California Trail (Wells to Battle Mtn.)

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 Wells to Battle Mountain, Nevada. There is also a map associated with every other marker description that shows the locations of the previous pair of markers.

Marker C-29


HUMBOLDT WELLS ROUTE

"We had to descend a bad hill to get down to the creek, where we nooned near some well springs." - Byron McKinstry, August 10, 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.

The button below will take you to a page excerpted from a CTIC auto tour brochure about the Marker C-29 site.

Marker C-29A


HUMBOLDT WELLS ROUTE

"Left the valley, sweeping round to the right, and crossed a flat sage ridge and came into the valley again which had now a small creek in it." - Elijah Howell, August 6, 1849


No electronic access is available for this diary. It is held in the collections of The State Historical Society of Missouri and also in some libraries (including the research library of the CTIC) and rare book dealers.

The button below will take you to a page excerpted from a CTIC auto tour brochure about the Marker C-29A site.

Marker C-30


BISHOP CREEK ROUTE

"Kanyon Creek [Bishop Creek] extends along our route all day, occasionally touching it sufficiently to furnish us most of the time with good water." - James Shepherd, July 15, 1850


No electronic access to this diary is available. It may be found in libraries (including the research library of the CTIC) or rare book collections.

Marker C-31


BISHOP FLATS

"The routes via Bishop Creek Canyon and Humboldt Wells joined in the meadow two miles southwest of this marker."

Marker C-32


TRANSCONTINENTAL R.R.

"Here you can see both the bed of the 1869 Central Pacific Railroad and an eroded section of the California Trail of 1843 and later."

Marker C-33


HUMBOLDT & MARYS RIVER

"This is a beautiful valley all the low parts next the river being covered with grass about knee high ... bounded by ranges of naked mountains on each side." - Elijah Howell, August 7, 1849


No electronic access is available for this diary. It is held in the collections of The State Historical Society of Missouri and also in some libraries (including the research library of the CTIC) and rare book dealers.

Marker C-34


TRAIL JUNCTION

"Traveling east in May 1846, Lansford Hastings & James Clyman turned southeast nearby to follow a route over Secret Pass taken in 1845 by a Fremont party guided by Joseph Walker."

The button below will take you to a page excerpted from a CTIC auto tour brochure about the Marker C-34 site.

Marker C-35


CANYON BYPASS

"We have to cross hills along here to avoid bends in the river & also canyons." - James Pritchard, July 14, 1849


This diary was published in 1959 as The Overland Diary of James A. Pritchard, from Kentucky to California in 1849; with a Biography of Captain James A. Pritchard by Hugh Pritchard Williamson. It was edited by Dale L. Morgan. No electronic access was located for this reference. The book can be found in some research libraries (including the CTIC research library) and rare book dealers.

Marker C-36


SANDY ASCENT

"We came to another narrow river pass & hill & had to leave the river. The ascent of this hill was worse than the others on account of sand. Over this hill about a half mile & we were in the river bottom once more." - James Pressley Yager, August 11, 1863


Yager's diary was published in the Nevada Historical Society Quarterly over the course of six issues from Spring, 1970 through Summer, 1971. It was printed from copies of the original manuscript diary provided by a descendant of James Pressley Yager, who crossed the plains in 1863. This has never appeared in book form.

We at the California Trail Interpretive Center have produced an in-depth look at the story behind Trails West Marker C-36. It is available on our YouTube channel.

Marker C-37


HOT SPRINGS

"We reached the 'hot springs.' They are situate on the left side of the river... on its immediate bank... there was a large lake immediately over the bluffs, the waters of which were equally as hot" - Amos Steck, August 20, 1849


Steck's diary was published as Amos Steck (1822-1908), Forty-niner: his overland diary to California: a pioneer Coloradan, prominent citizen, jurist, educator, builder, and philanthropist by Nolie Mumey. It is not currently available electronically but may be found in some research libraries (including that of the CTIC) and rare book dealers.

Marker C-38


GREENHORN CUTOFF

"About two miles southwest of this marker, the Greenhorn Cutoff ascended and wound through the hills for about twelve miles to avoid the river crossings in Carlin Canyon."


The interpretive panel in front of this T-Marker has the following text:


California Trail ruts and swales wind across Northern Nevada some touched only by the forces of nature since they were made by emigrant wagon trains on their way west in the mid 1800s.


Many of these irreplaceable historic trail segments lie on public land. They are yours to visit but they belong to future generations. Markers like those you see in front of you have been installed to prevent accidental damage. By following the markers you can walk in the footsteps of the pioneers but take care, these trails can be damaged and lost forever. Tread lightly, walk on the trail and refrain from driving on it. With your help time can stand still.


