August 24, 1841

Tuesday, 24th.  Cattle strayed this morning to seek water–-late start–-day was warm–-traveled about 10 miles in a W. direction, encamped where we found numerous springs, deep, clear, and somewhat impregnated with salt. The plains were snowy white with salt. Here we procured salt of the best quality. The grass that grew in small spots on the plains was laden with salt which had formed itself on the stalks and blades in lumps, from the size of a pea to that of a hen’s egg. This was the kind we procured, being very white, strong and pure.

Ten miles in a day was good progress under those conditions.  Oxen could pull a wagon at 2 or 3 miles per hour for about 5 hours a day, so 15 miles a day was pretty much the maximum. On a very good day they might make 18 to 20 miles. But these were not good days. The teams were wearing down.

Nicholas “Cheyenne” Dawson later recalled:

We now skirted the north end of the lake, sometimes traveling in a valley and again along the shore of the lake when the mountains jutted down nearer to its shores. In places our wagons would break a crust of salt, like ice in a northern clime. We found water in holes, like wells, but it was all brackish.

Doesn’t sound appealing, does it?

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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