The Lincoln Highway in Basin and Range – John Thomas Ranch (Fish Springs N. W. R.)

Travelers coming south from the Dugway area would not find water or services again until they reached J. J. Thomas’ Ranch.

John Thomas Ranch – courtesy U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The people in the photograph include J. J. Thomas. Notice the automobile wheel in the far right (looks like a Model T Ford to me). The photo was taken in 1919.

There are many stories about J. J. Thomas. He would come out with his team of horses and rescue people if they built a sagebrush fire to summon him. Reputedly he’d name a price to pull folks out of the mud and if the price wasn’t accepted he’d keep raising the price until it was accepted (out of surprise no doubt). Some suggested that he purposely flooded the “road” near his ranch to increase the business.

The Road from Dugway

A little east of the ranch the LHW comes in from the north having skirted the Dugway range. You may actually drive this road for several miles but you’ll have to turn around at the Callao Gate of the Dugway Proving Grounds.

LHW from Dugway joins Pony Express Road (39° 52.800’N 113° 15.240’W)

In this area is the much touted rock on which J. J. Thomas painted his name. This rock is very hard to find although it’s just off the road above. The paint is now peeling off. I could find no evidence that it was originally chiseled into the rock.

Thomas Rock

Thomas Ranch Remains

The location of the ranch buildings and Pony Express station at the Wildlife Refuge are lost to history. So much development has gone on in the intervening years that archaeologists have been unable to pinpoint the site of the buildings. Many people point to the picnic area shown here as a likely location of the ranch house and station. If it’s not, at least the view is beautiful.

Picnic Area, Fish Springs N. W. R.

The Lincoln Highway runs through the refuge just downhill from the existing main road. Unfortunately you can’t  enter or leave on the LHW since there are fences that block it off, but you can drive on it to the picnic area. Turn around there and return to the main entrance.

Black Point

Continuing north from Fish Springs you will shortly turn westward around Black Point at the northern end of the Fish Springs Range. I have to believe that the road around the point, not the current road, is the original route of the LHW. I infer that from reports of the condition of the highway as it was first located and the similarity to other original sections in the area. The current road is the result of many years of improvements but the simple two-track shown here is just right for the early period.

Black Point Road

This is quite drivable in any vehicle with a little ground clearance and is only about a half mile long.

Boyd’s Pony Express Station

Boyd’s Pony Express Station, Looking West to Callao

Finally we stop for a break at Boyd’s Station and look towards our next destination of Callao, Utah, seen in the far distance.


Until next time, travel wisely in the desert,


This entry was posted in Desert, Landscapes, Lincoln Highway, Model T Ford, Salt Lake Desert, Utah. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Lincoln Highway in Basin and Range – John Thomas Ranch (Fish Springs N. W. R.)

  1. John J. Thomas says:

    I read with interest your post referring to J.J. Thomas. I was wondering the source(s) of your anecdote about him purposely trying to fleece people is trouble. Family history and contemporary publications that I have seen paint a very deferment picture of his character. For instance, I refer you to LEHI Centennial History, on his generosity and the respect he received from those who directly knew him.
    John James Thomas III (and third-great grandson of John Jones Thomas)

  2. Michael Clements says:

    I was told that an ancestor of mine would graze cattle out at Fish Springs. I believe he was a Thomas and I am wondering if I am at all related.

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