John Muir


John Muir


[Annie and John Bidwell and Sallie Kennedy]


Page 1. Sacramento Oct 10th 1877

[underlined: Friends three]. The Chico flagship & I are safely arrived in Sacramento, unwrecked, unsnagged, & the whole winding way was one glorious strip of enjoyment. When I bade you goodbye, on the bank I was benumbed & bent down with your lavish kind= nesses like one of your vine laden willows. it is seldom that I ex= perience much difficultly in leaving civilization for Gods wilds, but I was loathe indeed to leave you three that day after our long free ramble in the mountain woods & that five weeks rest in your cool fruity home. The last I saw of you was Miss Kennedy White among the leaves like a fleck of mist, then sweeping around a bend you were all gone — the old wildness came back, & I began to observe, & enjoy, & be myself again. My first camp was made


[Page 2]

on a little oval island some ten or twelve miles down, where a clump of arching willows formed a fine nest like shelter; & where I spread my quilt on the gravel & opened the box so daintily & thoughtfully stored for my comfort I began to reflect again on your real goodness to me from first to last, & said, “Ill not forget those Chico three as long as I live”. I placed the two flags at the head of my bed, one on each side, & as the camp fire shone upon them the effect was very imposing & patriotic. The night came on full of strange sounds from birds & insects new to me, but the starry sky was clear & came arching over my lowland nest seemingly as bright & familiar with its glorious constellations as when beheld through the thin crisp atmosphere of the mountain tops.


[Page 3]

[underlined: page 2 continued].

on the second day the Spoonbill sprang a bad leak from the swelling of the bottom timbers; two of them crumpled out thus, at a [drawing] point where they were badly nailed, & I had to run her ashore for repairs. I turned her upside down on a pebly bar, took out one of the timbers, whittled it carefully down to the right dimensions, replaced it, & nailed it tight & fast with a stone for a hammer: then caulked the new joint, shoved her back into the current, & rechristened her “The Snagjumper”. She afterwards behaved splendidly in the most trying places, & leaked only at the rate of fifteen tin cupfuls per hour. Her performances in the way of [drawing of boat] snagjumping are truly wonderful Most snags are covered with slimy algae & lean downstream, & the sloping bows of the jumper enabled her the jumper to glance gracefully up & over them when not too high above the water, while her lightness prevented any strain sufficient to crush her bottom. On one occasion


[Page 4]


she took a firm slippery snag a little oblignely & was nearly rolled upside down, as a sod is turned by a plow. Then I charged myself to be more careful, & while rowing often looked well ahead for snag ripples & but soon I came to a long glassy reach, & my vigilance not being eternal, my thoughts wandered upstream back to those grand spring fountains on the head of the McCloud & Pitt. Then I tried to picture those hidden tributaries that flow beneath the lava tablelands, & recognized in them a capital illustration of the fact that in their farthest fountains all rivers are lost to mortal eye that the sources of all are hidden as those of the Nile, & so also that in this respect every river of knowledge is a Nile. Thus I was phlosiphysing rowing with a steady stroke & as the current was rapid, the jumper was making fine headway, when with a tremendous bump she reared like Lize in “jackets”, swung around st[illegible] down stream, & remained fast on her beam ends erect like a coffin against a wall. She managed


[Page 5]


This letter is already far too long, & I will hasten to a close. I will rest here a day or so, to then push off again to the mouth of the river a hundred miles or so farther, chiefly to study the deposition of the sediment at the head of the bay, then push for the mountains. I would row up the San Joaquin, but two weeks or more would be required for the trip, & I fear snow on the mountains I am glad to know that you are really interested in science & I might almost venture another lecture upon you, but in the mean time forbear. Looking backward I see you three in your leafly home, & while I wave my hand, I will only wait to thank you all over & over again for the thousand kind things you have done and said – - drives, & grapes, & rest, “a” that & “a” that”. And now once more Farewell – Ever Cordially your friend John Muir

This letter was addressed to Sen. Bidwell, his wife, & his wife’s sister, (Miss) Sallie Kennedy. This is a [underlined: full copy] of Mr. Muir’s letter A. E. K. B.



