The Pyramid Lake, Oregon Territory

Letter P.

Perhaps of all the localities of the Oregon territory so vividly described in Captain Fremont's adventurous narrative, the Pyramid Lake, visited on the homeward journey from the Dallas to the Missouri river, is the most beautiful. The exploring party having reached a defile between mountains descending rapidly about 2000 feet, saw, filling up all the lower space, a sheet of green water some twenty miles broad. "It broke upon our eyes," says the narrator, "like the ocean: the neighbouring peaks rose high above us, and we ascended one of them to obtain a better view. The waves were curling to the breeze, and their dark green colour showed it to be a body of deep water. For a long time we sat enjoying the view, for we had become fatigued with mountains, and the free expanse of moving waves was very grateful. It was like a gem in the mountains, which, from our position, seemed to enclose it almost entirely. At the eastern end it communicated with the line of basins we had left a few days since; and on the opposite side it swept a ridge of snowy mountains, the foot of the great Sierra. We followed a broad Indian trail or tract along the shore of the lake to the southward. For a short space we had room enough in the bottom, but, after travelling a short distance, the water swept the foot of the precipitous mountains, the peaks of which are about 3000 feet above the lake. We afterwards encamped on the shore, opposite a very remarkable rock in the lake, which had attracted our attention for many miles. It rose according to our estimation 600 feet above the level of the water, and, from the point we viewed it, presented a pretty exact outline of the great pyramid of Cheops. Like other rocks along the shore, it seemed to be encrusted with calcareous cement. This striking feature suggested a name for the lake, and I called it Pyramid Lake. Its elevation above the sea is 4890 feet, being nearly 700 feet higher than the Great Salt Lake, from which it lies nearly west." The position and elevation of Pyramid Lake make it an object of geographical interest. It is the nearest lake to the western river, as the Great Salt Lake is to the eastern river, of the great basin which lies between the base of the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada, and the extent and character of which it is so desirable to know.

Pyramid Lake, Oregon Territory.

Many parts of the borders of this lake appear to be a favourite place of encampment for the Indians, whose number in this country is estimated at 140,000. They retain, still unaltered, most of the features of the savage character. They procure food almost solely by hunting; and to surprise a hostile tribe, to massacre them with every exercise of savage cruelty, and to carry off their scalps as trophies, is their highest ambition. Their domestic behaviour, however, is orderly and peaceable; and they seldom kill or rob a white man. Considerable attempts have been made to civilize them, and with some success; but the moment that any impulse has been given to war and hunting, they have instantly reverted to their original habits.