This section is from the book "Grand Canyon Of The Colorado River - John L. Stoddard's Lectures", by John L. Stoddard. Also available from Amazon: John L. Stoddard's Lectures 13 Volume Set.
While the Old World is better able than the New to satisfy the craving of the mind for art and history, no portion of our globe can equal the North American continent in certain forms of natural scenery which reach the acme of sublimity. Niagara, the Yosemite, the Yellowstone National Park, and the Grand Caņon of the Colorado in Arizona are the four great natural wonders of America. Niagara is Nature in the majesty of liquid motion, where, as the outlet of vast inland seas, a mighty river leaps in wild delirium into a gorge two hundred feet below, and boils and seethes tu-multuously till its heart is set at rest and its fever cooled by the embrace of Lake Ontario. The Yosemite is Nature pictured, in a frame of granite precipices, as reclining on a carpet woven with a million flowers, above which rise huge trees three centuries old, which, nevertheless, to the spectator, gazing from the towering cliffs, appear like waving ferns. The Yellowstone Park is the arena of an amphitheatre in which fire and water, the two great forces which have made our planet what it is, still languidly contend where formerly they struggled desperately for supremacy. But the Grand Caņon of Arizona is Nature wounded unto death, and lying stiff and ghastly with a gash, two hundred miles in length and a mile in depth, in her bared breast, from which is flowing fast a stream of life-blood called the Colorado.
A Petrified Forest, Arizona.
Pack-Mules Of The Desert.
Evidences Of Erosion.
The Navajo Church.
The section of country through which one travels to behold this last-named marvel is full of mystery and fascination. It is a land where rivers frequently run underground or cut their way through gorges of such depth that the bewildered tourist, peering over their precipitous cliffs, can hardly gain a glimpse of the streams flowing half a mile below; a land of colored landscapes such as elsewhere would be deemed impossible, with "painted deserts," red and yellow rocks, petrified forests, brown grass and purple grazing grounds; a land where from a sea of tawny sand, flecked here and there with bleached bones, like whitecaps on the ocean, one gazes upon mountains glistening with snow; and where at times the intervals are so brief between aridity and flood, that one might choose, like Alaric, a river-bed for his sepulchre, yet see a host like that of Pharaoh drowned in it before the dawn. In almost every other portion of the world. Nature reveals her finished work; but here she partially discloses the secrets of her skill, and shows to us her modes of earth-building. Thus, the entire country is dotted with mesas, or table-lands of sandstone, furrowed and fashioned in a tremendous process of erosion, caused by the draining through this area of a prehistoric ocean, whose rushing, whirling, and receding waters molded the mountains, carved the Caņons, and etched innumerable grotesque figures and fantastic forms. A feeling of solemnity steals over us, as we reflect upon the lapse of geologic time which such a record covers, unnumbered ages before man's advent on this planet; and these deep Caņons and eroded valleys, whose present streams are only miniature representatives of those which formerly wrought havoc here, teach lessons of patience to the restless mortals who behold them; while some of the singular formations on the cliffs present perplexing problems which Nature, as it were in mocking humor, bids us solve.
A Specimen Of Nature's Handiwork.
Was Nature ever really sportive ? In the old days, when she produced her uncouth monsters of the deep, was she in manner, as in age, a child ? Did she then play with her continents, and smile to see them struggle up from the sea only to sink again ? Was it caprice that made her wrap her vast dominions in the icy bands of glaciers, or pour upon them lava torrents, and frequently convulse them with a mighty earthquake ? If so, New Mexico and Arizona must have been her favorite playgrounds. At many points her rock formations look like whimsical imitations of man's handicraft, or specimens of the colossal vegetation of an earlier age. Some are gigantic, while others bear a ludicrous resemblance to misshapen dwarfs, suggesting, as they stand like pygmies round their mightier brethren, a group of mediaeval jesters in a court of kings. In the faint dusk of evening, as one flits by them in the moving train, their weird, uncanny forms appear to writhe in pain, and he is tempted to regard them as the material shapes of tortured souls.