Page images
PDF
EPUB

James River, and its waters, afford navigation as follows:

The whole of Elizabeth River, the lowest of those which run into James River, is a harbor, and would contain upwards of three hundred ships. The channel is from one hundred and fifty to two hundred fathoms wide, and at common flood tide affords eighteen feet water to Norfolk. The Stafford, a sixty gun ship, went there, lightening herself to cross the bar at Sowel's Point. The Fier Rodrigue, pierced for sixty-four guns, and carrying fifty, went there without lightening. Craney Island, at the mouth of this river, commands its channel tolerably well.

Nansemond River is navigable to Sleepy Hole for vessels of two hundred and fifty tons; to Suffolk for those of one hundred tons; and to Milner's for those of twenty-five.

Pagan Creek affords eight or ten feet water to Smithfield, which admits vessels of twenty tons.

Chickahominy has at its mouth a bar, on which is only twelve feet water at common flood tide. Vessels passing that, may go eight miles up the river; those of ten feet draught may go four miles further, and those of six tons burden twenty miles further.

Appamattox may be navigated as far as Broadways, by any vessel which has crossed Harrison's bar in James River; it keeps eight or ten feet water a mile or two higher up to Fisher's bar, and four feet on that and upwards to Petersburg, where all navigation ceases.

James River itself affords a harbor for vessels of any size in Hampton Road, but not in safety through the whole winter; and there is navigable water for them as far as Mulberry Island. A forty gun ship goes to Jamestown, and, lightening herself, may pass Harrison's bar; on which there is only fifteen feet water. Vessels of two hundred and fifty tons may go to Warwick; those of one hundred and twenty-five go to Rocket's, a mile below Richmond; from thence is about seven feet water to Richmond; and about the centre of the town, four feet and a half, where the navigation is interrupted by falls, which in a course of six miles, descend about eighty-eight feet perpendicular; above these it is resumed in canoes and batteaux, and is prosecuted safely and advantageously to within ten miles of the Blue Ridge; and even through the Blue Ridge a ton weight has been brought; and the expense would not be great, when compared with its object, to open a tolerable navigation up Jackson's river and Carpenter's creek, to within twenty-five miles of Howard's creek of Green Briar, both of which have then water enough to float vessels into the Great Kanhaway. In some future state of population I think it possible that its navigation may also be made to interlock with that of the Potomac, and through that to communicate by a short portage with the Ohio. It is to be noted that this river is called in the maps James River, only to its confluence with the Rivanna; thence to the Blue Ridge it is called the Fluvanna; and thence to its source Jackson's river. But in common speech, it is called James River to its source.

The Rivanna, a branch of James River, is navigable for canoes and batteaux to its intersection with the South-West mountains, which is about twenty-two miles ; and may easily be opened to navigation through these mountains to its fork above Charlottesville.

York River, at Yorktown, affords the best harbor in the State for vessels of the largest size. The river there narrows to the width of a mile, and is contained within very high banks, close under which vessels may ride. It holds four fathom water at high tide for twenty-five miles above York to the mouth of Poropotank, where the river is a mile and a half wide, and the channel only seventy-five fathom, and passing under a high bank. At the confluence of Pamunkey and Mattapony, it is reduced to three fathom depth, which continues up Pamunkey to Cumberland, where the width is one hundred yards, and up Mattapony to within two miles of Frazier's ferry, where it becomes two and a half fathom deep, and holds that about five miles. Pamunkey is then capable of navigation for loaded flats to Brockman's bridge, fifty miles above .Hanover town, and Mattapony to Downer's bridge, seventy miles above its mouth.

Piankatank, the litde rivers making out of Mobjack Bay and those of the eastern shore, receive only very small vessels, and these can but enter them.

Rappahannock affords four fathom water to Hobb's hole, and two fathom from thence to Fredericksburg.

Potomac is seven and a half miles wide at the mouth; four and a half at Nomony bay; three at Aquia; one and a half at Hallowing point; one and a quarter at Alexandria. Its soundings are seven fathom at the mouth ; five at St. George's island ; four and a half at Lower Matchodic; three at Swan's point, and thence up to Alexandria; thence ten feet water to the falls, which are thirteen miles above Alexandria. These falls are fifteen miles in length, and of very great descent, and the navigation above them for batteaux and canoes is so much interrupted as to be little used. It is, however, used in a small degree up the Cohongoronta branch as far as fort Cumberland, which was at the mouth of Willis's creek; and is capable, at no great expense, of being rendered very practicable. The Shenandoah branch interlocks with James river about the Blue Ridge, and may perhaps in future be opened.

