and with the belt of deciduous
trees upon the bottom-land in front. In the extreme background there is a
magnificent angular peak shrouded with snow.
The drift*, pebbles, and rocks of the river bed at this point,* and a short distance above, consist chiefly of limestone, porphyry, and jasper, with some
masses of quartz.
There are numerous bends and crooks in the stream, and an appearance of
another channel to the right, on the other side of low land, covered by trees.
A stream called the Clitch-a-ta-noo enters on the left bank. After passing an
abrupt bend in the river, where the current was very swift, we encamped at
7.25 p. m. on the right bank.
' May'21.—Camp 4 to camp 5.—Left camp at 7 a. m. Morning bright and
clear. The rock at camp is a compact white granite, evidently a metamorphic
rock. The trees are very large, and have an abundance of heavy green moss
upon them. From this part ot the river, there is a splendid panorama of high
peaks and mountains. The current is swift, and there are many bars and
channels. The day was quite warm, and we stopped to rest and dine at a
beautiful point where some United States miners had made a camp in 1862.
About 60 men spent the winter here, and bad a store or stock of provisions for
sale to the miners, who had taken claims in the vicinity. One of their number
died of small-pox, and was buried at the foot of one of the largest spruces.; The
scenery at this part of'the river is very picturesque.    The rocks at the point are 12
metamorphosed sandstones and shales and pass into gneiss. The drift and sandbars of the river contain gold, but no very great amount of work appears to have
been done. We camped on the left bank of the river, above the'bend, and upon a
low bar. A mountain behind us, to the northeast, bears the name of Hanook.
A small stream of clear, cool water enters a short distance below. I found the
" color " of gold herein the surface gravel, and Jack shot a wild goose for supper.
May 28.—Camp 5 to camp 6.—A mountain in view from camp, and..which
is covered with perpetual snow, is called Taouk-ti-nia, and the Indian describes
a "big water" on the east which he calls Slca-ti-ni, and says that the Indians
catch large quantities of salmon there and dry them. We stopped for half an
hour to lash the provisions to the seats of the boat, so that in the event of cap-
Sizing they would not all be lost. Each man also took a small quantity of
bread and dried salmon in his pockets. We were nearly capsized three times
during the morning. The current was so strong and swift that it was not possible to make any headway by rowing, and the boat could not be got up some
of the swift places except by poling or tracking. The sailors have been in the
cold water up to their waists, part of the time, pulling the boat. We passed
another glacier coming down from the mountains on the west. It is tailed
Ka-ra-hai by Jack. The shore opposite to it is rocky, and a reef of granite
projects into the stream.
We made two trials of the velocity of the current to-day by timing the passage of bottles and sticks thrown into the stream floating down with the current
over a measured distance. This showed a mean velocity of 5 20 miles per
hour. We encamped upon a sandy bank on the north side of the river and a
short distance above the glacier. The long twilight is interesting, it being quite
light even after 9 o'clock in the evening.
May 29.— Camp 6 to camp 7.—Found some coarse drift along the river in
which I obtained the color of gold upon washing in a pan. Masses of white
limestone occur in that drift. The course of the river is crooked, and there are
many bars and side channels. Camped in a bend of the river upon the right
bank of one of the channels (probably upon an island) and took numerous
bearing*: by compass to prominent peaks. A fine conical mountain bears north
17 east.
May 30.—Camp 7 to Ccrgayef rapid and bark.—At the previous camp I
observed trees of the white birch for the first time upon the river. At this
camp we saw the #nest of a bald-headed eagle iu a cottonwood tree, and found
the grave of an unknown white man whose body had been picked up on the
Bhore and buried by some miners who had ascended the river a year before.
Beavers are abundant iu this vicinity; their trails led in various directions over
the bottom-land, and many small trees, over three inches in diameter, had been cut
down by them. At camp, and above, gold was found on trial in toe drift along
the shore. This drift is quite coarse and heavy, and consists of syenite, porphyry, and limestone. The appearance of the banks is such as to lead me to
conclude that the river is not subject to great floods. The marks of high water
in favorable places do not indicate a total rise of over five feet above the present level We were now approaching the much-dreaded canon, where the
whole volume of the stream flows through a narrow rocky gorge, and is thrown
into such eddies and whirlpools that many Indian canoes have been capsized
and carried down.
A fine conical mountain upon the east side of the river has been visible for a
great distance, and marks the position of the lower end of the gorge through
which the river has broken its way. We called this " Cone mountain," and it
is so indicated upon the map. Some of the ridges which extend from it project upon the river and are composed of granite.
We were two hours and a half in passing the canon. The sides are formed
of precipitous cliffs of granite roughly broken out, and the water rushes between ' RUSSIAN   AMERICA. 13
them with great force, boiling and whirling as at Hell-gate near New York,
when the tide is flowing rapidly. On the north side, for a part of the way, there
is a reverse current setting up stream, of which we took advantage in passing
through. Towards the upper end some of us landed upon projecting points of
rock and helped to tow the boat.
