Elko Field Office
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DATE: December 15, 2006
CONTACT: Mike Brown (775) 753-0386
e-mail: Mike_Brown@nv.blm.gov


Walls are going up and heat pump wells are going down at the California Trail Center construction site west of Elko, Nev.
“We’ve got special equipment at work now on the Center’s walls,” said Dennis Petersen, California Trail Center Construction Project Inspector. “Acme Concrete Pumping from Reno is currently on site with their concrete pump truck. The special truck is used to get concrete in hard to reach places – locations where you can’t drive a conventional concrete truck for a pour. Nearly 200 yards of concrete has been poured to date on the project.”
“We’ve had 25 construction workers on site the past couple weeks doing several different jobs,” Petersen continued. “Nine of the 16 planned underground source heat pump wells – also called geo thermal wells – have been drilled. The wells are drilled 330 feet deep. Their purpose is to dissipate heat into the ground in summer and gather or collect heat from the ground in winter … they’re used to supplement the traditional heating/air conditioning systems that will be installed in the building.”
“Excavation and grading are continuing on the outdoor amphitheater,” concluded Petersen.
When completed, the Trail Center will occupy an 11-acre footprint and will include 16,000 square feet in the main facility and a similar-sized interpretive plaza east of the building. Construction is scheduled to be completed in early 2008.


Seeing the Elephant - by Will Bagley and Dave Jamiel
The deserts of the Great Basin and the barrier of the Sierra Nevada made the California Trail the most difficult of all overland emigrant trails. Almost every emigrant recalled “seeing the elephant” somewhere on this arduous road.
No one really knows where the expression, began. Some believe that the saying was first used in America in the early 1820s.
European circuses at that time began touring the northeastern part of America, bringing with them elephants. These large, strange looking beasts were a huge hit and people who saw one could not find words to describe the animal. When asked if they had seen the elephant, their reply often was, “yes, I’ve seen the elephant and nothing else can compare.”
If you had “seen the elephant,” you had seen about all there was to see. The Platte River was lined with the bones of real mastodons and mammoths, but 700 miles was enough for one emigrant, who turned back. “He had seen the Elephant and eaten its ears.”
For many, the encounter came on the Humboldt River - the Humbug as some called it in
disgust - a narrow stream that got smaller as it bent west and south until it finally disappeared in a “sink.” Others met the beast on the Forty-Mile Desert east of today’s Reno, Nevada. If travelers were lucky enough to escape the deserts and Indians of the Great Basin with animals and outfit intact, they were practically certain to see the elephant among the peaks and passes of the Sierra Nevada.
In many ways, the “elephant” was the landscape of the American West itself. People raised in the eastern states and Europe had never seen anything like its vast prairies, snow-capped mountains, and stark deserts. Almost every emigrant narrative commented on this encounter with a strange land, which must have been as alien to many over-landers as the surface of the moon.


Last updated: 03-27-2015