Frederick E Shearer.

The Pacific tourist : J.R. Bowman's illustrated trans-continental guide of travel, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean ... : acomplete traveler's guide of the Union and Central Pacific Railroads ... online

. (page 35 of 61)
Online LibraryFrederick E ShearerThe Pacific tourist : J.R. Bowman's illustrated trans-continental guide of travel, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean ... : acomplete traveler's guide of the Union and Central Pacific Railroads ... → online text (page 35 of 61)
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with an elevation of 3,929 feet. It is a coaling
station, and engines sometimes take water from
the tank, pumped from the lake, though it is
poor stuff to make steam with. Above the
nearer range of mountains, just across the lake,
can be seen the tops of a farther and higher
range in the distance. This higher range runs
south of the Humboldt and Carson Sink, and
looms into view as the nearer range gives way.
Humboldt Lake was not as large formerly as
now, in fact it was a simple widening of the
river as it entered the gateway of the sink be-
low. At the foot of the lake a ridge of land ex-
tends nearly across the valley, and there was some-
thing of a gorge through which the outlet passed.
The opportunity to build a dam was thus
improved, and what was formerly a little widen-
ing in the river, has now become a lake about
35 miles long and from 16 to 18 miles wide in
the widest places. It is filled with islands
caused by this rise, and the head or volume of
water thus accumulated serves to run a stamp
mill, located a few miles below the station and
under a reddish bluff across the vallev. Ore for

this mill has been found in the mountains near it,
and some is brought from the range on the
north. You will notice an island nearly op-
posite the station, and may be interested to
know that it was part of the main land before the
dam was built. The mountains on each side of
the track, now become high hills though, occa-
sionally, a ragged peak is seen, to relieve the
moncuony of the journey. We pass over the
ridge of land before spoken of, and fairly enter
upou what is the beginning of the Humboldt
and ''Jarson Sink. We pass down on the low
alkali flats which are whitened with salt, and
which extend for miles as far as the eye can
reacn, off to our left.

White Plains, 313 miles from San Fran-
cisco, with an elevation of 3,894 feet the lowest
point we reach in this great basin. The place
a side track, is appropriately named for it is
surrounded by a white alkali desert, covered in
places with salt and alkali deposits.

The evidences of volcanic action and a lava
formation are everywhere visible in the hills and
on the plains in this vicinity. Though the plains
immediately adjoining the station are white with
alkali or salty deposits, yet the ridge and uplands
to the right are covered with the reddish, porous
rocks and finer blackish sand which always ac-
company this formation. At White Plains we
have reached the lowest elevation on the Central
Pacific, east of the Sierras. We are, in fact,
almost in the sink itself of the Humboldt and
Carson Rivers. The low flats stretching away
to our left, are usually more or less covered with
water in the season of floods, and the two rivers
virtually unite in this great valley or basin.
There is no visible outlet to these streams, or
rather to this basin, and the immense drainage
of these two rivers sinks in the sand and is taken
up by evaporation. The oldest settlers in this
region of country, hold to the opinion that the
water is taken up by evaporation, and say that at
certain seasons of the year this process is very
rapid large bodies of land covered with water
becoming thoroughly dry in a few days.

Leaving White Plains, we again begin to go
up a grade. We have to cross a divide between
White Plains and the Hot Spring Valley. This
divide is reached at

Mirage, 305 miles from San Francisco, with
an elevation of 4,247 feet. It is simply a side
track with no habitation near it but a section-
house and is near the summit of the divide.
This place, like many others, is named from some
peculiarity of location or from some character-
istic of the country. The wonderful optical de-
lusions that are apparently seen here, have given
it a suggestive name. When the conditions of
the atmosphere are favorable, wonderful visions
of lakes, mountains, trees, rivers, etc., can be seen.
It is reported that many a weary emigrant in the
days of old, was deceived by the optical illusions


that here seemed so real, and wondered why he
did not reach the cooling lakes and spreading
shade that seemed so near and was yet so far
away. The heat of summer during the day
time on these plains is almost intolerable. The
dust, sometimes blowing in clouds, is suffo-
cating, and long distances add to the incon-
venience of wagon travel, without water. But
overland travelers on . the trains have more
comforts. No matter how oppressive the day,
yet the moment the sun is set, a lovely cool
breeze comes from the mountains, the air be-
comes fresh, and sleep is delightful. The
heat and dust of the day is soon forgotten
in the comforts of the pure, cool night at-
mosphere. Crossing a low divide, the end of
the Antelope Range we reach

Hot Springs, 346 miles from San Fran-
cisco, with an elevation of 4,072 feet. This is a tel-
egraph station with side track, section-houses, etc.
Great efforts have been made here to sink arte-
sian wells in order to obtain fresh water for the
use of the road. First a depth of 800 feet was
reached, then 1,000 feet, and lastly 1,300 feet,
but all without success. In some portions of
work very rapid progress would be made 95
feet having been made in one day then some
\ard, flinty rock would be struck, and progress
2 less than one foot per dav would be the result.
'A!he project had to be abandoned at last.

