| Hastings Cutoff | Great Salt Lake Desert | The First Explorers | The Hastings Trail in 1846 | 1847 | 1848 | 1849 | 1850 |



JEDEDIAH SMITH in 1827 recorded the first crossing of the Great Basin from California, over the center of what we now call Nevada, across the south end of the mud flats and through present day Dugway, Utah. Not knowing where he was for about a month of his travels, he reached Timpie Point on the north end of the Stansbury Mountains where the mountains jut out 140 feet above the marsh and mud bottoms of Great Salt Lake. One can visualize JEDEDIAH SMITH looking north and east to see the Great Salt Lake and from this vantage point then Jedediah recorded in his diary on June 27, 1827:

"Coming to the point of the ridge which formed the Eastern boundary of the valley I saw an expanse of water Extending far to the North and East. The Salt Lake a joyful sight was spread before us. Is it possible said the companions of my sufferings that we are so near the end of our troubles. For myself I durst scarcely believe that it was really the Big Salt Lake that I saw. It was indeed a most cheering view. . . "

"Those who may chance to read this at a distance from the scene may perhaps be surprised that the sight of this lake surrounded by wilderness of more than 2000 miles diameter excited in me these feelings known to the traveler who after long and perilous journeying comes again in view of his home. But so it was with me for I had traveled so much in the vicinity of the Salt Lake that it had become my home of the wilderness."


As has been mentioned the Fremont Party recorded the first crossing of the Great Salt Desert to Pilot Peak. The following is an extract from the manuscript reminiscent journal of EDWARD M. KERN of the FREMONT pack party telling of their travels from Great Salt Lake to Floating Island, in the fall of 1845 [WFB]:

[October 22] "Over a prairie and march [marsh] close to the borders of the lake camping at some springs. Making 15 miles. sage in abundance"

"23rd Today we have had close to our left a ridge of burnt rock Stansbury Mountains] almost devoid of vegetation. A narrow strip of salty and bunch grass mixed seems close to its foot - The country is fast assuming a most desolate appearance. 19 miles [Timpie Point]."

[October 24] "Continuing along this ridge for 6 miles nearly in a South of West course [into Skull Valley], we crossed a plain of dry soil. Sage is now becoming the prevailing growth. Camped at some springs [Burnt Springs] at the foot of a barren rocky ridge [Stansbury Mountains] 15 m."

"Traveling today (25th) over a broken country at the foot of the ridge we camped at a small spring stream [Redlum Spring]. Bill Williams leaves us at this camp to return to the settlements on the Arkansas. [October 27?] Kit Carson, Archambeau and Dick Owens, were sent to see what prospect of water ahead, this being as far as the eye could reach Nothing but a large barren plain."

"On the 28th (Oct) ?? after a couple of hours travel through the mountain [Cedar Mountains] we entered on one of the most disolate looking places I have seen-with but a small prospect of water ahead and less of grass, we commenced our journey over what has since been called by the emigrants the "Long Drive".We were the first white men without doubt who had ever attempted it. At five o'cIock we camped, tired and worn out, among some low sand hills-without water and but little wood-25 miles-Striking Camp at 5 o'clock next morning [October 29, 1845, we passed at 10 [o'clock] a small isolated range [Floating Island], previous to reaching this point the road had become muddy-at 11 o'clock we nooned among some bunch grass at the foot of a low range of [hills]; [Silver Island Range] no water. We kept among these hills until 4 [o'cIock] when we again entered the pIain-the mud on this afternoon's road is very heavy-water salty. At 6-20 [o'clock] we reached some springs of good water, [Donner Springs] grass, and timber plenty-Extremely fatigued with their two days travel many of our animals rested."

"October 30,[1845] 3 miles to a spring creek in the mountain. [Pilot Peak Creek] Pinon abundant. The day cold and disagreeable."

"Friday Oct 31 [1845]-Along the ridge over broken and sterile country for 12 miles when we struck a level plain and an old wagon trail [of the Bidwell/Bartleson Party of 1841]. This was the sign of an old party who had attempted to cross the Desert. To save themselves [two words illegible] many men were obliged to throw away their effects and return".

Kern is incorrect; the Bidwell-Bartleson party did not return but continued on and reached California at Marsh's Ranch near present day San Jose.

KIT CARSON recalls, in his dictation of 1856 [WFB]:

"[We] kept around the south side of the Lake to the last water. Fremont started [Lucien] Maxwell, [Auguste] Archambeau, [Basil] Lajeunesse and myself to cross the desert. It had never before been crossed by white man. I was often here. Old trappers would speak of the impossibility of crossing, that water could not be found, grass for the animals, there was none."

