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Early Exploration of Alta California



The California Backcountry remained relatively isolated until after the Gold Rush due to the harshness of the weather and terrain, and its remoteness from the early towns of California. Three intrepid explorers did make the trip through the backcountry areas of the deserts and Sierra Nevada, and one party that met a tragic fate in the backcountry.


There were four routes used by these first foreign visitors to California's backcountry : up from Mexico by way of the southern deserts through what is now the Anza-Borrego Desert, west from the Great basin by way of the eastern high desert through what is now Needles, south from Oregon through the Cascades or Sierras, or right through the heart of the tall Sierras.

Before the World Rushed In

Juan Bautista de Anza, southern desert exploration 1776

Jedidiah Smith, eastern desert and mountain explorations 1826

John Sutter buys Fort Ross and moves it to Sonora, 1841

John Bidwell crosses the Sierras leading the Western Emigration Society, 1841

John C. Fremont, mountain and rebel explorations 1843-46

Kit Carson, Fremont's Guide, mountain explorations 1843-46

Donner Party, mountain tragedy 1846

Ranch and Mission Days in Alta California

Ranch and Mission Days in Alta California, part 2

Joaquin Miller - California Writer

Mexican Period 1821-1846

Rancho Era Experience 1820-1848

Mission Era 1769-1820