On the Trail of the Pony Express


When the pony riders reached the rugged Wasatch Mountains of present-day Utah they gratefully followed the wagon route that had earlier been cut through the mountains by the Mormons, a route that by then had been improved to allow emigrant parties from the East and from Europe an easier time making it to the Salt Lake valley. Moreover a single horseman had the advantage over a wagonload of emigrants in negotiating narrow Echo Canyon, where there was a relay station, climbing over Big Mountain Pass, and riding through Emigration Canyon to reach the expanding settlement known as Salt Lake City.

Motorists who approach today on I-80 might stop at the Utah welcome center, where exhibits describe the history of transportation through the Wasatch Range from the time of the Indians, trappers, explorers, and express riders to the modern-day motorist.

Beyond Salt Lake City the Pony Express rider faced more miles of desert. Here he left the established trails and headed out across the Great Salt Desert, where he faced the increased threat of Indian attack, few water sources, and isolation. Meanwhile, the California Trail swung north up the Salt Lake valley to the City of Rocks before continuing west along the Humboldt River.

Anyone who wants to share the feelings of the Pony Express riders should drive the 133-mile backcountry byway across western Utah that was designated by the Bureau of Land Management. This drivable gravel road begins at the town of Fairfield, west of Provo and Utah Lake, and closely follows the Pony Express Trail as far as Ibapah near the Nevada border.

Start this commemorative drive at Camp Floyd/Stagecoach Inn State Park near Fairfield. A two-story adobe and frame hotel has been restored with period furnishings. Erected in 1858 the hotel served both the Overland Stage and the Pony Express. Adjacent to the hotel Camp Floyd was established in 1858 as an Army encampment within the Mormon homeland.

Of the fourteen relay and home stations that existed on this segment of the Pony Express Trail, all have been identified but few original remains are left. Interpretive signs describe the most significant locations. At one overlook the trail follower on a clear day can look across the grass-covered rangeland and see the entire distance a rider had to cover to reach the next relay station. At Simpson Spring, one-third of the way along the byway, are a reconstructed stone station, a monument, and interpretive signs that underline the courage required of both the rider and the station keeper in this lonely landscape. At Boyd Station the visitor can see ledges that were cut into rock walls to provide primitive bunks for the Pony Express hands. To obtain more information about the backcountry byway write to the Bureau of Land Management Salt Lake District Office, 2370 South 2300 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84119.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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