California Trail (Valmy to Humboldt Sink)

The main California Trail is broken into 2 segments by the Trails West guidebooks. One or more of these books may be available for purchase in the CTIC gift shop or you can purchase them directly from Trails West on their website. They have an online photo tour along the California Trail and many of those photos are incorporated here as well.


The Google map below shows all of the California Trail T-Marker locations from Valmy, Nevada to the Humboldt Sink. There is also a map associated with every other marker description that shows the locations of the previous pair of markers.

Marker C-55


HUMBOLDT VALLEY

"The wide plains passed over today are quite desert like, whitened with alkali and covered thinly with tufts of greasewood and sage" - Bernard Reid, August 26, 1849


The papers of Bernard Reid, including his diary, are held in the collection of Santa Clara University. Currently only the first page of Reid's diary is available online.

Marker C-56


SOUTH SIDE ROUTE

"Our roads today have been good, with the exception of dust... We are travelling upon the south side of the river but I think the emigrants... are upon the north. We have not seen a living human being for two days" - Harriet Sherrill Ward, September 4, 1853


No electronic version of Harriet's diary could be located. It was published in 1959 as Prairie Schooner Lady: The Journal of Harriet Sherrill Ward, 1853.

Marker C-57


TREATY HILL

"About one mile northeast of this marker the trail passed around the base of Treaty Hill and then headed twelve miles northwest to Iron Point."

Marker C-57A


CAMPING AREA

"This being an old camping place we could not expect it to be well covered with grass for our cattle.... Two hours after our camp had increased to 60 teams, and at 10 o'clock a very large train came and camped near us." - James Shields, July 23, 1850

Marker C-58


IRON POINT

"This morning we passed over a ridge, tolerable steep going up & quite sandy & rocky" - James M. Reynolds, September 3, 1853 (Ascending this ridge on October 5, 1846, James Reed killed John Snyder in a fight and was banished from the Donner Party.)


Reynolds' Diary A trip Across the Plains in 1853 from Iowa to California is not available online and is held in the collection of the California State Library.

Marker C-59


EDNA MOUNTAIN ASCENT

"Doubled the point of the bend in a tornado of dust and turned S.W.... through a pass in the hills to avoid another river bend and canon." - Bernard Reid, August 28, 1849


The papers of Bernard Reid, including his diary, are held in the collection of Santa Clara University. Currently only the first page of Reid's diary is available online.

Marker C-59A


DESCENT TO RIVER

"Ascended a canyon to the summit of a hill [Edna Mountain] - thence descended another canyon, in which there was a place rather difficult to descend, where a wagon wheel had been broken to pieces an hour before we passed it." - Joel Miller, August 6, 1853


Joel's account of his journey from Big Vermilion River, Illinois to Santa Rosa, California in 1853 is held in the collection of the Bancroft Library at UC Berkely. No electronic access is currently available.

Marker C-60


HOT SPRINGS

"Our small wagon broke down, and we had to stop. We rigged a cart out of the wagon. We encamped in the neighborhood of several boiling springs." - Margaret Frink, August 1, 1850


Margaret Frink's diary is considered one of the classic overland trail diaries and the original edition, published in 1897 by her husband, is considered quite valuable.


You can view a fascimile of the 1897 edition of the book here. Frink's diary is also published in the more recent Covered Wagon Women series of books, including the Best of Covered Wagon Women, Vol. 1 and Covered Wagon Women, Vol. 2. These books are often available in the CTIC store.


You may also be interested in a tour of our plaza following some of the diary entries in Margaret Frink's diary.

Marker C-60A


DUSTY NORTH SIDE ROUTE

"Leaving camp [at the river] passed out to the road which keeps back from the river on account of many bad slues and passes over a sage & grease wood plain. ... roads very dusty." - D. B. Andrews, July 28, 1852


Andrews' diary is held in the collection of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University. No electronic access is currently available there, but the Oregon-California Trails Association has a copy available for download on their site.

Marker C-61


HUMBOLDT SLOUGHS

"The water is warm and tastes but little better than soap suds. We use acid in all the water we drink, by that means we manage to get along, although we are all anxious to get off of this river" - Ephriam Brandiff, August 16, 1852


No record or electronic access could be located for Brandiff's diary.

