Old Spanish Trail

The Old Spanish Trail is a 700 mile long historical trade route that connected the northern New Mexico settlements near Santa Fe, New Mexico with those of Los Angeles, California. The trail’s rugged terrain discouraged the use of wagons. It was always a pack route, mainly used by men and mules.

The routes and trails link California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Colorado. The Old Spanish Trail consists of a series and different trails and routes some of which are in service today.

The Told Spanish Trail BLM Sign
The Told Spanish Trail BLM Sign

Old Spanish Trail Routes

All routes came together at Fork of Roads, east of present-day Barstow in the Mojave desert, and then crossed Cajon Pass between the San Gabriel and San Bernadino Mountains to Coastal California. After negotiating the pass, traders had an easy two to three days travel to the San Gabriel Mission and beyond to Los Angeles.

Armijo Route

Exterior, south facade of Mission San Gabriel Arcangel - 1878
Exterior, south facade of Mission San Gabriel Arcangel – 1878

The first complete trip across the trail began in Abiquiú, northwest of Santa Fe. The Armijo party followed well-known trails northwest to the San Juan River, then nearly due west to the Virgin River. They used the Crossing of the Fathers, cut into rock canyon wall some 75 years earlier by the Domínguez-Escalante party. Armijo’s caravan went down the Muddy River and across
the Mojave Desert to the Amargosa and Mojave Rivers, through Cajon Pass and down to Mission San Gabriel.

Main Northern Route

First blazed by William Wolfskill and George C. Yount in 1831, this route veered northwest from Abiquiú through Southern Colorado and central Utah. It avoided the rugged canyons of the Colorado River that the Armijo party had encountered and took advantage of the better water and pasture resources across central Utah before returning to the Colorado River and Armijo’s route not far from Las Vegas.

Northern Branch

This route followed well-known trapper and trade routes north through the Rio Grande gorge to Taos and into southern Colorado. It then went west through Cochetopa Pass, largely open during the winter when other passes were snowed in and up the Gunnison River valley, rejoining the Northern Route near present-day Green River, Utah.

Mojave Road

The Mojave Road is a 188-mile crossing of the Mojave Desert long used by area Indians and by Spanish explorers and missionaries, it was first traveled by Jedediah Smith, an American trapper, in 1826.

Old Spanish Trail Locations

Government Holes in the central section of the Old Mojave Road.

Old Mojave Road

The Old Mojave Road (Government Road) is an east-west route that enters the Mojave National Preserve off the highway 95 in Nevada, and Afton Canyon…
The Told Spanish Trail BLM Sign

Old Spanish Trail

The Old Spanish Trail is a 700 mile long historical trade route that connected the northern New Mexico settlements near Santa Fe, New Mexico with…

Old Spanish Trail – Mountain Springs Pass – Nevada State Historic Marker

Old Spanish Trail - Mountain Springs Pass is located along highway 160 and Nevada State Historic Marker No. 142. The Old Spanish Trail is a…

References

Old Spanish Trail – Mountain Springs Pass – Nevada State Historic Marker

Old Spanish Trail – Mountain Springs Pass is located along highway 160 and Nevada State Historic Marker No. 142. The Old Spanish Trail is a 700 mile long historical trade route that connected the northern New Mexico settlements near Santa Fe, New Mexico with those of Los Angeles, California.

Nevada State Historic Marker Text

This portion of the Old Spanish Trail was discovered in January 1830, by Antonio Armijo during his first trip from Santa Fe to Los Angeles.  The springs just north of this marker provided excellent water and fed meadows of luxuriant grass for draft animals.  Two days were required to travel between Las Vegas and Mountain Springs Pass.  The trip was broken at Cottonwood Springs, the site of Blue Diamond, where an early start was usually made in order to climb the pass by nightfall.  Early travelers often referred to the area as Piute Springs, but the present title has been used for over a century.  The altitude made Mountain Springs one of the favorite camping spots on the trail.

STATE HISTORICAL MARKER No. 142
NEVADA STATE PARK SYSTEM
NORTHERN NEVADA HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Nevada State Historic Marker Summary

NameOld Spanish Trail – Mountain Springs Pass
LocationHighway 160, Clark County, Nevada
Nevada State Historic Marker142
Latitude, Longitude35.9983, -115.4484

Nevada State Historic Marker Location

References

Potosi Nevada State Historic Marker 115

Potosi Nevada state historic marker 115 is located along highway 160 between Las Vegas and Pahrump in Clark County. The marker is located off the offramp for Mount Potosi Canyon Road (582). Marker 115 is one of several historic markers located along a very short stretch of highway 160. As you exit highway 160, the marker is tucked away off the main road and turned to the side, so it is semi hidden. Due to the highway devide in this location, the exit is only available when travelling eastbound along Highway 160 towards Las Vegas.

