One of America’s most romanticized historical events from the days of the Old West will come back to life in Tooele County’s outback on Sunday.
The National Pony Express Association’s annual reenactment ride began Monday in St. Joseph, Missouri and is scheduled to end in Sacramento, California on June 15. While en route, hundreds of volunteer riders and their horses will pass through Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California.
The total trip distance is 1,966 miles. Riders will take turns carrying a leather mochila filled with commemorative letters featuring a “Vignette of Pony Express Trail History in Nebraska Territory,” according to a NPEA news release.
The Utah portion includes the famous trail through Tooele County, which runs from Five Mile Pass at the southern end of the Oquirrh Mountains to Ibapah near the Utah/Nevada state line. The distance is about 138 miles and crosses Rush and Skull valleys, and the Great Salt Lake Desert.
Along the way it also passes through Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge and the remote community of Callao, both of which are in Juab County, before returning to Tooele County and entering Nevada.
According to NPEA, riders are currently scheduled to cross the Utah/Wyoming state line at Evanston at 2 a.m. Sunday and arrive in Salt Lake City at approximately 10:30 a.m. Sunday. From there riders will proceed south through Salt Lake Valley and then southwest to Fairfield, Utah and then to Five Mile Pass.
The scheduled arrival time in Ibapah is 6:30 a.m. Monday, which indicates the riders could cross Tooele County late Sunday afternoon through the night. According to NPEA, the best spots to see the reenactment ride in Tooele County are Five Mile Pass, Faust Road and Lookout Pass.
For a more authentic Pony Express Trail reenactment experience, citizens and visitors can make the trip to Simpson Springs on the west side of the Simpson Mountains. There a restored Pony Express Station House sits beside the trail with parking and a campground nearby. Simpson Springs is located about 50 miles southwest of Tooele City.
Although the trail west of Lookout Pass is maintained gravel, SUV and high-profile vehicles are recommended.
Citizens and visitors who want to see riders in Tooele County are also advised by NPEA to monitor its website at nationalponyexpress.org for real time updates on riders’ locations on the trail. The updates are made possible through a GPS unit placed inside the mochila.
Rider location updates are also available on Facebook.com/expressrider/ or by calling the reenactment ride’s telephone hotline at 855-809-8589.
Although it existed only from 1860 to 1861, the Pony Express Trail established faster communication between America’s two coasts before being surpassed by the Transcontinental Telegraph. William H. Russell, William B. Waddell and Alexander Majors founded the mail service. It typically took riders 10 days to span the 1,966 mile route.
The first reenactment ride reportedly occurred in 1935, with more rides in 1958 and 1960, according to NPEA. Annual reenactments began in 1977 when NPEA was formally organized that same year. NPEA is a non-profit, all-volunteer association with the purpose to “re-establish, identify, and re-ride the historic Pony Express Trail.”