For more information take a brochure and talk to the staff at the California Trail Center.


Use the button below to navigate to the Greenhorn Cutoff.

Marker C-39


CARLIN CANYON

"We have to cross the river four times... on each side of you there is a perpendicular wall of vast rock... overhanging the road so one has a feeling very near bordering onto fear as he passes under those precipices" - Lewis Beers, August 3, 1852


A copy of Beers' diary is held in the collection of the University of the Pacific Library. No electronic access is available.

Interpretive Panel near Marker C-39

TRAVELS THROUGH TIME


Travelers have followed the Humboldt River and passed through Carlin Canyon since humans first came to this area. The first people to walk this route were the Native Americans. They used the canyon during hunting and foraging trips and as a pathway between winter villages once located near the modern towns of Elko and Carlin.


Trappers and Explorers

Beaver tails slapping the Humboldt River once sounded through Carlin Canyon. Then, in the late 1820s and early 1830s trappers and explorers, like Peter Skene Ogden and John Work, set their traps along the river banks. Within a few years the beaver were gone, but the number of people traveling through this canyon increased with each passing year.


"Mountain men" like Joseph R. Walker blazed the trails that became the main routes for the emigrants and gold seekers who sought to reach California. According to Walker, traversing Carlin Canyon "...included several stream crossings, and one passage down the river itself, to get around the canyon's steep, rocky ridges, many of which shelved out into the river itself."


Emigrant Trails

During the 1840s the shouts of men and the creaks of harness and wagon became common as the great migration west began. It started in 1841 when the Bidwell-Bartleson party became the first emigrant group to thread its way through Carlin Canyon. Two years later the Walker-Chiles party, traversing the California Trail from Ft. Hall, Idaho, rolled the first wagons into view. Over the next several years, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children bound for California and western Nevada passed this way.


As California grew, the wagon traffic to Sacramento increased. Winter snows often blocked the rough wagon road through the canyon. Other routes were sought for a permanent road west and for a transcontinental railroad, but Carlin Canyon remained part of the major route across northern Nevada. 

Interpretive Panel near Marker C-39

TRAVELS THROUGH TIME


Railroads

The ring of picks, shovels, and sledge hammers echoed through Carlin Canyon in late 1868, as Chinese laborers leveled the road bed and spiked down the Central Pacific Railroad tracks. For the next 35 years, steam engine whistles resounded through the canyon. By 1903, the curving tracks had been rerouted through a tunnel, eliminating the slow crawl along the river.


Automobiles

When the automobile became popular in the 1920s, motorists could drive State Route 1 through Carlin Canyon, following the paths of the emigrants and the railroad. The route became known as the Victory Highway in 1924, only to be renamed U.S. Highway 40 a year later. In the 1930s men from the Civilian Conservation Corp built the rock wall to protect the highway. Today, cars and trucks bypass Carlin Canyon in the same manner as the railroads.


Interpretive Panel near Marker C-39

PETER SKENE OGDEN AND THE MIGHTY BEAVER


Born February 12, 1790 in Quebec City Canada, Peter Skene Ogden was the son of Chief Justice Isaac Ogden and wife Sarah Hanson of Quebec.


Ogden joined the Northwest Co. in 1809. Ogden was known as a temperamental and violent man and in 1816 was reported for killing an Indian who traded with the Hudson Bay Company. Ogden's actions were considered deplorable especially seeing as he was son of a judge. The Northwest Co. moved him further west to avoid any further HBC confrontations. Eventually the two companies merged and Ogden's past was overlooked due to his ability to produce product. Between 1824 and 1830 Ogden led expeditions through Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and eventually followed the Humboldt River to its sink. Ogden created a "fur desert" in his wake, decimating the beaver populations in the western states, including the canyon we are in today. But as the surrounding evidence shows, the mighty beaver is not so easily eliminated.

THE ROCKS TELL A STORY

Welcome to Carlin Canyon. The rocks around you reveal some of the Earth's history. What story do the exposed sedimentary layers in front of you tell?


Long, long ago, before the dinosaurs roamed the land, there was an ocean where you're now standing. Stones and boulders from the nearby mountains washed into the ocean in long horizontal bands. Eventually these rocks were cemented together to form the yellowish-black pebbly rocks at the bottom of the hill. 


But the bands aren't horizontal anymore. How did that happen? Faulting is the answer. Faulting, and associated earthquakes, shook this area and tipped the massive block containing these bands. one end of this block moved up and the other down, tilting the bands and, over time, forming a new mountain range.


