Mile 1134: Green River

“The trouble with the Green River Desert was not lack of water. There was plenty, but it was all in the Green River—’by far the most formidable stream to be met on this entire journey,’ said William Johnston, whose company was well in the forefront of the gold rush. He found it in full flood, a rushing torrent three hundred to four hundred feet wide and ten to twenty feet deep. . . .

The traders’ caravans and the early wagon trains skirted the desert proper to the southeast, remaining timidly near the Big Sandy until well within the angle of its confluence with the Green an then striking up the east bank of the great river about twenty miles to a crossing near the mouth of Slate creek. Later companies crossed almost at the mouth of the Big Sandy at what was called the Lombard Ferry. . . .

The Green in the month of June is a rare sample of a watercourse born of perpetual snowbanks. Its swollen current, racing down from icebound peaks and crisp and sparkling upland meadows, arrives in the hot sage flats swiftly but ponderously, and as cold as Greenland’s icy mountains.

It is almost unimaginable, but on this torrential sluice ordinary men, butcher, baker, and candlestick maker, launched their wives and young families in wagon beds. Taking such a liberty with the Green was surely the quintessence of something or other—maybe heroism, maybe just foolhardiness. . . .

Later there were ferries, but the earliest pioneers had to do with substitutes: catamaran rafts, made of braced logs dug out to hold the wagon wheels; ordinary rafts constructed hastily of any small timber available; sheet-iron or wooden boats fitted with wheels and previously driven in the caravan as vehicles.; and, most common, wagon beds caulked tight and with the naked bows stripped of canvas. . . .

And then, in the summer of ’47 came the ubiquitous Mormon and his ferryboats. By ’49 several were needed at the main crossings. It was a money-making venture, but the prices were ordinarily fair, ranging from three to four dollars a wagon.

[N.B. The Big Timber Pony Express Station site lies near Mile 1126 on the Pony Express Bikepacking Route, but is off the route to the southeast. To reach it, it looks like there is a cutoff road at about Mile 1123 that rejoins the Route around Mile 1127.