In your email dated November 30, 2003
you voiced an interest in the actual campsite of
January 31 through February 2, 1844, and the
approach to Markleeville from there on February
2nd. That naturally got me thinking. I ran off a
series of maps for that route from my Tahoe Topo
program, cut and spliced them together and taped it
to a door in my classroom. On free moments I'd
study the map for all possible routes. Also checked
with any other maps I could find. The route up
Indian Creek over the Markleeville airport and down
the large draw makes sense in terms of logistics
and follows the journal description.
"Crossing the river on the ice, we commenced
the ascent of the mountain along the valley of a
tributary stream...Leaving this stream, and
pursuing a very direct course, we passed over an
intervening ridge to the river we had
left...travelling a little higher up [we]
encamped on its banks."
The Carson River runs through a narrow canyon
most of the way from Hangman Bridge to the takeout
above the old dam. Therefore it makes no sense for
them to have crossed over any intervening ridge
before this route. The way would have been very
accessible, as shown by the maps, including the
false color infrared overlay added to the map.
Roads run the entire distance, they are, however,
on private or Washoe Reservation lands from the
Carson River to Dutch Valley. I feel certain that
this is the route they took on February 2nd.
31-February 2, 1844. Lahontan National Fish
Hatchery on East Fork of the Carson River
2-18. A bit downstream from the confluence of
Markleeville Creek and the East Fork of the
Carson River just above the guaging station.
Downstream from Markleeville, this camp was a
horse camp under the charge of Baptiste Bernier
until about February 18th.
3-18. A camp, or camps, near Grovers Hot Springs
under the charge of Tom Fitzpatrick for purposes
of making a road through the snow for the
The route up the mountains from Grovers to
Charity Valley, and the approach to Carson
The exact location of the camp of January 31 to
February 2nd was also food for thought. Your
statement "near the hatchery," and "a mile south of
Dresslerville," were too vague for me. Brittney
[center in photo at top] and I drove down
there yesterday and scoped it out. Fortunately the
bridge over the river that was wiped out in the
1997 flood has been replaced--the water is pretty
cold in December. We were able to drive up on the
bluff opposite the hatchery for a good view of the
lay of the land. As is pointed out on the map
[below], to have any protection of the wind
they would have had to go as far, and no farther
that the site of the hatchery with its east-west
line of cottonwoods and willows.
"In the course of the afternoon,
one of the men had his foot frostbitten; and
about dark we had the satisfaction to reach the
bottoms of a stream timbered with large trees,
among which we found a sheltered camp, with an
abundance of such grass as the season afforded
for the animals."
Being between storms (recorded weather of the
31st and the 1st) there would have been strong
southwest winds. Fremont's statement "the top of
the range being hidden in clouds of snow" well
describes the rain
shadow effect we get here, with the storm
clouds dissipating as the air mass drops into the
valley. The mouth of Long Valley where Indian Creek
comes out into the Carson flood plain is narrow and
would have been easy to miss without the help of
the Indian guide Melo on January 31st. There is a
beautiful old barn at the mouth of the draw and a
road going up it, as well as signs pointing out
that this is Tribal Land. As the map indicates we
can be reasonably sure that the site of the
two-night camp was in the hatchery housing area.
Smart place to put housing!