Potosi Nevada State Historic Marker 115
Potosi Nevada State Historic Marker 115

Potosi is one of the first mining ventures in the state of Nevada.

Marker Text

The desire of local Mormon settlers for economic self-sufficiency led to mining by missionaries for lead at Potosí.  In 1858, Nathaniel V. Jones was sent to recover ore from the “mountain of lead” 30 miles southwest of the mission at Las Vegas Springs.  About 9,000 lbs. were recovered before smelting difficulties forced the remote mine to be abandoned in 1857.  Potosi became the first abandoned mine in Nevada.

In 1861, California mining interests reopened the mine, and a smelter and rock cabins for 100 miners made up the camp of Potosi.  Even more extensive operations resulted after the transcontinental Salt Lake and San Pedro R.R. (now the union pacific) was built through the county in 1905.

During World War I, Potosi was an important source of zinc.

STATE HISTORICAL MARKER No. 115
STATE HISTORIC PRESERVATION OFFICE

Marker Location

Marker Summary

NamePotosi, Nevada State Historic Marker 115
LocationClark County, Nevada
Nevada State Historic Marker115
Latitude, Longitude35.9954, -115.4866

References

Miller’s Station – Pony Express

Miller’s station, also known as Reed’s Station is a pony express station located in Churchill County, Nevada.

Winchester Firearms adopted the image of a Pony Express Rider.
Winchester Firearms adopted the image of a Pony Express Rider.

Pony Express

Sources generally agree on the identity of this station as a C.O.C. & P.P. Express Co. station, possibly located near the area where the north and south branches of the original Pony Express and Overland Mail Company trails rejoined. Bloss lists Miller’s and Reed’s as separate stations, but other sources agree that the two names represent the same station. The station began about 1849 or 1850 as a stopping point on the California Emigrant Trail, and the Pony Express included the site as one of its original relay stations in 1860. On July 1, 1861, the station passed into the hands of G. W. Reed. Even though Reed owned the station after that date, some people knew it as Miller’s Station. On October 19, 1860, Richard Burton stopped at “Miller’s Station” for about one and one-half hours, where he and his companions had a snack and waited for a heavy rain shower to end. A letter written by an employee, C.H. Ruffing, on May 31, 1860, from Miller’s Station to W.W. Finney stated:

I have just returned from Cold Springs-was driven out by the Indians, who attacked us night before last. The men at Dry Creek Station have been killed and it is thought the Roberts Creek Station has been destroyed. The Express turned back after hearing the news from Dry Creek. Eight animals were stolen from Cold Springs on Monday. Hamilton is at the Sink of the Carson, on his way in with all the men and horses. He will get to Buckland tomorrow.

Nothing remains of the station’s structures, but a well still exists on the site.

NameMillers Station
Location Churchill County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude
Other NamesReed’s Station
NPS Pony Express 162
Next Westbound StationDayton Station
Next Eastbound StationDesert Wells Station

References

Dayton Station – Pony Express

Dayton, Nevada is a small unincorporated community, and the location of the Dayton Station Pony Express stop in Lyon County, Nevada. The little town of Dayton is also Nevada State Historic Marker #7.

Union Hotel, Dayton, built in the early 1870s - Chester Barton collection
Union Hotel, Dayton, built in the early 1870s – Chester Barton collection

Many historical sources generally agree on the identity of Dayton as a Pony Express stop. In 1859 the Comstock Lode attracted 2,500 people to Dayton and made it a prosperous small town. Dayton had two Pony Express stations. The first existed in a building known as Spafford’s Hall Station, which had opened in 1851. Soon after the Pony Express began, the station moved to a new building that also housed stage activities.

When Richard Burton visited Dayton on October 19, 1860, he described a town that had already lost the gold-rush excitement of the previous year. A gravel pit now occupies the site of Spafford’s Hall Station, and the Union Hotel stands at the second Pony Express station site.

Dayton, Nevada courthouse built in 1864. - Chester Barton collection
Dayton, Nevada courthouse built in 1864. – Chester Barton collection

NameDayton Station
LocationLyon County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude39.2363, -119.5874
NPS Station Number163
Next Westbound StationCarson City Station
Next Eastbound StationMiller’s / Reed Station

References