The Pony Express trail

I am always doing research for work and use the Google website for the search function to seek the information I need. I love the historical tidbits that Google does on its splash screen. The other day it had the information about the Pony Express 155th birthday, the geek in me had to read all about it.

The Pony Express is a mail service that spurred due to the threat of the Civil War blocking means of communication to the West.

The service opened officially on April 3, 1860, when riders left simultaneously from St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. The first westbound trip was made in 9 days and 23 hours and the eastbound journey in 11 days and 12 hours.

Eventually, the Pony Express had more than 100 stations, 80 riders, and between 400 and 500 horses. The express route was extremely hazardous, but only one mail delivery was ever lost. The service lasted only 19 months until October 24, 1861.

According to Wikipedia, The Pony Express route is approximately 1,900-mile-long (3,100 km)  roughly followed the Oregon and California Trails to Fort Bridger in Wyoming, and then the Mormon Trail (known as the Hastings Cutoff) to Salt Lake City, Utah. From there it followed the Central Nevada Route to Carson City, Nevada before passing over the Sierra into Sacramento, California.

                                        

The route started at St. Joseph, Missouri on the Missouri River, it then followed what is modern-day U.S. Highway 36 (US 36 the Pony Express Highway) to Marysville, Kansas, where it turned northwest following Little Blue River to Fort Kearny in Nebraska. Through Nebraska it followed the Great Platte River Road, cutting through Gothenburg, Nebraska, clipping the edge of Colorado at Julesburg, Colorado, and passing Courthouse Rock, Chimney Rock, and Scotts Bluff, before arriving at Fort Laramie in Wyoming. From there it followed the Sweetwater River, passing Independence Rock, Devil’s Gate, and Split Rock, to Fort Caspar, through South Pass to Fort Bridger and then down to Salt Lake City. From Salt Lake City it generally followed the Central Nevada Route blazed by Captain James H. Simpson of the Corps of Topographical Engineers in 1859. This route roughly follows today’s US 50 across Nevada and Utah. It crossed the Great Basin, the Utah-Nevada Desert, and the Sierra Nevada near Lake Tahoe before arriving in Sacramento. Mail was then sent via steamer down the Sacramento River to San Francisco. On a few instances when the steamer was missed, riders took the mail via horseback to Oakland, California.

Hmmm…it sound like it would be fun to follow the entire Pony Express route. We stumbled upon one of the old station back in 2012 on a road trip we did.  So, since U.S. Route 50 (aka the loneliest road in America) is already on my list of routes I want to travel on. Now I guess I’ll just add US Route 36 to my list as well.

             

5 thoughts on “The Pony Express trail

  1. You’re certainly onto something, Ginamarie: What a memorable ride that would be. Needless to say, it’d be a must to read up on historical details beforehand–when riding through history, there’s no better companion than context. For the short life of the Pony Express, its riders and its station keepers had experiences to last forever (at least here in Utah). At that time, from Lookout Pass, Utah’s west desert was regarded as “Piute Hell” (the Paiute are that area’s indigenous people).

    The trail and its surroundings west of Faust, Utah and into eastern Nevada are some of my regular stomping grounds in the riding season. The west desert is, among other things, extremely rugged and desolate, and its trails are prone to severe washouts whenever… It is, in a word, perfect. Several times over the last four years I’ve ridden the Faust to eastern Nevada section of the Pony Express on my F800GS, and every time–whether geared up for camping, or packed light for a hotel stay at the other end–I’ve had to use the extra fuel I’ve taken with me.

    If you end up riding the Pony Express trail, I know a fellow motorcyclist who’d be honored to ride Utah’s remote section with you.

    Regards,
    Ry Austin

    P.S: Two great resources with firsthand accounts are Pathway to Glory – The Pony Express and Stage Stations in Utah by David M. and Susan C. Jabusch; and The Pony Express in Nevada, published by Nevada State Museum. I’d be happy to send pdf files of these to you.

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    • Hi Ry,

      Yes I would love to get more information about the Pony Express and the Stage Stations. Also, I’m always up for riding partners whenever I’m searching for historical places off the beaten path.

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      • You’re welcome to send me a message through the contact form at the bottom of the profiles page on my website (http://twowheelstothere.com/profiles/), and I’ll reply with a Dropbox link to those files, as they’re a bit hefty for emailing.

        I loaded them to my iPad when I began regularly riding to eastern Nevada, and they’ve proven to be pleasant, campsite reading. Happy trails to you, Ginamarie.

        BTW: Great blog!

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