Nevada History Lecture – 40 Mile Desert – Nevada Day

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Event Series Event Series: Nevada History Lectures

October 25, 2023 @ 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm

Nevada History Lecture

Nevada Day special evening program

October 25, 2023
5:00 – 5:30 pm – Wine/cheese Reception
5:30 – 6:30 pm – Nevada History Lecture

Guest Speaker
Diana L. Ahmad, Ph.D.
Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor Emerita
Missouri University of Science and Technology

The Depot of Carcasses:  Animals, Overlanders, and the Forty Mile Desert

Between the 1840s and 1860s, approximately 300,000 people crossed the Great Plains to the West Coast.  Most of them went to Oregon on the Oregon Trail, while 25,000 others took the California Trail but needed to cross Nevada’s Great Basin before going over the Sierra Nevada.  They began the journey along the Humboldt River that soon disappeared into the earth and became the Humboldt Sink.  Crossing the Sink only took two or three days, but it was the worst part of the trans-continental journey for the animals, as well as the emigrants.

Soon called the Depot of Carcasses, many believed that the overlanders could walk on top of the dead animals instead of walking on the desert because of the number of animal bodies along the trail.  By the time the overlanders and their animal companions reached the Truckee or Carson Rivers, some of them believed they had crossed the Rubicon, passed through Golgotha, or had seen the Elephant.  The last part of their journey was the hardest and would never be erased from their memories.

Make sure to arrive early as we have limited seating available in our Event Space. Don’t forget, we provide free, temporary parking permits to make it easier to visit NHS!

Speaker Biography

Diana Ahmad
Diana Ahmad

Dr. Diana Ahmad is a Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor Emerita of American history at Missouri University of Science and Technology. She specializes in the history of the American West, with areas of interest in vice (smoking opium and prostitution), as well as animals on the overland trails. In addition, Ahmad looks at the concept of Manifest Destiny and its role in the movement west, including American expansion into the Pacific. Ahmad is also the Book Review Editor for the Nevada Historical Society Quarterly. Currently, she is retired and working on a book about American tourists in the Pacific from 1880-1914. Ahmad received her Ph.D. from the University of Missouri in 1997 and her B.A. (1974) and M.A. (1979) from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

We will have Dr. Ahmad’s books available in our museum store for purchase. Success Depends on the Animals: Emigrants, Livestock, and Wild Animals on the Overland Trails, 1840-1869 and The Opium Debate and Chinese Exclusion Laws in the Nineteenth-Century American West books were published by the University of Nevada Press.


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Reno, NV 89503 United States
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