The stream above the canon is much wider and flows quietly between terraced
banks. It is evident that the rocky contracted channel of the canon has acted
as a dam, setting back the waters of the river, and at some former period causing them to spread out over the country. The terraces are most distinct upon
the south bank, and are composed of coarse river drift and are well wooded.
A high range of mountains, with snow upon the upper portion, extend behind
these terraces. On the opposite side there is a rough and broken range which
appears to extend back of Cone mountain. To this range, or perhaps to the
principal peak, the Indian gives the name Sa-kai-na.
After passing the terraces and the quiet portion of the river opposite to them,
we reached a dangerous rapid, where the main current rushes over and among
large rocks and boulders. The men were out towing, and in attempting to return
to the boat, one named Cergayef was swept from his feet and drowned without
our being able to reach him. This sad event put an end to our attempt to ascend
to Shek's bar, where some miners were at work, and after landing and holding
services, according-to the forms of the Creek church, we prepared to descend the
May 31.—Camp above the Little canon to camp opposite the glacier.—We
left camp at eight o'clock in the morning on our return. Temperature of the
air 44°. In half an hour we had reached the lower end of the canon and passed
safely through it Without difficulty. We found at once a very great difference
between ascending and descending the stream, for we passed in a. few hours
over the distanae which it had taken us days to overcome.
At 911 25m we passed camp 7, and camp 6 at 10h 55m, camp 5 at 1211 10m,
and at 1211 35m reached American Point and stopped for dinner. Leaving this
place at 2h 35m, we passed camp 4 at 311 41m, and rested there to see Indians
until 4h 20m. At 811 35m we stopped to camp nearly opposite the south end of
the second glacier. We had, however, stopped to explore the end of this glacier and to see some remarkable hot springs on the opposite side of the river,
which occupied about an hour. We had thus accomplished the distance from
the upper end of the canon down to this glacier in nine hours and five minutes;
and if we assume the mean velocity as five miles per hour the distance is a little
over 45 miles.
The glacier was exceedingly interesting and presented all the usual phenomena of glaciers.* Two or more terminal moraines protect it from the direct
action of the stream. What at first appeared as a range of ordinary hills along
the river, proved on landing to be an ancient terminal moraine, crescent-shaped,
and covered with a forest. It extends the full length of the front of the glacier.'
The following extract from my notes will answer for a description of the end
of this glacier.
We found the bank composed of large angular blocks of granite mingled with
smaller fragments and sand. It is an outer and older moraine, separated from
a second one by a belt of marsh land, overgrown with alders and grass and
interspersed with ponds of water. Crossing this low space we clambered up
the loose granitic debris of the inner moraine, which is quite bare of vegetation
and has a recently formed appearance. These hills are from 20 to 40 feet high,
and form a continuous line parallel with the outer and ancient moraine. From
their tops we had a full view of the ice cliffs of the end of the glacier, rising
* An article describing this glacier was published by the writer in American Juuintu ul
Science and Arts, volume XLIV, July, 1867, and also in the Sacramento Union for July
21, 1863. 14
before us like a wall, but separated from the morajne by a second belt of marsh
and ponds. Here, however, there were no plants or trees. It was a scene of
utter desolation. Great blocks of granite lay piled in confusion among heaps of
sand (sand-cones) or were perched upon narrow columns of ice (glacier-tables)
apparently ready to topple over at the slightest touch. The edges of great
masses of ice could be seen around pools of water, but most of the surface was
hidden by a deposit of mud, gravel and broken rock. It was evident, however,
that all this was upon a foundation of ice, for here and there it was uplifted,
app.-iw-ntlyv-in -great masses, leaving chasms filled with mud and water. Over
this fearful and dangerous place we crossed to the firmer and comparatively
unbroken slope of ice at the foot of the blnff, and afterward had to climb over
snow and ice only, in the attempt to reach the top of the glacier.    From below,
it had appeared to us to be quite possible to accomplish this, if* we foUowed the
least broken .part of the slope, but it proved to be difficult, and finally impossible. Fissures which could not be seen from a short distance were met at intervals, some of them being so wide that we were forced to turn aside. As we
ascended, the crevasses were more numerous but were generally filled with hard
snow, to which we occasionally trusted.    The surface soon became precipitous
and broken into irregular stair-like blocks with smooth sides, and so large that
it was impossible to make our way over them without ladders or tools to cut a
foothold. Here we tunned, and enjoyed the sight of this great expanse of ice,
broken into such enormous blocks and ledges. The sun illuminated the crevasses with the most beautiful aquamarine tints, passing into a deep sea-blue
where they were narrow and deep.   In one direction the ice presented the 16
remarkable appearance of a succession of cones or pyramids with curved sides.
