Cold Springs (aka Rock Creek) We Visited: 10-6-2001, 1/19/2002
39 23' 34"N, 117 51' 04"W - COLD SPRINGS quad

Directions: 59 miles east of Fallon on Highway 50. Freight Station and Telegraph repeater are on the north side of the highway, Pony Express Station is 1.5 miles to the south over well-marked walking trail.

From Fallon: 59 miles

What Was

The "Cold Springs" we refer to here consists of three separate sites: Cold Springs Station, Cold Springs Pony Express Station, and the Cold Springs Telegraph Repeater. The Station and Repeater are also known as "Rock Springs." There is (was) another "Cold Springs" station in this general area, somewhere. But we're focusing here on the obvious ruins.

Even though an occasional vehicle passes by on Highway 50, once you've walked a few hundred yards into the sage towards the Pony Express Station, you begin to realize the isolation of the Cold Springs sites. Plenty of available rock made this an acceptable place for building.

The Pony Express Station consisted of four "rooms," the living quarters, blacksmith and livery, stable and supplies storage, and hay storage. Probably only the living quarters had a roof, and not for very long. The number of gun ports makes it obvious that defense was a main consideration.

Interestingly, this is a spot where you can "see" technology changing the world around it. The Pony Express, of course, couldn't hope to compete with the telegraph; as the latter came into being the former faded away. Buildings related to both are here. From Invention History at the Lemelson Center: Western Union Collection -

"In 1860 Congress passed, and President James Buchanan signed, the Pacific Telegraph Act, which authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to seek bids for a project to construct a transcontinental line. When two bidders dropped out, Hiram Sibley, representing Western Union, was the only bidder left. By default Sibley won the contract. The Pacific Telegraph Company was organized for the purpose of building the eastern section of the line. Sibley sent Wade to California, where he consolidated the small local companies into the California State Telegraph Company. This entity then organized the Overland Telegraph Company, which handled construction eastward from Carson City, Nevada, joining the existing California lines, to Salt Lake City, Utah. Sibley's Pacific Telegraph Company built westward from Omaha, Nebraska. Sibley put most of his resources into the venture. The line was completed in October 1861. Both companies were soon merged into Western Union. This accomplishment made Hiram Sibley leader of the telegraph industry."

The Stage (or Mail) station consists of two buildings, each with several rooms. The Telegraph Station is one building.

The following is from a gorgeous document entitled:
UNR Dept. of Anthropology
Historical and Archaeological Investigations
Of the Rock Creek Stage and Telegraph Stations
by Don Hardesty
Prepared for the BLM
1978
Historical Record by Kathryn Totton

I've rephrased some of it to make it sound like I said it, but--in fact-- it's all the hard work of these people.

In 1858 Major George Chorpenning secured a contract to carry mail to Salt Lake City from Placerville. The route changed from time to time to take advantage of shortcuts and better roads. In the Spring of 1859, Captain J.H. Simpson of the U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers was sent from Utah to find a more direct route. He reduced the distance by 150 miles, establishing camp sites at Cold Springs and Sand Springs. Chorpenning constructed new stations along the route. At this point, "Cold Springs" and "Rock Springs" refer to two different locations. The Cold Springs station continued to be utilized in 1861 when the Butterfield's Overland Mail switched to a a central route because of the Civil War. At the same time, the Overland Telegraph Company brought its lines into the Nevada Territory. On July 20, 1861, The Territorial Enterprise noted the first Overland Mail Stage arrived, and also that the telegraph line was 100 miles east of Fort Churchill and progressing. It was completed in October of 1861, dooming the Pony Express. Some of the Pony's stations-- including Sand Springs- were used as telegraph and stage stations.

ALthough no real evidence exists, there is a possibility that the Rock Creek station was constructed in the summer of fall of 1861 by the Overland Mail or the Overland Telegraph Company-- or both. There is slightly more evidence to suggest that that station was built during the latter half of 1862 or spring of 1863 because of mining developments in the Reese River district.

"Silver was discovered in the Reese River district in May 1862, and by the spring of 1863, the area was experiencing a boom not unlike that of the Comstock in 1860. Travelers between Virginia City and Austin reported the roads clogged with wagons; at least five companies were running passenger coaches between Virginia City and Austin. At this time a new road began to be widely used in reaching the Reese River district. This road branched off the old Overland route at Jacobsville turning north through Mount Airy and New Pass then south to Edward's Creek and Cold Springs station before returning to the old route near Middle Gate."

Confusion about which "Cold Springs" site was which continues to this day, but there are some clues. In 1863, a party of emigrants included one Flora Isabella Bender, who kept a daily record of the journey.

"On July 28 their route took them from Jacobsville to Smith River; the following day they reached Edward's Creek before noon and spent the remainder of the day. For Thursday, July 30, her entry reads: 'Started out early this morning and passed several nice ranches before getting out on the desert. No water till we got to Cold Springs where we nooned—poor water. Proceeded on and arrived at dark at West Gate, 28 miles from Edward's...'"

"Bender's remark about the quality of the water at Cold Springs, when compared with Burton, who found the water one of the station's few redeeming qualities, certainly seems to support the theory that by the summer of 1863, "Cold Springs" was being used to refer to the Rock Creek site."

Post Office: none
Newspaper: none

What is

Cold Springs Station (also known as Rock Creek for reasons which will become obvious when you arrive there) is one of the most impressive set of ruins in Churchill County. Because they now rest behind a barb-wire fence, their condition is good, and the number of buildings and the size of the site is probably one of the largest- if not the largest- in the county. Unfortunately, you can only circle around the site and peer through the fence to view them. Fortunately, there is a fence to protect them so there is something left to view. North of the site and outside the fence is what appears to be the remains of a long wall. About a mile to the north is the telegraph repeater station.

About a mile and a half to the east- on the opposite side of the highway- is the Cold Springs Pony Express Station. It's an easy walk over a Youth Conservation Corps trail cut through the desert. There is no motor vehicle access. There is a certain amount of faith involved, since you can't see it from the road and, in fact, it's pretty much invisible until you're right on top of it, seeing how it's made from the same rocks that are everywhere around you. Trust me, it's there. Just keep going. My six year old assistant and I took the hike on a snowy January day, and aside from the hard, crusty patches of snow we didn't have much a problem reaching the site. Perfect for mountain biking or horseback riding.


Rock walls remain of the many buildings which made up the Cold Springs Overland Station
The telegraph repeater is an impressive set of ruins
A 1.5 mile hike brings you to the superb Cold Springs Pony Express Ruins
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