Great Salt Lake Basin Group

46 Pilot Peak

along Interstate Highway 80, ten miles west of Wendover, Nevada

The high, symmetrically shaped mountain seen rising to the north is Pilot Peak. In the period 1845-1850, it was a famous landmark and symbol of hope and relief to the Reed-Donner Party and all other wagon train pioneers who traveled the 70-odd miles of deadly, thirst-and-heat-ridden steps across the great Salt Lake Desert. This desert, between the Cedar Range on the east and Pilot Peak on the west, represented the worst section of the infamous Hastings Cutoff of the California Emigrant Trail.

The peak was named by John C. Frémont on his expedition of 1845. Kit Carson, the expedition’s guide, sent ahead to locate water, found a line of springs at its eastern base, now known as McKellar Springs. Carson is reputed to have guided the rest of Frémont’s expedition across the Salt Desert by sending up smoke signals from the peak: hence, Frémont’s name for it.

During the years 1849-1850, relief parties sallied forth periodically with water from the Pilot Peak Springs to rescue thirst-crazed emigrants and their livestock struggling across the terrible Salt Desert to the eastward.