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picturesque; the land is undulating and grassy, now and then emboldened by abrupt elevations, rising occasionally to a height of almost 2,000 feet. The land in the southwest is of exceeding fertility, being composed of detritus of great depth and rich alluvial deposits. The undulating aspect prevails here also, varied here and there by considerable elevations. There is a scarcity of tree growth except along the banks of the streams. Throughout the whole northern part of the country, wide and fertile valleys extend in every direction, shut in by the many mountain chains. Here, the country is well wooded and its many streams furnish a plentiful supply of water.
The principal chain of elevated land or low mountains is the Cuchilla Grande, which traverses the country from northeast to south. Other chains are the Santa Ana, between Brazil and Uruguay; the Cuchilla de Haedo, stretching from the Brazilian border southwesterly to the Uruguay River; the Cuchilla de Belén, and the elevations in Minas. These are connected with numerous other chains of hills, forming the heights and gentle slopes which cover the country.
Nowhere does the land exceed a height of 2,000 feet above the sea; and the greatest elevation is said to be near the borders of Brazil, where the mountains reach an altitude of about 1,980 feet. The lack of trees of any size detracts greatly from the appearance of the higher lands, but they are covered with a thick growth of shrubs which flourish in the stoniest soil.
The territory of Uruguay is watered by sixteen rivers, several of considerable size, and by innumerable streams or arroyos. The principal rivers are the celebrated Rio de la Plata and the river Uruguay, which partly bound the country, and the Rio Negro, flowing through the center of the land.
The Rio de la Plata, formed by the union of the Paraná and the Uruguay, in latitude 34° south, longitude 58° 30' west, extends along the southern line of the country for a distance of about 224 iniles to its mouth. This grand estuary is about 24 miles wide at the island of Martin García, near the mouth of the Uruguay; below, between Buenos Aires and Colonia, it measures 30 miles, while opposite Montevideo its width is 48 miles; and at Cabo Santa María, in Uruguay, where it empties into the Atlantic, it attains a width of 120 miles. In many places, the water is very shallow, and the tide, by reason of the winds, is scarcely noticeable. The tributaries of this great river drain a vast extent of country, including most of Paraguay, Uruguay, and the Argentine Republic, even extending to parts of Bolivia and Brazil; and its muddy waters can be traced on the Atlantic Ocean for almost 200 miles from its mouth.
The river Uruguay, rising in Brazil among the mountains of Santa Catarina and flowing west and then south, forms, when it reaches the territory of Uruguay, the boundary between it and the Argentine Republic till its junction with the Paraná. Where it first touches Uruguay, it receives the Rio Cuareim, a tributary 160 miles long. Here, it has a width of about 1,500 yards and is divided by a line of wooded islands. Its next important tributary is the Arapey. Here, the bed becomes rocky and the current swift, till it forms the Salto Chico, a cataract of considerable size. Below, the river, fed by many tributaries, grows rapidly, and about 80 miles from its mouth receives its largest affluent, the Rio . egro. Continuing its course, it unites, in latitude 34° south, with the Paraná and forms the Rio de la Plata. The length of the Uruguay is about 1,000 miles. Its waters are clear and it contains many islands in its course.
The annual freshets occur in September or October, with an average rise of about 20 feet; though in seasons of severe rains its waters reach a maximum of 40 feet above low water. The width of the river from its mouth to Fray Bentos is from 6 to 9 miles, its channels narrowing above by reason of the many small islands, which form narrow and deep canals; the normal width of the cur
rent is from 3 to 4 miles, gradually narrowing to its source. This river is navigable to Paysandú for large vessels, while vessels engaged in the coasting trade ascend as far as Salto. Further ascent is impossible except in seasons of flood, by reason of the cataract of Salto Chico, about 200 miles from its mouth; but beyond these falls, there is unimpeded navigation for vessels of light draught for about 300 miles.
The Rio Negro is the only important river in the interior of the country, which is practicably navigable for any distance. Rising in the Cuchilla de Santa Tecla in Brazil and crossing Uruguay from northeast to southwest, it divides the country into two nearly equal parts, and after a course of about 350 miles empties its waters, fed by many arroyos, into the Uruguay. This river is navigable for vessels of light draft for about 55 miles, and Mercedes, its principal port, has considerable river traffic.
The other thirteen rivers are the Cuareim, separating Uruguay on the north from Brazil, with a course of 160 miles; the Arapey, Daymán, and Queguay in the east, flowing into the Uruguay, and respectively 105, 80, and 115 miles in length; the Tacuarembó flowing 125 miles from the north into the Rio Negro, and the Yi emptying into the same river on the south, after a course of 135 miles; in the east the Yaguaron and the Tacuarí about 80 miles each in length, emptying into Lake Merim; the Olimar Grande with a course 82 miles long, uniting with the Cebollati, which flows for a distance of 95 miles into Lake Merim; on the south the San José running 93 miles into the Santa Lucía, the San Salvador flowing through Soriano for 50 miles into the Uruguay, and the Santa Lucía emptying its waters into the Rio de la Plata near Montevideo, after a course of 94 miles.
All these tributaries of the Uruguay or La Plata are navigable for small vessels for distances varying from 15 to 30 miles, and the whole river system of the country is fed by more than 500 "arroyos,” which thoroughly irrigate the land.
The waters of the Rio Negro, the Uruguay, and some of the interior rivers have the property of petrifying animal and vegetable matter, and those of the Rio Negro and Santa Lucía are said to possess therapeutic qualities.
Uruguay contains some lagunas or shallow lakes of considerable size. In the southeast, near the coast, are the Castillo Grande, with an area of 162 square miles; Rocha, 27 square miles in area; Laguna de los Difuntos, San Ignacio, Santa Teresa, Sauce, and several others situated in the departments of Rocha and Maldonado; la Hermosa and la Gaucha in the northeast, in the department of Cerro Largo, and several small ones in the departments of Tacuarembó on the north and Florida on the south, together with Lake Buceo in Montevideo, and several others of less importance in other departments.
To the east of the country, is Lake Merim, which large body of water touches the departments of Rocha, Treinta y Tres, and Cerro Largo; this lake has a length of about 100 miles and is 20 miles in width; it lies wholly within the territory of Brazil, to which it belongs.
On the 8th of October, 1515, Juan Diaz de Solís sailed with three caravels from the port of Lepe, in Spain, and early in the following year, reached the coast of Brazil, which by that time had been visited by several explorers. Continuing down the coast, he reached Cape Santa María, within the limits of the present Republic of Uruguay, and doubling its extremity, entered the large bay which lay beyond, and which it is said he had before visited in 1508. From this place, he continued his voyage along the coast to the west until he reached an island supposed to be that which is now called San Gabriel, not far from the present city and port of Colonia. Leaving two of his vessels anchored at this island, he set sail with his smallest ship and arrived at the island in the mouth of the Rio de la Plata, to which he gave the name of his pilot, Martín García, which it has retained to this day. Determining to take possession of the country in the name of the Crown of Castile, and to explore the region of the coast, he disembarked with nine companions. A band of natives from a place of concealment had watched their landing, and attacking them unexpectedly, killed Solis and eight of his men, and captured the remaining one, Francisco del Puerto, who had been badly wounded.
The natives of Uruguay at that time were divided into two powerful tribes or nations—the Charruas and the Yaros. It was to a band of the former that the great navigator Solis fell a victim. One account of the landing of Solis represents him and his