Central Overland Trail

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The Central Overland Trail (aka Central Overland Route, Central Route, Simpson's Route, Egan Trail, and Pony Express) was a shortcut of the California Trail. It was surveyed, improved for stagecoaches, and opened by the U.S. Army in 1859 from and Salt Lake City, Utah through central Nevada to Carson City, Nevada, a distance of about 650 miles (1046 km). This more direct route shaved off 280 miles (450 km), about two weeks travel time, from the length of the original California Trail.[1]

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

In 1855 Howard Egan, a Latter-day Saint immigrant cattle dealer, discovered a route that stretched from Salt Lake City, Utah across the central Nevada basin and range terrain to the California Trail at Carson City, Nevada. The trail followed a series of mountain passes and desert watering holes lined up through the middle of a dozen of Utah's and Nevada's north to south mountain ranges. He used this route to drive cattle from Salt Lake City to market in California.[1]

Hearing rumors about the route, in 1858 the Army sent Captain James H. Simpson to survey and improve the route to help resupply Camp Floyd in Utah. The Central Overland Trail opened in 1859 to stagecoach service. The California Trail mail route farther north along the Humboldt River was quickly switched to the shorter Central Overland route. As the American Civil War approached the Butterfield Overland Mail route was also switched to the Central Overland Trail in order to avoid capture in the southern states.[1]

The Central Overland Route quickly took an important role in the American economy. Several stage lines could reach California from Missouri in 25 to 28 days of travel day and night using this trail. California gold was often sent east for Union army payrolls via this route. Likewise, the Pony Express coast-to-coast 10-day mail service (1860-1861) and the first transcontinental telegraph line (1861) also followed this route.[1]

Main Route[edit | edit source]

The Central Overland Trail went south from Salt Lake City, Utah to the U.S. Army base at Camp Floyd, near Fairfield, Utah, and then generally west across the desert and mountains to Carson City, Nevada, where it joined the California Trail into California.

The exact route of the Central Overland Trail passed through:

Connecting migration routes. The Central Overland Trail linked to other migration routes at each end. The migration pathways connected at the east end included:

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The usage of "Mormon" and "LDS" on this page is approved according to current policy.

The migration pathways connected at the west end of the Central Overland Trail included:

Modern parallels. The modern roads that roughly match the Central Overland Trail are as follows:

  • from Salt Lake City, Utah take Interstate I-15 south to Lehi, Utah
  • from Lehi take Hwy 73 southwest until it turns north
  • turn southwest onto the Pony Express Trail and follow it winding westward to Ibapah, Utah
  • from Ibapah southwest to the Utah/Nevada border and west to Cherry Creek, White Pine, Nevada
Note: from Cherry Creek there are no modern roads paralleling the Central Overland Trail from northwest White Pine County to mid-Eureka County, Nevada
  • from Eureka County Hwy 278 turn west onto M111 Mill Tokin Road due southwest to 3 Bars Road
  • continue on 3 Bars Road to M114/NV-21, turn southwest toward Austin, Lander, Nevada
  • from Austin, Nevada take US Hwy 50 west to Carson City, Nevada

Settlers and Records[edit | edit source]

No complete list of pioneer settlers who traveled the Central Overland Trail is known to exist. However, a variety of sources exist which can be used to identify most of them in California. For strategies and records you can use to help identity pioneers once they settled in California, see the California Trail Wiki page.

External Links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Central Overland Route" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Overland_Route (accessed 13 September 2011).