Use the button below to view the Button Point Wayside Exhibit located next to Marker C-61.

There are also two Nevada State Historical Markers located in the rest area near Marker C-61.

Nevada State Historical Marker No. 22

HUMBOLDT RIVER


Peter Skene Ogden encountered the Humboldt River on November 9, 1828 during his fifth Snake Country expedition. Entering Nevada near present-day Denio, Ogden came southward along the Quinn River and the little Humboldt River. Emerging on the Humboldt main stem near this site, Ogden explored hundreds of square miles of the Humboldt's course, left records of his trailblazing in his journal, and drafted the first map of the area.


Ogden gave the name "Unknown River" to the Humboldt at this time, as he was unsure where it went. After the death of his trapper Joseph Paul, Ogden renamed the stream Paul's River, then Swampy River, and finally Mary's River, after the Native American wife of one of his trappers. In 1833, the Bonneville-Walker fur party named it Barren River.


Ogden's or Mary's River were commonly used names for the Humboldt prior to the 1848 publication of a map of John C. Fremont.


The Humboldt was the only natural arterial across the Great Basin. It funneled thousands of emigrants along its valley enroute to the pacific Coast during the period 1841-1870.

Nevada State Historical Marker No. 164

BUTTON POINT


In 1873, Frank Button and his uncle Isaac Button drove cattle to the area to begin ranching operations in the rich, fertile valleys of northern and eastern Humboldt County.


Under their famous Double Square brand, they raised thousands of fine horses on the 4,000 square miles of ranchland. Although the original ranch was sold in 1884, Frank Button continued his ranching activities in this area, and later served as the postmaster in Button Point and as the Chairman of the Board of Humboldt County Commissioners.


Marker C-61A


ABANDONING WAGONS

"Today our whole company concluded to drop all the waggons here and pack into California. ...we now allowanced ourselves to one biscuit a piece per day!" - James Williams Evans, August 1, 1850


Evans' diary was published in the Missouri Historical Review, Volume 43, Issue 1 in 1948. However, this version is not the one from which this quote was taken, although it tells a similar story. The actual location of the quote was not able to be found.

Marker C-61B


PACKING & FISHING

"We came across a poor fellow today, driving a bull before him packing his blanket, clothing, cooking utensils, etc. ... he had gained his subsistence along the Humboldt by fishing" - James Bennett, September 1, 1850


Bennett's diary can be viewed on Hathitrust.

Marker C-62


TRADING POST

"Saw in this distance a flag flying denoting a trading post, rode over to it but found the most they had to sell was very poor whiskey. ...these traders get a great price for everything they sell." - Henry S. Anable, August 25, 1852


Henry's diary is in the collection of the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. No electronic access is available.

Marker C-62A


SAND HILLS

"Here the road struck across the low sand hills which was heavy as any road we had ever traveled over yet" - Philip Castleman, September 1, 1849


Castleman's diary is held in the collection of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University. No electronic access of this reference is available, but an earlier part of Castleman's diary can be downloaded from the link above.

Marker C-62B


SOUTH SIDE

"The road still continues on the south side of the river. There is also one on the north side, and I believe it is the old one. The one on the south side is said to be the best." - Joseph Middleton, September 18, 1849


Middleton's diary is in the collection of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University. No electronic access is available at this time.

Marker C-63


DIRTY HUMBOLDT

"Brandy in water or cold tea or coffee should be used along the Humboldt The water looks more dirty the nearer you get to the sink" - Thomas Turnbull, July 21, 1852


Turnbull's diary can be viewed and downloaded at the Internet Archive.

Marker C-64


DRY CUTOFF FORK

"The road forked, the right taking across a plain or table land of the valley, the left keeping immediately down the river." - Andrew Lopp Murphy, September 5, 1849


Murphy's diary is held by the State Historical Society of Missouri. No electronic access is currently available.

Marker C-65


DRY CUTOFF

"The most of the way was rough and stony and dust very bad... which had blown out of the road so that the road was from 1 to 2 feet deep." - Henry St. Clair, August 18, 1849


Henry's diary is held by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University. No electronic access is available.

