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The Ca
lifornia-Nevada Chapter is one of eleven chapters of the Oregon-California Trails Association, an organization dedicated to the preservation, appreciation and enjoyment of all transmigration trails to the west, the trails that made the United States an ocean-to-ocean nation.

California Nevada Trails

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Chapter  Meeting and Symposium
Grass Valley/Nevada City
April 28, 29, 30, 2017

Henness Pass  – Trail to the Mines

Click below for the Symposium Program

2017 Nevada City Symposium Program

Click below for a Registration Form

2017 Nevada City Symposium Registration

We hope to see many CA-NV  members at our spring symposium, April 28 – 30 2017, in Grass Valley and Nevada City.

On Friday April 28, 2017, the Chapter Board will meet at Humpty Dumpty Restaurant, 1711 E Main St, Grass Valley, CA 95945 from 9:00AM to 4:00PM. The meeting will be held upstairs. An elevator is available. Lunch will be ordered individually.

On Friday evening a reception for all members will held at the Railroad Museum,  5 Kidder Ct, Nevada City,  (Exit Gold Flat Road) from 5:00PM to 6:30 . This is a community gem and a nice place to gather and say hello to other Chapter members. Wine and light snacks will be provided. Dinner will be on your own.

The day long Spring Symposium will be on Saturday April 29, at Nevada City Elks Lodge, (Route 49 towards Downieville, after leaving Nevada City). The Elks Club is located past the Nevada County Government Center. A General Membership meeting begins at 8:30 and ends at 10:00, followed by speakers on various subjects. Rick Lemyre will tell about the John Marsh House in Brentwood. Chris Enss, local comedian and writer of many books on western history is guaranteed to keep you awake and laughing after lunch. You will hear about Alonzo Delano who crossed the plains in 1849, and went on to write much about his travels, later becoming the Wells Fargo agent in Grass Valley where he lived the rest of his life. Chuck Simeca, retired State Park Ranger, will tell about the Henness Pass route from Marysville to the Nevada Mines.

Sunday April 30, Chuck Simeca will lead a limited (10) number of autos on what remains of the old Henness Pass route. (Not recommended for those who like modern roads) and advance registration is required.

On Sunday,  the rest of the symposium visitors will enjoy an on your own exploration of the area, visiting  the Empire Mine State Park ($7) and the  North Star Mining Museum, in Grass Valley. The Firehouse Museum in Nevada City, which has many native American Nisenan artifacts, a Chinese altar from Grass Valley’s Chinatown, and Donner party artifacts collected by C. F.  McGlashan of Truckee, (who was the first to interview actual Donner survivors and write the first book on the Donner party.) All the local museums accept donations, but have no entrance fee.

Regrettably there was no central hotel which had large facilities at a affordable rate, so we were unable to secure a “headquarters” venue with rooms and meeting facilities. The Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce has information on the many restaurants, motels, and camping facilities in the area. (The Nevada City Elks Lodge has 6 spaces for members with motor homes) . Those attending should explore that website as well as check out lodging sites like Tripadvisor. There are some very nice camping facilities in the area. If you need a recommendation contact Pricilla Vanderpass for information.

Henness Pass Field Trip

Sunday April 30, 2017
A Fantastic Panorama of the Sierra Nevada

In October of 1859 David Wood of Bridgeport and John Freeman of Camptonville, both road & bridge builders, seeing the great potential for profits surveyed a new and better wagon route, utilizing the older Henness Pass trail. Their efforts paid off by establishing a faster route that was shorter than the Placerville route by 15 miles, over the Sierra to the Comstock Strike at Virginia City. The route could also be used during the winter months, since it was at a lower elevation than the competing Placerville route. Due to their actions, a large increase in stage and supply traffic increased dramatically between the years 1858 to 1864.

We will be a modern day wagon train car caravan.  This field trip will be modified and stay on paved roads to accommodate the needs of folks coming from greater distances this year. I will focus on the beginning bifurcations leading up to the first toll gate at the Bope Ranch Station and end at the old Cornish House Stage Stop for lunch.  Car-pooling is encouraged, leaving as many vehicles as possible at our meeting location. This field trip will be limited to 20 people.

The trek will be a half-day outing. We will meet at the Madelyn Helling Library at 8:30 A.M. Sunday April 30th

Bring a full tank of gas, water, bag lunch, binoculars and hiking shoes. If you have small portable radios that receive on more than one channel, please bring them. They will be of aid as narration and directions will be constantly communicated during this field trip over the radio.

Chuck Scimeca, Bridgeport State Park Ranger Retired

Chapter Report for the Vancouver Board Meeting

March 30, 2017 Vancouver, Washington

Chapter membership stood at 275 at the last Chapter Board meeting on October 22, 2016. The Chapter is solvent and in a sound financial position. The Board expressed a desire to see more marking projects through to completion, have more outings and become involved other historic stakeholder organizations. A budget was passed reflecting these directives.

