Submitted by scott on Tue, 02/28/2017 - 22:38

Four miles beyond this “Waterless Lake”-Bahr bila Ma as the Bedouin would call it-we arrived at Rock Independence, and felt ourselves in a new region, totally distinct from the clay formation of the mauvaises terres over which we have traveled for the last five days. Again I was startled by its surprising likeness to the scenery of Eastern Africa: a sketch of Jiwe la Mkoa, the Round Rock in eastern Unyamwezi,* would be mistaken, even by those who had seen both, for this grand échantillon of the Rocky Mountains. It crops out of an open plain, not far from the river bed, in dome shape wholly isolated, about 1000 feet in length by 400—500 in breadth; it is 60 to 100 feet in height, and in circumference 1.50 to 2 miles. Except upon the summit, where it has been weathered into a feldspathic soil, it is bare and bald; a scanty growth of shrubs protrudes, however, from its poll. The material of the stern-looking dome is granite, in enormous slabs and boulders, cracked, flaked, seared, and cloven, as if by igneous pressure from below. The prevailing tradition in the West is, that the mass derived its name from the fact that Colonel Frémont there delivered an Independence-day oration; but read a little farther. It is easily ascended at the northern side and the southeastern corner, and many climb its rugged flanks for a peculiarly Anglo-American purpose-Smith and Brown have held high jinks here. In Colonel Frémont's time (1842), every where within six or eight feet of the ground, where the surface is sufficiently smooth, and in some places sixty or eighty feet above, the rock was inscribed with the names of travelers. Hence the Indians have named it Timpe Nabor, or the Painted Rock, corresponding with the Sinaitic “ Wady Mukattab.” In the present day, though much of the writing has been washed away by rain, 40,000—50,000 souls are calculated to have left their dates and marks from the coping of the wall to the loose stones below this huge sign-post. There is, however, some reason in the proceeding; it does not in these lands begin and end with the silly purpose, as among climbers of the Pyramids, and fouilleurs of the sarcophagi of Apis, to bequeath one's few poor letters to a little athanasia. Prairie travelers and emigrants expect to be followed by their friends, and leave, in their vermilion outfit, or their white house-paint, or their brownish-black tar-a useful article for wagons-à homely but hearty word of love or direction upon any conspicuous object. Even a bull or a buffalo's skull, which, lying upon the road, will attract attention, is made to do duty at this Poste Restante.


Burton, Richard. 1861. The City Of The Saints. London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts.