The Salt Lake Desert
Orr’s Ranch was the last major stop for travelers heading west until one reached Ely. The roads from there were questionable and the advice from the Guidebook was this:
“Some difficulties may be encountered in this part of the road. If traveling in wet weather advice should be sought at Orr’s before making the start.”
This is the same portion of the LHW on which Dwight Eisenhower commented after his 1919 trip across the country.
From Orr’s Ranch, Utah, to Carson City, Nevada, the road is one succession of dust, ruts, pits, and holes.
This stretch was not improved in any way, and consisted only of a track across the desert. At many points on the road, water is twenty miles distant, and parts of the road are ninety miles from the nearest railroad.”
It can be an adventure even today. There are no services at all from Tooele or Grantsville, Utah to Ely, Nevada. And I mean no services. I had two flat tires in the most isolated part of this road and had to limp to Ely on both occasions for repair.
The Lincoln Highway planners had to avoid the huge salt flats, left over from the inland seas of years ago. In the map above. Orr’s is at the intersection of the blue and yellow roads in the center, just below the “LHW”. The 1913 route is shown in yellow; the 1919 route is in blue.
Water can be found but no fuel. There is no cell service for the most part. The early traveler had it a bit easier with fuel and water available at several points along the way, but make no mistake, it was and is a very isolated part of the country. It is this part of the Lincoln Highway that intrigues and captivates me today.
If you decide to follow the old road west from Orr’s just be prepared. Be certain that you have enough range in your vehicle to cover approximately 200 miles without refueling. I would carry an extra spare tire. Have drinking water and food on board. If you break down, just stay where you are. Someone will come along, eventually, although traffic in many places is light.
So our journey west will include these locations: Orr’s Ranch, Dugway, Simpson’s Springs, the J. J. Thomas Ranch (now Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge), Callao, Gold Hill, Ibapah, Tippet’s Ranch, Schellbourne Pass, McGill, and Ely. It can be done in a day.
As always, travel wisely,