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Page:Oregon Historical Quarterly volume 12.djvu/181

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HISTORY OF RAILWAY TRANSPORTATION 173 ploring expeditions setting out from Europe and seeking a "northwest passage" to the Orient this region was naturally the last to be traversed. 2. Access and occupation from the Asiatic side were also delayed by the wide expanse of the ocean lying between the two continents in this latitude. From these two conditions pertaining to its location, affect- ing access to it, the coming of the white man to this region proceeded on lines of exploration converging from every direc- tion. It was "rounded up," and a map, showing these lines of exploration upon which advances toward it were made nearly contemporaneously, suggests a picture of the ranging lines of approach of hunting parties in beating up game. It was the last recess of the continent to be brought upon the map. Bryant in his "Thanatopsis," in 1820, could still use it as representative of solitude. 3. However, its great river, the Columbia, has its source in the far interior, just across the backbone of the continent, from the source of the great Missouri. As soon as the search for a sea passage was given up, and during the long period while waterways were relied upon as the only avenues along which to penetrate continental areas, this fact stimulated ex- ploration. Early, too, a new motive for securing an overland route had developed. The valleys of the Missouri and the Columbia lying end to end, as it were, incited to transconti- nental exploration and to the choice of their courses for trad- ing routes. When an easier and more direct line of river course travel across the continent was discovered through the substitution of the Platte for the Missouri, and using the south fork of the Columbia instead of the north, a practicable route for the pioneer settler was available and schemes for the se- curing of an all-rail highway for transcontinental travel and traffic soon blossomed out galore. 4. Furthermore, the fact that it was this part of the Pacific Coast that first became the possession of the vigorous young republic, with territory contiguous on the opposite side of the mountains from this region, and with a restless and almost