September 24-25,1841

“Friday, 24th. As we descended the stream it rapidly increased in size, and proved to be the branch of a larger stream. The country was desolate and barren, excepting immediately on the streams . . .”

“Saturday, 25th. The creek became perfectly dry and its banks rose to high perpendicular precipices, so that there was no other road than the dry bed of the stream. Having come about 15 miles, we encamped in a place affording a little grass and water, where we could see nothing but the sky. But the men who ascended the precipice to see what was in the prospect ahead said that in about a mile we would come to a valley–this was delightful news.”

Humboldt River, Nevada

For a larger version of the map see

Traversing the stony dry creek bed made the animals “tender-footed and sore,” a new worry to add to their many others.  The prospect was gloomy; this canyon was leading them directly north, not west or south, and the advice they had been given at Fort Hall warned:

“You must not go too far north; if you do you will get into difficult canyons that lead towards the Columbia River, where you may become bewildered and wander about and perish.”  Could they be too far north, when just days before they had been too far south?

But the report of the scouts who climbed up the the top of the cliff gave them heart.  There was a valley and a river ahead, and it might be Mary’s River.

I surmise that they were on one of the creeks that flows out of the Ruby Mountains north to the Humboldt River, about halfway between present day Elko and Wells. Or possibly they were on a stream that would take them to the South Fork of the Humboldt, and thence north to the river.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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