On the Trail — Oct. 9-11

October 9th found the emigrants following the trail of Captain Bartleson, who had abandoned the company and rode on ahead. They trudged through sand hills and came to a swamp, the water of which was “very nauseous.” They had reached Humboldt Sink, and here they camped for a day.

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.

Of course, they were nowhere near the San Joaquin River yet, but John Marsh’s letter had told them to be on the lookout for it, so they were hopeful that they were nearing California.


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.

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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