In 1877, Thomas W. Symons traveled through the area: "Surprise Valley, lying partly in California and partly in Nevada, just at the eastern foot of the Warner range and to the west of the upheaved volcanic table lands of Northern Nevada is the bed of an ancient lake vestiges of which remain in the alkaline sinks and flats of which there are three principal ones in the valley. The northern and western portions of the valley between the mountains and the lakes are very fertile and highly cultivated being well watered by the mountain streams. It contains about five or six hundred inhabitants exclusive of the military detachments stationed at Bidwell. The people of the valley find the chief market for their surplus of hay and grain and the other products of the soil at Bidwell where it is used for the supply of the garrison. I heard much about a railroad which was contemplated and which had been surveyed from Mill City on the Central Pacific Railroad through by way of the Granite Mountains, Deep Hole, Squaw Valley &c to Surprise thence to proceed across the mountains and into Oregon. I am unable to see how such a railroad of which both the construction and the running expenses must be very large could pay expenses for a long time to come."
- Thomas W. Symons, "Executive and Descriptive Report of Lieutenant Thomas W. Symonds Corp of Engineers on the operations of Party No 1 California Section Field Season of 1877," p. 113, 1878. In Alvin R. McLane "Silent Cordilleras, The Mountain Ranges of Nevada", p. 19, Reno: Camp Nevada Monograph Number 4, 1978, 118 pp.