The Mississippi will be one of the principal channels of future commerce for the country westward of the Alleghany. From the mouth of this river to where it receives the Ohio, is one thousand miles by water, but only five hundred by land, passing through the Chickasaw country. From the mouth of the Ohio to that of the Missouri, is two hundred and thirty miles by water, and one hundred and forty by land, from thence to the mouth of the Illinois river, is about twenty-five miles. The Mississippi, below the mouth of the Missouri, is always muddy, and abounding with sand bars, which frequently change thenplaces. However, it carries fifteen feet water to the mouth of the Ohio, to which place it is from one and a half to two miles wide, and thence to Kaskaskia from one mile to a mile and a quarter wide. Its current is so rapid, that it never can be stemmed by the force of the wind alone, acting on sails. Any vessel, however, navigated with oars, may come up at any time, and receive much aid from the wind. A batteau passes from the mouth of Ohio to the mouth of Mississippi in three weeks, and is from two to three months getting up again. During its floods, which are periodical as those of the Nile, the largest vessels may pass down it, if their steerage can be insured. These floods begin in April, and the river returns into its banks early in August. The inundation extends further on the western than eastern side, covering the lands in some places for fifty miles from its banks. Above the mouth of the Missouri it becomes much such a river as the Ohio, like it clear and gentle in its current, not quite so wide, the period of its floods nearly the same, but not rising to so great a height. The streets of the village at Cohoes are not more than ten feet above the ordinary level of the water, and yet were never overflowed. Its bed deepens every year. Cohoes, in the memory of many people now living, was insulated by every flood of the river. What was the eastern channel has now become a lake, nine miles in length and one in width, into which the river at this day never flows. This river yields turtle of a peculiar kind, perch, trout, gar, pike, mullets, herrings, carp, spatula-fish of fifty pounds weight, cat-fish of one hundred pounds weight, buffalo fish, and sturgeon. Aligators or crocodiles have been seen as high up as the Acansas. It also abounds in herons, cranes, ducks, brant, geese, and swans. Its passage is commanded by a fort established by this State, five miles below the mouth of the Ohio, and ten miles above the Carolina boundary.

The Missouri, since the treaty of Paris, the Illinois and northern branches of the Ohio, since the cession to Congress, are no longer within our limits. Yet having been so heretofore, and still opening to us channels of extensive communication with the western and north-western country, they shall be noted in their order.

The Missouri is, in fact, the principal river, contributing more to the common stream than does the Mississippi, even after its junction with the Illinois. It is remarkably cold, muddy, and rapid. Its overflowings are considerable. They happen during the months of June and July. Their commencement being so much later than those of the Mississippi, would induce a belief that the sources of the Missouri are northward of those of the Mississippi, unless we suppose that the cold increases again with the ascent of the land from the Mississippi westwardly. That this ascent is great, is proved by the rapidity of the river. Six miles above the mouth, it is brought within the compass of a *

quarter of a mile's width ; yet the Spanish merchants at Pancore, or St. Louis, say they go two thousand miles up it. It heads far westward of the Rio Norte, or North River. There is, in the villages of Kaskaskia, Cohoes, and St. Vincennes, no inconsiderable quantity of plate, said to have been plundered during the last war by the Indians from the churches and private houses of Santa Fe, on the North river, and brought to the villages for sale. From the mouth of the Ohio to Sante Fe are forty days journey, or about one thousand miles. What is the shortest distance between the navigable waters of the Missouri, and those of the North river, or how far this is navigable above Santa Fe, I could never learn. From Santa Fe to its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico is about twelve hundred miles. The road from New Orleans to Mexico crosses this river at the post of Rio Norte, eight hundred miles below Santa Fe, and from this post to New Orleans is about twelve hundred miles; thus making two thousand miles between Santa Fe and New Orleans, passing down the North river, Red river, and Mississippi; whereas it is two thousand two hundred and thirty through the Missouri and Mississippi. From the same post of Rio Norte, passing near the mines of La Sierra and Laiguana, which are between the North river, and the river Salina to Sartilla, is three hundred and seventy-five miles, and from thence, passing the mines of Charcas, Zaccatecas, and Potosi, to the city of Mexico, is three hundred and seventyfive miles ; in all, one thousand five hundred and fifty miles from Santa Fe to the city of Mexico. From New Orleans to the city of Mexico is about one thousand nine hundred and fifty miles; the roads after setting out from the Red river, near Natchitoches, keeping generally parallel with the coast, and about two hundred miles from it, till it enters the city of Mexico.

The Illinois is-a fine river, clear, gentle, and without rapids; insomuch that it is navigable for batteaux to its source. From thence is a portage of two miles only to the Chicago, which affords a batteau navigation of sixteen miles to its entrance into lake Michigan. The Illinois, about ten miles above its mouth, is three hundred yards wide.

The Kaskaskia is one hundred yards wide at its entrance into

« PreviousContinue »