Marker C-65A


OPEN GRAVES

"We have seen the skulls of a number of persons who have been buried in '49, '50 & '51 and have been dug up by the wolves, and their bodies left to whiten the plains" - R. H. P. Snodgrass, July 16, 1852


Snodgrass' diary is in the collection of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University. No electronic access is currently available.

Marker C-66


LASSEN MEADOWS

"This morning we came to Lawson's Meadow Here we found a little better feed than we have had for some time being covered as usual with salt and alkali. We camped for the day here to recruit and cut grass" - James Berry Brown, September 10, 1859


Brown's diary was published in 1970 by the Book Club of California and is available in research libraries (including the CTIC library) and rare book dealers. No electronic access is available.


There is a plate on the reverse side of this marker labeled HRR-1. This was originally placed by the Nevada Emigrant Trail Marking Committee, Inc. (NETMC), the precursor to Trails West, Inc. The original marker read


"EMIGRANT TRAIL-HUMBOLDT RIVER ROUTE MARKER NO. H.R.R. 1 - APPLEGATE - LASSEN - NOBLES TRAIL JUNCTION. HUMBOLDT TRAIL EXTENDS SOUTH TO HUMBODLT DIKE"


There is another NETMC plate as well.


"EMIGRANT TRAIL - APPLEGATE - LASSEN - NOBLES ROUTE NO. A.L.N. 1 - JUNCTION POINT. THIS TRAIL AND ITS BRANCHES LED TO NORTHERN CALIFORNIA AND OREGON."

Marker C-67 / A-1


APPLEGATE TRAIL JUNCTION

"The trail then crossed a sandy ridge, one mile, to the river again. Two miles more, along the river, brought us to a road which turned to the right, and was called a 'cut-off'" - Joseph Sedgley, August 25, 1849


Sedgley's diary is available for view on Hathitrust.

Marker C-68


SAND DRIFTS

"We travel over the same sage plain which grows more and more barren till nothing grows but stinted greasewood, and the sand is blown in drifts." - Byron McKinstry, August 24, 1850


Byron's diary is not currently available in digital form but may be available in libraries (including the research library of the CTIC) and from rare book dealers. You can learn more about his story in the Byron McKinstry Plaza Tour.

Marker C-69


BLASPHEMY

"I do not think there ever was as many men ...on any road so shockingly blasphemiss as the emigrants on this route to California." - William Chamberlain, July 31, 1849


Chamberlain's diary is held by the Bancroft Library of UC Berkeley and the California State Library. No electronic access is available.


There is a plate on the reverse side of this marker labeled HRR-2. This was originally placed by the Nevada Emigrant Trail Marking Committee, Inc. (NETMC), the precursor to Trails West, Inc. The original marker read


"EMIGRANT TRAIL-HUMBOLDT RIVER ROUTE MARKER NO. H.R.R. 2 - POKER BROWN STAGE AND FREIGHT ROAD NORTHERN BRANCH INTERSECTION WITH EMIGRANT TRAIL."

Marker C-70


SOUTH SIDE ROUTE

"We have been toiling through the deep dust ...with not a green thing to rest our weary eyes upon. It is a perfectly barren land." - Harriet Sherrill Ward, September 12, 1853


No electronic version of Harriet's diary could be located. It was published in 1959 as Prairie Schooner Lady: The Journal of Harriet Sherrill Ward, 1853.


There is a plate on the reverse side of this marker labeled HRR-3. This was originally placed by the Nevada Emigrant Trail Marking Committee, Inc. (NETMC), the precursor to Trails West, Inc. The original marker read


"EMIGRANT TRAIL-HUMBOLDT RIVER ROUTE MARKER NO. H.R.R. 3 - POKER BROWN STAGE AND FREIGHT ROAD SOUTHERN BRANCH INTERSECTION WITH EMIGRANT TRAIL."