The station is in the midst of a desert, and is
iiamed from the Hot Springs, whose rising steam
can readily be seen about half a mile from the
track on the left. There are quite a number of
them boiling hot. They formerly extended
along the base of the hill, still farther to the left,
and nearer the track, but while they seem to
have dried up in one locality, they have broken
out in another. These springs are now owned
by a German company, who have a dwelling-
house, and works for producing borax, erected
near by. They were badly " sold " by sharpers
who induced them to believe that borax, in
large quantities, could be obtained here. They
sent out an expert who was induced to make
a favorable report to the effect that there were
inexhaustible quantities of the mineral to be
found near here. As a consequence, they in-
vested large sums of money in the purchase of
the mines and in the erection of works. We
believe some 60 boxes of the manufactured arti-
cle was all that was ever turned out, and then
the mine suddenly gave out, the production
ceased, of course, and the company, after an ex-
penditure estimated at about a quarter million of
dollars, ceased operations, their property re-
maining idle. These springs are said to be
a sovereign remedy for rheumatism and kin-
dred diseases, and the property may yet be
utilized as an infirmary or watering-place
for invalids. The steam from these springs
can be seen for quite a distance in the

cool mornings of the winter, and in the spring
and fall months. Looking off to the right, as
far as the eye can reach, almost, is a valley com-
ing in from the north-east a dreary waste of
sage brush and alkali, which extends across the
track, over low hills, to the sink of the Carson.
We move out through a gap in the hills, and in
about two miles come to the salt works. Build-
ings have been erected, side track put in, and
large platforms built where the salt is stored pre-
paratory to shipping. The whole face of the
country, in this vicinity, is nearly white, the saline
water rising to the surface and evaporating, leaves
the white incrustations to glisten in the sun. The
salt obtained here is produced by solar evapora-
tion, and is said to be nearly 99 per cent. pure.
Formerly vats were tried, but they were found to
be useless and unnecessary. Vats are now dug in
the ground and the salt water pumped into them.
It soon evaporates, and after a sufficient quantity
has accumulated, it is shoveled out, drawn to the
station, ground and sacked, when it is ready for
the market. We are now passing over one of the
most uninviting portions of the desert. The
range of mountains directly in front are those
through which the Truckee River comes, and the
valley, both north and south, extends beyond our
vision. Away off to the left we can see the
mountains south of the Carson Sink and River.
The aspect of the desert becomes more dreary as
we approach

Desert, 287 miles from San Francisco ; ele-
vation, 4,018 feet. It is only a side track, rightly
named, and passenger trains seldom stop. The
winds that sweep the barren plains here heap the
sand around the scattering sage brush like huge
potato hills. Now we turn toward the right
approaching the base of the adjoining hills, while
boulders of lava, large and small, greet the eye.
The hill on our right, dwindles into the plain;
we round it, toward the right, and arrive at

Ttvo-Mile, 281 miles from San Francisco;
elevation, 4, 156 feet. The gap, in the mountain
range in front, now opens and we see -where the
Truckee River comes tumbling down. The
valley extends, on the right, till it is lost in Pyra-
mid Lake. We pass rapidly on, and in a short
distance pitch down a steep grade into the valley
of the Truckee, where green grass, green trees
and flowing water, God's best gift to man, again
greet our vision.

Wadsworth, 279 miles from San Fran-
cisco; elevation, 4,077 feet. It is a little vil-
lage of about 400 inhabitants, nestled down in
the valley of the Truckee and overshadowed by
the range of mountains beyond. The railroad
has a twenty-stall roundhouse, 65 feet deep, with
over 500 feet of circular length. The machine
shop has six working stalls where engines are
repaired, and is 75 by 130 feet. Engines are
here entirely rebuilt. At one end of this shop a
piece of ground has been fenced in, a fountain


