Buffalo Salt Works

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Buffalo Salt Works is located on the west side of the Smoke Creek Desert, north of Salt Marsh.

Thompson and West (1881) state "Passing to the south, across a number of small barren valleys, Buffalo Canon is reached, a narrow tract eighteen miles long. Buffalo Station in this place is on the stage road. A few cattle are kept here and some hay cut."

"South of this is Murphy's Salt Marsh, where B. F. Murphy has been preparing salt for the market for the past ten years. His salt works are located at Reno."[1]

In 1877, Thomas W. Symons traveled through the area: "Leaving Surprise Valley we set out going through the old outlet of the lake by the main road to Reno and separating at Clark's about 10 miles from the valley two courses were run to the Granite Mountain which was occupied as our last triangulation station October 26; A four days march from Granite Mountain brought us to Susanville passing by Wall Springs, Murphy's Salt Works, Smoke Creek, and Shafer's. Mr Murphy has built up quite an industry in the desert. On boring a few feet into the soil water is found which is a fully saturated solution of salt and which by means of a windmill he pumps into inclosed spaces of the ground and there it is evaporated and leaves the salt which is very pure and of excellent quality. From one gallon of water he gets two pounds and ten ounces of salt. He was extending his works so as to make more salt as he is at present unable to supply the demand."[2]

A 1884 Gazetteer states that Murphy & Lunigus had a salt works in Sheepshead: "SHEEPHEAD A post village in Washoe county 141 miles northwest of Virginia City and 89 northwest of Reno the county seat nearest railroad station and banking point Salt is shipped Population 100 Mail daily Bonham JT general store and saloon Murphy & Lunigus salt works."[3]

Highton (1983) cites Papke and states that B. F. Murphy sold salt in Reno from 1865 to 1875 from Buffalo Springs[4].

Lincoln (1923) states that in 1885 the works had produced 1500 tons of salt and were producing 250 tons annually[5].

Overton (1947) reports that Buffalo Springs Salt Works was established in 1879 and that it produced 250 tons annually prior to 1896. Overton states that Director Carpenter reports that Mr. Cornell, living at Sheepshead Station knows where the Buffalo Salt Works is "close by" "[6].


  1. Myron Angel, David F. Myrick, "Reproduction of Thompson and West's History of Nevada, 1881," p. 565, (1881, 1958).
  2. 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.
  3. New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming and Arizona Gazetteer and Business Directory," p. 513, 1884.
  4. Jack Higton, "Salt: Unsung 'Hero' of Nevada Mining," p. 179, Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, Fall, 1983. Cites Keith G. Papke, "Evaporites and Brines in Nevada Playas," Bulletin 87, Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology (Reno, University of Nevada, 1976), p. 16.
  5. Francis Church Lincoln, "Mining Districts and Mineral Resources of Nevada," Verdi, Nev.: Nevada Newsletter Publishing Co., p. 236, 1923.
  6. Theodore D. Overton, "B046: Mineral resources of Douglas, Ormsby, and Washoe Counties," B046, Nevada Bureau of Mines & Geology, 1947. Full version with lower resolution images. Includes images of Fly Geyser, the Petrified Forest, Gerlach Hot Springs that are in the collection at UNR.