Pony Express Stations, Part 9: Hooten Wells/Desert Station

The next original Pony Express station east of Buckland’s Station was Hooten Wells and nearby Desert Station. When the Pony Express riders left Buckland’s, they rode south over the wooden toll bridge Buckland had constructed across the Carson River for about two miles before turning east toward the next station. About twelve miles east was Hooten Wells station and nearby was Desert Station which became the station for the Pony Express after Hooten Wells Station was abandoned. Since the structures were so close together, they can be considered one and the same station. Hooten Well is about 1.5 miles northeast of Desert Station. The site is on the Rafter D Ranch.

Rock ruins of Hooten Wells / Desert Station including the strong house and parts of a round stone corral can still be seen at the site which had a good source of water. This was a popular stopping place for travelers, miners and teamsters in the 1860s. The station was not used by the Pony Express after August, 1861 when the route was moved to the Northern Route.

After some of the previous articles I have written about the various Western Nevada Pony Express stations, I had requests to provide more information about the location of the stations. I must confess I have not personally visited all of them but I am familiar enough with the locations to provide general directions that visitors should be able to follow. Some of them are in very remote areas that require 4-wheel drive vehicles. When they are on private property, please respect property owners’ rights. Always respect the fragile nature of these historic sites and do not deface or remove any of the ruins or artifacts.

In 1994, the Nevada State Park Service acquired 3,200 acres along the Carson River, east of Fort Churchill and Buckland’s Station. This corridor, which runs along the south side of the river, connects Fort Churchill with Lahontan State Recreation Area. It has become known as Carson River Ranches. The original Pony Express route went through this corridor and the route can be followed today by a dirt road to the ruins of Hooten Wells Station and Desert Station.

After crossing the bridge south of Buckland’s, turn left on the dirt road that follows the route the Pony Express riders took in 1860. The entire corridor is now a part of Fort Churchill State Park and can be taken to the ruins of Hooten Wells Station and Desert Station. They are on private property 12 miles east of U.S. 95 Alternate. There is a primitive campground and habitat for diverse plants and wildlife. The route is popular with campers, hikers, birdwatchers, canoeists, hunters and equestrians.

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About Dennis Cassinelli

Dennis Cassinelli is a Nevada author, historian and outdoorsman. He’s written extensively about American Indian culture and Comstock history. His book, Preserving Traces of the Great Basin Indians, contains up-close photographs and detailed pen-and-ink drawings of American Indian stone artifacts. It also contains a fold-out chronology chart showing projectile points across a 12,000-year time scale. The book is a must-have for every enthusiast of Great Basin archaeology. Dennis’s website is DennisCassinelli.com.