Wonders of the Yellowstone – Part 1.

Many of the capricious formations wrought from the shale excite merriment as well as wonder. Of this kind especially was a huge mass sixty feel in height, which, from its supposed resemblance to the proverbial foot of his Satanic Majesty, we called the “Devil’s Hoof.” The scenery of mountain, rock, and forest surrounding the falls is very beautiful. Here, too, the hunter and fisherman can indulge their tastes with the certainty of ample reward. As a half-way resort to the greater wonders still farther up the marvelous river, the visitor of future years will find no more delightful resting-place. No account of this beautiful fall has ever been given by any of the former visitors to this region. The name of “Tower Falls,” which we gave it, was suggested by some of the most conspicuous features of the scenery.

Early the next morning several of our company left in advance, to explore a passage for our pack train over the mountains, which were very steep and lofty. We had been following a bend in the river,—but as no sign of a change in its course was apparent, our object was, by finding a shorter route across the country, to avoid several days of toilsome travel. The advance party ascended a lofty peak,—by barometrical measurement, 10,580 feet above ocean level,—which, in honor of our commander, was called Mount Washburn. From its summit, 400 feet above the line of perpetual snow, we were able to trace the course of the river to its source in Yellowstone Lake. At the point where we crossed the line of vegetation the snow covered the side of the apex of the mountain to the depth of twenty feet, and seemed to be as solid as the rocks upon which it rested. Descending the mountain, we came upon the trail made by the pack-train at its base, which we followed into camp at the head of a small stream flowing into the Yellowstone. Following the stream in the direction of its mouth, at the distance of a mile below our camp, we crossed an immense bed of volcanic ashes, thirty feet deep, extending one hundred yards along both sides of the creek. Less than a mile beyond, we suddenly came upon a hideous-looking glen filled with the sulphurous vapor emitted from six or eight boiling springs of great size and activity. One of our company aptly compared it to the entrance to the infernal regions, It looked like nothing earthly we had ever seen, and the pungent fumes which filled the atmosphere were not unaccompanied by a disagreeable sense of possible suffocation. Entering the basin cautiously, we found the entire surface of the earth covered with the incrusted sinter thrown from the springs. Jets of hot vapor were expelled through a hundred natural orifices with which it was pierced, and through every fracture made by- passing over it. The springs themselves were as diabolical in appearance as the witches’ caldron in Macbeth, and needed but the presence of Hecate and her weird band to realize that horrible creation of poetic fancy. They were all in a state of violent ebullition, throwing their liquid contents to the height of three or four feet. The largest had a basin twenty by forty feet in diameter. Its greenish-yellow water was covered with bubbles, which were constantly rising, bursting, and emitting sulphurous gas from various parts of its surface. The central spring seethed and bubbled like a boiling caldron. Fearful volumes of vapor were constantly escaping it. Near it was another, not so large, but more infernal in appearance. Its contents, of the consistency of paint, were in constant, noisy ebullition. A stick thrust into it, on being withdrawn, was coated with lead-colored slime a quarter of an inch in thickness. Nothing flows from this spring. Seemingly, it is boiling down. A fourth spring, which exhibited the same physical features, was partly covered by an overhanging ledge of rock. We tried to fathom it, but the bottom was beyond the mach of the longest pole we could find. Rocks cast into it increased the agitation of it’s waters. There were several other springs in the group, smaller in size, but presenting the same characteristics.

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