From Orion: Monday, Aug. 5.—52 miles further on, near the head of Echo Canon, were encamped 60 soldiers from Camp Floyd. Yesterday they fired upon 300 or 400 Utes, whom they supposed gathered for no good purpose. The Indians returned the fire, when the soldiers chased them four miles, took four prisoners, talked with and released them, and then talked with their chief. Echo Canon is 20 miles long, with many sandstone cliffs, (red) in curious shapes, and often rising perpendicularly 400 feet.
"Echo Canyon is twenty miles long. It was like a long, smooth, narrow street, with a gradual descending grade, and shut in by enormous perpendicular walls of coarse conglomerate, four hundred feet high in many places, and turreted like mediaeval castles. This was the most faultless piece of road in the mountains, and the driver said he would “let his team out.” He did, and if the Pacific express trains whiz through there now any faster than we did then in the stage-coach, I envy the passengers the exhilaration of it. We fairly seemed to pick up our wheels and fly—and the mail matter was lifted up free from everything and held in solution! I am not given to exaggeration, and when I say a thing I mean it." (Roughing It)
Echo Kanyon, August 24th
At 8 15 AM we were once more en voyage. Mr Macarthy was very red eyed as he sat on the stool of penitence: what seemed to vex him most was having lost certain newspapers directed to a friend and committed to his private trust, a mode of insuring their safe arrival concerning which he had the day before expressed the highest opinion. After fording Bear River - this part of the land was quite a grave yard - we passed over rough ground and, descending into a bush, were shown on a ridge to the right a huge Stonehenge, a crown of broken and somewhat lanceolate perpendicular conglomerates or cemented pudding stones called not inappropriately Needle Rocks. At Egan's Creek, a tributary of the Yellow Creek, the wild geraniums and the willows flourished despite the six feet of snow which sometimes lies in these bottoms. We then crossed Yellow Creek, a water trending northeastward, and feeding, like those hitherto forded, Bear River: the bottom, a fine broad meadow, was a favorite camping ground, as the many fire places proved. Beyond the stream we ascended Yellow Creek Hill, a steep chain which divides the versant of the Bear River eastward from that of Weber River to the west. The ascent might be avoided, but the view from the summit is a fine panorama. The horizon behind us is girt by a mob of hills, Bridger's Range, silver veined upon a dark blue ground: nearer, mountains and rocks, cones and hog backs are scattered about in admirable confusion, divided by shaggy rollers and dark ravines, each with its own little water course. In front the eye runs down the long bright red line of Echo Kanyon, and rests with astonishment upon its novel and curious features, the sublimity of its broken and jagged peaks, divided by dark abysses, and based upon huge piles of disjointed and scattered rock. On the right, about half a mile north of the road, and near the head of the kanyon is a place that adds human interest to the scene. Cache Cave is a dark, deep, natural tunnel in the rock, which has sheltered many a hunter and trader from wild weather and wilder men: the wall is probably of marl and earthy limestone, whose whiteness is set off by the ochrish brick red of the ravine below. (p 183-4)
Echo Kanyon has a total length of twentv five to thirty miles, and runs in a southeasterly direction to the Weber River. Near the head it is from half to three quarters of a mile wide, but its irregularity is such that no average breadth can be assigned to it. The height of the buttresses on the right or northern side varies from 300 to 500; feet they are denuded and water washed by the storms that break upon them under the influence of southerly gales; their strata here are almost horizontal; they are inclined at an angle of 45d, and the strike is northeast and southwest. The opposite or southern flank, being protected from the dashing and weathering of rain and wind, is a mass of rounded soil clad hills, or sloping slabs of rock, earth veiled, and growing tussocks of grass. Between them runs the clear swift bubbling stream in a pebbly bed now hugging one then the other side of the chasm: it has cut its way deeply below the surface; the banks or benches of stiff alluvium are not unfrequently twenty feet high; in places it is partially dammed by the hand of Nature, and every where the watery margin is of the brightest green and overgrown with grass, nettles, willow thickets, in which the hop is conspicuous, quaking asp, and other taller trees. Echo Kanyon has but one fault: its sublimity will make all similar features look tame. (p 184)
