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Mojave History - Military: Bitter Springs - Fort Irwin

First Military Presence at Bitter Springs

"Chaining the High Desert"

Brevet Captain John C. Fremont of the Corps of Topographical Engineers with his guide, a long time friend, Kit Carson (Scout) traveled this region from 1843-44. They were sent by the American Government to survey the migration/trade routes of the local Indians. Also they were to make scientific explorations of geological and horticultural resources of this region. In addition, they were also to determine an access route wide enough for covered wagons and supply trains of future immigrates coming through this region. They traveled in civilian attire to avoid alarming the local Indians and especially the Spanish-Mexican settlers who had large haciendas (ranches) throughout this region. The Rancheros (ranchers) were very protective of their lands and would have been concerned seeing U.S. military uniformed personnel surveying “their” property. Captain Fremont's surveying expedition traveled quickly to minimize detection and only indicated on his map the most direct routes, easiest access paths and water resources. They spent a short time at Aqua de Tomaso (Bitter Springs) and noted it on their map.

Note: Fremont did not know that Father Francisco Garces had named the spring for one of the guides, but merely noted what was related to him verbally as the name for this site on his map as Aqua de Tomaso (Bitter Springs). He also wrote the name Mohahva (Mojave) River as it was pronounced to him.

Captain Fremont would have Carson's men stretch out the 66-foot chain and hold the rod (16' 6" tall wooden pole) while he noted the angle, degree and distance on his map. Carson would mark that length by placing a metal pin into the ground. After logging his findings on the map, the men would pull up the back pin from the last point and re-stretch the chain 66 feet. They would repeat this pinning and re-stretching 80 times to equal 1 mile. This was called "chaining".

Rod & Chaining:
5,280 feet = 1 mile
One rod was 16' 6" tall, laid down for measuring: 320 rods = 1 mile
The chain is 66' long: 80 chain lengths = 1 mile


Historical Profiles

    John C. Fremont

    Frémont's Second Expedition was an even greater success. It included many men from his First Expedition, ...

    Kit Carson

    Known best as an explorer/mountain man, Kit Carson also was an Indian agent and had a ...

ecology: wildlife - plants - geography: places - MAPS - roads & trails: route 66 - old west - communities - weather - book store
ghost towns - gold mines - parks & public lands: wilderness - native culture - history - geology: natural features - glossary - comments

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