Page images

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.

[graphic][merged small]

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.


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

[ocr errors][graphic][merged small]

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 through it and makes the water of the lake or lagoon briny. The project of damming this river at the point where it leaves the lake is under consideration. By doing this the current of the stream would be thrown into the canal and diverted into the Tuxpan River. The lake is fed by five rivers which have their source in the adjacent mountains.

[graphic][merged small]

There is a chain of small lakes or lagoons connecting with Lake Tamiahua on the north for several miles. The water in Lake Tamiahua has a depth ranging from three to fifteen feet. The channel through the lake was opened by means of dredges. The bottom of the lake is a shell bank and the hard material when thrown upon the sides of the waterway rises above the surface of the water in places. Wherever banks are formed in this manner wild tule plants have been set out and are growing nicely. These aquatic plants make a beautiful border to the canal. It is also planned to line the banks of the waterway with trees, and a start in this direction has been made already by the planting of young cork trees at regular intervals along the banks of the canal.

The excavation on the upper end of the canal was heavy. At one place, known as Medano cut, the banks rise fifteen or twenty feet above the surface

of the water. The formation at this point was rock and the material had to be loosened by blasting. It is estimated that the removal of about 2,300,000 cubic meters of material is involved in the construction of the second division of thirty-four miles. The hardest work will be in solid sand and oyster shell reefs. The canal will traverse the length of Lake Tampamachoco, just to the north of the Tuxpan River. This lake is about three miles long and two miles wide. It is only two and one-half to three feet deep. To reach the Tuxpan River from this lake a channel will have to be cut through a strip of land about one and one-half miles wide. The cut through this strip will be from five to fifteen feet above the water level.

The dredges used in the construction of this canal were all built at Tampico under the direction of Captain Shillaber. Four dredges are now in use. Three of them are small orange-peel clipper machines, each having a capacity of 8,000 cubic meters of earth per month, including hard and soft work. The average cost of the work done by the small dredges is about twenty cents, Mexican" money, per cubic yard, which is equivalent to ten cents gold. The large dredge now in use has a capacity of about 20,000 cubic meters of earth per month at the rate of fifteen hours per clay. This dredge is used in the heaviest stretches of work. It can handle any material except the solid rock. The cost of excavation per cubic meter by this dredge is much greater than by the smaller dredges. Another large dredge is being constructed for work on the lower end of the canal.

It is estimated that the canal will have cost when completed about $5,000,000 Mexican money, or $2,500,000 gold.

The completed portion of the canal has had one beneficial effect which was not expected when the plans for its construction were under consideration. It has served as a drainage way for a large territory which was formerly covered with a few inches of water, making the land unavailable for agricultural purposes. This land is now perfectly drained and is being placed in cultivation in many places. It is believed that when the canal is finished through to the Tuxpan River it will serve to carry off the surplus water from a still greater territory and that many thousands of acres of land will be in this manner reclaimed.

There are many beautiful vistas along the canal. The shores of the lagoons and lakes are lined with plantations of pineapples, bananas and other products. Pretty homes, with expanse of verdant lawns, slope down to the water's edge. An endless stream of boats, each manned with a picturesque crew, pass up and clown the canal. Whole families of natives occupy some of these boats. They

carry their cooking utensils with them and make their homes on board the frail craft day and night. There are places where the shore is lined with tropical forests, and in the waning hours of the afternoon flocks of brilliant-hued parrots fly from place to place and awaken the echoes with their cries.

The building of this intercoastal canal between Tampico and Tuxpan will be followed by the construction of a similar waterway to connect Tampico with the Rio Grande, where connection will also be made with the proposed intercoastal canal that the United States government is to construct through the lagoons bordering the Louisiana and Texas coasts. The distance between Tampico and the mouth of the Rio Grande is about three hundred miles. A series of salt water lagoons lie along the coast for a part of the distance, but much more excavation work will have to be done on the upper canal than is encountered on the Tampico-Tuxpan waterway. The territory extending back from the coast for 150 miles, between Tampico and the Rio Grande, is susceptible of high agricultural development. Like the TampicoTuxpan region it is attracting many Americans who have purchased large bodies of land and are doing a successful business in farming and raising live stock. They are handicapped, however, by the lack of transportation facilities. The building of the canal will secure for them a direct outlet for their products.


""THE steamship Maraposa, recently ar* rived at San Francisco from the far away island of Tahiti, under French dominion, in the South Pacific, brings the first news that the French government has lately prohibrted the use of diving apparatus in carrying on the valuable pearl fishing industry.

This action was taken to save one of the most profitable enterprises of the colonies from destruction.

The commission which investigated the matter, found that the native divers who plied their trade without any diving ap

paratus and gathered up these valuable shells only as fast as they naturally increased had been supplanted by Europeans in diving gear who were in the employ of large corporations, and who gathered these shells in such quantities that a great many of the pearl shell beds had been exhausted.

To keep temptation out of the way of the pearl hunters, all of the diving outfits, gear, etc., were gathered together by the French authorities and shipped away from Tahiti and the other islands.

« PreviousContinue »