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Spring opens at nearly the same time from Saint Paul to Lake Athabasca. April and May are the natural spring months of this whole climatic belt. The abruptness of the transition from winter to spring in these northern latitudes is a wonderful feature of the climate. In the Red river settlement the mean of March is 9° 9'. In April it rises to 39° 83′ and in May to 58° 46'. Compare this with the springs of Minnesota and western Canada.
16. AGRICULTURAL CAPACITY OF THE SUMMER MONTHS.
This rich upward swell of the spring temperature is prolonged through the summer months of June, July and August, to include the amplest measures of heat for all agricultural purposes. Corn thrives well at a mean temperature of 35 degrees for the summer months, requiring however a July mean of 67 degrees. Wheat requires a mean temperature of from 62 to 65 degrees for the two months of July and August. These two great representative staples of American agriculture carry with them the whole procession of useful flora that characterize the northern belt of the temperate zone. Now the mean temperature of Red river for the three summer months is 67° 76,' nearly three degrees of heat more than is necessary for corn, while July has four degrees of heat more than is required for its best development. The mean of the two months of July and August is 67 degrees; five degrees above the requirement of wheat.
The following figures will show at a glance the excess of summer heat in the Red river valley above the measures required for the best agricultural develop
Mean temperature of two months of July and August,
The following table will serve for comparison between the summer temperatures of the Red river with the rich agricultural climates of the south.
It will thus be seen that the summer climate of Red River is warmer than that of any of the localities indicated in the above table except Fort Snelling and Muscatine, Iowa; warmer than that of northern Illinois, western Wisconsin, northern New York, or western Canada. Its June is warmer than in any of the points given, its June and July warmer than any except Fort Snelling, while its Augusts are cooler than any of the rest. The last named locality in the same
latitude as the Red river settlement with a corresponding geographical position is its equivalent in annual mean temperature, but the difference between the extremes of summer and winter temperature is much less in the interior European than in the American plain. No part of the United States has so low an annual Fort Kent, Me., with a mean of 37° is its nearest approach.
The mean temperatures for the autumnal months are as follows, compared with Minnesota.
November, which in Minnesota belongs partly to autumn and partly to winter, belongs entirely to the winter season in the more northern latitude of Red river. The reader will see that the fall plunges into winter almost as rapidly as the spring emerges from it.
18. CLIMATE OF THE RED RIVER SETTLEMENT COMPARED WITH MINNESOTA, WISCONSIN AND MICHIGAN.
The following table will illustrate the climate of the Red river valley as compared with other and better known latitudes.
Table of Monthly Means of Red River and Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Table showing the Means of the Seasons for the above localities.
Thus it will be seen that while the winter curve in the region immediately south and west of the Great Lakes exhibits an extraordinary depression, its rich summer measures place it in the best agricultural belt of the temperate zone.
20. BOUNTIFUL SUMMER RAINS.
We shall have occasion to speak of the Saskatchewan valley as a singular exception to the almost universal sterility which characterizes the continent west of the 98th meridian. The great American desert derives its barrenness from the lack of rain.
The Winnipeg Basin, on the other hand, is abundantly supplied with moisture during the summer months, although the dryness of the winter months reduces the mean annual precipitation below that of points lying nearer the oceans.
No rain tables have ever been constructed for any portion of this district, except for the single year 1855, at the Red River settlement. The following table exhibits the results compared with Minnesota and Western Canada.
By multiplying the figures for November, December, January, February and March, by 10, the result will show the fall of snow, probably the actual form of the precipitation in those months.
The column for Red river exhibiting the moisture of a single year, can not be adopted as the uniform measure of precipitation in that country; but if, as Blodgett informs us, a difference of one-eighth will cover the range of any nonperiodic variations of the rain-fall in the basin east of the Rocky mountains, (a rule that is confirmed by a comparison of the Toronto column, for the same year, with the means for several years given in his work,) it may serve as an approximative index to the rain standard of the country. The excessive rains of that summer, which has no equivalent on the continent, except the winter rain of the Pacific, is probably much beyond the uniform mean, or if, regarded as an approximation to a constant term, may be accounted for by its contiguity to Hudson's Bay and Lake Superior.
A region liable to such occasional rains, can not certainly be deficient in moisture. The reader will observe the great preponderance of moisture in the spring and summer months, with the extreme dryness of the winter. Converted into snow, the whole winter fall will be 22 inches, the same as at Saint Paul, while that of Canada is 61 inches, and most of the eastern states 120 inches. This extreme lightness of the winter precipitation characterizes the whole of the plains east of the Rocky Mountains, without reference to latitude-including the Saskatchewan valley, and is a fact of great importance in determining the adaptability of those regions for railroads.
We have no measurements of the local precipitation of the Saskatchewan valley, but the general fact of a comparatively humid summer, with an autumn and winter of extreme dryness, is well ascertained.
The rain measures in the elevated belt of country, including the western slope of the Missouri plateau, adjacent to the Saskatchewan valley on the south, will afford an approximative standard for the latter. The following table, compiled from Blodgett, will exhibit the rain fall in the whole belt across the continent, between the parallels of 47° and 50°.
Rain Table showing the mean annual precipitation between 47th and 50th parallel. In Vancouver Island,
30 to 34
A fall of six inches is given by Blodgett, as the mean for the summer in this belt, between the Rocky mountains and Red river. This is amply sufficient for all the purposes of luxuriant vegetation, as is shown in southern England, Prussia, the Crimea and interior Russia.
But according to all analogies, the higher summer temperature of the Saskatchewan valley would be accompanied by a corresponding increase of humidity, and this fact is further shown by the permanent volume of its streams in the summer months.