erected, trees planted, and alfalfa and blue-grass
sown. It affords a refreshing sight to the me-
chanics here employed, and strangely contrasts
with the barren desert surrounding .the place.
The engines used on that part of the division
between Winnemucca and this place, have very
large tenders, the tanks in them holding 3,800
gallons of water. They run 70 miles without
taking water on the line of the road. Other
shops for the convenience of the road are located
near by. The huge water tank in which water is
stored for use of shops and engines, has a capacity
of 60,000 gallons. Hydrants have been erected,
connected with it by pipes, and hose supplied by
which the water may be quickly applied in case
of fire, to any part of the buildings. The road
passes from Wadsworth to Sacramento through
a mountainous region of country, where there is
plenty of timber and, hence, wood is used for
fuel on the engines between these two places.
Between Ogden and this place coal taken from
the mines north of Evanston, on the Union
Pacific Road, is used. West of Sacramento, coal
irom Oregon and Washington Territory is used.
Between Wadsworth and Truckee some trouble
has been experienced with snow, and in some
places huge boulders, which rolled down with
the snow, have been knocked out of the
way by the snowplows. In addition to the
machine shops, there are a large freight building
and other offices for the convenience of the
company. The town has several large stores,
hotels, saloons, with China houses ad libitum,
and is altogether a place of considerable
trade. Huge freight wagons, from two to four
attached together, are here loaded with freight
for the mining districts south. These large
wagons, with their teams attached, are quite a
curiosity to Eastern travelers, and fully illus-
trate how Western men do their freighting.

The following mining districts did business at
this station until the extension of the Carson and
Colorado Railroad from the Mound House, south,
to wit: Columbus, borax mines, 130 miles dis-
tant; Teal's Marsh, borax mines, 140 miles
away; the Pacific Borax Works are 20 miles
southeast of Columbus still; the Bellville Min-
ing District, 140 miles distant. In this district
the celebrated Northern Bell Silver Mine is
located, also the General Thomas and others less
prominent. Silver Peak Mining District is 110
miles distant. These districts, and others not
named here, are all south of Wadsworth, and
from this point 1,272,380 pounds of crude
borax were shipped in 1880. Rhodes' Salt
Marsh, an immense salt deposit, is about 130
miles distant. There is salt enough in this de-
posit to preserve the world, if reports as to its
extent, etc., prove true.

From Wadsworth to Carson Lake, south, the
distance is about 40 miles. This lake is named
from the river of the same name, which flows

into, or rather through it. Directly south of
Carson Lake is Walker Lake, into which flows
Walker River. The lake last named has no
visible outlet, and is one of the sinks of the
great basin east of the Sierras. South of the
railroad, there are three bodies of water which
travelers will more fully understand by an ex-
planation. Humboldt Lake proper, into which
flows the Humboldt River, we pass at Brown's
Station. A little southwest of this lake is the
Humboldt and Carson Sink the waters from
the lake creeping through a channel or slough
into the sink. The dam at the foot of the lake
is across this outlet or slough. The waters
from Carson Lake, flowing nearly east, find
their way into this sink through a similar out-
let. Thus the waters of the two rivers, the
Humboldt and Carson, each flowing through a
small lake, finally meet in the same sink. To
this sink there is no visible outlet, and the vast
amount of water which is poured into this
basin through these two rivers is undoubtedly
taken up on its way, or after its arrival in this
common sink, by evaporation.

The Humboldt River, though it has a length
of 500 miles, and has several tributaries con-
stantly flowing into it, yet does not increase in
volume throughout its length, as do most
rivers. After passing Winnemucca it dimin-
ishes to a small stream, finally spreads into a
marsh and "sinks " out of sight.

North of Wadsworth, about 21 miles, is Pyr-
amid Lake, and east of it, separated by Lake
Range of Mountains, which can plainly be seen
from Wadsworth, is Winnemucca Lake, 26
miles distant. Both of them are sinks, and
have no visible outlet. Both of them receive
the waters of Truckee River, and the latter is
said to be rising being several feet higher now
than it was ten years ago.

Curiosities of Pyramid Lake In 1S67
a surveying party visited this lake, whicfi tney
found to be 12 miles long and 30 miles wide.
The lake takes its name from a remarkable rock
formation, a pyramid which towers above the
lake to a height of more than 500 feet, and pre-
sents in its outlines the most perfect form. Upon
visiting this pyramid, the party found it occupied
with tenants who were capable of holding their
ground against all intruders.

From every crevice there seemed to come a hiss.
The rattling, too, was sharp and long-continued.
The whole rock was alive with rattlesnakes.
Even in the party those who had been champion
snake exterminators, and had demolished them
on all previous occasions, now found the combat
beyond their power to carry on, and abandoned
the island with all hope of victory.

