Questions of geography and astronomy may deserve a moment’s attention. If we assume the discovery of the mouth of the Mississippi to have been made by Narvaez in 1527—a doubtful point!—a period of 305 years has elapsed before its actual source has been fixed. If the date of De Soto’s journey (1541) be taken, which is undisputed, this period is reduced to 290 years. Hennepin saw it as high as the mouth of the river St. Francis in 1680. Lt. Pike, under the administration of Mr. Jefferson, ascended it by water in 1805, near to the entrance of Elk River, south of the Crow Wing Fork, and being overtaken at this spot by frosts and snow, and winter setting in strongly, he afterwards ascended its banks, on snow shoes, his men carrying his baggage on hand sleds, to Sandy Lake, then a post of the North-west Company. From this point he was carried forward, under their auspices, by the Canadian train de-glis, drawn by dogs to Leech Lake; and eventually, by the same conveyance, to what is now denominated Cass Lake, or upper Lac Cedre Rogue. This he reached in January, 1806, and it formed the terminus of his journey.
In 1820, Gen. Cass visited Sandy Lake, by the way of Lake Superior, with a strong party, and exploratory outfit, under the authority of the government. He encamped the bulk of his party at Sandy Lake, depositing all his heavy supplies, and fitted out a light party in two canoes, to trace up the river to its source. After ascending to the point of land at the entrance of Turtle River into Cass Lake, it was found, from Indian accounts, that he could not ascend higher in the state of the water with his heavy canoes, if, indeed, his supplies or the time at his command would have permitted him to accomplish it, compatibly with other objects of his instructions. This, therefore, constituted the terminal point of his journey.
The length of the river, from the Gulf of Mexico to Itasca Lake, has been estimated at 3,160 miles. Barometrical observations show its altitude, above the same point, to be 1,680 feet—which denotes an average descent of a fraction over six inches per mile.
The latitude of Itasca Lake has been accurately determined to be 47 deg. 13’ 35”—which is nearly two degrees south of the position assigned to it by the best geographers in 1783, the date of the definite treaty of peace between the United States and Great Britain.
The reason of this geographical mistake has been satisfactorily shown in traversing up the stream from the summit of the Pemidjegomag, or Cross-water Lake—during which, the general course of the ascent is due south.
Descent of the Mississippi River, from Itasca Lake to Cass Lake—Traits of its bank—Kabika Falls—Upsetting of a canoe—River descends by steps, and through narrow rocky passes—Portage to the source of the Crow-Wing River—Moss Lake—Shiba Lake—Leech Lake—Warpool Lake—Long Lake Mountain portage—Kaginogomanug—Vermilion Lake—Ossawa Lake-Shell River—Leaf River—Long Prairie River—Kioskk, or Gull River—Arrival at its mouth—Descent to the Falls of St. Anthony, and St. Peter’s—Return to St. Mary’s.