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Ranche and range. (North Yakima, Wash.) 1897-1902, September 09, 1897, Image 11

Image and text provided by Washington State Library; Olympia, WA

Persistent link: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/2007252185/1897-09-09/ed-1/seq-11/

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difference in the cold of the two localities, in its effect upon
his constitution. On the Yukon there are frequent periods
during the winter when man must desist from all outdoor
work, and the thermometer drops down to 70 degrees below
zero, but I have on several occasions seen the mercury go
as low as 60 degrees below zero in Minnesota. From this
it appears that the cold is not to be regarded as so great
an obstacle of that region as it has usually been.
"The Yukon Valley is so vast in extent that it is difficult
to realize its size and a very large portion of it is identical
with the Red River Valley of Minnesota in formation and
in soil. The upper terraces of that portion of the Yukon
Valley which lies below the point where the river makes
its exit from the mountains are immense level tracts of
deep, rich soil which are only slightly broken at long in
tervals. So level, indeed, are these flats that the eye can
seldom detect any change in the surface of them, and a fur
row 25 miles long might be turned in many places without
a break. The Pacific Ocean exerts a profound influence on
the climate of the valley, and the changes of the seasons
are wonderfully abrupt and decisive. When the spring
comes the sudden disappearance of the ice and snow and
the bursting forth of green verdure are all but magical.
The quick growth of plant life and the perfection it at
tains are truly remarkable. But it seems to be fully ac
counted for when the conditions of soil and climate that
exist in the valley are understood. During the summer the
ground never entirely thaws out. The surface is quickly
released from the frost to the depth of four to ten feet,
according to the location and character of the soil, and this
frozen state of the subsoil is the principal factor in the
growth of plant life. The summer is one long day of three
months' duration. The sun swings 'round in a circle and
is above the horizon from 21 to 24 hours each day, so that
for this lengthy period it never becomes dark and the
ground has no chance to chill; no frost falls and the ther
mometer ranges from 90 degrees upward in the sun during
these three months.
"Again, the dryness of the air renders this prolonged,
excessive heat as easy for man to withstand as a 75 to 95
--degree temperature in Minnesota. It is seldom that rain
falls during this short but potent summer, and storms of
wind and hail are unknown. But the more prolonged the
drought and heat may be, the quicker and more perfect is
the growth of all plant life present, and the wide valley is
clothed in deepest green during these summer months.
The secret of this is that an abundant supply of moisture
is furnished by the frozen subsoil, that slowly thaws and
steadily releases the water stored in it, which is brought
to the surface through the channels of capillary evapora
tion. This moisture is but slightly above the freezing point
when it is absorbed by the roots of the growing plants, and
it must exert a highly beneficial influence by counteracting
the fierce heat that steadily assails the surface of the
ground. Under these peculiar conditions of the natural
forces of Nature it is easily realized that a number of our
staple crops will succeed and reach perfection in the Yukon
Valley. Scotch Fife wheat produces enormous yields of the
very highest grade of that grain, which has been proved by
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test to make the best class of fancy patent flour. Barley
and oats, potatoes and roots of all sorts and many of the
garden vegetables also reach surprising perfection. In the
case of barley grown in the Yukon Valley, the maltmakers
would likely find the very highest grade of grain for their
use, which might soon take precedence throughout the
world. The growing barley would not be subject to the
vicissitudes it is in the States and, especially, it would es
cape the injury from rains during harvest and when stand
ing in the shock, which lowers the quality of this grain
more than any other.
"There are already a number of small farms in the val
ley which have been opened by disappointed gold seekers,
and it is from the results secured on these that I have
drawn my most trustworthy information. These farmers
are reaping a rich harvest of dollars. The miners stand
ready to pay high prices for vegetables, and even for grains,
which they grind into coarse meal for bread. This is the
golden side of the picture of prospective farm life in that
semi-polar region.
"But there is a darker side to life in that far northern
country, which will likely appear to those used to the com
forts of farm homes in the States as insurmountable. The
long, cold winter, with its constant night of nearly three
months, when the landscape is wrapped in deep gloom and
when only a faint nicker of twilight and the changing play
of the aurora borealis, shining on the white snow, reflect a
faint, uncertain light, is likely to give a dubious aspect to
the Yukon country. This dismal and dangerous period of
the year, coupled with the incredible swarms of mosquitoes
and flies in the summer, which make it impossible for
horses or cattle to exist, seem to outweigh the favorable
features of the valley. Mules and the reindeer will be the
beasts of burden in that country if it be ever brought under
cultivation. Sheep and hogs will, no doubt, be easily ac
climated, and goats may la^e the place of the cow. The
reindeer is a very valuable animal; it makes an excellent
beast of burden; furnishes good meat; is easily reared, and
is in its native home in that climate, and will take the place
of the horse and the ox.
"If, however, a railroad should be built to connect the
great Yukon Valley with the commercial world and wheat
growing prove to be a profitable business there, the work
would, likely, be done mostly by steam. There is plenty of
coal in all districts of the valley, which will furnish cheap
fuel for every purpose. On I^hose great flats a traction en
gine can run a gang plow, turning furrows miles in length,
and fields of 50,000 or more acres of wheat would likely be
a common sight. The people could live in villages, for
mutual protection, and in the spring, summer and fall,
carry forward their farm work on the largest scale. Here
the bonanza farm would find its true sphere, with room for
all who wished to enter that class of business, and the
great Yukon Valley could be made to supply the marts of
the world with the very highest grade of wheat, that would,
no doubt, command a better price than that of any other
country. Neither are we to presume that this is a painting
of the fancy. It will likely become a reality at no distant

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