September 28, 1841 — On the Humboldt

Tuesday, 28th. Traveled about 20 miles. Several Indians came to our camp this evening–-no timber excepting willows, grass plenty.

They have a river to follow, but it is not the kind of river they wish they had. The Humboldt slowly meanders in maddening loops and ox-bows, multiplying the distance traveled. The water is barely drinkable, warm and silty and tasting of alkali. The landscape is hot and dry in September, with little shad to be found. There are no cottonwoods or other substantial trees, just the occasional thin thicket of willows.

As one traveler, Reuben Cole Shaw, wrote in 1849:

The Humboldt is not good for man nor beast and there is not timber enough in three hundred miles of its desolate valley to make a snuff box, or sufficient vegetation along its banks to shade a rabbit, while its waters contain the alkali to make soap for a nation.

Humboldt River landscape

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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