The water of Pyramid Lake is clear, sparkling.
In it are said to be fish, principally among which
is the couier, very sprightly, with flesh the color
of salmon. The weight of the fish ranges from.


three to twenty pounds. There is also said to
be an abundance of trout.

Winnemucca Lake is also stated to be some
200 feet lower than Pyramid Lake, its basin
being on the east side of Lake Bange of Moun-
tains. The Truckee Biver and these two lakes
are great resorts for ducks, geese and pelicans.
The latter abound here in large numbers in the
spring. An island in Pyramid Lake is a great
resort for them, and there, undisturbed, they
rear their young. These birds are very destruc-
tive to the fish of the river and lake, They will

because unable to get out of the way. A mai
with a club could kill thousands of them in i
day without much difficulty.

North of Pyramid Lake is Mud Lake, anothe:
sink of this great basin, and a little northeast o
Winnemucca Lake is the sink of Quin's Bive:
and other streams. In fact, they lose thei
identity in flowing across the desert are swal
lowed up by the thirsty sands.

On the north, Pyramid Lake Mining Distric
is fifteen miles away. This is a new district
and said to contain good "prospects." Muc


stand in the shallow water of the entrance to
the lake for hours, and scoop up any unwary
fish that may happen to pass within their reach.
They are apparently harmless, and of no earthly
use whatever. " The huge sacks on their under
jaws are used to carry food and water to their
young. These waddle around before they fly
a shapeless, uncouth mass, and easily destroyed

Lake District, similar in character, is seventy-
five miles due north from Wadsworth. Black
Butte District, on the east side of Winnemucca
Lake, is about twenty-eight miles distant.

The Piute reservation, or rather one of them,
begins about seven miles north of the town.
The reservation house, which is supposed to bt
the place where the government officers reside, is


1. Truckpe Meadows, Sierras in the distance. 2. Pleasant Valley. 3. Truckee River, near State Line.

4. Red Bluff, Truckee River. 5. Bridge at Eagle Gao. 6. Trucke* River Rapids.


16 miles away. There is another reservation for
these Indians south, on Walker River. They
have some very good land near the lake, and
some of them cultivate the soil, raising good

There is considerable good bottom-land on the
Truckee River, between Wadsworth and Pyra-
mid Lake. That which is not included in the
Indian reservation is occupied by stockmen and
farmers, much of it being cultivated and pro-
ducing excellent crops of cereals and vegetables.
The experiments thus far tried in fruit growing
have been successful, and in a few years there
will be a home supply of fruit equal to home

The arrival at Wadsworth is a great relief to
the tourist weary with the dull, unchanging
monotony of the plains, the desert and bleak
desolation which he has passed. The scenes are
now to change and another miniature world
is to open upon his view. There is to be
variety beauty, grandeur and sublimity. If
he enters this place at night, the following day
will reveal to him the green fields and magnifi-
cent landscapes of California, and in less than
24 hours, he will be able to feast his greedy eyes
upon a glowing sunset on the Pacific Coast.

Leaving Wadsworth we cross the Truckee
River and gaze with delight upon the trees, the
green meadows, the comfortable farm-house, and
well-tilled fields of the ranche on our left, just
across the bridge. Like everything else lovely
in this world, it soon fades from our vision, as
we rapidly pass into the Truckee Canon. The
mountains now come down on either side as
though they would shake hands across the silver
torrent that divides them. The valley narrows
as if to hasten their cordial grasp, and to remove
all obstacles in their way. Now it widens a
little as though it was not exactly certain
whether these mountains should come together
or not, and wanted to consider the matter. But
leaving this question to the more practical
thoughts of our readers, we hasten on, winding
around promontories and in and out of " draws "
and ravines, through rocky cuts, and over high
embankments with the river rolling and tumbling
almost beneath our feet, and the ragged peaks
towering high above us, passing

Salvia, a simple side track, six miles from
Wadsworth. Now we have something to occupy
our attention ; there are new scenes passing by
at every length of the car, and we have to look
sharp and quick, or many of them will be lost
forever. Soon we make a short turn to the right,
and what the railroad men call " Red Rock " ap-
pears in front, then to our right, and finally over
our heads. It is a huge mountain of lava that
has, sometime, in the ages of the past, been
vomited from the crater of some volcano now
extinct ; or it may have been thrown up by some
mighty convulsion of nature that fairly shook

the rock-ribbed earth till it trembled like an as-
pen leaf, and in which these huge mountain piles
were thrown into their present position. Pres-
ently, amidst the grandeur of these mountains,
a lovely valley bursts upon our view. We have
arrived at the little meadows of the Truckee, at
a station called

