Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Where I’ve been—out with the Pony Express.

Not long ago I wrote here of a desire to visit the Pony Express Station sites in Utah’s west desert. That’s one I can check off the list.

With the able guidance and expertise of Patrick Hearty, former president of the National Pony Express Association as well as the Utah Division, Utah Division Historian, and the author, with photography by Dr. Joseph Hatch, of The Pony Express Stations of Utah and The Pony Express in Utah, we drove the trail and stopped at all the Pony stations out to the Nevada border. The road was laid out by army engineer James H. Simpson, and served the Jackass Mail, the Overland Stage, freighters, the US Army, and emigrants as well as the Pony Express.

The desert out there is still an empty place, with few—most of the way, no—residents outside of wild horses and antelope for a hundred miles. But the isolation is beautiful in its way, with blue sky and mountains and plains that stretch as far as the eye can see and beyond. The view is not much changed from what the Pony riders saw as they raced through there in 1860 and 1861. All the stations are marked, some with interpretive information. Some still show ruins and fainter traces from the stations that once stood. The photograph above shows the station site at Simpson’s Springs, where you’ll find a monument erected by the Civilian Conservation Corps and a replica of a station building erected years ago by FFA students, as well as interpretive information posted by the Utah Division of the National Pony Express Association.

The original Willow Springs Station building still stands—barely—at the Willow Springs Ranch in Callao, and houses a number of artifacts and collections from the history of the Pony Express as well as local history. Besides a tour, the owners of the ranch offered help and assistance of another kind—but that’s a story for another day.