Bradshaw Trail

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Bradshaw Trail
Gold Road
Route information
Length: 70 mi (113 km)
Originally 180 miles (289.68 km)
Existed: 1862 – present
Major junctions
West end: San Bernardino, CA
East end: La Paz, AZ
Highway system

The Bradshaw Trail, nicknamed the Gold Road at one time,[1] is an historic overland stage route in Southern California which originally connected San Bernardino, California to gold fields in La Paz, Arizona Territory some 5 miles northeast of Ehrenberg, and the road to the mining districts of Central Arizona Territory, near Wickenburg and Prescott. In later years 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).


Bradshaw Trail
Distances San Bernardino, California to La Paz, Arizona Territory, 1875[2]
Location Distance
between stations
Distance from
San Bernardino, California
St. Clair Ranche, California 18 mi (29 km) 18 mi (29 km)
Gilman's, California 12.7 mi (20.4 km) 30.7 mi (49.4 km)
White River Station, California 13.5 mi (21.7 km) 44.2 mi (71.1 km)
Agua Caliente, California 10.2 mi (16.4 km) 54.4 mi (87.5 km)
Indian Wells, California 18.5 mi (29.8 km) 72.9 mi (117.3 km)
Los Toros, California 12.0 mi (19.3 km) 84.9 mi (136.6 km)
Martinez, California 4.1 mi (6.6 km) 89 mi (143 km)
Bitter Spring, California 14.1 mi (22.7 km) 103.1 mi (165.9 km)
Dos Palmas Station, California 3.0 mi (4.8 km) 106.1 mi (170.8 km)
Canyon Spring, California 11.4 mi (18.3 km) 117.5 mi (189.1 km)
Chuckawalla Well, California 29.6 mi (47.6 km) 147.1 mi (236.7 km)
Mule Spring, California 21.0 mi (33.8 km) 168.1 mi (270.5 km)
Laguna, California 14.3 mi (23.0 km) 182.4 mi (293.5 km)
Willow Spring Station, California 6.8 mi (10.9 km) 189.2 mi (304.5 km)
Bradshaw's Ferry, California 9.2 mi (14.8 km) 198.4 mi (319.3 km)
Mineral City, Arizona Territory
ferry 1864-1866
0.5 mi (0.80 km) 198.9 mi (320.1 km)
Ehrenberg, Arizona Territory
ferry from 1866
0.5 mi (0.80 km) 199.4 mi (320.9 km)
Olive City, Arizona Territory
ferry 1862-1864
0.5 mi (0.80 km) 199.9 mi (321.7 km)
La Paz, Arizona Territory
4.5 mi (7.2 km) 204.4 mi (328.9 km)

The trail is named for trailblazer William David Bradshaw[3] 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 village of 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 Bitter Spring at the foothills of the Orocopia Mountains and on 5 miles to an existing stage stop called "Dos Palmas Spring." 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 Palo Verde Valley to the northwest they crossed a slough of the Colorado River called Laguna, and Willow Springs Station, to Bradshaw's Ferry, the crossing point of the Colorado River to Mineral City east of what is now Blythe. Once they crossed the Colorado River, the party rode upstream for approximately five miles to the gold fields of La Paz.

Between 1862 and 1877, the Bradshaw Trail was the main stagecoach and wagon route between Southern California and the gold fields of La Paz and other places in western Arizona. The La Paz - Wikenburg Road connected the Bradshaw Trail to the interior of Arizona Territory and the mining districts there. Olive City was the first Bradshaw ferry crossing for the trail from 1862 to 1864. With the founding of Mineral City, that became the new Bradshaw ferry crossing, and Mineral City became part of Ehrenberg when it was established in 1866. From 1870 the trail ended and connected with the toll road to Wickenburg at Ehrenberg as La Paz, became a ghost town when its mines played out.

The trail today[edit]

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.

Another consideration is the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range which borders a part of the Bradshaw Trail to the south. This is a live bombing range and is clearly posted as such.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Gold Road to La Paz". Retrieved 2008-02-07. 
  2. ^ 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. Distances between stations and watering places on the Bradshaw Trail taken from this survey map.
  3. ^ Wynne Brown, Trail Riding Arizona

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • 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)

External links[edit]

Route map: Bing / Google

KML is from Wikidata