Forty Mile Desert


Forty Mile Desert

Churchill County
  39.94113, -118.74984

"For people who haven't been here, the forty mile desert is inexplicably desolate and visitors to this marker won't really capture its essence at a modern, air-conditioned rest stop. This marker would be much better placed south of here along US 95 so that we'd have an actual VIEW of the desert, not a view of the men's restroom ..." -- Journal Entry, August 2007

At Trinity Rest Area (I-80 and US 95), 23 miles east of Fernley
This marker shares its site with [147] -- People Of the Humboldt

Original Date Visited: 8/14/07

Signed: Original cut-out shields on both lanes of US 95

  • Marker 26 plaque
  • Memorial on the California Emigrant Trail
  • The worst segment on the California Emigrant Trail
  • California Emigrant Trail
  • The haunting landscape of the Forty Mile
  • Marker 26 plaque
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Exact Description:
The 40 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, it was traveled at night because of the great heat.

The route was first traveled by the Walker-Chiles Party in 1843, with the first wagon train. Regardless of its horrors, it became the accepted route, as it split five miles southwest of here into two main trails to California-- the Carson River and Truckee River routes.

Starvation for men and animals stalked every mile. A survey made in 1850 showed these appalling statistics-- 1,061 dead mules, almost 5,000 horses, 3,750 cattle, and 953 graves. The then value of personal property loss was set at $1,000,000.

The heaviest traffic came from 1849 to 1869. It was still used after completion of the Central Pacific Railroad in 1869.

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Related Links & Markers:

 [19] -- Ragtown   [62] -- Truckee River - West   Virtual Tour of the California Trail 

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