We entered the kanyon in somewhat a serious frame of mind; our team was headed by a pair of exceedingly restive mules; we had remonstrated against the experimental driving being done upon our vile bodies, but the reply was that the animals must be harnessed at some time. We could not, however, but remark the wonderful picturesqueness of a scene - of a nature which in parts seemed lately to have undergone some grand catastrophe. The gigantic red wall on our right was divided into distinct blocks or quarries by a multitude of minor lateral kanyons, which, after rains, add their tribute to the main artery, and each block was subdivided by the crumbling of the softer and the resistance of the harder material - a clay conglomerate. The color varied in places from white and green, to yellow, but for the most part it was a dull ochrish red, that brightened up almost to a straw tint where the sunbeams fell slantingly upon it from the strip of blue above. All served to set off the curious architecture of the smaller masses. A whole Petra was there, a system of projecting prisms, pyramids and pagoda towers, a variety of form that enabled you to see whatever your peculiar vanity might be; columns, porticoes, facades, and pedestals. Twin lines of bluffs, a succession of buttresses all fretted and honeycombed, a double row of steeples slipped from perpendicularity, frowned at each other across the gorge. And the wondrous variety was yet more varied by the kaleidoscopic transformation caused by change of position: at every different point the same object bore a different aspect. (p 184-5)
And now while we are dashing over the bouldered crossings, while our naughty mules, as they tear down the short steep pitches, swing the wheels of the mail wagon within half a foot of the high bank's crumbling edge: while poor Mrs Dana closes her eyes and clasps her husband's hand, and Miss May, happily unconscious of all peril, amuses herself by perseveringly perching upon the last toe that I should have been inclined to offer, the monotony of the risk may be relieved by diverting our thoughts to the lessons taught by the scenery around. (p 185)
An American artist might extract from such scenery as Church Butte and Echo Kanyon, a system of architecture as original and national as Egypt ever borrowed from her sandstone ledges, or the North of Europe from the solemn depths of her fir forests. But Art does not at present exist in America; as among their forefathers farther east, of artists they have plenty, of Art nothing. We can explain the presence of the phenomenon in England, where that grotesqueness and bizarrerie of taste which is observable in the uneducated, and which despite collections and art missions hardly disappears in those who have studied the purest models, is the natural growth of man's senses and perceptions exposed for generation after generation to the unseen, unceasing, ever active effect of homely objects, the desolate aspects of the long and dreary winters, and the humidity which shrouds the visible world with its dull gray coloring. Should any one question the fact that Art is not yet English, let him but place himself in the centre of the noblest site in Europe, Trafalgar Square, and own that no city in the civilized world ever presented such a perfect sample of barbarous incongruity, from mast headed Nelson with his coil behind him, the work of the Satirist's "one man and small boy," to the two contemptible squirting things that throw water upon the pavement at his feet. Mildly has the "Thunderer" described it as the "chosen home of exquisite dullness and stilted mediocrity." The cause above assigned to the fact is at least reasonable. Every traveler who, after passing through the fruitful but unpicturesque orchard grounds lying between La Manche and Paris and the dull flats with their melancholy poplar lines between Paris and Lyons, arrives at Avignon, and observes the picturesqueness which every object, natural or artificial begins to assume, the grace and beauty which appear even in the humblest details of scenery, must instinctively feel that he is entering the land of Art. Not of that Art which depends for development upon the efforts of a few exceptional individuals, but the living Art which the constant contemplation of a glorious nature,
"That holy Virgin of the sage's creed"
makes part of a people's organization and development. Art, heavenly maid, is not easily seduced to wander far from her place of birth. Born and cradled upon the all lovely shores of that inland sea, so choicely formed by Nature's hand to become the source and centre of mankind's civilization, she loses health and spirits in the frigid snowy north, while in the tropical regions - Nubia and India - her mind is vitiated by the rank and luxuriant scenery around her. A "pretty bit of home scenery," with dumpy church tower - battlemented as the house of worship ought not to be - on the humble hill, red brick cottages, with straight tiled roofs and parallelogramic casements, and dwelling houses, all stiff ruled lines and hard sharp angles, the straight road and the trimmed hedgerow; such scenery, I assert never can make an artistic people, it can only lead, in fact, to a nation's last phase of artistic bathos -
a Trafalgar Square. (p 185-6)
