Markers Found Along I-80

63 Truckee River – East

approximately 10 miles east of Reno, Nevada, along Interstate Highway 80 in the lower Truckee Canyon overlooking the lower Truckee River.

The Truckee River, seen below, runs from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake. The river’s first recorded discovery was by Captain John C. Frémont in January 1844. He camped by its terminus at Pyramid, and then followed it to the big bend at Wadsworth. Captain Frémont named the stream the Salmon-Trout River. At the end of his 1845 sojourn in Nevada, he followed it into the Sierra and crossed Donner Pass.

Beginning with the Stephens-Murphy-Townsend party in 1844, the Truckee River became a route for California emigrants until the advent of the Central Pacific Railroad in 1868-1869 brought the wagon train period to a close. After the Southern Pacific took over the railway in 1899 and relocated much of its Nevada alignment, the old Central Pacific roadbed between Sparks and Wadsworth was deeded to Washoe County in 1904 for road purposes. In 1917, the road became a portion of state road 1, which in 1920 became the Nevada section of the Victory Highway. In 1925, when federal highway names were replaced by a numerical system, the Victory Highway became U.S. highway 40. In 1958, after reconstruction, this route became the initial section of interstate 80 across Nevada.

The river provides water for Reno, Sparks, the Fallon agricultural area and Pyramid Lake.

62 Truckee River – West

approximately 10 miles west of Reno, Nevada, along Interstate Highway 80 overlooking the Truckee River

Native Americans settled for thousands of years in the Truckee Valley. Their camps were on these flats near the river. They used fish blinds near here and left petroglyphs on boulders in the area.

The Truckee River runs from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake, and was first discovered by Captain John C. Frémont in January 1844.

The Stephens-Murphy-Townsend party in 1844 also followed the Truckee River into the Sierra, and crossed the mountains via Donner Pass. Two years later, the ill-fated Donner party rested in the Truckee Meadows, at present Reno, but they tarried too long and were caught by the Sierra snows. Despite the Donner tragedy, many emigrant trains to California, particularly from 1849 until 1852, traversed the Truckee route.

In 1868, the Central Pacific Railroad followed the Truckee’s course. From the 1920s to the 1950s, the surrounding meadows echoed to the heavy exhausts of the giant Southern Pacific, cab-ahead, articulated, steam locomotives. During the same period, the Emigrant Trail, and the early toll roads, were developed into the Lincoln and Victory highways, and then into U.S. 40 and I-80, today’s freeway.

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.

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.

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.

43 Derby Diversion Dam

approximately 20 miles downstream (east) from Sparks, Nevada, and 11 miles upstream (west) from Wadsworth, Nevada (“Big Bend”)

Derby Dam, constructed under Specification Number 1 and Drawing Number 1 of the U.S. Reclamation Service, now the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, diverts the flow of the Truckee River for irrigation use. It was the forerunner of such mighty structures as Hoover, Grand Coulee, Shasta, and Glen Canyon Dams.

Derby Dam was authorized by Secretary of the Interior E.A. Hitchcock on March 14, 1903. It was part of the Newlands Project, named in honor of Nevada Senator Francis G. Newlands who worked for passage of the Reclamation Act in 1902. Derby takes its name from a nearby Southern Pacific Railroad station of the day.

Charles A. Warren & Co. of San Francisco, the contractor, started work on the dam on October 2, 1903, and finished May 20, 1905. Operational water diversions began in 1906.

30 Reno

at the intersection of South Virginia and Pine Streets in Reno

Before the arrival of the European Americans, the Washoe and Paiute people inhabited the Truckee Meadows. The Stevens-Murphy emigrant party passed through the area in 1844, and settlement began in the early 1850s. Charles William Fuller established a river ferry across the Truckee in the fall of 1859 and completed a bridge and a hotel by the spring of 1860. Myron C. Lake acquired Fuller’s holdings in 1861, rebuilt the bridge and established Lake’s Crossing. In 1868, Lake offered land for a depot to the Central Pacific Railroad and the town was laid out. The community’s name honors a Civil War officer, General Jesse Lee Reno.

Reno’s transcontinental railroad connection and its rail link to the Comstock Lode helped lay the foundation for the economy, as did the lumber industry and the surrounding ranches and farms.

The community’s reputation as a divorce center began in 1906 and gambling was legalized in 1931.

29 Chinese In Nevada

at “B” Street and Pyramid Way in Sparks

This honors the heroism and hardihood of the thousands of Chinese Americans who played a major role in the history of Nevada. From across the Pacific, the Chinese came to California during the Gold Rush of ′49 and on to the mountains and deserts of this state where they built railroads, cut timber, and performed countless tasks.

Sizable Chinese communities grew up in Virginia City and other towns. Their contribution to the progress of the state in its first century will be forever remembered by all Nevadans.