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Applegate-Lassen Emigrant Trail - Fandango Pass (No. 546 California Historical Landmark)

Historic Site or District
California Historical Landmark 546: Applegate-Lassen Emigrant Trail (23 September 2006) –

California Historical Landmarks Program

Historical Landmarks are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of statewide significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Historical Landmarks are eligible for registration if they meet at least one of the following criteria:

1) Is the first, last, only, or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region

2) Is associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California

3) Is a prototype of, or an outstanding example of, a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder

California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800s with the formation of the Landmarks Club and the California Historical Landmarks League. In 1931, the program became official when legislation charged the Department of Natural Resources—and later the California State Chamber of Commerce—with registering and marking buildings of historical interest or landmarks.

In 1948, Governor Earl Warren created the California Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to increase the integrity and credibility of the program. Finally, this committee was changed to the California Historical Resources Commission in 1974. Information about registered landmarks numbered 770 onward is kept in the California Register of Historical Resources authoritative guide. Landmarks numbered 669 and below were registered prior to establishing specific standards, and may be added to the California Register when criteria for evaluating the properties are adopted.

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This spot—commonly known as Fandango Pass—marks the convergence of two famous pioneer trails, the Applegate Trail and the Lassen Trail. The Applegate Trail was established by Levi Scott and the Applegate brothers in 1846 as a “less dangerous” route to the Oregon Territory. Spanning the present-day states of Idaho, Nevada, California and Oregon, this trail was used by many travelers to cross the great Warner Mountains. In 1848—when the California Gold Rush began—Peter Lassen established the Lassen Trail cutoff, which turned south at Goose Lake to guide pioneers towards Northern California’s gold mines and settlements. Fandango Pass was extensively traversed until about 1853 when the Cedar Pass wagon road was opened.

According to one story, Fandango Pass got its name because those who camped there got so cold that they had to dance—a lively Spanish dance called Fandango—to keep from freezing. In a more sinister and romantic story, it is said that one group of early travelers believed (incorrectly) that this ridge was part of the Sierra Nevada Range and that Goose Lake was the Pacific Ocean. Mistakenly elated to have reached the end of their long journey, the group rejoiced by dancing a Fandango. While deep in celebration, a band of Indians attacked and killed every member of their party, in what was later to become known as the Fandango Pass Massacre.

A more credible explanation of how this Pass got its name lies with the Wolverine Rangers—a company of California-bound gold seekers—who camped in the valley and disbanded there, burning some of their abandoned wagons for warmth. According to one member of the group, it was so cold that “the men had to dance to keep warm, and named their wild camping place 'Fandango Valley.'” Later, emigrants stumbled across a number of burned wagons and assumed that an Indian attack had occurred there.

Fandango Pass and its commemorative plaque are located 10.8 milles east of Highway 395 on Fandango Pass Road (9.2 miles west of Fort Bidwell).

See Applegate Emigrant Trail to learn more about the rich history of the Applegate Trail.

Modoc County

Through Modoc County, the northeastern corner of the Sierra Nevada mountains, thousands of early emigrants traveled in search of newly discovered gold during the Gold Rush of the mid 1800s. Prior to settlement, this region was inhabited only by Paiute, Pit River (“Achumawi”), and Modoc Native Americans. As settlers flocked to California, battles with the Modoc over territory and resources stained this area’s history in bloody conflict. The Modoc War (1872–1873), fought here, was the last of the Native American Wars to occur in California.

Time Period Represented


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