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Kit Carson Marker (No. 315 California Historical Landmark)

Historic Site or District
Kit Carson Marker – By Syd Whittle, July 31, 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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On this spot, which marks the summit of the Kit Carson Pass (8,600 feet elevation), stood what's known as the Kit Carson Tree on which the famous scout Kit Carson inscribed his name in 1844 when he guided the then Captain John C. Fremont, head of a government exploring expedition, over the Sierra Nevada.

On February 20, 1844, Fremont and Carson reached Kit Carson Pass where they looked out across the magnificent panorama of snowy ridges and towering peaks intercepted by deep canyons. They saw "a shining line of water directing its course towards another, a broader and larger sheet," which they believed to be the Sacramento River meeting the San Francisco Bay. After carving his name and the date in a tree, Carson and Fremont continued their journey, crossing the divide between West Carson Canyon and the American River, creating what would later be named Kit Carson Pass.

The original inscription was cut from the tree in 1888 and is now in Sutter's Fort, Sacramento. The marker is located at the parking area of the Kit Carson Monument above Red Lake. Also visit the Memorial to Pioneer Odd Fellows nearby.

During his expeditions in the Sierra Nevada, Frémont also became the first American to see Lake Tahoe. Carson later played a minor role in California's Bear Flag Revolt during the 1846–1848 Mexican-American War.

Alpine County

High in the Sierra Nevada along the eastern edge of California, Alpine County is sparsely populated. In 1844, John C. Fremont’s expedition, accompanied by Kit Carson, passed through the area and over today’s Carson Pass. The Overland Emigrant Trail passed through this county, and is marked today by yellow painted iron markers and plaques.

Time Period Represented


Nearby Places