The pioneers found their first good water and grass at Black Rock (the south east corner of the Ranch) where there is a hot spring surrounded by a small meadow. With not nearly enough food for their animals, the emigrants were understandably relieved to reach Mud Meadows/Soldier Meadows Basin. Here they found ample water and grass for their animals. Many of the settlers stopped and spent several days in the Basin to rest and recuperate themselves and their animals. The diaries of various pioneers point out that there were many people and at least a 100 wagons camped here at any one time. From Soldier Meadows the pioneers went west through Fly Canyon down a wagon slide, and on through High Rock Canyon to California or north through Toll House Canyon past Summit Lake and into Oregon.
Numerous historic sites are within easy driving distance from Soldier Meadows Ranch and Lodge. You can enjoy the modern comforts and delicious food provided by the Ranch while getting a taste of the trials that were faced by the pioneers.
In 1865 Camp McGarry was established at the location of the current Ranch Headquarters. It was a U.S. Army winter camp. Its mission was to protect traveling pioneers and wagon trains hauling freight from Indian attack. By 1865 there were regular freight wagon trains traveling from the Sacramento Valley to Silver City after silver was discovered in Idaho. Protection was needed along this stretch of the trail, so the Army established a Fort near Summit Lake (now the Summit Lake Indian Reservation). In the winter, the army moved the Fort south to Soldier Meadows because it was quite a bit warmer due to its lower elevation and warm water available from the nearby warm and hot springs. Stone buildings and stables remain standing from the U.S. Army camp at Soldier Meadows Headquarters and at the Summit Lake Indian Reservation. The army abandoned Camp McGarry in 1871.
The History of the Soldier Meadows Ranch is very rich, and its record begins with the visit by John C. Fremont and his men who camped on New Years Eve 1843. Carrying Fremont's report, Jesse Applegate and a party of 15 men, set out from Oregon and reached Soldier Meadows on July 11, 1846. Applegate's party intended to establish an alternate route to Oregon from the California Trail. Thereafter, pioneers traveled the Lassen/ Applegate trail from 1846 through the 1860’s which passed through the Black Rock Desert, known as the most dangerous and desolate stretch of the Trail. The pioneers left the main trail at what is now Rye Patch Reservoir on the Humboldt River, and continued through the Black Rock Desert to Mud Meadows and the Soldier Meadows Basin. Most of the desert trip was made traveling at night without water and feed for their animals until they reached what is now known as Soldier Meadows Ranch. There are places where this trail is still visible and the area remains mostly unchanged since pioneer times.
An entry in pioneer Bruff’s 1849 diary says, “I shall never forget that night march. The road was lined on both sides with the carcasses of animals, which had perished on the way. They were so thick that from the Wells to Black Rock by stepping from one body to another one need never to have touched the ground.”
In the 1860’s, Nevada sold lands at Soldier Meadows to individuals to raise money for the State. The first record of taxes paid on Ranch interests at Soldier Meadows began in 1866. Various small ranches were started and operated by individuals throughout the area over the next several years until the 1880’s when Doc Glenn and E.W. Crutcher (the larger holders of Ranch lands in the area) sold out to Cattle Barons Miller and Lux. To control the region, Miller and Lux began to acquire the other smaller ranches in the late 1800’s. They called the region “Black Rock Ranch”. Growing and cutting hay for winter feed, raising Horses, Cattle and Sheep, the Black Rock wregion was a part of Miller and Lux’s Pacific Livestock Company which was formed in 1887.
The Miller and Lux Pacific Livestock Company became the largest Ranching operation in the Western United States. However, after the deaths of Miller and Lux, in 1926 the heirs began selling their Nevada holdings. Their holdings in the area sold to the Parman family who held it until 1937 when the Soldier Meadows Ranch was transferred to George and Hattie Sweeney. The Parmans worked out a deal to retain the Wheeler Ranch which is 21 miles South of Soldier Meadows and continued to farm various crops, raise horses and run both cattle and sheep.
After a series of different owners for the next several years, Soldier Meadows was transferred to Stanley and Gordon Van Vleck of California in October of 1959. Van Vleck, a pilot, also acquired the Wheeler Ranch. He built the dam at Mud Meadows and put in two airstrips: one at Soldier Meadows and one at the Wheeler. Van Vleck also greatly increased the amount of irrigated farm land. The Van Vleck’s held and operated the Ranches until they were sold to the Baer Ranch in June of 1970. In August 1977 the Earp Family acquired the Baer Ranch (including Soldier Meadows, and Wheeler Ranch) and the Paiute Meadows Ranch as well as Leases in High Rock Canyon. In his writing “Historic Context for the Soldier Meadows Basin, ” David Valentine asserts Earp’s acquisitions were “probably the closest that the Black Rock Ranch has been to being reassembled since the dissolution of Miller and Lux.” The Earp Family sold to R.C. Roberts in about 1990, and R.C. Roberts established the guest ranch operation. Roberts sold the Ranch to the Estill Family in 1997 who scaled down the operation of the guest ranch and concentrated their efforts on raising calves.
The Ranch was then acquired by the Kudrna Family in 2003. In 2012, they sold the ranch to Btaz Nevada. Soldier Meadows Ranch is now mainly a cow/calf operation. The Lodge is open as a Bed and Breakfast for hunters and all those exploring this wonderful region.