Over millions of years wind and water eroded the upper end of the block. Sea levels rose, covering the eroded surface with a warm, shallow ocean. In this ocean, sediments were deposited gradually, forming the gray limestone layers now visible at the top of the hill.


The layering of limestone over the older eroded block records a gap in this portion of the earth's history. This gap is called an unconformity. Because the yellowish-black rocks meet the gray limestone at an angle, geologists call this an angular unconformity.


The ocean has been gone for millions of years now; the land has continued to change. More faulting tilted the gray limestone layers and further tipped the pebbly bands. This faulting and continued erosion created the rounded hills and river canyon you see today.


State Historical Marker #50 at the west end of Carlin Canyon

CARLIN CANYON

In December 1828, Peter Skene Ogden and his trapping brigade (Hudson's Bay Company's Fifth Snake Country Expedition) were the first European Americans to enter here. Joseph Paul, one of Ogden's trappers, died nearby - the first emigrant to die and be buried in the Humboldt Country.


Late in 1845, John Fremont dispatched a group down the Humboldt. They traversed this canyon with difficulty on November 10. In September 1846, the Reed-Donner Party, en route to disaster in the deep snows of the Sierra Nevada, viewed the canyon.


The Central Pacific's Chinese track gangs constructed the transcontinental railroad (now Southern Pacific) through here in December 1868. Subsequently, the canyon became known as Carlin or Moleen Canyon. The Western Pacific, the second transcontinental rail link across Nevada, was constructed in 1907.


In 1913, Nevada Route 1, the first auto road, took over the abandoned Central Pacific grade through the canyon. In 1920, Route 1 became the Victory Highway, and in 1926, U.S. Highway 40. In its freeway phase, it is now designated Interstate 80.

The button below will take you to a page excerpted from a CTIC auto tour brochure about the Marker C-39 site.

Marker C-40 / G-7


END OF GREENHORN CUTOFF

"Went on a few miles & came to a canion [Carlin Canyon]. Here the road [Greenhorn Cutoff] leaves the river again & runs among a chain of hills all day. Came to the [Humboldt] river bottom & camped." - Lucena Parsons, May 6, 1851


Lucena Parsons was born in August, 1821 in the state of New York. Before marrying George Washington Parsons in March 1850, Lucena was a schoolteacher in Wisconsin. In the spring of 1850, Lucena and her husband started a cross country journey. They arrived in California one year later and settled in Oakland where they took up farming. Her diary is published in the Covered Wagon Women, volume 2, which may be available in the CTIC gift shop. No electronic access was located for this reference.

The button below will take you to a page excerpted from a CTIC auto tour brochure about the Marker C-40 / G-7 site.

Marker C-41


HOT SPRINGS

"The trail or road... ascends a considerable hill 1/3 mile ahead of us,... the water here is cool, but too alkaline to be agreeable. Hot springs in the river-bank, sulphur, &c." - J. Goldsborough Bruff, September 7, 1849


You can view the original trail notes for this diary entry at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University.


Joseph Goldsborough Bruff (October 2, 1804 - April 14, 1889) is best known as a topographer, journalist, and artist of the gold rush era. Bruff was born in Washington, D.C. He attended West Point from 1820 until his resignation in 1822. From 1827-1836 he worked as a topographical engineer, predominantly at Gosport Naval Yard in Norfolk, Virginia. He returned to Washington, D.C., in 1837 and from 1838-1849 worked for the U.S. Bureau of Topographical Engineers. Bruff then organized the Washington City and California Mining Association, which he accompanied to California. While in California he produced extensive journals and drawings of the mining camp experience. In 1853 Bruff returned to Washington, D.C., where he worked in office of the Supervising Architect of the Treasury Department until his death. You can view images of many of Bruff's original diaries and artwork here.

The button below will take you to a page excerpted from a CTIC auto tour brochure about the Marker C-41 site.

Use the button below to view the Wayside Exhibit information that is near this Marker.

Marker C-41A


ASCENT TO EMIGRANT PASS

"Here you leave the river taking up a ravine over the mountain to the summit [at Emigrant Pass]... You will pass a little grass in some of the ravines along this assent and plenty of sage." - J. D. Randall, August 4, 1852


Randall's Diary of an Overland Journey to California, 10 April to 28 August 1852 is held in the collections of the Merrill J. Mattes Research Library at the National Frontier Trails Museum in Independence, Missouri. No electronic access is currently available.

