California Trail Interpretive Center

On the long drive across Nevada we found the California Trail Interpretive Center just west of Elko. We really enjoyed our 90 minutes at the museum. It was a great place to stretch our legs, and best of all, it was free.


We actually found this museum by following the brown signs on the freeway. When we got inside, we met a helpful docent who informed our boys that there was a Junior Ranger program. The kids worked hard on it as we walked through the museum. In the first room we found a box of pioneer toys. Our boys loved the tops, yo-yos, cup-and-ball, and Jacob’s Ladder. We played for about 15 minutes before venturing into the exhibits.

Make sure to pick up the Junior Ranger booklet at the front desk. This program is FREE, too.
In the lobby, there is a covered wagon to explore, and pioneer toys.
It was fun to pretend to be along the trail.
We loved trying all the pioneer toys.

The museum follows several groups of immigrants including miners, farmers, and explorers as they crossed the Nevada desert to California. Being from Utah, we know a lot about Mormon Pioneers, but we know less about the California trail system. Our boys enjoyed loading a small wagon, choosing between oxen, horses, and mules to pull it, and learning about the obstacles that were faced along the way.

We learned a lot about the different travelers along the Oregon Trail.
The displays are fun and very educational.
Our boys were amazed at what they had to leave behind.
The signs help with the Junior Ranger program.

One of the main focuses of this California Trail Interpretive Center was the Humboldt Sink and the problems in created for travelers. This is where the Humboldt River suddenly disappears into the ground leaving the pioneers without water for 40 miles. This meant carrying enough water for people and animals for three days travel across the sandy desert. Many animals didn’t make it, and some pioneers were lost as well.

This portrays the Humboldt Sink.

Our favorite part of this museum was how interactive it was. Our boys had lots of different things that kept their interest such as dress-up clothes, packing the wagon, or the pioneer toys. The people working were also really helpful and answered lots of questions for us.

The boys had to try and build a home once they made it to California.
We had a lot of fun trying to pack everything into the wagon, even the toys!
Our youngest loved dressing up like a pioneer.

After we finished inside the museum, we ventured outside. There were just a few wickiups, tepees, and wagons to see. Our boys enjoyed exploring the different types of homes and transportation. We learned later that there are some hiking trails from the center. We might have to try one next time we stop.

There is an area outside to explore, too.
We rested at an old wagon camp.
We liked checking out the Native American area as well.

We enjoyed visiting the California Trail Interpretive Center in Nevada, and we’ll do it again on our next long trip across the state. The museum is located off exit #292 on the 1-80 just west of Elko, Nevada.

There is also a small statue garden as you first enter the museum.



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