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
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.
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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.
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.