Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
sponsored by the Utah State Board of Education, the BYU-Public School Partnership and the Utah Education Network

William Clayton Journals

May 22, 1847

Summary: Detailed description of beautiful scenery. Baby eagle. Wolf-dog. More rattlesnakes. Mock trials for amusement.

Journal entry: SATURDAY: Morning beautiful, no wind and warm. We have not been disturbed by the Indians; all is peace in the camp.

At eight o'clock we continued our journey, making a more crooked road than usual, having to bend south to near the banks of the river. The prairie somewhat soft and a little uneven. After traveling five and a half miles we crossed a very shoal creek about twenty feet wide. The bluffs and river about a mile apart, but on the other side, the bluffs recede two miles back from the river and have lost their craggy and steep appearance, the ascent being gradual, while on this side they begin to be rocky, cragged and almost perpendicular though not very high.

We traveled till half past eleven and then halted for noon, having traveled seven and a quarter miles, the road on this side the creek being better. Our course about west of northwest with a light breeze from the east. Elder Kimball and others ahead as usual.

The creek above mentioned was named Crab Creek because some of the brethren saw a very large crab in it. A mile east of this creek is a dry creek, down which, from appearances, a heavy stream runs at some seasons of the year, perhaps during heavy storms. The water running from the bluffs swells it to a considerable height and it is certain there are tremendous storms here.

A while after we halted, Porter Rockwell came in and said he had been on the high bluff about a mile northwest of us and had seen the rock called Chimney Rock which appeared a long distance off. We have been in hopes to come in sight of it today and feel anxious in order to ascertain more certainly the correctness of Fremont's distance. In order to satisfy myself, although my feet were blistered and very sore, I determined to take my telescope and go on the bluff to ascertain for myself whether the noted rock could be seen or not.

At half past twelve I started out alone. I found the distance to the foot of the bluff a good mile, the ascent gradual. From the foot the bluff looks very high and rough, many huge rocks having broken from the summit from time to time and rolled down a long distance. I found the ascent very steep and lengthy in comparison to its appearance from camp. When I arrived on the top I found a nice slightly arched surface of about a quarter of an acre in extent, but barren and very little grass on it. Huge comparatively smooth rocks peeped through the surface on one of which I wrote with red chalk: Wm. Clayton, May 22,1947."

On the highest point I sat down and took a view of the surrounding country which is magnificent indeed. On the south at the distance of two miles from the river, there is a range of cedar trees on the bluffs which very much resemble some of the parks and seats of gentry in England. East I could see where we camped last night, the high grass still burning. Northeast, north, and northwest, alternately, appeared high swelling bluffs and valleys as far as the eye could see or the glass magnify. West, the course of the Platte for ten or fifteen miles and at about four or five miles distance, a large bend to the north brings it in contact with the bluffs on this side. At the distance, I should judge of about twenty miles, I could see Chimney Rock very plainly with the naked eye, which from here very much resembles the large factory chimneys in England, although I could not see the form of its base. The rock lay about due west from here.

After gratifying my curiosity, and seeing the men collecting their teams for a march, I descended on the west side of the bluff. The descent at this point looks more alarming than on the other. The side being very steep and all along huge rocks standing so critically, that to all appearance, a waft of wind would precipitate them to the prairie below with tremendous force. In one place in particular, a ponderous mass of rock appears to hang from the edge of the bluff without any visible means of being retained in its position, and by gazing at it a little while, it is easy to imagine you can see it move and ready to overwhelm you instantly.

At a little distance from the base of the bluff, I turned to gaze on the romantic scenery above and was struck at the appearance of a large rock projecting from one corner, which very much resembled a frog's head of immense size with its mouth part open. The thought was, those bluffs ought to be named and what name more appropriate than Frog's Head Bluffs. After this reflection, I walked on to where I thought the wagons would come which started out at half past one.

After traveling three and a quarter miles we crossed a dry creek about six rods wide, and a quarter of a mile farther, another about five feet wide and a half a mile farther, still another about six rods wide on an average. These all appear to be the sources of heavy streams of water at some seasons of the year.

Soon as we crossed this last one, I saw Elder Kimball wave his hat for the wagons to turn off to the north in order to cross the bluffs which struck the river a little farther. But a little to the west was a very high ridge and I concluded to walk on to it. Found it to be a perfect ridge of gravel, very high and rounding on the top, not more than four or five feet wide and from north to south about 150 feet long. Elder Pratt names this Cobble Hills, the gravel or cobbles varying in size of from fifty pounds in weight to the smallest pebble.

At the north foot of this hill is what might be named a clay bank, being composed of a light colored kind of sandy clay and forms a kind of large table. A little distance farther, we crossed another dry creek about eight rods wide and then ascended the bluffs. The ascent is pretty steep for nearly half a mile, but hard and not difficult to travel. The wagon had to wind about some to keep around the foot of the bluffs, crossing the dry creek three times before we emerged from the bluffs to the banks of the river. We crossed another dry creek pretty steep on each side and then found ourselves once more on the prairie bottom. The bluffs are two and a quarter miles from the east to the west foot following our trail.

