Body History

The Black Rock Desert is best known as a desolate stretch that the pioneers traveled along the Lassen/Applegate trail in from 1846 through the 1860’s.  There are places where the trail is still visible and most of the area remains unchanged since the time of the pioneers.  The pioneers left the main trail at Rye Patch Reservoir on the Humbodlt River and continued through the desert to Mud Meadows/Soldier Meadows Basin. Most of the trip was made without water and feed for the animals.

 The travelers found their first good water and grass at Black Rock where there is a hot springs surrounded by about 20 acres of meadow. The emigrants were understandably relieved to reach Mud Meadows, and find water and grass for the animals. From there they went on to Fly Canyon down a wagon slide, and on through the High Rock Canyon to California.

All of these sites are within driving distance from Soldier Meadows Ranch.  You can enjoy the modern comforts and good food provided by the ranch while getting a taste of the trials that faced the pioneers.

“George N. Jastjith(?) July the 16th 1862 from WIS”

 In 1844 Captain John C. Fremont stayed at Soldier Meadows and enjoyed the hot springs and meadows.  In 1865 Camp McGarry was established at the current location of the ranch.  It was a U.S. Army winter camp established with the mission to protect pioneers and freight trains from Indian attack.  By then there were regular freight wagon trains traveling from the Sacramento Valley to Silver City, Idaho.  There was a silver discovery in Idaho and supplies were sent from Chico and other California towns.  Protection was needed along this stretch of the trail so the Army established a Fort near Summit Lake (now the Summit Lake Indian Reservation).  In the winter, they moved the Fort south to Soldier Meadows because it was quite a bit warmer with the lower elevation and warm water from the nearby hot springs.  Several of the stone buildings and stables remain standing from the U.S. Army camp.
 After the army abandoned Camp McGarry, it’s history is unclear.  In the 1870’s Nevada school lands at Soldier Meadows sold to individuals to raise money for the state.  It was then that ranching began in the area.  Cattle barons Henry Miller and Charles Lux began to put the ranch together in the late 1800’s from many small owners and ran it as Pacific Livestock Company until 1928.  Later owners continued to run both cattle and sheep for many years.  The Estill Family currently raises cattle on the land and is hoping that grazing and ranching will remain a colorful part of this area’s future as well as it’s history.