On the Trail — September 23-24, 1841

Thursday, 23d. We could see no termination of the valley, nore any signs of Mary’s river. We therefore concluded that we were too far south, and passed over the mouintains to the north, where we struck a small stream running toward the NW. On this we encamped and found plenty of grass, a few fish were caught, some of which were trout, which led us to the conclusion that this was a branch of Mary’s river.

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, where grew a few willows and cottonwoods.


They were still searching for Mary’s River (the Humboldt), the river that would be their lifeline across the desert.  The prospect was gloomy; this canyon was leading them directly north, not west or south. The advice they had gotten from 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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