The wind has blown from the southeast all day until lately, when a dead calm has succeeded. In the west a heavy thunder cloud has been gathering for two hours and vivid streaks of lightning observed in the distance. At twenty minutes to five the wind struck suddenly from the northwest, the blackest part of the cloud then lying in that direction. We had a few drops of rain only. Then it seemed to turn off to the east.

The scenery after this was indeed sublime, the sun peering out from under the heavy clouds reflecting long rays upwards which were imitated in the east. The romantic bluffs on the north and the lightning playing in the southeast all tended to fill my mind with pleasant reflections, on the goodness and majesty of the Creator and Governor of the universe. and the beauty of the works of his hands.

At 5:45 we formed our encampment in a circle within a quarter of a mile of the banks of the river, having traveled this afternoon, eight and a quarter miles and through the day fifteen and a half, making the distance from Winter Quarters 440 miles in five weeks and three and a half days.

The feed on the lower bench of the prairie is tolerably good, while the higher land is quite bare. We have noticed today a great many petrified bones, some very large. All are turned into solid, hard, stone, which proves that the atmosphere is pure and the country would doubtless be healthy, but is not adapted for farming purposes on account of the poor sandy soil and no timber at all on this side the river.

I have noticed a variety of shrubs, plants and flowers all new to me today, many of which have a very pleasant smell and in some places the air appears impregnated with the rich odors arising from them. Among the rest are numerous beds of the southern wood. There are also vast beds of flinty pebbles of various colors, some as white as alabaster.

About 6:30 1 observed a group of brethren standing together inside the camp. I went up and saw a young eagle which had been taken out of its nest on one of these high bluffs by George R. Grant and Orson Whitney. Although it is very young and its feathers have scarcely commenced growing, it measures from the tips of its wings when stretched; forty - six inches. Its head is nearly the size of my fist and looks very ferocious.

After this I went with John Pack and Horace Whitney to the bluffs. On our way we saw a large wolf about as large as the largest dog in camp. He was within a quarter of a mile from camp.

After traveling about a mile we arrived at the foot of a stupendous mass of rocks almost perpendicular, with only one place where it was possible to ascend. We went up with difficulty and by using our hands and knees, gained the top. We had to walk over a little space which was only about three feet wide and on the east side. a perpendicular fall of about sixty feet.

Although, from the camp this peak looks only large enough for a man to stand upon, we found it large enough to seat comfortably about twenty persons. The top is composed of large rocks and very uneven. The prairie below looks a long distance under foot from this peak. Descending we viewed the surrounding scenery which looks more like the ruins of an ancient city with its castles, towers, fortifications, etc., on all sides, and a dry stream coming through the center.

We proceeded to the next high rock and found it very difficult of ascent. The top is nearly level and very pleasant. We discovered several other varieties of shrubbery, all smelling pleasant and strong. We saw that a horse has sometime stood on the top, but how he got there, we could not easily determine. At the east end there is a cedar tree flat on the top and on the underside almost looks like an umbrella. We made a calculation of the height of this bluff as well as we could and concluded it must be at least 200 feet higher than the river. The surrounding country can be seen for many miles from its summit, and Chimney Rock shows very plainly.

We descended at the east end and arrived in camp at dark well satisfied with our journey. Some of the brethren have discovered a cave in one of these bluffs, and one went into it a little distance, but it being very dark and having no torch, he did not venture far.

Elder Pratt reports that he saw on the top of one of the bluffs, a hole in a rock 15 inches in diameter and a foot deep with five inches of very cold good water in it. He supposed it to be a spring. Between the bluffs they also discovered a spring of pure cold water of a very good taste, Dr. Richards names these bluffs " Bluff Ruins " from their appearance being that of the ruins of castles, cities, etc. A little to the left is a small perpendicular rock much resembling Chimney Rock but smaller. The whole of the scenery around is one of romantic beauty which cannot be described with either pen or tongue.

Last night a large black dog, half wolf, supposed to belong to the Indians, came to the camp. He has kept within two hundred yards of the wagons all day, and has followed us to this place. There have been many rattlesnakes seen today and six or seven killed. In fact, this place seems to abound with them.

The evening was spent very joyfully by most of the brethren, it being very pleasant and moonlight. A number danced till the bugle sounded for bed time at nine o'clock. A mock trial was also prosecuted in the case of the camp vs. James Davenpot for blockading the highway and turning ladies out of their course. Jackson Redding acted as the presiding judge. Elder Whipple attorney for defendant and Luke Johnson attorney for the people. We have many such trials in the camp which are amusing enough and tend among other things to pass away the time cheerfully during leisure moments.

It was remarked this evening that we have one man in camp who is entitled to the credit of being more even tempered than any of the others, and that is Father Chamberlain. He is invariably cross and quarrelsome, but the brethren all take it as a joke and lie makes considerable amusement for the camp.

Opposite the encampment there are quite a number of small islands, but no timber on any of them.

Source: William Clayton's Journal

Published by the Clayton Family Association, and edited by Lawrence Clayton. To the best of our research, this contents of this book are no longer under copyright.