Near Lovelock in Churchill County, Nevada — The American Mountains (Southwest)
Traveling Through Hell
Regardless of its horrors, it became the accepted route. The trail splits three miles southeast of here into the two main trails to California--the Carson River and Truckee River routes. Each route had its advantages and disadvantages, but both of them included a 40-mile-long stretch before water could be reached.
Starvation for men and animals stalked every mile. A survey made in 1850 showed these appalling statistics: 1061 dead mules, almost 5,000 horses, 3,750 cattle, and 953 graves. The then value of personal property loss was set at $1 million. When emigrants had crossed the Forty-Mile Desert and lived to tell about it ... they had truly "seen the Elephant." And as one diarist described, "We saw the Elephant and ate its tail!"
The heaviest traffic came from 1849 to 1859. The route was still being used by some travelers after completion of the Central Pacific Railroad in 1869.
"Seeing the Elephant"
On the trail, the term came to be associated with the difficulties of the journey. It was almost a badge of honor to say that you had "seen the elephant," had experienced difficulties that others would not understand or believe, and had made it through. This part of the California Trail was one of the places where the elephant was often "seen."
"Here, indeed, was a picture of misery, which, if I had witnessed before being hardened to scenes of the like character, would have made my heart's blood run cold, and even now the chill of horror ran over me like electricity. Dead horses and oxen, in great numbers, with steaks cut out of their flesh, lay scattered over the land, and men, without a morsel to eat, were begging from wagon to wagon, offering all they had for a little dry bread. The more dishonest, however, were practicing the crafty scheme of theft."
John T. Clapp; July 15, 1850
(illegible) glimpse of the posterior parts of the elephant. (illegible) he came rapidly in sight and we got view of him tail and trunk.
Samuel C. Plummer, 1850
"All hands early up anxious to see the path that leads to the elephant."
John Clark, 1852
Erected by Bureau of Land Management.
Marker series. This marker is included in the California Trail marker series.
Location. 39° 56.437′ N, 118° 44.974′ W. Marker is near Lovelock, Nevada, in Churchill County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of U.S. 95 and Interstate 80, on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is located at the Trinity Rest Area on US 95 and is accessed from Exit 83 of Interstate 80. Marker is in this post office area: Lovelock NV 89419, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 3 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. About Your Journey ... (here, next to this marker); A Home of Early Man (here, next to this marker); Forty Mile Desert (within shouting distance of this marker).
More about this marker. The marker is in poor condition, and parts of the marker are difficult to read or illegible.
Also see . . . Forty Mile Desert. From the website of the Oregon-California Trails Association. (Submitted on August 6, 2013, by Duane Hall of Abilene, Texas.)
Categories. • Roads & Vehicles • Settlements & Settlers •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 6, 2013, by Duane Hall of Abilene, Texas. This page has been viewed 318 times since then and 32 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on August 6, 2013, by Duane Hall of Abilene, Texas.