Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/401

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387
THE COLORADO DESERT.

on every train for about a hundred miles. Trains going both ways take one or more tank-cars, for the supply of section-hands and engines. In the well referred to, water was finally reached, and in such quantities that the flow could not be stopped. It ran for three days, flooding the whole country for miles around, and then stopped, and has not run since. The water of this well had the same sulphur taste and smell as that now found at Volcano.

Just beyond Flowing-Well Station, the road runs along a chain of most desolate sand-hills. These continue for twenty miles. During severe winds, which are of frequent occurrence, the sand drifts over the track very rapidly, and in a few hours covers it to the depth of a foot or more. It has been found necessary to have a relay of men constantly on the ground, and every day they are engaged in clearing the track. The engineers are warned of their approach to these bad places by large posts, with the word "sand" painted on them, and must then take extra care.

There are many things to indicate that at one period the lowest portion of the desert was covered with water, forming an extensive lake. In places the character of the soil is such that there can be no doubt that it was deposited in still water. It is as soft and fine as powdered chalk, and not a stone can be found for long distances. We pass in one place, quite suddenly, from a gravelly, stony soil to one which is neither. It seems to mark the shore or boundary of the lake, and here the ground is covered with shells of various species. Anodonta Californiensis, Amnicola longinquas, Tryonea protea, and Physa humerosa, are very common, and all of them are living in Western waters at the present day. Then, again, we come to piles of stones, all water-worn, and showing the former presence of water where now there is not a drop.

Where has the water gone to? There can be no doubt that volcanic action has had much to do with its disappearance. Black, lava like stones are found in huge streams, as they might be called, extending for miles. Pumice-stone is found in large quantities in many places, and great blocks of lava are said to lie at the foot of the mountains bordering the desert, some twenty-five miles away. The presence of the volcanic spring, already referred to, is corroborative evidence of volcanic action. There is still a large body of salt-water lying at a considerable depth under the surface. At Mammoth-Tank Station the railroad company has been engaged for some time past in boring a well. They had reached a depth of thirteen hundred and fifty feet at the time I passed, and had then found nothing but saltwater.

It is curious that the various stations on the road have been called after things nowhere to be seen in their immediate neighborhood. Seven Palms takes its name from a group of trees fifteen miles away toward the mountains. Flowing Well is very dry. Mesquite has not