On the Trail — September 21, 1841

Once Bidwell had rejoined his companions, they rested up for a day. Then on the 20th they traveled through some rough terrain — the Ruby Mountains — still looking for Mary’s River, as the Humboldt was then known. Two of the men went out hunting and returned with meat.

Tuesday, 21st.  Hunters returned; many antelope were seen and 2 or 3 killed. About 10 o’clock a.m. as we were coasting along the mountain in a W. direction, we came to some hot springs, which were to me a great curiosity. Within the circumference of a mile there were perhaps 20 springs, the most of which were extremely beautiful, the water being so transparent we could see the smallest thing 20 or 30 feet deep. The rocks which walled the springs, and the beautifully white sediment lodged among them, reflected the sun’s rays in such a manner as to exhibit the most splendid combination of colors, blue, green, red, etc. I ever witnessed.

The water in most of them was boiling hot. There was one, however, more beautiful than the rest; it really appeared more like a work of art than nature. It was about 4 feet in diameter, round as a circle, and deeper than we could see–the cavity looked like a well cut in a solid rock, its walls being smooth and perpendicular. Just as I was viewing this curiosity, some hunters came up with some meat. We all partook, putting it into the hot spring, where it cooked perfectly done in 10 minutes—this is no fish story!


Ruby Valley Hot Springs

George R. Stewart, in The California Trail, writes: “One sure point is marked by the hot springs which they passed on September 21 and which Bidwell described in some detail. These beautiful springs still bubble out near the base of the Ruby Mountains, just as they did when Bidwell saw them.”

They must have been at the Ruby Valley Hot Springs, which can still be visited, but which are in a very remote area. This Travel Nevada site has information and pictures, and is also the source of the photo of one of the springs.

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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