Archaeology of the Old Spanish Trail/Mormon Road: From Las Vegas, Nevada to the California Border

Old Spanish Trail and Nevada State Markers

Publication: BLM Library

Author: Keith Myhrer

Date of Publication: 1990

PDF File: Myhrer-Archaeology-of-the-Old-Spanish-TrailMormon-Road-f.pdf


A portion of the Old Spanish Trail/Mormon Road from Las Vegas to the California border was intensively examined by BLM archaeologists between 1987 and 1989. Historic research indicates that this trail was forged in 1844 and utilized as an immigration route until 1905, with some localized traffic until the 1940s. In spite of disturbance from off-road activities and contemporary urban construction in one of the fastest growing areas in the nation, some sections of the trail in southern Nevada retain some degree of integrity. With the exception of 19 miles where paved highway has covered the trail, artifacts still remain along the historic route. About 30 miles were walked and artifacts recorded. Seventy-five selectively collected artifacts were descriptively analyzed and indicate most use of the trail occurred from the 1880s up to the first decade of the 20th century. Archaeology of the trail yielded information on transportation, artifact distribution and subsistence practices of the trail users. Approximately 25 percent of the trail remains relatively undisturbed and 35 percent is only partially disturbed from off-road vehicles. Almost 60 percent, then, yet exists in some fashion as a trail. Recommendations for management of the trail include promotion of a feasibility study for nomination of the route as a National Historic Trail and use of sections for interpretive exhibits-inplace.