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NAVIGABLE WATERWAYS OF MEXICO
W. D. HORNADAY
THE Mexican government began the development of the inland waterways of that country several years ago. There are a number of navigable rivers, which have been cleared of obstructions and opened for traffic, and the work is still in progress on some of the streams. Some of these rivers reach far into the interior and are the arteries of trade for large scopes of territory. The Panuco River, which is used as a deep water harbor at Tampico, situated a few miles from its mouth, is navigable for a distance of 160 miles for boats of considerable size. Regular lines of steamers and smaller craft ply
up and down its course, bringing to the market at Tampico for export and local consumption enormous quantities of products which are raised upon the rich plantations that extend back from its banks for many miles. The Soto la Marina River which empties into the Gulf of Mexico about 150 miles north of Tampico, is broad and deep at its mouth. It is navigable for river boats for a distance of seventy-five miles. The government recently awarded the contract for removing the bar at the mouth of this stream by means of dredging. This is the first step towards the establishment of a new deep water port. The town of Soto la Marina is situated about thirty-five miles up the stream, and it will be made the future deep water port, according to present plans. The Soto la Marina, like most of the rivers of Mexico, is short and deep. It carries a large flow of water the year around, due to the heavy rains in the mountains where it has its source.
The Rio Grande, which forms the international boundary line for more than one thousand miles between Mexico and the United States, empties into the gulf about two hundred miles north of the Soto la Marina. The two streains are totally unlike in appearance. The Rio Grande water is muddy at all times, while the water of the Soto la Marina as well as the other streams of Mexico is clear as the blue sky which shines overhead. Below Tampico a little more than one hundred miles is the Tuxpan River which empties into the gulf at the town of Tuxpan. It is also navigable for a considerable distance, having a depth of more than thirty feet. But for the fact that the water over the bar at its mouth is only six and one-half feet deep ocean-going vessels would be able to tie up at the wharves at Tuxpan and it would become a deepwater harbor. The Papaloapan River which empties into the Gulf of Mexico, near Vera Cruz, has been dredged and made navigable. Its principal tributary, the Santo Domingo, has been treated in a like manner. The opening of these rivers for boat traffic has proved of great benefit to the many towns and plantations which are situated in the interior. A direct outlet for their products is now afforded. The Coatzacoalcos River, on the isthmus of Tehuantepec, is a stream of considerable importance from a traffic standpoint.
Far down in the tropics and emptying into the Gulf of Campeche at Frontera is the Grijalva River. It is one of the broadest and most imposing streams in Mexico. Large boats ply regularly up this stream to San Juan Bautista, a distance of about seventy-five miles. The smaller boats go much farther, the boat traffic extending into the mountains where the stream has its source. The Usumacinta River is the principal tributary of the Grijalva. It is navigable far beyond the Guatemala line in which country it has its source.
On the Pacific side of Mexico are several rivers which are of navigable size. The Balsas is a large stream, but rapids along its upper course interfere with the operation of larger boats. The Rio Grande de Santiago which empties into the Pacific about midway between
the ports of Manzanillo and Mazatlan is navigable for some distance from its mouth and affords an outlet for an extensive territory that is without railroad transportation facilities. The Mayo and Yaqui rivers are navigable streams, but on account of the undeveloped state of their rich valleys and tributary country they are used but little by boats.
As an adjunct to the navigable streams and .deepvvater ports of the eastern region of Mexico the government is building an intercoastal canal. This waterway is of the same character that is proposed along the gulf coast of Louisiana and Mexico to connect with the Mississippi and Rio Grande rivers, the importance of an intercoastal canal system was recognized by the Mexican government and the first step towards constructing the waterway was taken ten years ago. The canal now under contract will be one hundred and four miles long. It will connect the ports of Tampico and Tuxpan. The first section of sixty-six miles is finished and in operation. The canal will not be finished until about 1914. It took five years to build the first sixty-six miles, and the amount of dredging and excavation to be done on the second section is greater than on the portion already completed. This intercoastal waterway has a width of seventy-five feet and a uniform depth of ten and one-half feet. It connects with the Panuco River about four miles below the city of Tampico. At the point where it joins the Panuco the water in the latter stream is fifty feet deep. On the opposite bank of the river are government wharves and the clocks of large private concerns where the ocean-going vessels load and discharge their cargoes. The canal is of a width and depth sufficient for the ordinary lake boats and river craft. The natives use long and narrow boats which are made with the view of carrying the largest possible cargoes. These boats are propelled by means of long poles, unless the wind should be favorable, in which case sails are hoisted. The opening of the first section of the canal quickly developed a great traffic and hundreds of these small boats are now constantly traversing the new waterway, bringing the products of the plantations and ranches to market and taking back with them supplies of various kinds.
A trip by small boat between Tampico and Tuxpan by way of the gulf is dangerous on account of the gales that frequently come up unexpectedly. The bar
at the mouth of the Tuxpan River makes it impossible for the larger boats to enter that port, and these adverse conditions were a constant menace to the traffic between the two ports. The greatest incentive, however, that led to the determination on the part of the government to build the intercoastal canal was the fact that the country extending back from the coast is teeming in natural richness and was only awaiting an outlet for its product to start it on the road to wonderful development. Although the first section of sixty-six miles of the canal has been opened but a short time an enormous traffic through it has been developed and the tributary country has taken on new life and is pouring its tropical and other products into the market at Tampico. A large number of Americans have gone into the region and have acquired plantations which they are working by modern methods with splendid results. Pineapples, bananas, coffee, corn, sugar cane and many other products are grown with wonderful success.
It is claimed that when the canal reaches Tuxpan a country of still greater richness and possibilities will be opened up. The valley of the Tuxpan River is one of the choicest agricultural parts of Mexico. It has no railroad outlet and the little traffic that is done is through the undeveloped port of Tuxpan. No market is available for the tropical fruits which grow abundantly there, and the territory with its great natural resources is literally bottled up. The intercoastal canal will remove the barrier that has always existed to the development of the region, and it is expected that a marvelous change will quickly follow the completion of the waterway. There are good indications of oil at many places in the territory adjacent to the route of the canal. One American company has developed its oil land holdings on a considerable scale, having a number of producing wells and an oil refinery which is in regular operation. Many hundreds of thousands of acres of prospective oil land have been acquired by Americans in that region and prospect wells arc being bored at many points. Several producing wells have been brought in at Furbero. fifty miles from Tuxpan. Oil has been struck in paying quantities at other places in that territory.
ONE OF MEXICO'S NAVIGABLE RIVERS.
No great engineering difficulties are to be encountered in the building of the Tampico - Tuxpan intercoastal canal. Captain Charles Shillaber of Chicago has been connected with the enterprise since its inception. In fact, he suggested the idea for building the waterway to the government. This was in 1898. He spent nearly five years in making surveys and perfecting the plans for the work. He was given the contract for the first division of sixty-six miles and began the
excavation work on the Tampico end on March 12, 1903. He has the contract for building the second division. A. B. Hitchman is the chief engineer.
Lying about midway between Tampico and Tuxpan is Lake Tamiahua. This lake is seventy-nine miles long and from five to twenty miles wide. It has a connection with the Gulf of Mexico through the Tanguijo River which flows from its extreme lower end and runs parallel with the coast for about eighteen miles, emptying into the gulf a few miles north of Tuxpan. This is a sluggish stream, and the salt water from the gulf enters