Submitted by scott on Mon, 09/26/2016 - 22:57

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August 14, 1860, Richard Francis Burton passes through Fort Laramie; July 31, 1861, the Clemens brothers pass through Fort Laramie at night. Both parties travel over the Rocky Mountains, through South Pass and arrive in Salt Lake City

Burton's journey took considerably longer to complete the ride from Fort Laramie to Salt Lake City. According to his itinerary, he departed Fort Laramie August 14th and arrived in Salt Lake City August 28th. The Clemens brother's trip ran from August 1st to August 5th.

From Burton:

The mountain region westward of the sage and saleratus desert, extending between the 105th and 111th meridian (G) - a little more than 400 miles - will in time become sparsely peopled. Though in many parts arid and sterile, dreary and desolate, the long bunch grass (Festuca), the short curly buffalo grass (Siskria dactyloides), the mesquit grass (Stipa spata) and the Gramma, or rather as it should be called “Gamma” grass (Chondrosium faenum) which clothe the slopes west of Fort Laramie, will enable it to rear an abundance of stock. The fertile valleys, according to Lieutenant Warren, “furnish the means of raising sufficient quantities of grain and vegetables for the use of the inhabitants, and beautiful healthy and desirable locations for their homes. The remarkable freedom here from sickness is one of the attractive features of the region, and will in this respect go far to compensate the settler from the Mississippi Valley for his loss in the smaller amount of products that can be taken from the soil. The great want of suitable building material, which now so seriously retards the growth of the West will not be felt there.” The heights of the Rocky Mountains rise abruptly from 1,000 to 6,000 feet over the lowest known passes, computed by the Pacific Rail road surveyors to vary from 4,000 to 10,000 feet above sea level. The two chains forming the eastern and western rims of the Rocky Mountain basin, have the greatest elevation, walling in as it were the other sub ranges.

There is a popular idea that the western slope of the Rocky Mountains is smooth and regular; on the contrary, the land is rougher, and the ground is more complicated than on the eastern declivities. From the summit of the Wasach range to the eastern foot of the Sierra Nevada, the whole region with exceptions, is a howling wilderness, the sole or bed of an inland sweetwater sea, now shrunk into its remnants - the Great Salt and the Utah Lakes. Nothing can be more monotonous than its regular succession of high grisly hills, cut perpendicularly by rough and rocky ravines, and separating bare and barren plains. From the seaward base of the Sierra Nevada to the Pacific - California - the slope is easy, and the land is pleasant, fertile and populous. (p 7-8)

At 12 15 P.M., crossing Laramie's Fork, a fine clear stream about forty yards broad, we reached Fort Laramie — another "fort” by courtesy, or rather by order— where we hoped to recruit our exhausted stores.

The straggling cantonment requires no description: it has the usual big flag, barracks, store-houses, officers' quarters, guardhouses, sutlers' stores, and groceries, which doubtless make a good thing by selling deleterious "strychnine” to passing 'trains who can afford to pay $6 per gallon.

27. Rough and bad road After 14 miles cross Bitter Cottonwood Creek water rarely flows after rain 10 feet wide and 6 inches deep grass and fuel abundant Pass Indian shop and store At Bitter Creek branch of Cotto wood the road to Salt Lake City forks Emigrants follow the Upper or South road over spurs of the Black Hills some way south of the river to avoid kanyons and to find grass The station is called Horseshoe Creek Residence of road agent Mr Slade and one of the worst places on the line
28. Road fork;s one line follows the Platte; the other turns to the left over cut off; highly undulating ridges crooked and deeply dented with dry beds of rivers; land desolate and desert No wood nor water till end of stage La Bonte River and Station; unfinished ranch in valley water and grass 29. Road runs 6 miles (wheels often locked) on rugged red land, crosses several dry beds of creeks and springs with water after melting of snow and frosts in dry season thence into the Valley of the Platte After 17 miles it crosses the La Prele (Rush River) a stream 16 feet wide, where water and wood abound At Box Elder Creek Station good ranch and comfortable camping ground
30. Along the Platte River now shrunk to 100 yards After 10 miles, M Bissonette; at Deer Creek, a post office, blacksmith's shop, and store near Indian Agency Thence a waste of wild sage to Little Muddy a creek with water No accommodation nor provisions at station 31. After 8 miles cross vile bridge over Snow Creek Thence up the river valley along the S bank of the Platte to the lower ferry To Lower Bridge old station of troops To Upper Bridge where the ferry has now been done away with
32. Road ascends a hill 7 miles long, land rough barren and sandy in dry season After 10 miles red spring near the Red Buttes, an old trading place and post office Road then leaves the Platte River and strikes over high rolling and barren prairie After 18 miles Devil's Backbone Station at Willow Springs, wood water and grass, good place for encampment but no accommodation nor provisions On this stage mineral and alkaline waters dangerous to cattle abound 33. After 3 miles Green Creek, not to be depended upon and Prospect Hill, a good look out Then at intervals of 3 miles, Harper's, Woodworth's, and Greasewood Creeks followed by heavy sand At 17 miles Saleratus Lake on the west of the road Four miles beyond is Independence Rock Ford Sweetwater leaving the Devil's Gate on the right Pass a blacksmith's shop Sage the only fuel Plante or Muddy Station family of Canadians; no conveniences


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