|Length:||70 mi (113 km)
Originally 180 miles (289.68 km)
|Existed:||1862 – present|
|West end:||San Bernardino, CA|
|East end:||La Paz, AZ|
The Bradshaw Trail, nicknamed the Gold Road at one time, is an historic overland stage route in Southern California which originally connected San Bernardino, California to gold fields in La Paz, Arizona, some miles north of Ehrenberg. It was the first road connecting Riverside County to the Colorado River.
Its remainder, a graded dirt road, traverses southeastern Riverside County and a part of Imperial County, beginning roughly 12 miles (19 km) east of North Shore and terminating about 14 miles (23 km) southwest of Blythe for a total of 70 miles (110 km).
The trail is named for trailblazer William David Bradshaw who first crossed the area in 1862. A former forty-niner, Bradshaw knew that the northern gold mines were rapidly becoming exhausted and that the flood of refugees from the area would need a more direct trail from the south across the desert to the new strike at La Paz. Without a direct trail, it would be necessary to travel a great distance southeast to Yuma, then north up the river to La Paz. Bradshaw was also aware of the financial possibilities which could be found in a gold boomtown. In May 1862, Bradshaw and eight other men set out to find a direct route to La Paz.
Originally 180 miles (290 km) long, the western trailhead began east of San Bernardino in the San Gorgonio Pass. Bradshaw and his party travelled southeast through Agua Caliente, now Palm Springs, and then South to the region where the Torres Martinez Indian Reservation is now located. There Bradshaw was befriended by Cabazon, a chief of the Cahuilla Indians of the Salton Sink, and a Maricopa from Arizona who was visiting the Cahuilla villages. They provided Bradshaw with the knowledge of the route of their ancient trade route through the Colorado Desert, including the location of springs and water holes.
Armed with this information, Bradshaw traveled eastward near present day Mecca at the northern tip of the Salton Sink, to the foothills of the Orocopia Mountains and an existing stage stop called "Dos Palmas Springs." Leaving Dos Palmas, the men continued through the pass eastward between the Orocopia and Chocolate mountain ranges, briefly skirting the southern end of the Chuckwalla range, crossed through a gap in the Mule Mountains and reaching the Palo Verde Valley two miles southwest of the modern community of Ripley. Despite the fact that the trail crossed mostly barren desert, water was reasonably plentiful with water holes found at roughly 30-mile (48 km) intervals at Canyon Springs, Tabaseca Tanks, Chuckwalla Springs and Mule Spring. Crossing the vally to the northwest they crossed the Colorado River north of what is now Blythe. Once they crossed the Colorado River, the party rode upstream for approximately four miles to the gold fields of La Paz.
Between 1862 and 1877, the Bradshaw Trail was the main route between Southern California and the gold fields of La Paz and other places in western Arizona.
The trail today
The remaining fragment mostly crosses public land save for the extreme eastern end of the trail at Ripley, where it intersects 30th Avenue, 2 miles (3.2 km) west of SR 78. Use of a four wheel drive vehicle is recommended to traverse the trail and no amenities may be found on the trail itself.
- Topographical Sketch showing the Outward and Inward Route of a Party, while examining as to the practicability of a Diversion of the Colorado River for Purposes of Irrigation, Lithograph by Eric Bergland, 1875. From, Wheeler, G.M., Topographical Atlas Projected To Illustrate United States Geographical Surveys West Of The 100th Meridian Of Longitude Prosecuted In Accordance With Acts Of Congress Under The Authority Of The Honorable The Secretary Of War, And The Direction Of Brig. Genl. A.A. Humphreys, Chief Of Engineers, U.S. Army. Embracing Results Of the Different Expeditions Under The Command Of 1st Lieut. Geo. M. Wheeler, Corps Of Engineers. Julius Bien, lith., G. Thompson, Washington, 1876 from davidrumsey.com accessed December 3, 2014.] Shows the Colorado River above Ehrenburg, Arizona to Stones Ferry at the mouth of the Virgin River, in Southern California, parts of Nevada, and Arizona. Includes the roads and railroads of the time, including the detailed routes of the Bradshaw Trail and the Mojave Road. From a Wheeler Annual Report. Gift to the David Rumsey collection by Mark Sappington.
- Johnston, Francis J. (1977). The Bradshaw Trail. Riverside, CA: Riverside Historical Commission Press. p. 215.
- Reviewed in Polich, John L. (Summer 1978). Strong, Douglas S, ed. "The Bradshaw Trail". San Diego Historical Society Quarterly 24 (3).
- Lech, Steve (2012). For Tourism and a Good Night's Sleep: J. Win Wilson, Wilson Howell, and the Beginnings of the Pines-to-Palms Highway. Riverside, CA: Steve Lech. p. 164. ISBN 978-0-9837500-1-7. (for more information about Dos Palmas Spring)