ContentsPutah and Cache: Willow Slough and Creeks' Ends

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An Immense Plain, All in Flames

Jacques Antoine Moerenhout, 1848

On both sides opposite New Helvetia [the Sacramento River's] banks are high and for a space a league in width and several leagues long they afford an easy road in almost all seasons. This section, although in appearance dry and sandy, is well wooded and pretty, but a league and a half or two leagues below, on the west side of the river, are what are called the tules or reeds. It is a low section that is flooded in the rainy season by the river of Los Putos [Putah Creek],* a tributary of the Sacramento, and forms an immense lagoon, around which, from January to July, it is necessary to make a detour towards the north to reach the high banks of the Sacramento, which may then be followed toward the south as far as the landing. In this season, however, all of this section was dry and with the Indian guide that M. Sutter had given me I was able to go straight across it. According to the mark that I saw, this body of water must be more than three leagues wide and it is from this and other similar marshes, almost all of them formed by the overflowing of the Sacramento's western tributaries, that arise the miasmas which cause fevers and make all the vicinity of the Sacramento so unhealthful and so dangerous a place for white people to live in during the summer months.

This day's journey was a repetition of that of the 15th of July when I went from the Arroyo Seco to the Cosumnes River—an immense plain, all in flames, and a burning sun. One could hardly breathe. Toward eleven o'clock we came to a stream where the fire had spared quite a considerable space and where there was some grass and some shade. I had the horses unsaddled, intending to let the worst heat of the day pass before starting out again, although from there to Vaca's place was still about six or seven leagues. Toward four o'clock, the heat having lessened considerably, we took to the road again. Two leagues from there we crossed the Putos River [Putah Creek], in which there was very little water. It was nearly night when we arrived at Vaca's farm, which is situated at the western end of the plain in a little valley between the first hills.

*The river of Los Putos or los liguitos [Putah Creek], like the Jesus Maria River [perhaps Cache Creek], are not tributaries of the Sacramento, strictly speaking, for they both lose their identity in the marshes to the west of the Sacramento, and their waters form a lake during the rainy season and as late as July, and it is only when this lake overflows that the water reaches the Sacramento.

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