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August 13, 1862: Sacramento

August 13, 2012

Breaking Ground at Sacramento

Mural, Sacramento train station; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr


The river was low, although still eight feet above the low water of previous years. The bed has been so raised, however, that we stuck on a bar for seven hours, and only arrived at Sacramento at eight o’clock [this] morning….

I took a short stroll through that city before going on board the steamer bound for Red Bluff. Everywhere one sees the effects of the flood in that unfortunate city, and, indeed, the water [is] still over a part of it. The morning was intensely hot, in strong contrast with the San Francisco weather.

Although the channel of the Sacramento is insufficient to carry off all the water of wet winters, yet it is rapidly filling up, each year increasing the difficulty. Previous to 1848 the river was noted for the purity of its waters, flowing from the mountains as clear as crystal; but, since the discovery of gold, the “washings” render it as muddy and turbid as is the Ohio at spring flood—in fact it is perfectly “riley,” discoloring even the waters of the great bay into which it empties. A man pointed out to me a spot at the mouth of the American River at Sacramento where, in 1849, he had sounded the river and found it fifty feet deep. He had seen a schooner sink there, so that only a little of her masts stuck out a short distance. Now there is a luxuriant growth of young willows on the mud bank that occupies the spot. Last winter’s floods alone are supposed to have raised the bed of the river at Sacramento six or seven feet at least—that is, in spots, so as to raise the water that much.

Red Bluff is at the head of navigation on the river—three hundred miles above Sacramento by the river, but only half that distance by land. Stern-wheel steamers, drawing but eighteen or nineteen inches of water run up. Our boat was the Gem, and we towed a barge with two hundred tons of freight, quite an impediment to rapid progress. We got off at 11 A.M. I had plenty of books along, and although it was very hot, 90° to 96°…yet I enjoyed that trip much.

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