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Government is reclaiming the desert. That lowland will grow almost anything, from dates to alfalfa. Its most helpful friend, and its unrelenting enemy, too, is the river itself, for without the river it would return to cactus and sage. Yet the river is so jealous of her freedom that she yearly attempts with violence, and by insidious methods as well, to reclaim for herself each foot of land that has by stealth been taken from her.
On the opposite side of the river, the California side, the river is held in by mountains, until it has reached the Mexican line. There, by a capricious turn, it deserts its old-accustomed channel and flows westward into what was once a lake, but is now little more than a morass, and so slowly finds its way to the Gulf of California. Immediately north of this westward bend in the river is the Imperial Valley, which has lately been used by several novelists to illustrate the heroic struggle of man with nature. For this valley was once a sea itself, and has indeed left a sort of rudimentary sea in a lake known as the Salton Sea. The fruitful soil of this valley, hundreds of feet deep, is the silt of the Colorado, the deposited wash of a thousand miles of mountain channel. Each June, when the snows of the Rockies melt, the Colorado, resenting the limitations which man has set up for it, presses with two strong shoulders against both sides of its prescribed banks, like Porthos under the slow caving of the earth. And as long as that flood comes the people on both sides must watch and work as the Hollanders have done.
There are two distinct and aggressive schools of thought on this matter of keeping the Colorado in its place. One is for sending the river willy-nilly down the old channel. The other is for letting the river live its own life, but keeping it off our preserves. One may be termed the absolutist theory and the other the democratic theory. Congress has thus far committed itself to the latter. And this year, when danger threatened, Congress joined in raising a fund to keep the river from forcing its way north into the Imperial Valley, and this work was successfully executed under this department by the former Chief of Engineers of the United States Army, Gen. W. L. Marshall. No one, however, believes that the work is at an end or that we have done more than put a good patch upon it.
Now, far above this point of danger there are thousands of square miles of land that need but the water of the Colorado River to make them as fruitful as the lands of the San Joaquin or the Salt River
Valley. We need to catch that water when it is young, soon after it has been born from the snows. There, in mountain valleys, it should be kept for a time and, as needed, led into the peaceful paths of usefulness. And on that problem the Reclamation Service is working. The difficulty is to find large reservoir areas.
This instance is cited to show how intimately the matter of flood control and of reclamation are bound together. The problem extends from sea to sea. When we come eastward, to the Missouri and the Mississippi for example, we find that in their upper reaches the lands need the waters, while in their lower reaches the lands must be saved from the waters.
No one can take the yearly toll of lives lost and of property destroyed by the furious and unrestrained sweep of our rivers without realizing that the people of this country can not regard themselves as owning this land, really possessing it, until they have brought these waters under subjection. And in doing this they will literally create new land by the millions of acres, lands that will support millions of people as against the thousands which live upon it to-day. And in saying this I am not speaking without authority, for a year ago we enjoyed the value of a visit from the renowned builder of the Assuan Dam, Sir William Willcocks, who has spent his life in India, Mesopotamia, and Egypt as a river tamer. And after he had seen our problem he sighed with regret that it might not be his fortune to see the day, that he said would surely come, when the valley of the Mississippi would be another valley of the Nile, only greater in area and more perfectly adapted to the white man's life.
WHY SHOULD THE WHOLE BURDEN BE BORNE TO-DAY?
How these great works can be carried on calls for constructive thought, not merely on the engineering side but more immediately upon the financial side as to those ways and means by which the lands reclaimed shall be made to bear in some degree the burden of the expense. As to the funds which will be needed, they mount into such figures as to be staggering. And I can see no hope that this work will be adequately undertaken without the Government advancing its credit and investing directly some of its own funds. We are conducting this Government from day to day out of current revenues. Only the richest of people could pursue such a policy. No private enterprise attempts it. No railroad system has been built
that way. But few of the States now construct their highway systems out of the year's revenues. The permanent improvements which the whole people undertake are a legitimate charge against capital account, not against maintenance. A commission to devise the ways and means by which the States and private land owners and the National Government can cooperate in paying for the work done seems to me a more needed body than one which will report upon engineering methods.
PLACES OF BEAUTY AS AN ASSET. In casting up the assets of the United States as a landed proprietor I have made no mention of one of the most delightful of our national enterprises. To build a railroad, reclaim lands, give new impulse to enterprise, and offer new doors to ambitious capital—these are phases of the ever-widening life and activity of this Nation. The United States does more; it furnishes playgrounds to the people which are, we may modestly state, without any rivals in the world. Just as the cities are seeing the wisdom and the necessity of open spaces for the children, so with a very large view the Nation has been saving from its domain the rarest places of gradeur and beauty for the enjoyment of the world.
