The Occupation of Mount Conness

In History, On the Trail, Science

The other day I watched an episode of Huell Howser’s California’s Gold about the Conness Glacier on PBS. Unfortunately that video isn’t available anywhere on the internet but I did stumble across something REALLY interesting, a copy of Overland Monthly and Outwest Magazine detailing the 1890 occupation of Mt. Conness by the team of engineers responsible for mapping California.

The view from the Summit of Mount Conness shows why it was an important peak in the mapping of California (large image here). Photo by Chrisknuet.

What makes this article such interesting reading is the conditions in which the survey took place. 1889-1890 had been an unusually wet winter with large amounts of snow falling in the Sierra. So much snow fell, in fact, that the team couldn’t travel the normal route to Bodie and up Bloody Canyon to Mt. Conness but had to ship all their equipment via train to Oakdale in the Central Valley and take it up the great wagon road, the Tioga Road.

In July they were unable to ford the Tuolumne in Tuolumne Meadows as run-off from the accumulated snow pack had swollen the river to a depth of 6 feet deep and was spilling over its banks in most places and flowing about 40 feet wide, much too dangerous for a wagon or horses to ford.

Survey marker atop Mount Conness. Photo by Victor Hanson-Smith.

If I’ve got you interested spend a little time and give it a read. I think it’s pretty interesting. You can find the book at the University of Michigan website, here.

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