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ROUTES FOR A PACIFIC RAILROAD.
A southern route contemplates a line drawn from St. Louis to the south-west corner of Missouri, thence westerly to the neighborhood of Bent's Fort, where it would unite with that already described.
The various southern routes, converging from various directions in Upper Texas, propose to pursue a route almost west, through El Paso and the strip of territory purchased of Mexico by the treaty of December 30th, 1853, to San Francisco. But these routes, though explored, have not been travelled on by emigrants or merchants.
The great practicable routes, thus far used, lead through Kanzas, or the valley of Nebraska river.
There are various detailed questions already agitated as to the route which a railroad should follow on leaving the valley of the Missouri, and at what point of that valley it should begin.
The Hannibal and St. Joseph's railroad, running through the State of Missouri, from the Mississippi river to the Missouri, nearly westward, is already in progress of construction. The friends of this enterprise are eager in pressing its continuation westward, through Kanzas, as the beginning of a railway to the Pacific.
Further south the "Pacific Railroad,” so called, of Missouri, which is open about forty miles westward from St. Louis, is to run to Kanzas City, at the mouth of Kanzas river. Col. Benton and Col. Fremont, in proposing what is called “Fremont's line of railroad," suggest that it should be a continuation of this road, and run from Kanzas City. Between these lines, Lynceus, the anonymous author of a remarkable pamphlet published in 1853, in St. Louis, urges that any road undertaken by the government should run from Fort Leavenworth by Bridger's Pass. It would thus pass through the great fertile “divide" between the Kanzas and Nebraska rivers, and, avoiding the passage of any wide river, proceed nearly westward to the Salt Lake City.
To hazard a guess from the entirely insufficient information which we have as to the mountain passes, the western part of this route would be the most feasible. The advantage of beginning at Fort Leavenworth is simply that the government has already a large establishment at that post. It would be necessary to build a line from Kanzas City, thirty miles, on the west bank of the Missouri, to connect with the “Pacific railroad” of the Missouri. A line of about the same length would connect with the Hannibal and St. Joseph's railroad, at the north, but its continuity would be interrupted by the Missouri river.
It is scarcely probable that the advantages resulting from the establishment of a base of operations at Fort Leavenworth, would compensate for the considerable divergence from a western line which would be necessary to get there. If Bridger's Pass, or St. Vrain's, just south of it, prove practicable, a line from Kanzas City, up the valley of Kan
A PACIFIC RAILROAD.
zas river, through this pass, would unite the advantages claimed for a route from Fort Leavenworth.
But it must be understood that all such speculations with regard to a Pacific railway are, thus far, simply speculations. The public and the newspapers are fond of talking as if an enterprise of this sort were to be completed in a year or two, by what is called the “indomitable energy of the American people.” In fact, two bids have been offered to Congress, offering to build a road from the Mississippi to San Francisco in five years. If two hundred working days could be crowded into each year, besides the exceptions necessary in the mountains, in winter, and those arising from storms and other interruptions, this would be at the rate of two miles of railroad a day, half of which, through the great mountain plateau described, is through a worse country than a railroad was ever carried through, completely destitute of supplies and often of water.
To begin to build a great route of communication to the Pacific, the first necessity is to begin to talk reasonably about it. And first, it will require a population through the country which it is to pass, so far as the country can support a population. The emigration to Kanzas will give it that population for two hundred miles, perhaps three hundred miles, farther than now exists. Settlers, who establish themselves along the valley of the Kanzas, and between Fort Riley and Fort Kearney, may indulge the hope that the great line of
western communication will one day pass near them. At present, as has been said already, the great line of emigrant travel is along the military road north-west from Fort Leavenworth.
The largest number of overland emigrants which ever crossed the plains in one year is eighty thousand.
A military road is now in progress from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Riley.
We have spoken of these various routes together, because they passed in or near the regions of Nebraska and Kanzas which will be first settled. It remains to speak of the remarkable passes much farther north, explored, in 1853, by Gov. Stevens. This officer, after a rapid reconnoissance of a line through the territory of Minnesota, from the city of St. Paul to the neighborhood of old Fort Mandan, carried a survey along the north side of the Missouri river to the neighborhood of Fort Benton. West of this fort he examined two passes, one called Cadot’s Pass, the other surveyed by Lieut. Mullan. He represents the level of Cadot's Pass as three thousand feet lower than that of the South Pass, as measured by Col. Fremont. His full report is not yet published. His sketch of the surveys west of the mountains does not appear very encouraging.
But the officers who wintered in the neighborhood of Çadot’s and Mullan's Passes report that these were but little encumbered with snow. It may yet prove that the supplies for
Oregon and Washington territories may be forwarded by the Missouri and one of these passes. The main difficulties will be found, not in the main ridge of the Rocky Mountains, but in the territories themselves.
It may be well to repeat here what has already been stated, that the Missouri river can be navigated by steamboats to the Great Falls.
The Yellowstone has been navigated eighty miles from its mouth.
It is navigable by flat-boats two or three hundred miles farther.
The El Paso steamboat ascended the Nebraska four or five hundred miles, in the spring of 1853.
Steamboats ascend the Kanzas river to Fort Riley.
A steamboat has ascended the Arkansas, during high water, for nearly a hundred miles above the south line of Kanzas. These are the only navigable rivers in the two territories.