on Interstate Highway 80, eight miles northeast of Winnemucca, Nevada
Peter Skene Ogden discovered 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. Frémont.
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.
on I-80, East of Winnemucca, Nevada
The Humboldt Canal, sometimes termed the Old French Canal, coursed southwestward from Preble, near Golconda, toward Mill City. The present highway crossed it at this point, from whence it ran southerly toward the Humboldt County Courthouse on Bridge and West Fifth Streets.
The canal was conceived in 1862 by Gintz and Joseph Ginaca. The waterway, with a projected cost of $160,000, was to be sixty-six miles long, fifteen feet wide and three feet deep, and with a fall of thirty-five feet. Its primary purpose was to supply water for over forty stamp mills planned at and above Mill City, but it was also designed for barge traffic and some irrigation water supply.
Construction of the canal began in 1863. Louis Lay, a French emigrant from California, excavated the first segment. Winnemucca City founder Frank Baud, another Frenchman, worked on the project as a teamster.
About $100,000, largely French capital, was expended in building the Humboldt Canal to the Winnemucca area. Because of engineering errors and severe seepage problems between Winnemucca and Mill City, that section was never completed or used.
Several portions of the old canal are still visible in the Golconda area, in various sections of Winnemucca, and at Rose Creek, south of the city.