September 26, 1841 — Mary’s River?

“Sunday, 26th. The valley, seen yesterday evening, was but 4 or 5 miles in length and led into another difficult defile, though not so long as the one of yesterday, for we passed it into another valley. Distance 18 miles–-the stream continued to increase in size.”

They were by now on Mary’s River, but they didn’t know it. They were still unsure of their position.  How do you know you have arrived at the place you have been looking for, when you don’t know what it looks like, and there are no signposts?

In Echoes of the Past Bidwell states that they arrived at the river the day after some men climbed up the precipice and saw a valley a few miles ahead. “By one o’clock that day [we] came out on what is now known as the Humboldt River.” This is looking back from the vantage point of 40 years later, when he knew what he didn’t know back in 1841. At the time, in his journal, the company debates their position for several days before they decide that they are indeed on Mary’s River and headed in the right direction.

The South Fork joins the Humboldt River about eight miles west of Elko, Nevada. This is also the location today of the California Trail Interpretive Center. If you like trail history, it’s a great little museum to visit, very interactive and family-friendly. Sad to say, it is temporarily closed at this time.

Daniel Jenks “Humbolt River Valley” 1859

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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