California Trail

There are two trail guides for the California Trail.

The first guide is of the eastern section of the trail and is “A Guide To The California Trail To The Humboldt River”.  It covers the section of the trail from the Raft River in Idaho to Humboldt Wells in Nevada.  It includes information on the 32 markers along this section.

The second guide of the western section of the trail is “A Guide To The California Trail Along The Humboldt River” and covers the section from Humboldt Wells to the Humboldt Sink and includes the 72 markers along this part of the trail.





The following information is an example of what is included in both guides, as most people purchase them as a set.

1. A description of each of the 105 Inscription Plates that are attached to the Trails West Markers along this trail.  Presented below is a sample of one of these Inscription Plates:

2. How-To-Find instructions.  These explicit written instructions are designed to take the modern traveler along the California Trail and the Greenhorn Cutoff the quickest but safest way from one Trails West Marker to the next. When the written instructions for driving to a marker become too complex, a supplemental map is provided to help you find the location.

3. The location of each Trails West Marker using GPS Latitude/Longitude and UTM coordinates.

4. Cautionary notes, where appropriate, to warn the user of the Guide where difficulties might be encountered.

5. Almost 400 quotations from over 140 emigrant diaries and journals spanning the period from 1841 to 1863.  Of these diaries and journals, 87 were published while 55 were not. These Overland Narratives help give the modern traveler a feeling of what it must have been like at or near each Marker location when the mid-1800’s emigrants passed by.  Presented below is a sample of one of the diary quotations or Overland Narratives included in these Guides:

“July 6.  8 miles travel brought us to Raft River here our course turned up the valley, twice crossing it. …an hour or two before nooning Ed McCarty and Reyney from Lexington Ky overtook us. we had quite a friendly meeting, found and tapped a bottle of old Bourbon and had great jollification- the boys dined with us today, being an extraordinary occurrence to have visitors in the mountains, the “judge” tried himself, got up spedily and in good stile a most excellent dinner. Indeed the boys were surprised and astonished at findin such comforts and luxuries here in the mountains”           –Dr. William L. Thomas, 1849
(One of the Overland Narratives For Marker C-2)

6. Dozens of historical commentaries and “Tales of the Trail” relating to areas near a marker.  Some commentaries include capsule histories of the areas that are unique to this guide.  Presented below is a short sample of the historical commentaries included in the new guide:

“…. Contrary to popular beliefs about the ferocity of Plains Indians, between 1840 and 1860 approximately 90 percent of all emigrants killed by Indians took place west of South Pass, principally along the Snake River and Humboldt River routes and on the Applegate and Lassen Trails. …”
Part of the Commentary on Indian-Emigrant Relations along the Humboldt

7. Trail descriptions.  The route of the trail and the difficulties encountered on that route is described for each marker.  For some markers, additional information about 4-wheel drive trip along the trail is provided.  To follow these additional instructions, a high-clearance, four-wheel drive vehicle is generally needed.  Presented below is a sample of one of the Additional Trips information presented in the California Trail Guide:

Remains of the original Southside Trail pass by Button Point heading west a quarter-mile between the frontage road and rail road tracks. The trail then weaves across the tracks for a half-mile, and then returns to the south side of the tracks for a quarter-mile to Marker C-61A. From the marker, the original trail descends into a gully (see photos on page 102 & 103). There the trail merges with the dirt road and can be driven on for 1.7 miles to a housing development that blocks further travel on the trail.

At the housing development, turn left (south). Go 0.2 mile to Prairie Dog Ave on right. Turn right. Go 1.0 mile to N Coyote Ave (at stop sign). Turn left (shortly N Coyote Ave becomes paved Thompson Dr). Go 2.5 miles to Pedroli Ave. (at stop sign). Turn left. Go 0.9 mile to I-80 Exit 180, East Winnemucca. Take onramp westbound. Drive 2 miles to Exit 178, Winnemucca Blvd. East. Then follow the How-To-Find instructions to Marker C-61B.

By this time along the Humboldt River, the wear and tear on livestock had taken its toll. Increasingly, parties like James Evans’ company, abandoned their wagons to pack the rest of the way to California. Though 1850 may have been a worse year in this respect, the same tendency occurred in 1849. Near Lassen Meadows on July 17, 1849, Peter Decker recorded-perhaps exaggerating-that “Packers pass us daily probably 3/4th of the Emigrants will pack last part of trip.”
( Trip Description for Marker C-61A)

8. Over ninety photographs of locations along the trail. Most of these are unique to these guides.

9.  33 maps unique to these guides.  These maps show the route(s) the emigrants actually followed. Sometimes the route(s) shown can still be seen as ruts, a depression, a scar, or an area of moved rocks. In other cases, the route shown is now a road or is no longer visible due to modern development.
Compared to other trail guides, the maps in the two California Trail Guides are more complete.  Instead of merely showing one, generalized trail, the maps in Emigrant Trails West identify, where they exist, segments of the California Trail that have not been used by motor vehicles, segments that have been used by motor vehicles, and segments that are identified in emigrant diaries but can not be physically located.  In addition, alternate routes are identified.

10. The emigrant traveling to California in the mid-1800s had approximately 860 miles of trails he or she could travel from the Raft River to the Humboldt Sink.  Making their choice of route, the typical emigrant would travel about 530 miles.  Special features include an introductory history of the California Trails and travel along the Humboldt River, historical commentaries on emigrant travel, emigrant trail poems, life of a mule packer, a Fourth of July celebration, violence at Stony Point, river drownings, along with an extensive bibliography.




For a photo tour of the California Trail click here.