Marker C-71


SOUP DU JOUR

"The Humboldt is the burying ground for horses and oxen. The river is nothing but animal broth, seasoned with alkali & salt." - Eleazar Stillman Ingalls, July 28, 1850


Eleazar Stillman Ingalls' diary was published as Journal of a Trip to California by the Overland Route Across the Plains in 1850-51. The book is currently out of print and available through book collectors and libraries (including the library at the CTIC). A small portion of it (but not the one with this quote) can also be downloaded from the OCTA website. The entire text can be accessed on Project Gutenberg.

Marker C-72


SUFFERING

"Dead animals all along the road. Men are suffering for something to eat. I never heard such a cry for bread and beefe." - Joseph Rhodes, July 23, 1850


Rhodes' diary is part of the collection of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. No electronic access is available.


There is a plate on the reverse side of this marker labeled HRR-4. This was originally placed by the Nevada Emigrant Trail Marking Committee, Inc. (NETMC), the precursor to Trails West, Inc. The original marker read


"EMIGRANT TRAIL-HUMBOLDT RIVER ROUTE MARKER NO. H.R.R. 4 - THIS MARKER IS ON A SECTION OF ORIGINAL TRAIL IN THE VICINITY OF FAMOUS ARABIA MINING DISTRICT."

Marker C-73


WEAK STOCK

"Our stock almost giving out. We have now travelled three days with little or no feed. Our stock looks badly." - George Willis Read, July 28, 1850


Read's diary is not currently available online. However it is available in research libraries (including the CTIC library) and rare book dealers.

Marker C-74


HARD DAY

"This day we only traveled ten miles the road being sandy and vary dusty and it was vary harde drawing all day." - Sarah Davis, September 24, 1850


Sarah's diary is held by, viewed, and downloaded from Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. It is also reprinted in the Covered Wagon Women Volume 2 book (her diary is not available in this preview) and may be for sale in the CTIC gift shop.

Marker C-75


DESOLATION

"Again encamped on the bluffs among the sand and grease wood. Everything wears the appearance of desolation." - James Denver, September 1, 1850


James' diary was printed in the Spring 1975 issue of Arizona and the West.


There is a plate on the reverse side of this marker labeled HRR-5. This was originally placed by the Nevada Emigrant Trail Marking Committee, Inc. (NETMC), the precursor to Trails West, Inc. The original marker read


"EMIGRANT TRAIL-HUMBOLDT RIVER ROUTE MARKER NO. H.R.R. 5 - THE SITE OF THIS MARKER IS IN PROXIMITY TO OLD MONTEZUMA SMELTER, THE FIRST IN WESTERN NEVADA."

Marker C-76


HORSE FEAST

"The horses got to the wagon containing our provisions, and ate all the beans and dried fruit." - Margaret Frink, August 8, 1850


Margaret Frink's diary is considered one of the classic overland trail diaries and the original edition, published in 1897 by her husband, is considered quite valuable.


You can view a fascimile of the 1897 edition of the book on Hathitrust.. Frink's diary is also published in the more recent Covered Wagon Women series of books, including the Best of Covered Wagon Women, Vol. 1 and Covered Wagon Women, Vol. 2. These books are often available in the CTIC store.


You may also be interested in the CTIC Plaza tour based on Margaret's diary.

Marker C-77


NEARING BIG MEADOWS

"Traveled all night over a desert to make the Great Meadows of the Humboldt. Dust and sand as deep and as disagreeable as ever." - John Hawkins Clark, August 15, 1852


Clark's diary is transcribed from the Kansas Historical Quarterly on the Kansas Collection website. It can also be viewed on Hathitrust.


There is a plate on the reverse side of this marker labeled HRR-6. This was originally placed by the Nevada Emigrant Trail Marking Committee, Inc. (NETMC), the precursor to Trails West, Inc. The original marker read


"EMIGRANT TRAIL-HUMBOLDT RIVER ROUTE MARKER NO. H.R.R. 6 - AT THIS POINT THE LUSH BOUNTIFUL WILD HAY OF THE BIG MEADOWS OF PRESENT LOVELOCK WAS FIRST SEENBY THE PIONEERS."

Marker C-78


NEARING BIG MEADOWS

"There was not a spear of grass to be found, willow was all our cattle had. In four or five miles we came to the Great Meadow" - Byron McKinstry, August 26, 1850


Byron's diary is not currently available in digital form but may be available in libraries (including the research library of the CTIC) and from rare book dealers. You can learn more about his story in the Byron McKinstry Plaza Tour.

