Jedediah Strong Smith – Nevada State Historic Marker 84

Jebediah Strong Smith was an early frontiersman, hunter, trapper, author, cartographer, mountain man and explorer of the western United States and the subject of Nevada State Historic Marker number 84.

Drawing of Jedediah Strong Smith (1799–1831), created around 1835 after his death by a friend from memory. It is the only contemporary image of Smith.
Drawing of Jedediah Strong Smith (1799–1831), created around 1835 after his death by a friend from memory. It is the only contemporary image of Smith.

Born in 1799 in Jericho, New York, Jedediah Strong Smith would grow up to become one of the most significant figures in the exploration of the American West during the early 19th century. His life was a testament to the indomitable spirit of discovery that characterized the era of westward expansion.

From a young age, Jebediah Smith exhibited an insatiable curiosity and an adventurous spirit that set him apart from his peers. Raised in a family of modest means, he received only limited formal education. However, his voracious appetite for learning and his natural inclination for exploration propelled him beyond the confines of the classroom.

Fur Trapping and the Path to the West

At the age of 21, Smith embarked on his first western expedition as a fur trapper, a career choice that would shape the course of his life. He joined the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and ventured into the untamed wilderness of the Rocky Mountains, determined to carve his own path in uncharted territories. His experiences during this period honed his survival skills and deepened his connection to the natural world.

The First Overland Expedition to California:

In 1826, Smith led a pioneering expedition that would take him and his small band of explorers on an arduous journey from the Great Salt Lake to California. This remarkable feat marked the first documented overland journey from the United States into California. Smith’s exploration helped to map previously unknown regions and establish crucial trade routes.

Mapping the West and Bridging Cultures

Jebediah Smith’s exploration efforts were not limited to geography alone. His interactions with various Native American tribes and his ability to communicate across cultural divides showcased his adaptability and diplomacy. He valued the knowledge and insights of the indigenous peoples he encountered, contributing to a more nuanced understanding of the American West.

Jebediah Strong Smith’s legacy is imprinted on the landscapes he traversed and the narratives he helped to shape. His meticulous journaling and mapping laid the groundwork for further expeditions, encouraging subsequent generations of explorers to continue pushing the boundaries of the known world. Smith’s untimely death at the hands of Comanche warriors in 1831, at the age of 32, underscored the risks and sacrifices inherent in his chosen path.

Jebediah Strong Smith’s life epitomized the restless spirit of exploration that defined the era of westward expansion in the United States. His contributions to mapping the American West, fostering cross-cultural connections, and inspiring future adventurers are enduring testaments to his remarkable journey. As a trailblazer who ventured into the unknown with courage and determination, Smith’s legacy continues to inspire individuals to seek new horizons and embrace the thrill of discovery.

Jedediah Strong Smith Nevada State Historic Marker 84 Text

Nevada State Historical Markers identify significant places of interest in Nevada’s history. The Nevada State Legislature started the program in 1967 to bring the state’s heritage to the public’s attention with on-site markers. These roadside markers bring attention to the places, people, and events that make up Nevada’s heritage. They are as diverse as the counties they are located within and range from the typical mining boom and bust town to the largest and most accessible petroglyph sites in Northern Nevada Budget cuts to the program caused the program to become dormant in 2009. Many of the markers are lost or damaged.

From May to June 1827, explorer and trapper Jedediah Smith found a route from California’s central valley to the Great Salt Lake Valley in Utah.  He became the first European American to completely cross what is now Nevada.

Because Smith’s journal and map have never been found, his exact route is unknown.  Based on Smith’s own statements about his difficult trip, modern historians and geographers have pieced together the most plausible route.  Smith crossed the Sierra Nevada at Ebbetts Pass, swung southeast along or across the headwaters and middle reaches of the Walker River, and passed into central Nevada’s open spaces south of Walker Lake.

Smith entered Smoky Valley on its southwest side in June 1827 and crossed the valley in a northeasterly direction.  He then paralleled the future Simpson survey, route of the Pony Express and Overland Stage, along modern U.S. Highway 50.

He entered Utah at Ibapah.


Nevada State Historic Marker 84 Map

Nevada State Historic Marker number 84 is located near Ely, Nevada, in White Pine County. The marker is on U.S. Highway 93, on the east side of the highway. It is found in rest area, four miles north of Ely. 

Nevada State Historic Marker 84 Summary

NamedJedediah Strong Smith
LocationWhite Pine County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude39.2771, -114.8463
Nevada State Historic Marker84


John Wesley Powell

John Wesley Powell, a remarkable American explorer, geologist, and ethnologist, was born on March 24, 1834, in Mount Morris, New York. His expeditions through the uncharted territories of the American West not only added to scientific knowledge but also provided invaluable insights into the land’s geological and cultural diversity. Powell’s legacy as a pioneer of exploration and his tireless efforts in promoting conservation measures have left an indelible mark on American history.

Powell served as the second Director of the United States Geological Survey, a post he held from 1881 to 1894. This photograph dates from early in his term of office.
Powell served as the second Director of the United States Geological Survey, a post he held from 1881 to 1894. This photograph dates from early in his term of office.

Early Life and Education

Powell grew up in rural New York, where his love for nature and the outdoors was nurtured from an early age. Although he lost his right arm in a childhood accident, Powell’s determination and thirst for adventure were undeterred. He developed a keen interest in natural sciences and geography and pursued higher education at Illinois College and later at Oberlin College, where he focused on geology.

