Truckee River Route - California Emigrant Trail
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Nitro929
N 39° 37.419 W 119° 13.375
11S E 309205 N 4388348
Quick Description: The California Trail was a major overland emigrant route across the western United States from Missouri to California in the mid-to-late 19th century. Over 1,000 miles of the rutted traces of the trail remain throughout the Great Basin.
Location: Nevada, United States
Date Posted: 12/25/2007 8:35:43 AM
Waymark Code: WM2VBH
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member cosninocanines
Views: 207

Long Description:
The main branch of the California Trail across the Great Plains was identical to the Oregon and Mormon Trails, going up the Missouri River, then crossing Nebraska along the Platte and North Platte Rivers to present-day Wyoming. The trail then followed the Sweetwater River across Wyoming, crossing the continental divide at South Pass, where it diverged from the Mormon Trail. From South Pass it went northwest of Fort Hall in present-day southeastern Idaho along the Snake River. West of Fort Hall at the junction of the Raft and Snake River, the trail diverged from the Oregon Trail. The trail followed the Raft River southwest. It then passed through the City Of Rocks and over Granite Pass where it followed southwest along Goose Creek, Little Goose Creek, and Rock Springs Creek. It passed through Thousand Springs Valley, and then along West Brush Creek to Willow Creek, then to the headwaters of the Humboldt River in present-day northeastern Nevada. The trail followed the north bank of the Humboldt River across Nevada to Humboldt Bar.
At the Humboldt Sink, the trail again diverged, with the Truckee River Route proceeding west across the Forty-Mile Desert and reaching the Truckee River at the site of modern-day Wadsworth, Nevada. This trail then followed the Truckee River to Donner Lake, crossed the Sierra crest through Donner Pass, and then proceeded down the Sierra through Emigrant Gap. The trail ended up at Sutter's Fort, which is located in modern-day Sacramento, California.
The area of the Great Basin in present day Nevada through which the trail had passed had only been partially explored during the days of Spanish and Mexican rule. In 1828-29 Peter Skene Ogden, leading expeditions for the Hudson's Bay Company, explored much of the Humboldt River Valley. In 1834, Benjamin Bonneville, a United States Army officer on leave to pursue an expedition to the west financed by John Jacob Astor, sent Joseph Walker westward from the Green River in Wyoming with the mission of finding a route to California. Walker confirmed that the Humboldt River furnished a natural artery across the Great Basin.
Throughout the 1840's the trail began to be used sporadically by early settlers. The first recorded emigrant to use the trail was John Bidwell, who led the 1841 Bidwell-Bartleson Party. Two years later in 1843, Joseph Chiles followed the same route. In 1844, Caleb Greenwood and the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party became the first settlers to take wagons over the Sierra Nevada. In 1845, John C. Fremont and Lansford Hastings guided parties totaling several hundred settlers along the trail to California. The following year, Hastings persuaded another party of emigrants to follow his "shortcut" that ran to the south of the main route. One such, the Donner Party, became the most infamous group of emigrants to follow the mountainous trail through the rough terrain later named Hastings Cutoff.
The trickle of emigrants would become a flood after the discovery of gold in California. Within months of the public announcement of the discovery by President Polk in late 1848, tens of thousands of gold seekers headed westward into California to seek their fortunes during the California Gold Rush. In all, some 250,000 people would use the trail from the early 1840's until the introduction of the railroads in the late 1860's.
Of the entire route to California, the crossing of the Forty-Mile Desert was the most dreaded section of the journey. Isolated, rimmed in mountains and covering an area of about 200,000 square miles, it formed a cauldron in which white salt sands, baked clay wastes and circling mountains reflected the sun's heat like parabolic mirrors. The viscous Humboldt River, oozing rather than flowing, eventually disappeared into a thick sponge of alkali dust. The final eight miles of the Forty-Mile Desert crossing were particularly difficult. The alkali flats gave way to soft sand, six to eight inches deep. Draft animals, already weakened by lack of substantial food and water, would frequently give out in this area. Many pioneers would unyoke their teams and leave their wagons along the trail to drive their stock to the Truckee River for water and feed. After the animals had regained some of their strength, they would return for their wagons. Those that were unfortunate enough to lose their stock prior to reaching this point were forced to abandon their wagons along the trail.
In 1869, part of the route of the trail across Nevada was used for the Central Pacific portion of the Transcontinental Railroad. In the 20th century, the route was used for modern highways, in particular U.S. Highway 40 and later Interstate 80.
At this waymark, you will have the opportunity to view both the Emigrant Trail and the Central Pacific railbed. This area is referred to as "The Deep Sand Swales". The volume of emigrants using the trail actually created a depression (or "swale") in the sand that is still visible to this day. These are the ONLY examples of deep sand swales on the entire California Trail.
Road of Trail Name: California Trail

State: Nevada

County: Lyon

Historical Significance:
The California Trail was a major emigrant route across the west from Missouri to California, and was witness to the greatest migration in human history.


Years in use: 28

How you discovered it:
I have done volunteer work with the Oregon-California Trails Association doing cleanup of illegal dumpsites in the area of the Fernley Deep Sand Swales. I have also traveled the entire length of both the Carson River Route and the Truckee River Route of the trail across the 40-Mile Desert, from Humboldt Bar to Ragtown, and from Humboldt Bar to Wadsworth.


Book on Wagon Road or Trial:
California Trail: Voyage Of Discovery: The Story Behind The Scenery


Website Explination:
http://www.octa-trails.org/index.html


Why?:
The trail was used by gold seekers to reach the California gold fields and by others seeking farm homesteads in California.


Directions:
From Interstate 80 at Fernley, Nevada, take exit 48 and proceed north, past the Truck Inn. At the end of the paved road, follow the main traveled dirt road to the right (north), past the large electrical substation to coordinates N 39 deg. 37.523', W 119 deg. 12.320'. At this point, turn left (west) on the black gravel road. This road is the railbed of the Central Pacific Transcontinental railroad. Proceed west to the waymark. This drive is not recommended for a passenger car. At the minimum, I would recommend a vehicle with some ground clearance. If you do not have 4-wheel drive, stay on well-traveled established roads, and be cautious of very soft sand throughout this area. The area north of the waymark is a popular location for target shooters, "plinkers" and off-road vehicles. Stay aware of your surroundings.


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