21. AGRICULTURAL CAPACITY OF THE WINNIPEG BASIN.
For all the great northern staples, wheat, corn, oats, barley, potatoes, sheep and cattle, the range and duration of the summer heats form the decisive condition. The data we have furnished prove conclusively the climatic adaptation of the Red river and Saskatchewan valleys, to successful agriculture.
Indian Corn.-The measures of heat, as we have before shown, are ample for the development of corn, in this district, and, in fact, some varieties thrive well at the Red river settlement, but it is not claimed as a profitable staple. It is cultivated chiefly in small garden patches for the green ears, but the cool nights of August frequently prevents its ripening, except in the dryest soils. Some varieties of Canadian corn, requiring a growing period of not more than seventy days, would, however, form a sure crop in Red river.
Indian corn, indeed, according to Blodgett, is restricted as a profitable staple to the middle region of the west, between parallels of 42 and 43°.
Wheat.-Wheat is the leading staple of the upper belt of the temperate zone. The range of wheat extends from the borders of the tropics northward of the parallel of 60° north-and requires a minimum mean temperature of 62 or 65° for the two months of July and August. The whole region between the Red river and the Rocky mountains, is embraced between the mean summer temperatures of 65 and 70°, which include also the most fertile districts of New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Between these isotheral lines, extended through these northwestern valleys to the Pacific, is embraced the wheat zone of the continent. "A line," says Blodgett, "drawn from Thunder Bay, in Lake Superior, northward, to the Mackenzie, at the 60th parallel, and from that point southwest to the Pacific coast, at the 55th, would include an immense region adapted to wheat, with only the local exception of mountains and worthless soils."
Richardson states that wheat is raised with profit at Fort Liard, latitude 60° 5' north, and longitude 122° 31' west, and 400 or 500 feet above the sea.
The remarkable law has been observed to govern the development of the cultivated plants, that they yield the greatest product near the northernmost limits of their possible growth.
This principle, announced by Forrey, is noticed by Blodgett, as especially applicable to wheat. Central Russia, the Baltic districts, the British Islands, the Canadas, and the northern parts of New York and Pennsylvania, and the upper belt of the northwestern states lying upon the cold borders of the wheat range, are the seats of its maximum production.
"Probably," says Blodgett, "the plains of the Saskatchewan, and the Pacific coast near Puget's sound will furnish similar districts. This, a priori inference is fully borne out by facts, which prove, moreover, that the basin of the Winnipeg is the seat of the greatest average wheat product on this continent, and probably in the world.
The limestone substratum of this region, with its rich, deep, calcareous loam, and retentive clay subsoil, is always associated with a rich wheat development; while its hot and humid summers fulfill all the climatological conditions of a firstrate wheat country.
Instances of the Wheat product of Red River.-"Our soil," says Donald Gunn, an intelligent settler, "is extremely fertile, and when well cultivated, yields large crops of the finest wheat, weighing from sixty-four to seventy pounds per imperial bushel. The yield per acre is often as high as sixty bushels, and has been occasionally known to exceed that, and when the average returns fall below forty bushels to the acre, we are ready to complain of small returns. Some patches have been known to produce twenty successive crops of wheat without fallow or manure."
Professor Hind, in his official report to the Canadian legislature, sets the average product at forty bushels to the acre. He notices a product of fifty-six bushels to the acre, in the only instance when a measurement was made. Wheat ripens in from ninety to one hundred and five days. It is entirely free from insects or disease of any kind.
A comparison of the yield of wheat in Red river, with the best wheat districts of the United States, will show its superiority over all others.
Oats, Barley, Rye, Potatoes.-The whole group of subordinate cereals follow wheat, but are less restricted in their range, going five degrees beyond wheat in the Mackenzie valley to the arctic circle. Barley is a favorite alternate of wheat at Red river, and yields enormous returns, with a weight per bushel of from forty-eight to fifty-five pounds. Oats thrive well. Potatoes are particularly distinguished for their excellent quality and large yield.
Hay.-"The grasses," says Forrey, "are proverbially in perfection only in northern and cool regions. It is in the north alone that we raise animals from meadows, and are enabled to keep them fat and in good condition with grain." In none of the Prairie districts of North America, are the native grasses so abundant and nutritious as in these northern valleys. This is sufficiently proved by the countless herds of Buffalo that pasture throughout the year upon its plains, even up to the latitude of Peace river; a fact which suggests an equivalent capacity for the herding of domestic cattle.
The Red river colony, in 1856, contained 9,253 horned cattle, and 2,799 horses, which, in a settlement of 6,523 souls, exhibits a remarkable proportion of stock. Horses roam during the summer and winter through the woods, and keep fat without housing or hay. The unlimited pastoral ranges afforded by the grassy savannahs of Red river, with its dry winter climate, seem to supply favorable conditions for successful sheep husbandry. This is confirmed by Donald Gunn. "Our climate and soil," he says, "are peculiarly adapted to sheep. There are twenty-eight years since their introduction into the settlement, and I have never seen nor heard of any sickness attacking them. Well-fed ewes produce fleeces varying from two to three and a half pounds. Wethers produce fleeces much heavier. The wool is of good quality, though not very fine." An inferior breed of sheep would not be likely to produce fine wool.
21. MINERAL RESOURCES.
The simple geology of the country, an uniform base of limestone, of the Silurian group affords, of course, but little development of the useful minerals, except upon the borders of the district.
Coal.-Coal used in the forges at Fort Edmonton, is found in the eastern slope of the Rocky mountains, for a width of 150 miles across the whole western end of the Saskatchewan valley, and extending far into the Mackenzie valley, and beds of coal (lignite) have been found onthe Mouse and Assineboine rivers.