In the 1850s the army explored four routes from the Mississippi River westward in order to find the best one for a transcontinental railroad. Lieutenant Beckwith was second in command for the party for surveying a central route. Their expedition set out from Fort Leavenworth, on the Missouri River, on June 23, 1853. After the group commander was killed by Indians in Utah, Beckwith took over the leadership of the expedition. He and his party traveled through the Great Basin by following the Humboldt river. Beckwith found passes in the Sierra Nevada that he believed were suitable for a railroad.
Beckwith's official report
contained much information on the plants, animals, climate, and geographical
features of the lands he had explored. He recommended the route for a railroad.
When the first transcontinental railroad was built,
it generally followed Beckwith's path.
East Ely Railroad Depot Museum