Markers Found Along I-80

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.

3 West End of the Hastings Cutoff

Located on I-80, ten miles west of Elko at Hunter Interchange
Original marker language:

Across the Humboldt Valley southward from this point, a deeply incised canyon is seen opening into the valley. Through that canyon along the South Fork of the Humboldt ran the disaster-laden route called the Hastings Cutoff. It joined the regular Fort Hall route running on both sides of the Humboldt here.

The canyon was first traversed in 1841 by the Bartleson-Bidwell Party, the earliest organized California emigrant group. In 1846 Lansford Hastings guided a party through this defile of the South Fork and out along the Humboldt. The ill-fated Reed Donner Party followed later the same year.

1012 proposed rewrite from Nevada State Historic Preservation office:

Across the Humboldt Valley southward from this point a deeply incised canyon opens into a valley. Through that canyon along the South Fork of the Humboldt River ran the disaster-laden route called the Hastings Cutoff. It joined the regular Fort Hall route running on both sides of the Humboldt here.

The canyon was first traversed in 1841 by the Bartleson-Bidwell Party, the earliest organized California emigrant group. In 1846, Lansford Hastings guided a party through this defile of the South Fork and out along the Humboldt. The ill-fated Reed Donner Party followed later the same year.

By 1850, the dangers of the cutoff route were recognized and it was abandoned.

 

2 Pioneer Memorial Park

Located in Winnemucca

This part of the Pioneer Cemetery includes the last resting place of Frank Baud and other of the pioneers who founded Winnemucca, earlier known as French Ford. Baud arrived in 1863 and is one of the men credited with naming the town Winnemucca after the famous Northern Paiute chieftain.

Baud came with Louis Lay from California to work on the Humboldt canal, a project headed by Dr. A. Gintz and Joseph Ginaca who devised the plan to link Golconda and Mill City by means of a 90-mile canal and provide water for the mills in the area. It was never completed. Baud later became a merchant, helped build the Winnemucca Hotel with Louis and Theophile Lay, was the first postmaster, and gave the town a schoolhouse before his death in 1868.