Slike stranica

width according to the stage of the water, especially in large streams like the great rivers of America. The Mississippi is a mile wide at Natchez at low water, at high water almost thirty. The Orinoco, at St. Thomas, is three miles wide at low water, at high water it is over seventy. In the Volga and the Danube the stage of water makes great differences in the width of the river bed. In summer the depth and breadth are, as a rule, less than in winter.

The Channel differs from the river bed; it is the part of the river bed which gives life and motion to the whole current. In the upper course the channel and the river bed generally coincide; in the middle and lower courses, on the contrary, the channel occupies but a very small share of the whole bed, but yet it determines the direction, amount of fall, and the rapidity of the stream. It lies usually not in the middle of the river bed, but on one side; it passes, however, from bank to bank; it is indicated by the movement of ships, which always follow it, and it lies uniformly adjacent to the boldest shore. It widens the whole river bed toward one side, and not toward both; and so streams which traverse great plains, like the great Hungarian one, for instance, do not now run through the middle, but course along at the base of the marginal bluffs. In all such cases, it will be found that the channel hugs the boldest side of the bed. All the four Carpathian rivers, as they wind out between the main range and the subordinate ranges, have their steepest shore, not on the side of the loftiest, but on the side of the boldest mountains, and these are the ones of the subordinate range. So, in the plains which lie between the Swiss Alps and the Jura, the bold sides of the river bed lie on the side of the bolder though less important chain, and not on the side of the Alpine meadows. The

bold banks of the Ebro are not on the side of the Pyrenees and their plains, but on the south side. All the streams of South and Middle Russia have, therefore, on the east side, their low banks, on the west the bold ones; and this, because the most extensive plains lie on the eastern side.

In the more level tracts the windings of rivers are very much increased in magnitude. These windings check the current. The serpentine course is characteristic of rivers in their middle course, and it is repeated, though on a small scale, in every meadow brook. The serpentine course of rivers gives rise to countless islands and intervals: as, for example, between Bâle and the Rhinegau, but, with very few exceptions, no lakes, the characteristic feature of the upper course of rivers. But the broad meadow lands of the middle course very often indicate in the clearest manner that they were once lakes of considerable magnitude, which have subsided and left their basin a dry plain. An example may be found in the meadow land of the Rhine, from Båle to Bastberg, below Strasbourg, and again from Ladenburg, in the Palatinate, to Bingen. So on the Danube, from Ulm to Passau, Lintz, and Kloster Newburg, and again from Pesth to. Beloro Semlin, as far, in fact, as the narrows at Orsova. The same feature is met in the middle course of the Volga, from Tver eastward to the west Ural, and southward to Saratov and Kamishin, where it breaks through the Obstshei-Syrtis, which was, doubtless, once the barrier of a great inland lake. In these basins, now dry, there is a surprising uniformity of characteristics wherever on the globe they occur. They differ but little, whether found in the middle course of the Ganges, the Indus, the Euphrates, or the American rivers. The still, incomplete stream of

the St. Lawrence shows us, even in the present, what the ancient conditions were before they solved the problem of their complete development. There, a row of such lakes as formerly existed in the now fruitful plains of the middle Rhine, the middle Danube, and central Russia, are the five great Canadian lakes. They still constitute the middle course of the river, and one pours itself directly into another, either over a gentle slope of land, or in a great cataract and rapids, such as we do not observe in the middle course of other streams, which are not, like the St. Lawrence, incomplete. Only when waterfalls disappear can the inclination of rivers become a gradual one. The uniformity of the grade of their-channel is, therefore, a sign that they have attained to a complete development. In such, slight rapids remain, instead of the ancient cataracts. The existence of those primeval falls we find in all rivers, even in the Rhine and Danube. The rounded faces of the rocks which once were the barriers to the rivers' course, and the debris once swept down from the mountains and deposited over the bottom of the ancient lakes, show this.

The strongest instance of cataracts, resembling the ancient ones which connected the lakes of nearly all the great rivers of the globe, is seen in the fall of Niagara. That cataract is an epitome of the falls of all other streams. The Niagara River conducts the water of Lake Erie, by a channel 33 miles long, to Lake Ontario, 300 feet below it. At the Great Fall the river plunges about 150 feet into a chasm which it has hollowed out from the soft

stone between the two lakes. The cataract was formerly seven miles below its present location, and has been observed to be steadily working backward since its discovery. In the distant future it will, doubtless, wholly disappear, as

all others have done. For the Niagara is merely a striking instance of a principle once universal, but which merely worked itself out on a smaller scale. The more fragments of rock and mountain debris were swept along, the sooner were the primitive falls rent away by the wash and the percussion, and the development of the middle course completed.

The places of transition which lie between the higher dry basins and the lower ones are still to be traced in almost all rivers; not by great waterfalls, which belong only to the upper course, but by simple rapids. They are more or less characterized by narrows, with steep, rocky banks, where, doubtless, cataracts existed in the primitive times. They are recognizable by this feature, that they are uniformly alike, and distribute their force equally on both sides of the river. Examples may be found on both sides of the Rhine, in the narrows between Bingen and Bacharach; on the Elbe, from Tetshen to Shandau, Dresden, and Meissen. In these places the rivers have a very tortuous course, and there are whirls and rapids (rapides, sauts, of the French; saltos, randales, of the Spanish; schewerin of the Russians) which impede navigation. In these localities the entire aspect of nature is changed, and the landscape becomes exceedingly beautiful. Here we find ancient narrow roadways; here are places of great historic interest, and of great interest to the naturalist, assuredly not of accidental origin, but in close connection with the development of the river bed, and in close analogy with all places of transition from highland to lowland.

We may, perhaps, mark these features in all the rivers of the earth. A knowledge of them is essential to understand thoroughly the natural development of a river sys

tem in its true parts; unfortunately, they have as yet been too little observed and described. Among European rivers they are found in the Guadiana, at the Saltos de Lobo; in the Douro, at the rapids below Torre de Moncorvo; in the Ebro, at Sastago, below Saragossa; in the Rhone, the rapids below Lyons, between the granite banks of Pierre Encise; in Loire, by Iguerando, below Roanne; in the Rhine, below Strasbourg, and at the narrows at Bingen, near St. Goar and Andernach; in the Weser, at the Porta Westphalica; in the Danube, at Grein, at Kloster Newburg, and at Yachtali, Drenir Kapi, (Iron Gate,) and Orsova; and in the Dnieper, the thirteen waterfalls below Yekaterinslav. The same features are repeated in all the other streams of Europe and the remaining continents. More close investigation of them will lead to important results, concerning the structure of the earth in the regions intermediate between plateaus and lowlands.

As a high grade, great cataracts, sharp and bold cliffs, and mountain lakes characterize the upper course of streams, so rapids, dry lake basins, and a meandering channel characterize their middle course. Below the lowest rapids are found the level plains or lowlands which give rivers their third characteristic.

Lower Course.

As soon as the rivers break through the lowest range of hills which once beset their course, they deposit the debris which they bear with them, and begin the formation of diluvial plains. We find in the soil of all level places along the middle, as well as the lower course of rivers, traces of the same kinds of rock and minerals, which characterize the mountains where they rise. The rate of fall in the lower course of rivers is so slight as to

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