The Burnett Cutoff was opened by Peter Burnett, an American politician and the first governor of California as a state in the U.S., serving from December 20, 1849, to January 9, 1851. In 1848, Burnett was elected captain of the wagon party that followed the Oregon to California trail and then the Applegate Trail south and opened the Burnett Cutoff, the connection to the Lassen Trail.
From: A Guide to the Lassen Trail and Burnett Cutoff, by Donald E. Buck and Denise Moorman, An Emigrant Trails West Series Guidebook by Trails West, Inc.
For nearly 50 miles, the “road-hunters” laid out a wagon road until they unexpectedly came upon the wagon tracks of Peter Lassen’s small wagon party at a big bend of the Pit River near the northern end of Big Valley.
The opening of the Burnett Cutoff, that linked the Applegate Trail with the new Lassen Trail, offered for the first time wagon travel between Oregon and California. The Cutoff received heavy use during the travel season in 1849. Numerous emigrant accounts on the Lassen Trail mention encountering Oregonians going to and returning from the gold fields.
Due to a lack of contemporary accounts after 1850, when the Lassen Trail fell into disuse, it is difficult to determine how the cutoff fared as a wagon route between the Oregon Territory and the new state of California. In 1855 a more direct wagon route, known as the Lockhart Wagon Road or Military Pass Road, connected Yreka with the Nobles Trail. By the early 1860s, the old packing Oregon to California Trail had been converted and realigned into a wagon road for freighting and stagecoaches.