October 19, 1841

“Tuesday, 19th. Descending along the stream,we found several oak scrubs which confirmed us in the hope that we were on the waters of the Pacific. But the route became exceedingly difficult–the stream had swelled to a river–could not approach it–could only hear it roaring among the rocks. Having come about 12 miles a horrid precipice bid us stop — we obeyed and encamped.

Those who went to explore the route had not time to come to any conclusion where we could pass. We had descended reapidly all day; the mts. were still mantled with forests of towering pines. The roaring winds and the hollow murmuring of the dashing waters conveyed int he darkness of the night the most solemn and impressive ideas of solitude.

To a person fond of the retiring life, this, thought I, would be a perfect terrestrial Paradise, but it was not so to us, when we knew that winter was at hand, and the Capt. Walker (the mountaineer) had been lost in these very mountains 22 days before he could extricate himself.”

According to Michael Gillis, Bidwell & Co. were following Clark’s Fork to where it converged with the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River. As they continued down the Middle Fork, they found the terrain extremely rough, rocky, and thickly covered with pine and brush. It was tough going.

Joseph Walker was a famous mountain man and explorer who had guided Bonneville’s party through the Sierras in 1833 and was with Fremont on his exploring trips during the 1840’s. Fremont named the Walker River and Walker Lake after him. Bidwell had probably read about him in Washington Irving’s popular account of the Bonneville expedition. Spending 22 days wandering around the Sierra Nevada as winter came on was certainly not anything that he wanted to do. The sooner they got out the better.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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