Grand Canyon Expeditions

Powell’s most famous and daring expedition was his 1869 journey down the Colorado River, known as the Powell Geographic Expedition. With a team of nine men, Powell set out to explore the largely uncharted canyons and rapids of the Colorado River and gather valuable scientific data. The expedition faced numerous hardships, including treacherous rapids, scarce food supplies, and hostile encounters with Native American tribes. Miraculously, Powell and his crew successfully navigated the treacherous river and completed the journey, providing unprecedented knowledge of the Grand Canyon and its geological formations.

First camp of the John Wesley Powell expedition, in the willows, Green River, Wyoming, 1871. - E. 0. Beaman - War Department. Office of the Chief of Engineers. Powell Survey. (1869 - ca. 1874)
First camp of the John Wesley Powell expedition, in the willows, Green River, Wyoming, 1871. – E. 0. Beaman – War Department. Office of the Chief of Engineers. Powell Survey. (1869 – ca. 1874)

Powell’s subsequent expeditions further solidified his reputation as a fearless explorer. He embarked on multiple journeys across the American West, including explorations of the Green and Colorado Rivers, the Rocky Mountains, and the Uinta Mountains. Powell’s meticulous record-keeping and scientific observations greatly expanded the understanding of the region’s geology, hydrology, and ethnography.

Scientific Contributions

Powell’s expeditions were not merely adventurous endeavors but also scientific ventures aimed at advancing knowledge in various fields. He published numerous papers and reports detailing his findings, including “Exploration of the Colorado River of the West and its Tributaries” and “Canons of the Colorado.” These works significantly contributed to the geological understanding of the American West, shaping subsequent research and studies in the region.

Additionally, Powell’s expertise in ethnology led him to conduct extensive research on Native American tribes. He documented their cultures, languages, and customs, recognizing the importance of preserving their heritage. His ethnographic studies formed a crucial foundation for future anthropological research in the United States.

Conservation Advocacy

John Wesley Powell was not only a scientist and explorer but also an early advocate for conservation. Recognizing the fragile nature of the American West’s ecosystems, he became a vocal proponent of sustainable land use practices and preservation efforts. Powell believed that the arid region’s limited water resources necessitated careful management and planning.

In 1879, Powell presented his influential “Report on the Lands of the Arid Region of the United States” to Congress. This groundbreaking report emphasized the need for responsible irrigation and land development strategies, urging policymakers to consider the long-term consequences of uncontrolled resource exploitation. Powell’s report laid the groundwork for the eventual establishment of the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Reclamation, both crucial agencies in land and water management.

Legacy and Impact

John Wesley Powell’s contributions to exploration, science, and conservation continue to resonate today. His expeditions not only unveiled the wonders of the American West but also inspired future generations of explorers and scientists. Powell’s emphasis on interdisciplinary research and his understanding of the intricate relationships between humans and their environment remain


Stellars Jay ( Cyanocitta stelleri )

The Stellars Jay ( Cyanocitta stelleri ) is a common character found in the forests of the western half of the United States. The bird is an opportunistic omnivore and closely related to the Blue Jay. The Stellars Jay has a black crested head and a vibrant blue body which is commonly about between eleven and twelve inches long. This bird has a lot of variations depending on location.

Stellar's Jay ( Cyanocitta stelleri ) stealing peanuts in Big Bear, California
A Stellar’s Jay ( Cyanocitta stelleri ) stealing peanuts in Big Bear, California
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Western Wallflower (Erysimum capitatium)

A member of the mustard family, the Western Wallflower ( Erysimum capitatium ) is a brightly colored yellow flower which is quite common across the western United States, including Arizona, Utah and Nevada.. In European countries, the wallflower earned its name from a habit of growing on… you guess it, walls. More specifically stone, masonry or wooden fences. The name was transposed to the American species despite the fact the plants have no preference for walls.

Western Wallflower (Erysimum capitatium)
Western Wallflower (Erysimum capitatium)
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Pronghorn ( Antilocapra americana )

A solitary Pronghorn ( Antilocapra americana ) found near Golbin Valley, Utah
A solitary Pronghorn ( Antilocapra americana ) found near Golbin Valley, Utah

Commonly known as an antelope, the Pronghorn ( Antilocapra americana ) is an even toed or hoofed mammal found in the plains of the western United States of America. The Pronghorn in america is mislabeled as an antelope, which is an old world or African species of Antelope. The Latin name, Antilocapra americana means “American goat-antelope”

The Pronghorn lives in brush and grass lands and deserts and survive by grazing on the vegetation. They typically live in herds which may number in the hundreds depending on time of year and food sources.

They have excellent eye sight use this valuable resource to keep a distance from predators in the wide open habitats they are found. They are also the fastest animal in the western hemisphere and can run at speeds up to 60 miles per hour. The result is a reclusive animals that tends to run when it sees any threat, which means these animals can be difficult to get near. Typically, when I see them in the field, it is their white hind quarters travelling at a high rate of speed away from me.

Males typically stand between 51 and 59 inches in height and weigh between 88 and 143 pounds. The female are about the same height, however, more slight at 75 to 106 pounds. Their coloring is quite distinctive and features large white patches on the rumps, belly and heads with black bands on the face and necks. They boast large eyes located towards the tops of their skulls which have a field of view of 320 degrees. This feature allows the animals to maintain distance and allows them to spot predators while resting in the tall grass.

Cougers, Coyotes, Wolfs and Bob Cats are known to prey on the pronghorn. Additionally, they were a valuable food source for many Native American tribes including the Assiniboine, Rapid and Blackfoot Tribes.



Ord, 1818
Species:A. americana[