South Pass 1836

the last tangential touch of the Sweetwater, in the greenery of its shallow gully where it comes down out of the hills, and we know that it camped for the night of July 4 at Pacific Spring or at the little Sandy. From camp to camp this was a tremendous day for any westering party – any party, that is, which had newcomers in it, for it was just a day’s drive, and a dry one, to veterans. But it crossed the parting of the waters, the fundamental divide of the continent, and it marked the end of the United States. From water to water was twelve miles and somewhere in that stretch you left home behind and came to Oregon. Fremont, who had Kit Carson to help him, found the true height of land only with great difficulty and no doubt incorrectly, for he had no instruments sensitive enough to make sure. He estimated that the final rise where the continent parted and fell away on both sides was about equal ‘to the ascent of the Capitol hill from the Avenue at Washington.’ But it was enough for any traveler that somewhere in that twelve-mile stretch of dun and olive sagebrush he crossed the fundamental watershed and the frontier of fable. No one ever more momentously than some of those who crossed it with Fitzpatrick on Independence Day of 1836.