Clark's, 264 miles from San Francisco, with
an elevation of 4,263 feet. This station is named
from a former proprietor of the ranche here. It
is a beautiful place with mountains all around it,
and the only way you can see out, is to look up
toward the heavens. The narrow bottom on
either side of the river is fenced in, producing
excellent crops of vegetables and hay, and afford-
ing excellent grazing for the stock that is kept
here. As we arrive at this station, we pass
through a cut of sand which seems just ready to
become stratified, and which holds itself up in
layers, in the sides of the cut. Occasionally, as
we look over the nearer peaks in front, we can
catch a glimpse of the snow-crowned Sierras in
the distance. Now a creek comes in from a
canon on our left, and through this canon is a
wagon road to Virginia City, and now a butte is
passed between us and the river the river being
on our left since we crossed it at Wadsworth.
There are a few ranches scattered along its
banks where vegetables for the 10,000 miners at
Virginia City are grown. The mountains we
have passed are full of variegated streaks of clay
or mineral, some white, some red, some yellow,
and some pale green. You will notice them as
you pass

Vista, 252 miles from San Francisco; ele-
vation, 4,403 feet. We are going up hill again.
At this station we .arrive at the Truckee Mead-
ows. It is like an immense amphitheatre, and
the traveler rejoices again in the presence of
farm-houses and cultivated fields in the scene
of beauty that spreads out before him. Beyond
the level plain, we see in front of us Peavine
Mountain and at the base of the hills to the
farther side of the valley, lies Reno. To our left
Mt. Rose lifts its snow-covered head; to the left
of Mt. Rose is Slide Mountain.

Curious Names Given Tty Miners.
Placerville was, in 1849, called Hangtown because
it was the first place where any person was
hanged by lynch-law.

Tin Cup was so named, because the first miners
there found the place so rich that they measured
their gold in pint tin cups.

Pine L'og is so named because there was once
a pine log across the South Fork of the Stanis-
laus River in such a position as to offer a very
convenient crossing to miners.

The following are among the other oddities
which have, through miners' freaks and fancies,
been used to denote settlements and camps and
diggings, small or large:

Jim Crow Canon, Gridiron Bar.


Hen-Roost Camp,
Lousy Ravine,
Lazy Man's Canon,
Gopher Flat,
Bob Ridley Flat,
One Eye,
Push Coach Hill,
Mad Canon,
Happy Vallev,
Hell's Delight,
Devil's Basin,
Dead Wood,
Gouge Eye,
Puke Ravine,
Slap-Jack Bar,
Bloomer Hill,
Grizzly Flat,
Rat-Trap Slide,

U,ed Dog,

Jackass Gulch,

Ladies' Canon,

Miller's Defeat,

Loafer Hill,

Rattlesnake Bar,

Whisky Bar,

Poverty Hill,

Greasers' Camp,

Christian Flat,

Rough and Ready,


Sugar-Loaf Hill,

Paper Flat,

Wild-Cat Bar,

Dead Mule Canon,

Wild Goose Flat,

Brandy Flat,

Yankee Doodle,


Petticoat Slide,

Chucklehead Diggings, Pike Hill,

Plug Head Gulch, Port Wine,

Ground Hog's Glory,

Bogus Thunder,

Last Chance,

Greenhorn Canon,

Shanghai Hill,

Shirt-Tail Canon,

Skunk Gulch,

Coon Hollow,

Poor Man's Creek,

Humbug Canon,

Quack Hill,

Nigger Hill,

Piety Hill,

Brandy Gulch,

Love-Letter Camp,

Blue Belly Ravine,

Shin bone Peak,

Loafer's Retreat,

Swellhead Diggings,

Poodletown, .

Gold Hill,

Centipede Hollow,

Seven-by-Nine Valley,

Gospel Swamp,

Reno is 293 miles from San Francisco, situ-
ated in the Truckee Meadows, the junction of
the Virginia and Truckee Railroad, the best
point of departure for tourists going west to
visit Lake Tahoe. The Meadows, about fifteen
miles long and eight wide, are naturally cov-
ered with sage brush. The numerous boulders
which also strew the meadows, are built into
fences, and alfalfa seed sown after digging out
the sage brush, and rich pasturage results, on

Online LibraryFrederick E ShearerThe Pacific tourist : J.R. Bowman's illustrated trans-continental guide of travel, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean ... : acomplete traveler's guide of the Union and Central Pacific Railroads ... → online text (page 35 of 61)