Humboldt River Basin Group

This is the description of the Humboldt River Basin category.

59 Stokes Castle

at Stokes Castle, one mile west of Austin, Nevada

Anson Phelps Stokes, mine developer, railroad magnate and member of a prominent eastern family, built Stokes Castle as a summer home for his sons. After the castle (or the tower, as the Stokes family always referred to it) was completed, in June 1867, the Stokes family used it for two months. Since then, with one possible exception, the structure has remained unoccupied.

Stokes castle is made of granite. The huge stones, raised with a hand winch and held in position by rock wedging and clay mortar. The architectural model for the castle was a medieval tower Anson Stokes had seen and admired near Rome. This building originally had three floors, each with a fireplace, plate glass view windows, balconies on the second and third floors, and a battlemented terrace on the roof. It had plumbing and sumptuously furnishings.

The structure stands as an abiding monument to the men who built it and to those who helped develop Austin.

50 Carlin Canyon

Along Old US 40 at the the former Carlin Canyon Rest Area

In December, 1828, Peter Skene Ogden and his trapping brigade (Hudson’s Bay Company’s Fifth Snake Country Expedition) were the first whites to enter here. Joseph Paul, one of Ogden’s trappers, died nearby–the first white man to die and be buried in the Humboldt county.

The Bidwell-Bartleson Party was the forerunner of the 1841-1870 California Emigrant Trail tide through the canyon–then known as Wall Defile or Fremont Canyon. Late in 1845, John Fremont dispatched his Kern-Talbot-Walker subsection down the Humboldt; they traversed this canyon with difficulty on November 10. In September, 1846, the Reed-Donner Party, enroute to cannibalism and death in the deep snows of the Sierra Nevada, viewed the canyon.

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

In 1913, Nevada Route 1, the first auto road, took over the abandoned (1903) C.P. 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.

49 Applegate-Lassen Emigrant Trail Cutoff

along Interstate Highway 80 at the Imlay Interchange, thirty miles west of Winnemucca

Jesse and Lindsay Applegate headed south from Willamette Valley, Oregon, June 29, 1846, seeking a less hazardous route to that region from the east. On July 21, they came to a large meadow on the Humboldt River, which is now the nearby Rye Patch Reservoir. Thus they established the Applegate Trail.

During the remainder of 1846 and for the next two years, Oregon emigrants successfully traveled this trail.

In 1848, Peter Lassen, hoping to bring emigrants to his ranch, acted as a guide to a party of ten to twelve wagons bound for California. He followed a route from here to Goose Lake where he turned southward over terrain that was barely passable. The emigrants suffered great hardships including the loss of many lives and livestock. It became known as the “Death Route.”

47 Fort Halleck Site (1867-1886)

along Interstate Highway 80 at the Halleck Interchange east of Elko, Nevada

Captain S.P. Smith established Camp Halleck on July 26, 1867 to protect the California Emigrant Trail and construction work on the Central Pacific Railroad. The camp was named for Major General Henry Wager Halleck, at that time Commander, Military Division of the Pacific. In May 1868, Camp Halleck became headquarters for the Nevada Military District when Fort Churchill was abandoned.

On April 5, 1879, the military installation became Fort Halleck. The nine-square-mile reservation was set aside on October 11, 1881. The Fort was a two-company post, with about twenty buildings of wood, adobe, and stone construction arranged around the sides of a rectangular parade ground.

Troops from the fort took no part in local Indian troubles. They did, however, see action elsewhere: in February 1873 against the Modoc Indians of Northern California; against the Nez Perce uprising in Idaho in 1877; in 1878 against the Bannocks in Oregon; and against the Apaches in Arizona in 1883.

The Fort was closed on December 1, 1886.

45 Humboldt Wells

along Interstate Highway 80 at the Union Pacific Railroad overpass in Wells, Nevada

These springs, seen as marshy spots and small ponds of water in the meadows, are the Humboldt Wells, a historic oasis on the California Emigrant Trail. Between 1845 and 1870, hundreds of covered wagon trains camped here, refitted from their arduous journeys, and prepared for the grueling 300 mile trek west along the Humboldt Valley. Ruts of the old emigrant trail winding down to the springs can still be seen on the slopes above them and to the northwest.

The City of Wells, first established as the water stop of Humboldt Wells on the Central Pacific Railroad in September 1869, is named after these springs. Its name was shortened to Wells in 1873.

26 Forty Mile Desert

at the junction of Interstate Highway 80 and U.S. Highway 95.

The Forty Mile Desert, beginning here, is a barren stretch of waterless alkali wasteland. It was the most dreaded section of the California Emigrant Trail. If possible, travelers crossed it by night because of the great heat.

In 1843, the Walker-Chiles Party became the first wagon train to use the route. Regardless of the desert’s horrors, this became the accepted trail, as it divided five miles southwest of here into the two main routes to California – the Carson River and Truckee River trails.

Starvation and thirst preyed upon people and animals every mile. A survey made in 1850 illustrated appalling statistics—1,061 dead mules, almost 5,000 horses, 3,750 cattle, and 953 graves. The value of personal property loss was set at the time at $1,000,000.

The heaviest traffic occurred between 1849 and 1869. The trail was still used after completion of the Central Pacific Railroad in 1869, although it saw declining traffic after that.

23 Humboldt House

along Interstate Highway 80, thirty-eight miles west of Winnemucca

Humboldt House or Humboldt Station was originally the point of departure for Humboldt City, Prince Royal, and the mines in that vicinity. In September 1866, it became a stage stop for the historic William (Hill) Beachey Railroad Stage Lines.

As the Central Pacific Railhead advanced from eastern California, it reached Humboldt House in September 1868. From 1869 to 1900, Humboldt House was well known as one of the best eating houses on the Central Pacific Railroad. It was truly an oasis in the great Nevada desert, with good water, fruit, and vegetables. The large grove of trees to the west marks the site of this famous hotel.

Between 1841 and 1857, 165,000 Americans traveled the California emigrant trail past here. In 1850, on the dreaded Forty Mile Desert southwest of present day Lovelock, over 9,700 dead animals and 3,000 abandoned vehicles were counted.

22 Humboldt River

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.

21 The Humboldt Canal

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.

17 Pershing County

at the Courthouse at Lovelock

Here was a key point on Nevada’s earliest road, the famed Humboldt Trail that brought 165,000 immigrants west in the 1840s and 1850s. Travelers named this rich valley the Big Meadows. They stopped here for water and grass before continuing south to cross the dreaded Forty Mile Desert, the most difficult segment on the trail to California.

Mining began here in the 1850s. George Lovelock, merchant, rancher and prospector, gave his name to the county seat. The coming of the railroad in 1869 brought new growth to the area. Pershing County, established in 1919, was previously part of Humboldt County.