John Muir


[John Muir]


[Jeanne C.] Carr



Yosemite Valley #78 Oct 8th, 72

Dear Mrs Carr,

Here we are again & here is your letter Sept 24th. I got down last eve & boy was I not weary? [Besides deleted] After pushing through the rough upper half of the great Tuolumne Canon; I have climbed more than twenty four thousand feet in these ten days. Three times to the top of the glacier of Mt Hoff' & once to Mt Lyell & McClure I Have bagged a quantity of of Tuolumne rocks sufficient to build a dozen Yosemites. Strips of cascades longer than ever lacey, or smooth & white as pressed snow, it glacier basin with ten glassy lakes set


into a compost called, [underlined: a paper] for the Boston historical Soc. & gave me credit for all of the smaller sayings & doings & stole the broadest truth to himself. I have the proof sheets of "The Paper" & will show them to you sometime But all of such meanness can work no permanent evil to anyone except the stealer.

As for the living "glaciers of the Sierras" here is what I have learned concerning them. You will have the first chance to steal, for I have just concluded my experiments on them for the season & have not yet cast them at any of the great Profs or Presidents



all near together like eggs in a nest, three El Capitans & a couple of Tissiacks, Canons glorious with yellows & reds of Mtn Maple & aspen & honeysuckle & ash, & new [illegible]able [underlined: music unmeasurable] from strange waters & winds, & glaciers too flowing & grinding, alive as any on earth shall I pull you out some? Here is a clean white skinned glacier from the back of McClure with glossy emerald flesh & singing crystal blood, All bright & pure as a sky; yet handling mud & stone like a wavy [in margin: [narry?]] building [moraine?] like a plodding [illegible]bman. Here is a cascade 200 feet wide, half a mile long - [deleted:? glaveing this way & that; filled with bounce & dance & joyous hurrah, yet earnest as]


tempest, & singing like angels loose on a frolic from heaven, deleted?] ''-& here is [in margin: are] your cascades [deleted & more]; broad & flat like clouds & fringed like flowing hair, [in margin: with occasional] & falls [illegible] as pines, [deleted: & lakes like glowing eyes, & [how are visions too, & dreams,?] & a splendid set of ghosts, too many for ink & narrow paper.]

I had not heard anything concerning LeContes Glacier lecture but he seems to have drawn all he knows of Sierra glaciers & new theories concerning them. So directly from [underlined: here] that I can- not think he will claim dis- covery etc; If he does I will not be made poorer. Prof [Kneeland?] Sec Boston Institute of Technology gathered some letters I sent to Runkle & that Tribune letter & hashed them


of wh I succeeded in making my way, & discovered that my so called [underlined: snowbank] was clear green ice, & comparing the form of the basin wh it occupied with similar adjacent basins that were empty I was led to the opinion that this glacier was several hundred feet in depth. Then I went to the "snowbanks" of Mts Lyell & McCure & believed that they also were true glaciers & that dozen other snow banks seen from the summit of Mt Lyell crouching in shadow were glaciers living as any in the world & busily engaged in completing that vast work of mountain making, accomplished by their giant relatives now dead, wh united & continuous covered all the range from summit to sea like a sky

2 [5]

On one of the yellow days of last October 71 when I was among the mountains of the "Merced Group", following the footprints of the ancient glaciers that once flowed grandly from their ample fountains, reading what I could of their history as written in Moraines & Canons & lakes & carved rocks, I came upon a small stream that was carry- ing mud of a kind I had not before seen. In a calm place where the stream widened I collected some of this mud & observed that it was entirely mineral in composition & fine as flour, like the mud from a fine grit grindstone. Before I had time to reason, I said, Glacier Mud - Mountain Meal! Then I observed that this



mudy stream issued from a bank of fresh quarried stones & dirt, that was sixty or seventy feet in height, This I at once took to be a moraine, In climbing to the top of it I was struck with the steepness of its slope & with its raw, unsettled plantless new- born appearance. The slightest touch started blocks of red & black slate followed by a rattling train of smaller stones, & sand & a cloud of the dry dust of mud, the whole moraine being as free from lichens & weather- stains as if dug from the mountain that very day. When I had scrambled to the top of the Moraine I saw what seemed to be a huge snowbank four or five hundred [underlined: yds] in length by half a mile in width. Imbedded in its stained &


furrowed surface were [deleted: rocks] stones & dirt like that of wh the Moraine was built, Dirt- Stained lines curved across the D snow bank from side to side, & when I observed that there curved lines coincided with the curved Moraine, & that the stones & dirt were most abundant near the bottom of the bank, I shouted - A living glacier! These bent dirt lines show that the ice is flowing in its different parts with unequal velocity, & these imbedded stones are journeying down to be built into the moraine & they gradually become more abundant as they approach the moraine because there the motion is slower. On traversing my new found glacier I came to a crevasse down a wide & jagged portion


[9] 3 [deleted #89] [belongs to #78]