"Fremont was bound to cross. Nothing was impossible for him to perform if required in his exertions." "Before we started it was arranged that at a certain time of [the] next day he should ascend the mountain near his camp, have with him his telescope, so that we could be seen by him, and if we found grass or water, we should make a smoke, which would be the sign to him to advance. We travelled on about sixty miles no water or grass, not a particle of vegetation could be found, (ground as level as a barn floor), before we struck the mountains on the west side of the Lake. Water and grass was there in abundance. The fire was made. Fremont saw it and moved on with his party. Archambeau started back and met him when about half way across the desert. he camped on the desert one night and next evening at dark, he got across, having lost only a few animals."


The second known party to cross this desert in the opposite direction from Pilot Peak going eastward from California, was JAMES CLYMAN and LANSFORD W. HASTINGS. The following is taken from Winfred Blevins 1984 book, Journal of a Mountain Man, James Clyman pp. 248-949, when leaving the summit of the Toano Mountain and then Pilot Springs on May 27 & 28th 1846. :

"27 Left our camp near the top of the mountain [Toano] an took a N.E. cours to a high ruged looking bute [Pilot Peak] standing prominent and alone with the tops whitned in snow [Went] along the East side of this bute which stands in the salt plains to near the Eastern point 22 miles and encamped on a fine spring Brook [Pilot Peak Creek] that comes tumbling from the mountain in all its purity This bute affrd's numerous springs and brooks that loose themselves immediately in the salt plain below but the grass is plenty generally and the main bulk of the county produces nothing but a small curly thorn bush winding on the earth. To the S.s.E. and East you have a boundless salt plain without vegitatiom except here and there a cliff of bare rocks standing like monumental pillars to commemorate the distinction of this portion of the Earth"

28 Left our camp at the Snowy or more properly the spring Bute [Pilot Peak] for this Bute affords several fine Brooks and took the Trail East and soon entered on the greate salt plain the first plain is 6 or 7 miles wide and covered in many places three inchs deep in pure white salt passed an island of rocks [Silver Island] in this great plain and entered the great plain over which we went in a bold trot untill dusk when we Bowoiked [bivouacked] for the night without grass or water and not much was said in fact all filt incouraged as we had been enformed that if we could follow Mr Fremonts trail we would not have more than 20 miles without fresh water. In fact this is the [most] desolate country perhaps on the whole globe there not being one spear of vegitation and of course no kind of animal can subsist and it is not yet assertaind to what extent this immince salt and sand plain can be south of whare we [are now] our travel to day was 40 miles"

JAMES CLYMAN writes about his eastward journey across Hastings Pass to Redlum Spring [WFB]:

"29 As soon as light began to shew in the East we ware again under way crossed one more plain and then assended a rough low mountain still no water and our hopes ware again disapointed Commenced our desent down a ravine made 14 miles and at length found a small spring of Brackish water [Redlum Spring] which did not run more than four rods before it all disappeared in the thirsty earth but mean and poor as the water was we and our animals Quenched our burning thirst and unpacked for the day after our rapid travel of about 20 hours and 30 hours without water"

"30 [May] at an Eearly hour wee ware on our saddles and bore south 4 miles to another small spring [Henry Springs] of the same kind of water stoped and drank and continued changing our course to S E passed a small salt plain [Skull Valley] and several large salt springs changed again to E. or N. of E. a ruged mountain [Stansbury Range] to oure right and a salt marsh to our left this mountain is The highist we have seen in these plains allthough 20 peaks are visable at all times to day 20 miles"

CLYMAN tells of his travels from Skull Valley into Tooele Valley in spring of 1846 [WFB]:

"31 [May] N. E. along the mountains to the N. point whare is an extensive spring of salt water after turning the point of the mountain we changed again to the S. E. along betwen the mountain and the greate Salt Lake Travel to day 20 miles and we passed some 15 or 20 large springs mostly warm and more or less salt some of them verry salt camped at some holes of fresh water in sight are several snowy mountains in fact snow may be seen in all most all directions and two peaks one to the S. W. and the other to the S. E. seem to be high enough to contain snow all the season. we have had two nights only since we left the settelments of California without frost and to day is cold enough to ride with a heavy coat on and not feel uncomfortabl"

CLYMAN writes about. his crossing of present Tooele Valley on June 1st [WFB].

"1846 June the 1st. proceeded nearly east to the point of a high mountain [Oquirrh Mountains] that Bounds the Southern part of the greate salt lake I observed that this lake like all the rest of this wide spread Sterility has nearly wasted away one half of its surface since 1825 [1826] when I floated around it in my Bull Boate and we crossed a large Bay of this Lake with our horses which is now dry and continued up the South side of the Lake to the vally near the outlet [Jordan River] of the Eutaw Lake and encamped at a fine large spring of Brackish water 20 miles to [sic] today"

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