You are here

Carson Sink Station

In March of 1860, Bolivar Roberts, J.G. Kelly and others built this station. Today very little remains of this once busy station. 2 adobe walls of the corral are visible, but they are rapidly melting back into the alkali. In 1960, Walt Mulcahy found faint ruins of 4 – maybe live – buildings beside the corral. He said all of them faced north with 3 in a small flat just north of the dunes and 2 partially in the dunes.
(Expedition Utah)

Sources generally agree on the identity of this station, known as Carson Sink or Sink of the Carson. Townley suggests the station, which had a good source of water nearby, began as a few brush shelters on George Chorpenning's mail route in 1859. In March 1860, Bolivar Roberts, J. G. Kelly, and their crew built an adobe station and made other improvements there. When Richard Burton visited Carson Sink on October 17, 1860, he found a "frame house inside an adobe enclosure," inhabited by at least one grumpy, half-asleep station tender. After the end of the Pony Express, the station functioned as a rest stop for travelers in the 1860s, and then as a hay ranch until its abandonment before the turn of the century. Portions of the corral's adobe walls remain visible in 1979. (NPS)

About 11 AM we set off to cross the ten miles of valley that stretched between us and the summit of the western divide still separating us from Carson Lake. The land was a smooth saleratus plain, with curious masses of porous red and black basalt protruding from a ghastly white. The watershed was apparently to the north, the benches were distinctly marked, and the bottom looked as if it were inundated every year. It was smooth except where broken up by tracks, but all off the road was dangerous ground: in one place the horses sank to their hocks and were not extricated without difficulty. After a hot drive - the glass at 9 AM showed 74 F - we began to toil up the divide, a sand formation mixed with bits of granite, red seeds, and dwarf shells, whose lips were for the most part broken off. Over the fine loose surface was a floating haze of the smaller particles, like the film that veils the Arabian desert. Arrived at the summit, we sighted for the first time Carson Lake, or rather the sink of the Carson River. It derives its name from the well known mountaineer whose adventurous roamings long anticipated scientific exploration. Supplied by the stream from the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada, it is just such a lake as might be formed in any of the basins which we had traversed, a shallow sheet of water which, in the cloudy sky and mitigated glare of the sun, looked pale and muddy. Apparently it was divided by a long narrow ruddy line, like ochre colored sand; a near approach showed that water on the right was separated from a saleratus bed on the left by a thick bed of tule rush. Stones imitated the sweep of the tide, and white particles the color of a wash.

Our conscientious informant at Sand Springs Station had warned us that upon the summit of the divide we should find a perpendicular drop, down which the wagons could be lowered only by means of lariats affixed to the axle trees and lashed round strong stubbing posts. We were not, however, surprised to find a mild descent of about 30 degrees. From the summit of the divide five miles led us over a plain too barren for sage, and a stretch of stone and saleratus to the watery margin which was troublesome with sloughs and mud. The cattle relished the water, although tainted by the rush; we failed, however, to find any of the freshwater clams, whose shells were scattered along the shore.

Remounting at 5:15 PM we proceeded to finish the ten miles which still separated us from the station, by a rough and stony road, perilous to wheel conveyances, which rounded the southern extremity of the lake. After passing a promontory whose bold projection had been conspicuous from afar, and threading a steep kanyon leading toward the lake, we fell into its selvage, which averaged about one mile in breadth. The small crescent of the moon soon ceased to befriend us, and we sat in the sadness of the shade, till presently a light glimmered under Arcturus, the road bent toward it and all felt jolly. But,
"Heu, heu! nos miseros, quam totus homuncio nil est!"

A long dull hour still lay before us, and we were approaching civilized lands. Sink Station looked well from without; there was a frame house inside an adobe inclosure, and a pile of wood and a stout haystack promised fuel and fodder. The inmates, however, were asleep, and it was ominously long before a door was opened. At last appeared a surly cripple, who presently disappeared to arm himself with his revolver. The judge asked civilly for a cup of water, he was told to fetch it from the lake which was not more than a mile off, though as the road was full of quagmires it would be hard to travel at night. Wood the churl would not part with; we offered to buy it, to borrow it, to replace it in the morning; he told us to go for it ourselves, and that after about two miles and a half we might chance to gather some. Certainly our party was a law abiding and a self governing; one never did I see men so tamely bullied; they threw back the fellow's sticks, and cold, hungry, and thirsty simply began to sulk. An Indian standing by asked $20 to herd the stock for a single night. At last, George the Cordon Blue, took courage, some went for water, others broke up a wagon plank, and supper after a fashion was concocted.

I preferred passing the night on a side of bacon in the wagon to using the cripple's haystack, and allowed sleep to steep my senses in forgetfulness, after deeply regretting that the Mormons do not extend somewhat farther westward.
(The City of the Saints, p 491-2)

Help Develop This Site by Donating Through Paypal