“Monday, 11th. Left the lake this morning going into the mountains on a S.W. course. Today we left the trail of Capt. B. and having traveled 19 miles, arrived on a stream which flowed rapidly, and afforded more water than Mary’s river. We thought now, without doubt, that we were safe on the waters of the St. Joaquin (pronounced St. Wawkeen) according to Marsh’s letter. Here grew willows, balm Gilead, and a few cottonwoods.”
They had been traveling through the area of the Carson Sink, where the Humboldt River ends, and the landscape was one of alternating sand and swamp. The river that they mistook for the San Joaquin was the Walker River, which flows eastward out of the Sierras. It made for a good route up into the mountains. Future travelers on the California Trail would not travel this far south, but in following water Bidwell & Co. had missed the few miles of dry country that would have taken them to the Truckee River.