In the opposite direction and at the same level the outlines were totally different, showing merely a succession of terraces or steps iuclined inward toward
the glacier and broken by longitudinal crevasses. The annexed sketches were
made from this point of view. No. 1 is taken looking up the river, over the
end of the glacier, and shows the pyramids of ice. The line of ponds and the
two moraines are seen at the base, and the river on the extreme right. No. 2
shows the appearance of the glacier in the opposite direction. A broad fissure
between one level of the ice and the next is filled with snow.
It is evident that this glacier breaks down in a series of great steps or ledges
along the greater part of its front. These steps rise for 20 or 30 feet one above
the other, and thus produce a stair-like ascent, while at the same time the numerous parallel fissures at right angles break the surface into rectangular blocks,
which on the side exposed to the sun soon become worn into pyramids and
cones.    The difference of outline in opposite directions is thus explained.
I was inclined to regard the melting action of the water of the river as the
cause of this abrupt breaking off of the end of the glacier. There may, however, be a sudden break in the rock foundations at this point, so as to produce
an ice-cascade.    The following section will perhaps give a clearer idea of the
inner in which the glacier breaks down.
Section of end of glacier.
One or more streams descend under the glacier, and reach the river at different places. The rushing and roaring sound was rather startling at some of the
Judging from the number of loose blocks of rock at the foot of the glacier,
the upper surface must be strewn with them, but this could not be verified by
observation. Time did not permit a more extended examination. There would
be little difficulty in gaining the surface of the glacier from the side, and, perhaps, at some other paints along its front. It was impossible to get our Indian
guide to accompany us. They have a tradition of the loss of one of their chiefs
upon this glacier.
The ancient terminal moraine of this glacier is significant of an amelioration
of the climate. It is also interesting to note the effect which this accumulation
of materials from the glacier has had upon the river. It has acted as a dam for
the waters, setting them back in the valley for some distance.
Only a short distance below the point where the ice-cold water from the melting of the glacier enters the Stickeen there is a small but deep stream of clear
water entering from the opposite side. We turned the boat up this stream for
about 100 yards and found the water quite warm, having a pleasant temperature
for bathing. Higher up, the stream divides, one branch comes from the moun-
• tain and is clear and cold, the other is hot, and rises from a group of springs
near by. The vegetation around was remarkably green and luxuriant, and
there appeared to be a considerable area of heated ground. By covering these
springs with a glass house, oue could have a tropical climate iuside, all the year,
and enjoy the beauties of tropical vegetation in full sight of the cliffs of pure
ice directly opposite. These hot springs exhibit the not unusual phenomenon
of a luxuriant growth of conferva; in the midst of the hottest water.
June 1.—From the glacier to the corvette.—The temperature of the air at
our camp on the bank of the river was 43° F. at 11 p. m., (May 31.) At 7
o'clock in the morning the mercury stood at 45°, which was the temperature of
the river water also.
Our Indian guide, Jack, could, not be found this morning; he had quietly
run away during the night, fearing, perhaps, that we would hold him in some
way responsible for the loss of the sailor Cergayef. We were sorry to have
him part with us in this way, for we felt grateful for his untiring and faithful
efforts to assist us in the undertaking, and we highly appreciated his skill in the
management of the boat in difficult places.
Weleftat §A. 21m. a. m, and passed our first camp at ih. 37?ra.p. m., having been
detained two hours and nine minutes on the way. At 6 p. m. we reached the
mouth of the river, and at 7 p. m. were alongside of the corvette. We had been
in motion for eight and a half hours, at an estimated rate of four miles per hour,
giving the distance as 34 miles (approximately) from the anchorage to the
■The total time occupied in descending the stream, exclusive of stops, was 17
hours and 35 minutes, in which we accomplished a distance of 80 miles, approximately, which had required eight days of hard exertion to overcome in ascending against the current.
Distance- along the Stickeen river by estimates obtained chiefly from the miners
I who came down from Shek's bar to the mouth of the river in May, 1863.
Mouth of the river to the Little canon   75 to 100
Lower canon to first north fork of river '. — ....     20
Lower cation to Shek's bar     50
Shek's bar to Upper or Long cation     20
Mouth of Long canon to first north fork      16
First north fork to second north fork       6
Length of canon     80
Head of canon to the Blue mountains     50
Length of river along Blue mountains*   100
Mouth of the river to Little canon  75
Little cation to Shek's bar  50
Shek's bar to Upper cation  20
Length of canon	
Upper end of cation to Blue mountains ■- - • - 50
Along and in the Blue mountains*  100
Estimated length of river
* It is thought tfiat the length of stream along the Blue mountains is overestimated.
H. Ex. Doc. 177—Part 2 2  RUSSIAN AMERICA.
Lif of geogmphical names obtained from the Indian guide Jack, in ascending the Stickeen
Indian name.
Objects to which the name was applied.
Jf-ti-li ......i
Sli-stets-sa ...
Island at the mouth of the river.
Creek and waterfall.
A fine mountain peak.
"Big water."
River of ice-cold water.
The long-leafed spruce.
The short-leafed spruce.
The hemlock tree.    


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