Mojave History - Military:
Bitter Springs - Fort Irwin
First Military Presence at Bitter Springs
"Chaining the High Desert"
Rod & Chaining:
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
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".
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
John C. Fremont
Frémont's Second Expedition was an even greater success. It included many men from his First Expedition, ...
Known best as an explorer/mountain man, Kit Carson also was an Indian agent and had a ...