Tag Archives: Lower Crab Creek

The Great Saddle Mountain Horse Roundup of 1906

A correspondent for the Reading, Pennsylvania, Eagle submitted the following tale of the great horse roundup on Saddle Mountain and Lower Crab Creek in 1906. I have transcribed the article directly from a photographic copy of the issue of July 26, 1906, page 4. I have not edited spelling or place names from the original document, so you’ll find a few interesting variations on today’s geography.

A 1971 view of Red Rock Canyon, near Lower Crab Creek. This canyon, which was dry before irrigation arrived, served as a natural corral in pioneer roundups. Today it is flooded and provides sportsmen with fishing opportunities.

The Reading Eagle, Thursday, July 26, 1906. Page 4

EXCITING SPORT.

Rounding Up Wild Range Horses In the State of Washington.

Regarding the last big round-up of horses in Washington State, a correspondent writes that Eastern Washington has for long years been known as the home of the will range horse, and many are the markets of the Central and Eastern States to which these horses have been shipped. Now, with the encroachment of the farmer to till the soil, the day of range riding and horse raising on the open range is about to vanish.

The southern half of Douglass county has heretofore offered an inviting range for horses, and there are thousands still running at large there on the sandy stretches of bunch grass and the deep green sloughs of the canons.

The first realization of the necessity of a complete round-up became known when ranchers began to build homes around Moses Lake and over the top of Frenchman hills, clear south into the canon of Lower Crab Creek. Wire fences were being put up, and the danger of injury to the range horses became every day more threatening. Continue reading

The Five Mile Slide

Smyrna Canyon from the old shoreline on Saddle Mountain

Imagine, if you will (to paraphrase Rod Serling), standing on the peak of this range one day nearly twelve thousand years ago. Below, you look out over a grassy plain with a gentle creek flowing between ancient canyon walls. The events that are about to take place have occurred repeatedly dozens of times, but for you, those canyons hold no evidence of the disaster that is about to strike. On this day, the sun feels pleasantly warm. You have left the other members of your band camped on the edge of the creek while you climb the peaks looking for small prey.

You begin to notice a steady rumbling sound, something that began almost imperceptibly, but that persists and even grows. Wondering what it is, you look to the northeast. There is a strange haze in the distance. Perhaps it is something to do with the tremendous fields of ice that rim that edge of your world. But as you watch it seems to grow, to convulse as it consumes the horizon.

Then the earth begins to quiver. A blast of air strikes you, driving dust that blinds you as you struggle to watch. The shuddering intensifies, and you fall to the ground in fear. A rumble fills your ears, growing into a roar as you clap your hands over them to quell the pain of the noise. In a few moments your view of the peaceful waterways to the north are effaced by a cloud of dust kicked up by the sudden ferocious wind. You cover your ears to protect them from the roar, but the sound is nearly unbearable.

It is the sound of disaster: the crash of sudden rivers striking against the mountain you are clinging to. Beneath you, nothing but murk. The sky itself has turned brown with clouds of dust driven by the wind that precedes the flood. It is a flood unlike anything you could ever have imagined. Continue reading

A Picnic to End the Dustbowl

Farmers and ranchers and their families mingled with promoters and dignitaries to hear about the progress being made. From the top of the mountain they gazed north on the desert lands that Grand Coulee Dam would make into a garden.

Farmers and ranchers and their families mingled with promoters and dignitaries to hear about the progress being made. From the top of the mountain they gazed north on the desert lands that Grand Coulee Dam would make into a garden.

They gathered on top of Saddle Mountain in the heat of August, 1927, on a patch of sand and basalt at the top of the cliffs that form the western edge of the landmark that gave the mountain its name. Every car and truck that arrived ground the powdery soil in the road into a finer dust that hung in billows over the hillside before drifting slowly away. As they arrived, the cars were directed to a makeshift parking lot, a vacant hillside spotted with small sagebrush. But the passengers were dressed in their finest clothes, as if coming to a wedding. And in a sense, they were.

The State of Washington would look a lot different today if Grand Coulee Dam hadn’t been built…something that probably couldn’t happen today. My purpose here isn’t to debate whether or not it was right to so dramatically alter the environment of the Eastern Washington desert (indeed, because my family has been so closely tied to the enterprise, I’m not exactly sure how I feel about it). To get a brief history of the dam, you can find this excellent, pretty well balanced, article on HistoryLink.org.

It’s hard to imagine what the farmers who attended that picnic on Saddle Mountain were feeling. Over the years many of them had watched their neighbors and friends give up or fail on the lands they had invested so many years of labor to develop. Continue reading