National Geographic : 1898 Aug
350 PA PAG UERIA The distribution of water in Papagueria is correlated with the configuration of the surface. As the vapor-charged air drifts up the long slope to the base of the Sierra and up the steeper slope toward the crest, a part of the vapor distills as dew or falls as rain, while the lesser ranges lying athwart the long slope extract a part of the boon ; so there are storm-fed streams in all of the higher mountains, rushing torrents in the lofty Sierra, slender streams in the lower ranges, and a part of the flood soaks into the thirsty soil to form ground water, which may reappear as springs toward the mountain bases or in the narrow upland val leys. During the midsummer storms, and still more during those of midwinter, the mountain-born floods stretch far into the plains, cutting channels broad and deep as those of the Connect icut, Susquehanna, and Savannah, which for eight or ten or eleven months of the year are naught but wastes of burning sand. The typical drainage system of Papagueria during the wet season is a long series of nearly parallel mountain torrents flowing down the side of the range in deep gorges, joining in part in the foothills, and finally uniting in the adjacent plain as vast sheetfloods, miles in width and inches in depth, flowing swiftly and boldly adown or athwart the broad valleys toward the sea, to finally gather in great rivers; yet throughout the whole dis trict these broad streams are quickly swallowed by the sands or consumed by the blistering air, and from the Gila to the Yaki, 500 miles away, no river of Papagueria has reached the sea dur ing the memory of men. As the dry season approaches the rivers are cut off in their lower reaches, mile by mile, and as they shrink toward their sources the drainage systems contract and most disappear, leaving a few slender streamlets in the deeper gorges each heading in a spring or seepage basin and rippling feebly over the sands a few rods or miles before fading in the sun ; and so delicate is the adjustment of climate and earth-water that the streams stretch by night and shrink by day, sometimes for miles. A few streams heading in the high Sierra indeed flow for scores of miles; but these have mainly been taken by other peoples and hardly appertain to Papagueria. There are other streams which, during the dry season, are practically subterranean, and only to be found in storm-cut tinajas or reached by digging. And all the way from the high Sierra toward the gulf, over the lessen ing mountains and toward the broadening plains, earth-water on the surface or at depths grows scantier and scantier until it is gone.