Digital-Desert : Mojave Desert
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Mojave Desert History: Pioneer of the Mojave
Old Skeletons & New Trails

THE SALT LAKE ROAD

During the next year the number of settlers coming into California increased, and the road across the Mojave began to take on a new character. By 1850 it had been adapted to wagon use, and when the Mormons came to the area from Utah the following year and established a colony in San Bernardino, the road became a major immigrant route. Not long afterwards freighters began using the route to haul supplies to interior territories, first to Utah along the Salt Lake Road, and then to the mining ventures in the Mojave Desert, Arizona, Nevada, and ultimately Idaho and Montana.

The existence of the Salt Lake Road by this time had become well known, but travel on it was still hazardous. The main dangers were the scarcity of water and provisions, and lack of forage for the stock. One large party could pretty well deplete a desert water hole; it could take days or weeks for the slow seeps to refill it, and a full season could pass before the grasses were replenished.

Also, Indians preyed upon the travelers on the road. A well-guarded group was usually in little danger from attack, but stray stock was at risk, and grief befell many a lone wayfarer or mail carrier.

By the mid-1850s mail service had been established on a regular basis along the Salt Lake Road. The mail carriers were the first to use the road year-round, the immigrant and freight trains coming through largely in the fall. The service was provided both through the official United States Mail, which was contracted to the lowest bidder, and by individual Mormons who carried mail back and forth while on business trips.

Express companies, including such famous names as Wells Fargo and Adams & Co., also began using the Salt Lake route. Thus another group was added to the growing number of travelers on the road along the Mojave River, but the amount of traffic on the desert was not yet sufficient to make permanent way stations profitable.

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ecology: wildlife - plants - geography: places - MAPS - roads & trails: route 66 - old west - communities - weather - glossary
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