The Anglo Americans have other excuses, but not this. Their broad lands teem with varied beauties of the highest order, which it would be tedious to enumerate. They have used, for instance, the Indian corn for the acanthus in their details of architecture - why can not they try a higher flight? Man may not, we readily grant, expect to be a great poet because Niagara is a great cataract: yet the presence of such objects must quicken the imagination of the civilized as of the savage race that preceded him. It is true that in America the class that can devote itself exclusively to the cultivation and the study of refinement and art is still, comparatively speaking, small; that the care of politics, the culture of science, mechanical and theoretic, and the pursuit of cash have at present more hold upon the national mind than what it is disposed to consider the effeminating influences of the humanizing studies; that moreover, the efforts of youthful genius in the body corporate, as in the individual, are invariably imitative, leading through the progressive degrees of reflection and reproduction to originality. But valid as they are, these reasons will not long justify such freaks as the Americo-Grecian capitol at Richmond, a barn with the tritest of all exordiums, a portico which is original in one point only, viz that it wants the portico's only justification - steps: or the various domes originally borrowed from that bulb which has been demolished at Washington, scattered over the country, and suggesting the idea that the shape has been borrowed from the butt end of a sliced cucumber. Better far the warehouses of Boston, with their monoliths and frontages of rough Quincy granite; they, at least, are unpretending, and of native growth, no bad test of the native mind. (p 186-7)
After a total of eighteen miles we passed Echo Station, a half built ranch, flanked by well piled haystacks for future mules. The ravine narrowed as we advanced to a mere gorge, and the meanderings of the stream contracted the road and raised the banks to a more perilous height. A thicker vegetation occupied the bottom, wild roses and dwarfish oaks contending for the mastery of the ground. About four miles from the station we were shown a defile where the Latter Day Saints, in 1857, headed by General DH Wells, now the third member of the Presidency, had prepared modern Caudine Forks for the attacking army of the United States. Little breastworks of loose stones, very like the :sangahs: of the Affghan Ghauts, had been thrown up where the precipices commanded the road, and there were four or five remains of dams intended to raise the water above the height of the soldiers' ammunition pouches. The situation did not appear to me well chosen. Although the fortified side of the bluff could not be crowned on account of deep chasms that separated the various blocks, the southern acclivities might have been occupied by sharpshooters so effectually that the fire from the breastworks would soon have been silenced: moreover, the defenders would have risked being taken in rear by a party creeping through the chapparal in the sole of the kanyon. Mr Macarthy related a characteristic trait concerning two warriors of the Nauvoo Legion. Unaccustomed to perpendicular fire, one proposed that his comrade should stand upon the crest of the precipice and see if the bullet reached him or not; the comrade thinking the request highly reasonable, complied with it, and received a yager ball through his forehead . (p 187)
Traces of beaver were frequent in the torrent bed; the "broad tailed animal" is now molested by the Indians rather than by the whites. On this stage magpies and ravens were unusually numerous; foxes slunk away from us, and on one of the highest bluffs a coyote stood as on a pedestal; as near Baffin Sea, these craggy peaks are their favorite howling places during the severe snowy winters. We longed for a thunder storm: flashing lightnings, roaring thunders, stormy winds, and dashing rains - in fact a tornado - would be the fittest setting for such a picture so wild, so sublime as Echo Kanyon. But we longed in vain. The day was persistently beautiful, calm and mild, as a May forenoon in the Grecian Archipelago. We were also disappointed in our natural desire to hold some converse with the nymph who had lent her name to the ravine - the reverberation is said to be remarkably fine - but the temper of our animals would not have endured it, and the place was not one that admitted experiments. Rain had lately fallen, as we saw from the mud puddles in the upper course of the kanyon, and the road was in places pitted with drops which were not frequent enough to allay the choking dust. A fresh yet familiar feature now appeared. The dews, whose existence we had forgotten on the prairies, were cold and clammy in the early mornings; the moist air, condensed by contact with the cooler substances on the surface of the ground, stood in large drops upon the leaves and grasses. As we advanced the bed of the ravine began to open out, the angle of descent became more obtuse; a stretch of level ground appeared in front where for some hours the windings of the kanyon had walled us in, and at 2:30 PM we debouched upon the Weber River Station. It lies at the very mouth of the ravine almost under the shadow of lofty red bluffs, called "The Obelisks," and the green and sunny landscape contrasting with the sterile grandeur behind, is exceedingly pleasing. (p 187-8)
After the emotions of the drive, a little rest was by no means unpleasant. The station was tolerably comfortable, and the welcome addition of potatoes and onions to our usual fare was not to be despised. The tenants of the ranch were Mormons, civil and communicative. They complained sadly of the furious rain storms, which the funnel like gorge brings down upon them, and the cold draughts from five feet deep of snow which pour down upon the milder valley. (p 188)