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BEAR RIVER.

167

CHAPTER XI.

A REGION OF NATURAL CURIOSITIES-THE PLAIN OF WHITE CLAY

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FREE

SPRINGS-THE BEER SPRING-DEPARTURE TO SEEK THE

TRAPPERS-PLAIN OF

PORTNEUF-LAVA-CHASMS

AND

GULLIES BANNECK INDIANS-THEIR HUNT OF THE BUFFALO

HUNTERS' FEAST-TRENCHER HEROES-BULLYING OF AN ABSENT FOE-THE DAMP COMRADE-THE INDIAN SPY-MEETING WITH

HODGKISS-HIS ADVENTURES-POORDEVIL

INDIANS-TRIUMPH

OF THE BANNECKS-BLACKFEET POLICY IN WAR.

CROSSING an elevated ridge, Captain Bonneville now came upon Bear river, which, from its source to its entrance into the Great Salt lake, describes the figure of a horseshoe. One of the principal head waters of this river, although supposed to abound with beaver, has

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REGION OF CURIOSITIES.

never been visited by the trapper; rising among rugged mountains, and being barricaded by fallen pine-trees and tremendous precipices.

Proceeding down this river, the party encamped, on the 6th of November, at the outlet of a lake about thirty miles long, and from two to three miles in width, completely embedded in low ranges of mountains, and connected with Bear river by an impassable swamp. It is called the Little lake, to distinguish it from the great one of salt water.

On the 10th of November Captain Bonneville visited a place in the neighbourhood which is quite a region of natural curiosities. An area of about half a mile square presents a level surface of white clay, or fullers' earth, perfectly spotless, resembling a great slab of Parian marble, or a sheet of dazzling snow. The effect is strikingly beautiful at all times; in summer, when it is surrounded with verdure,

THE BEER SPRING.

169

or in autumn, when it contrasts its bright immaculate surface with the withered herbage. Seen from a distant eminence, it then shines like a mirror, set in the brown landscape.

Around this plain are clustered numerous springs of various sizes and temperatures. One of them, of scalding heat, boils furiously, and incessantly, rising to the height of two or three feet. In another place, there is an aperture in the earth, from which rushes a column of steam that forms a perpetual cloud. The ground for some distance around sounds hollow, and startles the solitary trapper, as he hears the tramp of his horse giving the sound of a muffled drum. He pictures to himself a mysterious gulf below, a place of hidden fires: and gazes round him with sensations of awe and uneasiness.

The most noted curiosity, however, of this singular region, is the Beer spring, of which trappers give wonderful accounts. They are

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THE BEER SPRING.

said to turn aside from their route through the country to drink of its waters, with as much eagerness as the Arab seeks some famous well of the desert. Captain Bonneville describes it as having the taste of beer. His men drunk it with avidity, and in copious draughts. It did not appear to him to possess any medicinal properties, or to produce any peculiar effects. The Indians, however, refuse to taste it, and endeavour to persuade the white men from doing so.

We have heard this also called the Soda spring; and described as containing iron and sulphur. It is probable that it possesses some of the properties of the Ballston water.

The time had now arrived for Captain Bonneville to go in quest of the party of free trappers, whom he had detached in the beginning of July, under the command of Mr. Hodgkiss, to trap upon the head waters of Salmon river.

PLAIN OF THE PORTNEUF.

171

His intention was to unite them with the party with which he was at present travelling, that all might go into quarters together for the winter. Accordingly, on the 11th of November, he took a temporary leave of his band, appointing a rendezvous on Snake river, and, accompanied by three men, set out upon his journey.

His route lay across the plain of the Portneuf, a tributary stream of Snake river, called after an unfortunate Canadian trapper, murdered by the Indians. The whole country through which he passed, bore evidence of volcanic convulsions and conflagrations in the olden time. Great masses of lava lay scattered about in every direction; the crags and cliffs had apparently been under the action of fire; the rocks in some places seemed to have been in a state of fusion; the plain was rent and split with

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