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October 15, 1861: Corral Hollow

October 15, 2011

Corral Hollow 02

Upper Corral Hollow; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

Camp 61

I find what I wrote about the San Joaquin plain may be misunderstood. There is water in the river that runs through it, but from the river to the hills on each side, especially the west side, a distance of four to fifteen miles, there is no water—fifty or sixty miles might be passed on the plain between the river and the hills without crossing a stream of water, for those figured on the map are all dry now.

Corral Hollow runs up west into the mountains, then suddenly turns southeast, the canyon much narrowing at the same time. The coal mines are near the curve, about nine miles up. The sandstone that forms the hills is broken and thrown up, and there a few seams of poor coal are found. There is but one mine of any account or that has as yet sold any coal, and that not over three hundred or four hundred tons at most. I question if any mine here will ever prove profitable. But there are several companies, and many thousands have been expended, as well as much money spent in prospecting. One company spent $11,000 I hear, and got no coal worth speaking of—not a ton of workable coal. I have spent most of today in the mines….

Our coffee has given out, the last “fresh” meat, in an advanced state of blueness and beginning to have a questionable odor as well as color, was eaten for breakfast, but bacon yet remains. We get no good pork in this state. Our sugar gave out this morning, but as bacon and beans are very nutritious, there is no danger of starving.

In the beds of sandstone a mile or so north of our camp we found today the finest fossil leaves I have ever seen. The rock was filled with leaves of several species of trees, most minutely preserved, as fine as the finest paintings, black in the light colored sandstone, with many hundred feet of sandstone resting on them. They were in a deep canyon. Much fossil wood abounds. We found one tree, or rather stump, erect, its stony roots still in the bed containing the leaves, once soft mud, the stump sticking up into the sandstone strata above—all now flint, but with the finest markings of the grain of the wood.

All this shows that true coal cannot exist here, only “Tertiary” coal, which must be, of necessity, an inferior kind; while the way the rocks are broken and tossed about must make following the beds very precarious and uncertain. Most of the coal stands nearly perpendicular, all at an angle over forty-five degrees. To follow such seams far one must go very deep, and the beds are cut off by the breaks or faults in the strata.

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