August 18, 1841

Wednesday, 18th. Traveled but a short distance when we discovered that a deep salt creek prevented our continuing near the river. In ascending this stream in search of a place to cross it, we found on its margin a hot spring, very deep and clear. The day was very warm and we were unable to reach the river; encamped on this salt creek and suffered much for water, the water being so salt we could not drink it. Distance 15 miles.

From Soda Springs and the parting of the ways down the Bear River to the Great Salt Lake is only about 100 miles. On today’s highways this journey would take them a couple of hours. Even at their rate of about 15 miles a day, it might only take them a week to get to Salt Lake, but all this detouring around hills and streams means that they still have several days to go.

Camping on a salt creek is a foretaste, literally, of what they are soon to endure on a regular basis. They are on the banks of the Malad River, so named by earlier fur trappers because the water made them sick (“malade” in French). The banks are steep and the bottom is muddy, making it difficult to cross.

Jimmy John wrote:

18th. This morning we came to a deep muddy creek which we could not cross without going nearly a half a days journey up it and we have travelled about 5 miles. Crossed it and camped on the other bank. There are a number of hot salt springs on the banks of this creek, some are nicely boiling.

In the map below you can see the Malad River on the left, flowing south into the Bear River. The map shows how the party had to proceed up the river to cross, then back down again. The map is from an article tracing the route of the Bidwell-Bartleson Party in Utah, by Roy D. Tea. If you really want to trace this section of the journey, that’s the place to go.

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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