As Volume XXII of the HBC Becord Society series, the title is not ideally descriptive. The work actually contains two short journals of company trader Alexander Roderick McLeod to Oregon’s coastal rivers as well as Ogden’s journal. Even the latter expedition spent most of its time in central and southern Oregon and northern California, and was never connected with the “Snake Country,” if the term is intended in any specific sense.
An excellent introduction by Professor Dorothy Johansen occupies about one-fourth of the book and places in perspective the contemporary problems and the historical detail. It also highlights many of the interesting points of the journals, amplifying and clarifying. Geographically the reader is oriented well, except when entering “Alturas’’ County, California (really Modoc).
Although the work is marginal to Hispanic America, it helps to demonstrate the economic motives, the intrepidness, and the effectiveness of the non-Hispanic explorers of North America. The work treats the HBC thrust southward from Ft. Vancouver toward the Mexican Southwest. Ogden was particularly motivated by: 1) a desire for economic returns in furs; 2) a policy of denuding the area to make it unattractive for rival trappers; 3) a search for the elusive, attractive, mythical Buenaventura River, first set down on old Spanish maps. Motives one and two were rather successfully carried out, but motive three was left for later explorers to solve. Much to be appreciated from the journals are the hardships of inclement weather, hostile Indians, insufficient provisions and occasional personnel problems.