This approach to Big Mountain Pass was the steepest sustained climb on the Mormon Trail. From the mouth of the canyon, across the creek to your left, the pass rises 1,400 feet in elevation over a distance of 4 miles.
At the suggestion of Lansford W. Hastings, the California-bound Donner-Reed Party of 1846 became the first wagon train to make the difficult ascent. They camped at springs which fed several beaver ponds one mile up the narrow canyon. Four nights (August 14-17) were spent at “One-Mile Camp” for the purpose of blazing a trail. Since then, thousands of travelers have rested at this popular spot.
In July 1847, the first group of Mormon Pioneers, led by Brigham Young, followed the tracks of the Donner-Reed Party up the canyon and on to the valley of the Great Salt Lake. For the next 22 years, emigrants, forty-niners, freighters, stage coaches, and pony express riders used the trail, traveling both east and west.
Today, the area around you is called Mormon Flat. But, in the mid-1800s it was known by another name. In the fall of 1857 (October 29-November 9), the Mormon Militia, under the command of Lt. Gen. Daniel H. Wells, built two large rock walls on the ridges flanking the entrance to Little Emigration Canyon. The wall closest to you was known as the “Duke Battery” and the other the “Hyde Battery,” after the officers who directed their construction. These fortifications are the largest and best preserved built for a war that never happened.
On Friday morning, June 25, 1858, the U.S. Army splashed through the creek and passed beneath these batteries. Private Charles Scott noted in his journal that the “two breastworks of stone” were “dignified with the title Fort Wells.”
This historic marker is #67 of the Sons of Utah Pioneers historic markers and it is located at the Mormon Flats Campground in Little Emigration Canyon.