Sacramento Daily Union Newspaper, August 26, 1864 Letters From Nevada Territory

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Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 27, Number 4191, 26 August 1864, reproduced below, has a description of the Black Rock

Note that the GNIS entry for Trego Hot Spring states that Kyles Hot Spring is a variant name and refers to this article.


[Correspondence of the Union.] Pueblo (N. T.), August 20, 1864. Black Bock and its surroundings.

Passing around from Deep Hole Springs and at the north end of the break in the Granite range of mountains, to Granite creek, through which Black Rock Desert extends, are located several hot springs, puffing up steam which can be seen at a distance. From these springs the desert commences to widen gradually for thirty miles— till we reached Black Rock range of mountains. Granite creek takes its rise high up in a gorge, which spreads out and forms a valley, where there is good grass, three miles from the desert. It runs in a southerly direction and comes out on the east side of the range, four miles east of Hot Springs, and sinks on the desert. From Granite creek the Humboldt road 'crosses the desert in a southeasterly direction to Kyles' Hot Springs, twelve miles distance ; thence in an easterly direction to Rabbit Hole Springs, eighteen miles further, where the desert sweeps around to the north, leaving Black Rock to the left. Black Rock Desert, over which we passed to the eastward, is shaped like a triangle. It is the most singular portion of earth I ever traveled over in its appearance and formation. The soil is of a sandy and clayey substance, mixed with alkali, and when dry forms a hard pan like cement. The surface is level and almost as white as snow, and the reflection of the sun on this vast expanse is painful to the eyes. 'Not a shrub nor weed is seen as far as your eye can — only one vast expanse of nature's barren field which refuses to yield like common earth the beauties of vegetation. The south wind sweeps over this desert and raises clouds of fine dust and drifts it in piles along the north side of the desert and near the base of the mountains. Black Rock range lies twenty-five miles east of the Granite Mountains. Its course is north and south, and unites with the Granite range at High Rocky canon, on Lassen's route from Humboldt, through Surprise valley, to California. The desert extend, up Northward twenty miles on the west side of Black Rock Range, and|it is confined to a canon at the head, through which quite a large creek flows, and runs down on the desert below Black Rock. Fish abound in this stream, and during the Winter season, when the water is high, large quantities of fish are carried down on the desert, and, as the water sinks, they are left exposed. on the surface. Black Rock range of mountains is low, averaging about three hundred feet high, and terminates in the desert at Black Rock. Black Rock stands separately and alone to the westward from where the range terminates. Lassen's road crosses the desert from Rabbit Hole Springs, along the west base of Black Rock. Whoever has passed under the shadow of Black Rock could not but feel an inspiration of awe as he beheld this rock in the distance, rising its jagged and broken summit far above him, so peculiar in its formation. It is a huge pile of rocks, raised three hundred feet above the desert, and presents a magnificent appearance as he approaches it from the west, with its spurs, pinnacles and turrets gleaming in the sunbeam. Sand hills, nearly a mile wide, stretch along the west base of this range. They have been formed by the wind drifting the dust from the desert into piles, resembling hay stacks, and they extend south nearly across the desert. Sage brush and grease wood ate sparsely scattered among these sand mounds. On the north side of Black Rock, and dose at its base, is a large boiling, spring, and the water flows off to the west, and forms a fine meadow land. Whilst traveling over this desert we become more and more anxious to reach the rock, where we could slake our burning thirsty It is truly a great rock, in a desolate land, casting its shadows aslant for wearied man and wearied beast. Having spent two days at this spring, I prospected and made a thorough examination of tbis range and could find no mineral indications.

Pecular Formation

Black Rock is a formation of sandstone, granite, slate stone, and a conglomeration, burnt black by volcanic heat. Black Rock range is nearly of the .same formation, but different in color; some parts are red sandstone and light gray granite, and all bear the appearance of having been thrown up out of the desert by some subterranean convulsion, as they have along their crests the outcropping volcanic rocks, which are wrought into such fantastic shapes, and everywhere seen on the crest of the mountains. We passed around Black Rock range to the -right, and took up Queen's river plain" to the north. The plain waa soft in places on account of the late rains. The earth is of a sandy soil, resembling ashes, and in many places it is self-rising, like dough before i. is baked. This is owing to the deposit of large quantities of alkali, and being saturated with water. Queen's river flows down through the plain as far as Black Rock, occasionally sinking and then rising, and finally disappearing beneath the surface. The incessant rains and melting snows in the wet-season causes Queen's river to overflow its banks, and a large portion of the lower part of the plain near Black Rock is covered with water, making it so soft that it is utterly impassable at times. When the water drains off, the surface becomes dry and hard enough to bear up a wagon. Greasewood and other shrubbery are scattered over the plain in patches, whilst in other places long belts of white alkali stretch along parallel with each other for miles till they are lost in the distant swells. The plain narrowed as we ascended, and fifty miles north of Black Rock it had contracted to about five miles wide, where it changed its course to the southeast. Here in this bend, within the distance of ten miles, four plains and valleys center and intersect; Humboldt plain comes in from the southeast, Queen's river plain from the northeast, and Pueblo valley from the northwest. The St. Paul range of mountains, lying on the east side of Black Rock plain, is about thirty miles wide between Rabbit Hole Springs and Humboldt river, and it narrows down to a point as they extend northward, and terminates at Queen's river. Along the eastern base of these mountains the Humboldt road runs and crosses Queen's valley at the narrow place where it intersects with Pueblo valley. Here at the junetion of the Humboldt plain with Pueblo valley, Queen river bottoms for twenty-five miles up and down produce some of the best meadow land that can be found anywhere, and grasses of the best quality. Pueblo valley commences to rise gradually, after leaving Queen's river, for twenty miles, till you reach a low divide, where the mountains jon either side almost unite, leaving a good pass. for a wagon road. On the south side of the pass the valley is rolling and cut up by creeks coming out of the east and west ranges of mountains, which have some fine sites for mill privileges. After rising one long swell after another, which form a low divide, we descended a gradual incline plain to the northwest into Pueblo valley, which extends north and south, and on the west side of which Pueblo mountains are located. Pueblo Silver District lies about sixty miles due north from Black Rock, and some fifty miles east of Surprise valley. There is a good level road from Black Rock to Pueblo by keeping up on the west side of the plain and near the base of Black Rock range. About every fifteen miles good water and grass can be found, except the first twenty-five miles out rounding Black Rock. G. K. G.