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


In an expedition in 1826, now famous as the first overland trip from the American frontier to the California coast, trapper Jedediah Smith traveled through the Mojave Desert. The journey brought him and his companions up the Mojave River and past the Topiabit site.

Surprisingly, this prodigious feat began simply as a search for beaver that originated in the Great Salt Lake region following the 1826 rendezvous of fur trappers in Cache Valley. Smith and about fifteen others explored the southern Utah area, arriving at the Virgin River in September. They followed the Virgin to its confluence with the Colorado River, and then continued on down the Colorado for four days until they reached the Mohave Villages.

By this time their stock was jaded and supplies were running low. Smith was told the California missions were not far off, so with two mission runaways as guides, they set off for the coast, and for the first time the important route through the arid desert, with its precious watering spots, was revealed to American fur trappers.

Smith and his party reached the vicinity of Victorville in November. Their Indian guides, identified by Smith as "Wanyumas" (Vanyumes), both lived in the area, and they took the trappers to an Indian lodge located in a spot with "groves of Cotton wood and in places Sugar Cane and grass," a description that fits several places along the river, including Topiabit. The Indians at the encampment, whom Smith noted were not very numerous, shared what food they had with the visitors and treated them well.

The trappers stayed the night at the lodge, and the next day they continued on their journey along the Mohave Indian Trail. The knowledge of this trail presented new opportunities for trade, and the next year, when Jedediah Smith left the rendezvous in Bear Lake, Utah, he made a return trip through the Mojave using the same route.

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Also see:

Jedediah Smith
    Mojave Desert Crossing - 1826,27
Mojave River
The Mojave Road followed along the river from Soda dry lake to the ...

Colorado River
In these groves of the flood plain of the Colorado the Mojave ...

Mohave Villages
In 1859, the central group, which occupied Mohave Valley, had ...

Modern day community

The desert branch of the Serrano Indians

Mojave Indian Trail (Mojave Road)
Long ago Mohave Indians used a network of pathways to cross the Mojave Desert to reach the ...

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