Three railways are constructed westward from Red River to the Rockies and Pacific Ocean, the Northern Pacific and Great Northern in the United States and the Canadian Pacific beyond the international boundary. The former cross the plateau to the Upper Missouri River, and there the Northern Pacific route reaches Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota, having a fine Capitol set on a hill, the corner-stone of which was laid in 1883, with the noted Sioux chief Sitting Bull assisting. This region not so long ago knew only soldiers and Indians ; but -there has since been a great influx of white settlers, enforcing the idea of which Whittier has significantly written :
” Behind the squaw’s birch-bark canoe, The steamer smokes and raves ; And city lots are staked for sale Above old Indian graves.”
The frontier army post of Fort Lincoln on the bluff alongside the river testifies to the time not yet remote when the Sioux and Crow Indians of the Dakotas needed a good deal of military control. The deer, buffalo and antelope then roamed these bound-less prairies, but they have all disappeared. Beyond the Missouri River is the region of the Dakota ” Bad Lands.” The surface rises into sharp conical elevations known as ” buttes,” and soon this curious district of pyramidal hills known as Pyramid Park is entered, fire and water having had a remarkable effect upon them. Their red sides are furrowed by the rains, and smoke issues from some of the crevices. The lignite and coal deposits underlying this country have produced subterranean fires that burnt the clays above until they became brittle and red. There are ashes and scoriae in patches, and cinders looking much like the outcast of an iron furnace. The buttes are at times isolated and sometimes in rows, many being of large size. Their sides are often terraced regularly, and frequently into fantastic shapes, occasionally appearing as the sloping ram-parts of a fort. There are frequent pot-like holes among them, filled with reddish, brackish water, and sometimes excavated in the ground with regularly square-cut edges. When the railway route cuts into a butte, its interior is disclosed as a pile of red-burnt clay fragments mixed with ashes and sand. Little prairie dogs dodge in and out of their holes, but there is not much else of life. The boundary is crossed into Montana, and the “Bad Lands” gradually give place to a grazing section. Here stands up the great Sentinel Butte, with its reddish-yellow sides, near the Montana border, and the railway route then descends from the higher region to the valley of the Yellowstone.
The Yellowstone River, one of the headwaters of the Missouri, rises in the National Park, and its fertile valley is among the leading pasturages of Montana. Cattle and sheep abound, and the cowboys are universal, galloping about on energetic little bronchos, with lariats hanging from the saddle. The Big Horn River flows in, and an extensive region to the southward is the Crow Indian reservation, about three thousand living there. It was here, near Fort Custer, at a point forty-five miles south of the rail-road, that the terrible massacre took place in June, 1876, by which General Custer and his command of over two hundred and fifty men were annihilated by the Sioux. There is now a national cemetery at the place. We gradually enter the mountain ranges which are the outposts of the Rockies, and passing between the Yellowstone range and the Belt Mountains, reach Livingston, a town of several thousand people, and a great centre for hunting and fishing, at the entrance to the Yellowstone National Park. From here a branch railway turns southward, ascending the valley of the Yellowstone, going through its first canyon, known as the a Gate of the Mountain,” an impressive reeky gorge, and ascending a steep grade, so that the floor of the valley rises within the Park to an elevation of over six thousand feet above the sea. A second canyon is passed, and on its western side is a huge peak whose upheaved red racks have named it the Cinnabar Mountain: These red rocks are in strata streaked down its sides with intervening granite and limestone. One of these, the Devil’s Slide, is conspicuous, its quartzite walls rising high above the lower strata and making a veritable slide of great proportions down the mountain. The rail-road ends at Cinnabar, and stages cover the remaining distance up the Yellowstone to its confluence with Gardiner River at the Park entrance, and thence to the Mammoth Hot Springs within the Park, the tourist headquarters.