And this fact has been discovered by many only this year. Having an incentive in the expositions on the Pacific coast, and Europe being closed, thousands have for the first time crossed the continent and seen one or more of the national parks. That such mountains and glaciers, lakes and canyons, forests and waterfalls were to be found in this country was a revelation to many, who had heard but had not believed. It would appear from the experience of this year that the real awakening as to the value of these parks has at last been realized, and that those who have hitherto found themselves enticed by the beauty of the Alps and the Rhine and the soft loveliness of the valleys of France, may find equal if not more stimulating satisfaction in the mountains, rivers, and valleys which this Government has set apart for them and for all others.
It may reconcile those who think that money expended upon such luxuries is wasted—if any such there are—to be told that the soberminded traffic men of the railroads estimate that this year more than a hundred million dollars usually spent in European travel was divided among the railroads, hotels, and their supporting enterprises in this country.
During the year a new national park of distinction and unusual accessibility has come into existence. It crosses the Rockies in Colorado at a point of supreme magnificence; hence its title, the Rocky Mountain National Park. Through it, from north to south, winds the Continental Divide—the Snowy Range in name and fact. Two hundred laker grace this rocky paradise, and bear and bighorn inhabit its fastnesses. It has an area of 350 square miles and lies only 70 miles from Denver. Many hotels lie at the feet of these mountains and three railroads skirt their sides.
This is Colorado's second national park, the other being 'Mesa Verde, where this department, with the assistance of Dr. Jesse Walter Fewkes, of the Smithsonian Institution, has uncovered during the last summer prehistoric ruins of unprecedented scientific interest.
Oregon has but recently completed a great highway along the Columbia River. This should be connected by road with Mount Hood and a portion of the present forest reserve converted into a park. The limits of Sequoia Park, in California, the home of the great redwoods, should be so extended as to include the Kern River Canyon, a most practicable project to-day; but to-morrow may be too late, because of the lumber interests. The Grand Canyon is not yet part of the park system, although as part of a national forest it comes under the control of the Department of Agriculture.
There is no reason why this Nation should not make its public health and scenic domain as available to all its citizens as Switzerland and Italy make theirs. The aim is to open them thoroughly by road and trail and give access and accommodation to every degree of income. In this belief an effort has been made this year as never before to outfit the parks with new hotels which should make the visitor desire to linger rather than hasten on his journey. One hotel was built on Lake McDermott, in Glacier Park, one is to be built immediately on the shoulder of Mount Rainier, in Paradise Valley, another in the valley of the Yosemite, with an annex high overhead on Glacier Point, while more modest chalets are to be dotted about in the obscurer spots to make accessible the rarer beauties of the inner Yosemite. For with the new Tioga road, which, through the generosity of Mr. Stephen T. Mather and a few others, the Government has acquired, there is to be revealed a new Yosemite, which only John Muir and others of similar bent have seen. This is a Yosemite
far different from the quiet, incomparable valley. It is a land of forests, snow, and glaciers. From Mount Lyell one looks, as from an island, upon a tumbled sea of snowy peaks. Its lakes, many of which have never been fished, are alive with trout. And through it foams the Tuolumne River which in a mile drops a mile, a water spectacle destined to world celebrity Meeting obstructions in its slanting rush, the water now and again rises nearly perpendicularly, forming upright foaming arcs sometimes 50 feet in height. These
water wheels,” a dozen or more in number, will be accessible next summer by a trail to be built when the snow melts in June.
While as the years have passed we have been modestly developing the superb scenic possibilities of the Yellowstone, nature has made of it the largest and most populous game preserve in the Western Hemisphere. Its great size, its altitude, its vast wildernesses, its plentiful waters, its favorable conformation of rugged mountain and sheltered valley, and the nearly perfect protection afforded by the policy and the scientific care of the Government have made this park, since its inauguration in 1872, the natural and inevitable center of game conservation for this Nation. There is something of significance in this. It is the destiny of the national parks, if wisely controlled, to become the public laboratories of nature study for the Nation. And from them specimens may be distributed to the city and State preserves, as is now being done with the elk of the Yellowstone which are too abundant, and may be later with the antelope.
If Congress will but make the funds available for the construction of roads over which automobiles may travel with safety (for all the parks are now open to motors) and for trails to hunt out the hidden places of beauty and dignity, we may expect that year by year these parks will become a more precious possession of the people, holding them to the further discovery of America and making them still prouder of its resources, esthetic as well as material.
YOUNG AMERICA. I turn now from young America, the land that is underdeveloped, to Young America, our twenty-two million school boys and girls; for these, after all, are our chief resource and our chief concern. Are we doing all possible to develop this resource ?
If there is any one of our institutions in which the American people take undisguised pride and of which they feel justified in