The onset of spring means our annual symposium and membership meeting soon follows. This year’s symposium will be in Nevada City, California on April 28, 29, and 30th, and features the Henness Pass wagon road. The Nevada County historical Society is assisting local members and Chairperson Priscilla Vanderpass in organizing the gathering.

The winter season has put a lot of pressure on the California and Nevada landscape as well as people. We are hopeful there hasn’t been any significant impacts to the trails, but common sense tells us we will see erosion, down trees and weather results on our markers. We will have to get out and see what the wet and snowy weather has done to the trails, or markers and worksites.

In addition we are anticipating governmental agencies, utilities and landowners will be out in force repairing clearing away segments for the next round of storms this year and the next. We need to be vigilant about looking and listening for projects that may affect the trails. I have requested chapter members to let the Chapter or our preservation officer, John Winner, know of any real or rumored projects that will impact trails near where they live or come across while out exploring.

Along that line, the replacement stand for one of the two Carson Trail-Caples Lake interpretive panels, damaged last winter, is in the custody of Frank Tortorich and will be installed as soon as the 12 + feet of snow melts. We are hopeful the other panel remains undamaged.

The chapter has been moving steadily ahead with the Historic Fernley Sand Swales marking and restoration project. The display site has been identified and permission secured to place information panels in the parking lot of the Terrible’s Travel Center and Casino, I-80 exit 48, at the entrance to the swales. This business has a high volume of both local and traveling public. The content of the panels were vetted by a committee as to design and content. A vendor has the information and panels are in production. They will be completed in time for the dedication around the time of the annual cleanup of the swales, September 30, 2017. Local contacts are excited about the project and will be involved as the project moves forward. We have had great cooperation with the stakeholders and look forward to an energetic and fun dedication ceremony at the swales this fall. Most of the energy for this project has been supplied by chapter member Jon Nolan of Carson City, NV and his committee.

Chapter Board members and other people have been giving local presentations and attending stakeholder conventions to promote OCTA . Those included, a Youth History Camp in Red Bluff in September, the October 2016 Great Basin Anthropological Conference, the Society of California Archeologists in March 2017 , Gold Prospectors in Sparks as well as Rotary, historic and other civic organizations. The chapter will continue looking for opportunities through the spring, summer and into the fall.

The joint operation the placement of National Park Service auto tour highway signs marking emigrant trails in California has slowed as the state’s transportation department, Caltrans, has been working to re-identify the exact locations based on input from our chapter and others. With this year’s weather situation and how it has affected the state’s highways it is unknown if the project will move forward as planned for completion in 2018 or be delayed further.

On December 7th, 2016 The CA-NV Chapter donated the James P. McClain artifact collection to the Churchill County Museum in Fallon, NV. James McClain was a long time OCTA member and a guide for the 40 mile desert and Black Rock Desert trails. He was also a writer for the Overland Journal and the local American Heritage magazine. He taught California History for many years at Nevada Union High School in Grass Valley, CA. He took many groups of high school students as well as OCTA members out and on the trails in the Nevada deserts. His family gave the collection to The CA-NV Chapter who then passed it to the Churchill County Museum for preservation and display as appropriate.

Chapter Preservation Officer John Winters has been following two preservation issues in Nevada. One involves the Newmont Mining Company along the Hasting Cutoff south of Oasis, NV and the expansion proposal by Nevada DOT of a gravel pit along Highway 50 close to two class I swales. Both are being monitored and reported back through the Board. Several other issues have come to light, including a large land acquisition by Fallon Naval Air Station, but were found not to effect the trails in the area. John is also working to digitize the MET quad maps of trails in California that have been prepared by OTCA members in the past and currently.

We look forward to the Spring Board meeting in Grass Valley on April 27, 2017 to revue our progress and continue to serve out chapter members!

Dick Waugh-President
CA-NV Chapter


The chapter is in need of a new membership chairperson.  Please contact the chapter via the Chapter email if you are interested.

If you are interested in being on the California-Nevada Chapter Board of Directors or you know someone who is interested, contact Chapter President Dick Waugh through the Chapter email.

View Highlights of the convention logo
2015 Convention at Tahoe



The latest issue of Trail Talk can now be found in the
members only pages.

New – Spring 2017 Issue

Contact for the members only password.


Watch a Video of Helicopter Power Pole Installation on the Carson River Route in Carson Canyon
by Pedro Kinner


Watch Frank Tortorich tell the story of Melissa Coray
a film by Mark Russell


Watch Larry Schmidt talk about Mark Twain
a film by Dee Owens


Passport in Time – Carson Emigrant Trail
by Dee Owens