Casper to Independence Rock

They would learn, and their guides and experienced wagonmasters would warn later corners, that the fifty miles between Last Crossing and the Sweetwater were the worst stretch of trail between the Missouri and the Salt Lake Valley—would kill more cattle and sicken and depress more people and collect more abandoned equipment than any comparable reach of road. Except for one good but miry spot at Willow Springs, campsites were few and bad: if there was good water, there was no wood or grass; if there was grass there was bad water, or none. Even after the road topped the summit of “Prospect Hill”—a spot that Brigham remarked would be a fine place to set up a summer mansion and keep tavern showed them the Sweetwater Mountains across a broad irregular plain, the road was rougher than it looked from a distance, and the last ten miles before Independence Rock was very heavy, unpleasant with the smell of the alkali lake it crossed. Lorena Young and others gathered pailfuls of the efflorescent white bicarbonate of soda—”saleratus”—for the women to try out in baking but it made bread of a suspiciously green cast and had to be used in moderation. The water that sat on these glaring flats in shallow lakes tasted not very salty, but “sickly,” and was said to be poisonous, and to “burst” cattle that drank it. For lack of anything better the cattle of more careless or more uninformed trains than this did often drink it, and all during the years of the emigration part of the trail was marked by hundreds of cattle carcasses, bloated and loathsome, or scattered by wolves, or dried to racks of hid covered bones.