round number’s 2.000 feet above tide water The whole group is volcanic, taking sharp basattic forms near the summit & with stratified conglomerates of finely polished quartz & metamosphic peebles tilted against their flanks. There is a sparse growth of live oak & laurel on the southern slopes, the latter predominating, & on the North quite a close tangle of dwarf oak forming a chaparral. I noticed the white mountain spiraea also, & Mahonia, with a few willows, & three ferns toward the summit, Pellaea and dromedifolia, gynnogramma triangularis, & cheilanthes gracillinea, & many a fine flower – penstemous, gilias, & our brave Eriogo[illegible]ms of blessed memory. The sum- mit of this highest south most butte is a coast Survey station. The river is very crooked becoming more and more so in its lover course, flowing in grand lingering deliberation now south, now north, east and west. with fine un-American indirectness. The upper portion down as far as Colusa is full of rapids,


however to get out of even the scrape without disaster to herself or to me. I manually sailed from sunrise to sunset, rowing one third of the time, paddling one third, & drifting the other third in restful comfort - landing now & then to examine a section of the bank or some bush or tree. Under these conditions the voyage to this port was five days in length. On the morning of the third day I hid my craft in the bank vines & set off crosslots for the highest of the Marysville Buttes, reached & got back to the river, & Jumper bytwo oclock, The distance to the nearest foothill of the groups is about three miles but to the base of the southwest & highest Butte is six miles, & its elevation is about 1800 feet above its base or in

+ 00314

[Page 6]


but below this point the current is beautifully calm & lake-like, with imun[illegible]able reaches of most surpassing loveliness. How you would have enjoyed it! The bank vines all the way down are the same species as those that festoon your beatiful Chico Creek, (Vitia Californica) but no where do they reach such glorious exuberance of development as with you. The temperature of the water varies only about two & a half degrees between Chico & Sacramento, a distance by the river of nearly two hundred miles the upper temperature 64° the lower 66 ½°. I found the temperature of the feather waters at their confluence one degree colder than those of the Sacramento, 65° & 66° respectively, which is a difference in exactly the opposite direction from what I anticipated. All the brown discoloring mud of the lower Sacramento thus far is derived from the Feather, & it is curious to observe how completely the two currents keep themselves apart for three or four miles. I never landed to talk to anyone, or ask questions, but was frequently cheered from the bank & challenged by old sailors “Ship ahoy& etc. & while seated in the stern reading a magazine & drifting noiselessly with the current, I overheard


a deck hand on one of the steamers say, “Now that’s what I call taking it aisy”. I am still at a loss to know what there is in the rig or model of the Jumper that excited such universal curiosity. Even the birds of the river, & the animals that came to drink, though paying little or no heed to the passing steamers with all their plash & out roar, at once fixed their attention on my little flag ship, some taking flight with loud screams, others waiting with out- stretched necks until I nearly touched them, while others circled over head. The domestic animals usally dashed up the bank in ex- travagant haste one crowding on the heels of the other as if suffering extreme terror. I placed one flag, the smaller, on the highest pinnacle of the Butte, where I trust it may long wave to your memory; the other I have still watching the thousand land birds, - linnets, orioles, sparrows, flickers, quails etc – Natures darlings, taking their morning baths, was no small part of my enjoyments. I was greatly interested in the fine bank sections shown to extraordinary advantage at the present low water, because they cast so much light upon the formation of this grand valley, but I cannot tell my results here.


Dear Mrs. [Kewcastle?],

I should have made a better copy of this letter but found that to do so would delay it until next week, hence it goes in this shape, — for you to put in a better. Yours sincerely Annie E. V. Bidwell

[Page 7]


N.B. To page 5, — sixth line inclusive — this letter was copied by tracing the [illegible]ds; ( by laying Mr Muir’s letter over glass, beneath which was placed an electric light). From sixth line it was copied in the usual way. “brave Eriogonums of blessed memory” re- fers to our seeing it everywhere; and in most barren soil as well as in richer: among rocks, on plain, — everywhere, until we really loved the unassuming flower.



Sacramento [Calif.]

Date Original

1877 Oct 10


Original letter dimensions unknown.

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

Reel 03, Image 0577

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, click here to view the Holt-Atherton Special Collections policies.

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



7 pages


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



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