Marker C-41B


ASCENT TO EMIGRANT PASS

"Gradually ascending to the foot of the second and... long ascent... . Up this it was first steep for about one half mile, and then three and a half miles... found us on the sumit of the mountain." - James P. Yager, August 14, 1863


Yager's diary was published in the Nevada Historical Society Quarterly over the course of six issues from Spring, 1970 through Summer, 1971. It was printed from copies of the original manuscript diary provided by a descendant of James Pressley Yager, who crossed the plains in 1863. This has never appeared in book form.

Marker C-42


EMIGRANT PASS

"We nooned on the summit... then drove down a caneon past a small spring... It is not fit to drink on account of the dust in it as it is near the road side" - Jonas Hittle, August 9, 1849


Hittle's diary is held in the collections of the Illinois State Historical Society. No electronic access is available at this time.

Marker C-43


EMIGRANT CANYON

"Move at two passing down through a cannon. The roughest road we have come over yet... sometimes almost throw me out of the waggon... glad am I that we are over this one." - Mary Jane Guill, August 14, 1860


Typed copies of Guill's diary are held in some research libraries. You can view a partial copy in the Merrill J. Mattes Collection of the Oregon California Trail Association, but it does not contain the August entries.

Marker C-44


GRAVELLY FORD

"We traveled seventeen miles and come to the river again [at Gravelly Ford] The Indians are vary thick They have killed to men to day and took their ammunition and horses and left them for the buzards" - Sarah Davis, September 17, 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-45


1841 ROUTE

"The Bidwell-Bartleson party packed through Palisade Canyon, passing this way Sept 27, 1841. Wagon trains of 1843 and later bypassed the canyon via emigrant pass."

Marker C-46


DUST AND GLARE

"Clouds of dust arise... which nearly suffocates us, and the reflection of the sun from the whitened ground is hard to bear" - Joseph Berrien, July 11, 1849


Joseph's diary was published in the Indiana Magazine of History, December 1960 and can be downloaded from there.

Marker C-47


INDIANS

"Two companies of emigrants... near us... had several of their cattle driven off by the Indians, while others had arrows shot into them" - Charles Ross Parke, August 8, 1849


No electronic access for this diary is currently available. It may be found in some research libraries.

Marker C-48


SHOSHONE POINT

"We concluded to keep the left bank and had to cross two bluffs. ... then strike into a fine grassy bottom cut up with sloughs" - Byron McKinstry, August 16, 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-49


HOT AND COLD

"Ice was a quarter of an inch thick upon our buckets this morning. ...the sun at 12 o'clock was most oppressively hot" - Wakeman Bryarly, July 31, 1849


Wakeman Bryarly's diary can be viewed and downloaded from the Internet Archive.

Marker C-50


HUMBOLDT HABERDASHERY

"Emigrants frequently throw away their clothing, upon finding newer and better garments. I have... swapped articles of clothing several times" - Franklin Langworthy, September 21, 1850


Franklin's diary can be viewed and downloaded from Google Books.

Marker C-51


A LENDING LIBRARY

"Lying by the wayside, are a great variety of books. ...thrown away, from this extended library I frequently draw a volume, read and return it" - Franklin Langworthy, September 21, 1850


Franklin's diary can be viewed and downloaded from Google Books.

Marker C-52


DESERT WINDS

"Nothing can be more oppressive than the currents of hot winds from the desert, whose fire-like fervency is nearly suffocating" - Edwin Bryant, August 13, 1846


Edwin's diary can be viewed and downloaded from the Library of Congress. You may also be interested in the Edwin Bryant diary tour of our outdoor plaza.

Marker C-53


STONY POINT

"Came to the point of a mountain, on going around which we found the road stony and bad for a mile. After that every step was in dust ankle deep" - Alonzo Delano, August 6, 1849


Alonzo Delano's account of his journey to California can be downloaded from the Library of Congress.


His diary is titled Life on the plains and among the diggings; being scenes and adventures of an overland journey to California: with particular incidents of the route, mistakes and sufferings of the emigrants, the Indian tribes, the present and future of the great West.

Marker C-53A


VERY DISAGREEABLE DAY

"Passed Stoney Point early and we were glad to get by, took the hill road which took us some distance out of the way so we... took the first camp road to the river. The day was raw and very disagreeable." - Martha Missouri Moore, September 13, 1860


Moore's diary is reprinted in the Covered Wagon Women, Volume 7 book and may be available for purchase in the CTIC gift shop.

Marker C-54


SAND AND DUST

"We travel for days and days nearly up to our boot tops in fine sand and dust and when the wind blows... the air as well as the road is full of it." - John Hawkins Clark, August 9, 1852


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