[deleted? But] although I was myself thus fully satisfied concerning the real nature of these ice masses I found that my friends regarded my deductions & statements with distrust, therefore I determined to collect proofs of the common measured arithmetical kind On the 21st of Aug' last, I planted five stakes in the glacier of mt McClure wh is situated East of Yosemite Valley near the summit of the range. Four of these stakes were extended across the glacier in a straight line, from the East side to a point near the middle of the glacier 'The 1st stake was planted about 25 yds from the E bank of the glacier, the 2d 94 yds, the 3d 152 & the 4[underlined: th] 225 yds. The positions of these stakes were determined by sighting accross


from bank to bank past a plumb line made of a stone & a black horse hair. On observing my stakes on the 6th of October or in 46 days after being planted I found that Stake No 1 had been carried downstream 11 inches, No 2, 18 inches No 3, 34 No 4, 47 inches, As stake No 4 was near the middle of the glacier, perhaps it was not far from the point of maximum velocity, 47 inches in 46 days or 1 inch per day Stake No 5 was planted about midway between the head of the glacier & stake No 4 its motion I found to be in 46 days 40 inches. Thus these ice masses are seen to possess the true glacial motion. Their surfaces are striped with bent dirt bands. Their


surfaces are bulged & undulated by inequalities in the bottom of their basins causing an upward & downward swedging corresponding to the horizontal swedging as indicated by the curved dirt bands. The Mt McClure glacier is about one half miles in length & about the same in width at the broadest place. it is crevassed on the South- East Corner The crevasse runs about SW & NE & is [deleted: no where] several hundred yds in length Its width is nowhere more than one foot in width. The Mt Lyell glacier separated from that of McClure by a narrow crest is about a mile in width by a mile in length. [deleted?: I have planted stakes in the glacier of Red Mountain also but have not yet observed them.]


means I was enabled to measure the flow of the glacier with great exactness. Examining this stake in 24 hours after setting it, I found that it had been carried down about 3/16 of an inch At the end of four days I again examined it & found that the whole downward motion was 13/16 of an inch showing that the flow of this glacieret was perfectly regular. In accounting for these narrow lane canons so common here I had always re[illegible]ed] them to ice action in connection with special conditions of cleavage, & I was gratified to find that their formation was still going on. This Hoffman glacieret is about 1000 feet long by 15 to 30 feet wide. & perhaps about 100 feet deep in deepest paces. Now there Mrs Carr I must

[in margin: hasten back to the Mtns, I'll go tomorrow]


[There is a line through whole page] 4 [12]

The Sierras adjacent to the Yosemite Valley are composed of Slabs of granite set on edge at right angle, to the direction of the range or about N 30° E, S 30 W Also lines of cleavage cross these running nearly parallel with the main range. Also the granite of this region has a horizontal cleavage or strabfication. The first men- tioned of these lines have the fullest development & give direction & character to many valleys & canyons & determine the principal features of many rock forms No matter how hard & domed & homog[illegible]eous the granite may be it still possesses these lines of cleavage wh require only simple conditions of moisture, time etc for their development. But I am not


ready to discuss the origin of these planes of cleavage wh make this granite so easily de[illegible]dable, nor their full significance with regard to muntain structure in general I will only say here that oftentimes the granite contained between two of these N 30 E [places?] is softer than that outside & has been de[illegible]ded leaving vertical walls as determined by the direction of the cleavage thus giving rise to those narrow slotted canons called "Devils slides" Devils lanes" "Devils galeways" etc'. In many places in the higher portions of the Sierras these are slotted canyons which are filled with "Snow". This I thought might prove to be ice or might prove to be living glaciers


still engaged in cutting into the mountains like endless saws. To decide this question on the 23d of August last I set two stakes in the narrow slot glacier of Mt Hoffman marking their position by sighting across from wall to wall as I did on the McClure glacier, but on visiting them a month afterwards I found that they had been melted out & I was unable to decide any- thing with any considerable degree of accuracy. On the 4th of Oct last I stretched a small trout line across the glacier fastening both ends in the solid bank, [deleted: thus] wh at this place were only 16 feet apart. I set a short inflexible stake in the ice so as just to touch the tigh[illegible] drawn line, by wh


Yosemite Valley

Date Original

1872 Oct 8


Original letter dimensions: 20.5 x 25.5 cm.

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

Reel 02, Image 0941

Collection Identifier

Online finding aid for the microform version of the John Muir Correspondence

Copyright Statement

The unpublished works of John Muir are copyrighted by the Muir-Hanna Trust. To purchase copies of images and/or obtain permission to publish or exhibit them, see

Owning Institution

Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library. Please contact this institution directly to obtain copies of the images or permission to publish or use them beyond educational purposes.

Copyright Holder

Muir-Hanna Trust

Copyright Date



8 pages


Environmentalist, naturalist, travel, conservation, national parks, John Muir, Yosemite, California, history, correspondence, letters



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.