Marker C-79


BIG MEADOWS

"Grass the best I ever saw, better than any meadow in the States. There are a large number of campers around us all cutting grass with sythis" - William R. Brown, September 7, 1853


William's diary is available for viewing and downloading on the OCTA website. It is also available in some research libraries (including the CTIC library) and rare book dealers.


There is a plate on the reverse side of this marker labeled HRR-7. This was originally placed by the Nevada Emigrant Trail Marking Committee, Inc. (NETMC), the precursor to Trails West, Inc. The original marker read


"EMIGRANT TRAIL-HUMBOLDT RIVER ROUTE MARKER NO. H.R.R. 7 - BIG MEADOW OF LOVELOCK. THIS FAMOUS DESERT OASIS MADE POSSIBLE THE CROSSING OF THE FORTY-MILE DESERT."

Marker C-80


LEAVING BIG MEADOWS

"Passed down the valley near the slough ...the slough water is considerably impregnated with alkali, but is used for animals & all other purposes.... No good water below this slough, nor grass" - Augustus Ripley Burbank, August 30, 1849


Burbank's diaries are held in the collection of the University of Oregon Libraries. No electronic access is available.


There is a plate on the reverse side of this marker labeled HRR-8. This was originally placed by the Nevada Emigrant Trail Marking Committee, Inc. (NETMC), the precursor to Trails West, Inc. The original marker read


"EMIGRANT TRAIL-HUMBOLDT RIVER ROUTE MARKER NO. H.R.R. 8 - SITE OF OLD FAIRVIEW STATION. THE STAGE ROUTE TO LOVELOCK'S STATION BRANCHED HERE."

Marker C-81


GRANITE POINT

"Came to the sink of St. Mary's a dreary road, dessolate as a frozen lake" - William Chamberlain, August 4, 1849


Chamberlain's diary is held by the Bancroft Library of UC Berkeley and the California State Library. No electronic access is available.


There is a plate on the reverse side of this marker labeled HRR-9. This was originally placed by the Nevada Emigrant Trail Marking Committee, Inc. (NETMC), the precursor to Trails West, Inc. The original marker read


"EMIGRANT TRAIL-HUMBOLDT RIVER ROUTE MARKER NO. H.R.R. 9 - WEST BRANCH OF CALIFORNIA TRAIL. GRANITE POINT NOTED BY EMIGRANTS LIES TO THE NOERTHWEST."

Marker C-82


HUMBOLDT LAKE

"Mountains that line the southern shore of the lake, adds to the desolate look that prevails everywhere within the reach of our visions." - John Hawkins Clark, August 17, 1852


Clark's diary is transcribed from the Kansas Historical Quarterly on the Kansas Collection website. It can also be viewed on Hathitrust.


There is a plate on the reverse side of this marker labeled HRR-10. This was originally placed by the Nevada Emigrant Trail Marking Committee, Inc. (NETMC), the precursor to Trails West, Inc. The original marker read


"EMIGRANT TRAIL-HUMBOLDT RIVER ROUTE MARKER NO. H.R.R. 10 - WEST BRANCH TRAIL AROUND HUMBOLDT LAKE. IN WET SEASONS THE TRAIL SHIFTED TO HIGHER GROUND."

Marker C-83


HUMBOLDT SINK

"Passed the sink on our left which is ponds & sloughs of shallow depth, covered with a thick scum & skirted with bullrushes & reed grass" - Augustus Burbank, August 30, 1849


Burbank's diaries are held in the collection of the University of Oregon Libraries. No electronic access is available.


There is a plate on the reverse side of this marker labeled HRR-11. This was originally placed by the Nevada Emigrant Trail Marking Committee, Inc. (NETMC), the precursor to Trails West, Inc. The original marker read


"EMIGRANT TRAIL-HUMBOLDT RIVER ROUTE MARKER NO. H.R.R. 11 - EMIGRANT TRADER BROWN'S THIRD LOCATION CALLED BROWN'S STATION AND LATER TOY BY C.P.R.R."