4WD or high clearance desired
  Overland Trail, Simpson Route

Download Google Earth File

DIRECTIONS See Google Earth file

When you drive U.S. Highway 50 you're basically on the route Captain James Simpson surveyed back in 1859. Striking out from Salt Lake City in May of that year, Simpson mapped a route that was about 150 miles shorter than the Humboldt River Route, and that avoided traveling through the dreaded 40 Mile Desert north of Fallon. From the Utah History Encyclopedia:

"After finishing this task [an 1858 survey of the route from Camp Floyd, Utah to Fort Bridger] Simpson was ordered back into the field almost immediately. This time he was going in the opposite direction--to survey the Basin west of the Camp to locate a wagon road to California south of the Humboldt River route. Due to the lateness of the season--October 1858--he only went as far as the Thomas Range. The following May, Simpson led a contingent of forty-four men west through Rush Valley, Skull Valley, and the Salt Lake Desert toward Hastings Pass in the Humboldt Mountains. He realized on this trip that the Great Basin was actually made up of a series of valleys and mountain ranges. Taking a more southwest route through central Nevada his group headed toward Carson Lake. After spending a night at Carson City, the group ended up at Genoa, which had been a Mormon settlement. Simpson then left his command, took a stage to Placerville, and spent a short time in California. He returned to Genoa, and the group began their march back to Camp Floyd began on 24 June 1859. Simpson's party traveled a route forty miles south of their earlier trail. The Captain made his descriptions of the new route available to California emigrants."

The Pony Express and various freight and stage companies also used this route, building numerous stations along the way.


Jesse G. Petersen did a wonderfully in-depth study of this expedition in his treatise entitled, A Route for the Overland Stage (Utah State University, DigitalCommons@USU 1-1-2008) from which I gleefully stole the coordinates for the map you can download above. It covers the trip from Utah to Genoa, Nevada and back.

Just a quick word about the map. The camps are numbered, obviously, first the western trip and then the trip heading back east to Utah. The arrows have little notes in them and generally point in the direction of travel. You'll figure it out. Looks like he skipped a Camp number on the east-bound trip.



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