The California Trail Interpretative Center of Elko, Nevada is the place to learn more about the lives and influence of mountain men. We are a fun, educational, and informative place to learn about the history of the journey west for many peoples and the mountain men who helped make it possible. With the fall of fur trading and the rise of silk, mountain men made a transition to being guides for wagon trains and military scouts and some even joined the gold rushes and farmers. These wilderness men, trappers, and fur traders became a necessary part of a successful journey through Nevada across the California Trail.

Creators of the California Trail

Many of the pioneer trails were created and later widened to wagon trails by the physical work of mountain men. These were the trails the fur trappers and traders and big fur companies used to transport their furs inland by mules. Stretching some 2,000 miles across the western side of North America runs the California Trail. Beginning near the Missouri River and ending in California with several off shooting trails along the way it was important to have a pioneer trail guide for safety and success.

Guiding the Pioneers

A variety of travelers occupied the trail. The Mormon exodus to the Salt Lake Valley went along the California Trail. During the 1840’s and 1850’s western trail guides led more than 250,000 farmers and gold-seekers to the west along these trails. People brought their wagons and hopes to the California Goldrush and lush rich farmland in one of Americas greatest migrations.

The Mountain Men of the West

Each mountain man had his own story. The trappers, fur traders, wilderness men, and trail guides learned the ways of the land and used these experiences to help themselves and others. Many worked as groups in military fashion. Some of the more well-known pioneer trail mountain men were:

  • John Colter 1774-1830
  • William Sublette 1798-1845
  • Jedediah Smith 1799-1831
  • Jim Bridger 1804-1881
  • George Drouillard 1773-1810

In Nevada and other areas, local mountain men were a variety of men with a wide variety of experiences. John Colter is known for Colters run. William Sublette opened a trading post. Jedediah Smith was attacked by a grizzly and survived. Jim Bridger mediated between the native tribes and encroaching whites. George Drouillard served on the Lewis and Clark Voyage of Discovery. Each of these individuals learned to brave the harsh western climate and environment and work to make the west what it is today.

Learn More About Mountain Men Today

Come to the California Trail Interpretive Center and learn more about these amazing mountain men and the impact they had on the history of Nevada and the United States. Stop on by today to experience first-person accounts and interactive exhibits of trail life. We look forward to seeing you.

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