An early photo illustrates what it was like to cross the Chagres River in the days before the Canal opened. While the Panama Railroad had crossed from Colon to Panama City since 1855, no automobile road existed until the Transisthmian Highway was completed as a defense measure during World War II.

Beyond the Chagres

By James Stanley Gilbert


Beyond the Chagres River

Are paths that lead to death

To the fever's deadly breezes,

To malaria's poisonous breath!

Beyond the tropic foliage,

Where the alligator waits,

And the mansions of the Devil—

His original estates!


Beyond the Chagres River

Are paths fore'er unknown,

With a spider 'neath each pebble,

A scorpion 'neath each stone.

'Tis here the boa-constrictor

His fatal banquet holds,

And to his slimy bosom

His hapless guest enfolds!


Beyond the Chagres River

Lurks the cougar in his lair,

And ten hundred thousand dangers

Hide in the noxious air.

Behind the trembling leaflets,

Beneath the fallen reeds,

Are ever-present perils

Of a million different breeds!


Beyond the Chagres River

'Tis said—the story's old—

Are paths that lead to mountains

Of purest virgin gold;

But 'tis my firm conviction,

Whatever tales they tell,

That beyond the Chagres River

All paths lead straight to Hell!