Ft. Harney to Ft. McDermitt Wagon Road

Archaeological site

Ft. Harney and Ft. McDermitt were established in the 1860s. In order to move soldiers and supplies from one fort to another, the Ft. Harney to Ft. McDermitt road was built. The road was also known as the Harney Road. (Nielsen 1987).

From Ft. Harney the road went south and east, following the Willamette Valley and Cascade Mountain Military (WVCMM) Road. The two roads separated east of Crane, Oregon where the Ft. Harney to Ft. McDermitt road turned south. It passed the east side of Steens Mountain, then at Camp Alvord it turned west. The route then followed the Idaho Stage Co. line from Chico, California to Jordan Valley, Oregon past the Whitehorse Ranch. On the east side of the Oregon Canyon and Trout Creek Mountains, the road turned south, following valley to Ft. McDermitt (Nielsen 1987). An older road to Ft. McDermitt followed the Denio to Jordan Valley Road for a distance northeast and east of the Whitehorse Ranch. The Ft. Harney to Ft. McDermitt road turned southeast once it reached the valley. About 9 miles north of McDermitt, the road joined up with the Ft. McDermitt to Jordan Valley Road, also known as the Winnemucca to Silver City road (Nielsen 1987).

The road passed the Alvord Ranch, one of the most famous ranches in the west due to a colorful past and spectacular scenery. A military camp, Camp Alvord, was established at the ranch in June of 1864. It was named for Brigadier-General Benjamin Alvord who commanded the Dept of Oregon from 1861 to 1865. The camp was abandoned in Sept of 1864, when another camp was established at the Whitehorse Ranch. That camp was named C. F. Smith. The military continued to use Camp Alvord sporadically over the next 10 years (Nielsen 1987).

Most supplies for these ranches were obtained from Winnemucca, 165 miles south, so the Ft. Harney to Ft. McDermitt road aided transportation for ranches as well as for military uses (Nielsen 1987).

There were two other roads between the Whitehorse Ranch and Ft. McDermitt. The Ft. Harney to Ft. McDermitt Road is named on the GLO plats. Which of the roads was most heavily used is unknown (Nielsen 1987).

For the most part, wagon roads and military routes simply followed previously established and well-used Indian trails (Hanley 1988).