The Numu Blue Wing Trail
Regardless of whether or not the Numu people had a specific word for the Bluewing Mountains that would translate into “blue wing” in the English Language, the Bluewing Mountains have and had a deep cultural significance for the Numu people that was firmly established long before the first Euro-Americans entered this area. The 1983 BLM Prehistory and History of the Winnemucca District; A Cultural Resources Literature Review outlined the importance of this area: “Lovelock Indians are historically tied to Pyramid Lake, and a migration route between Lovelock and Pyramid Lake through the Blue Wing Mountains is considered a significant cultural use area.” The 2003 Bureau of Land Management NORTHERN PAIUTE AND WESTERN SHOSHONE LAND USE IN NORTHERN NEVADA: A CLASS I ETHNOGRAPHIC/ETHNOHISTORIC OVERVIEW stressed the importance of not taking the concept of a Indigenous trail too literally- all trails are considered to be sacred because “all direct the flow of life:”
“[T]rails are sacred because they lead to places of power or spiritual importance and because the act of traveling a trail changes a person, often resulting in a restoration of balance or curing. Examples of these culturally significant places are the Blue Wing Mountains Trail.”
Culturally significant trails of the Numu people should never be confused with the Euro American concept of “trail” as merely a path way between two geographical locations. The Numu Blue Wing Mountains Trail could involve a long, transformative journey that wandered far and wide in the greater region surrounding the Bluewing and Sahwave Mountains with the objective of culturally and spiritually enriching the traveler. It is also clear from the ethnographic sources that travelers of the Blue Wing Trail occasionally died on this journey, either intentionally or accidentally, and are buried in this region. The Bluewing Mountains, the Sahwave Mountains, and the surrounding lands are a highly significantly cultural resource and landscape for the Numu people. The exact location of the Blue Wing Trail has not been shared by the Numu people.
A Swirling Welter of Names
Bluewing and Sahwave Mountains are part of a region that is plagued by contradicting and false information. First and foremost, the “Bluewing” moniker in the area has alternately been spell as “Bluewing” or “Blue Wing.” The name “Sahwave” was misspelled in the 1970s and 1980s Bureau of Land Management Reports and Inventories as “Shawave.”
The Sahwave Mountains seems to be the oldest and most stable name in this region. Clarence King’s 1876 Geological Map of Nevada Basins names the Sahwave Mountain. Sahwave is based on Numu work “sai-wav,” a reference to sagebrush. The valley immediately to the east of the Sahwave Mountains is labeled “Sage Valley” on King’s map. Many of the features on King’s map reflect Native American names, such as Kumiva, Naches, Tohakum, and Pah Rum peaks, the Truckee Range (parts of which are now known as the Nightingale Mountains and the Selenite Range), and the Pahsupp Mountains (part of it today called the “The Lava Beds”). At some point after King identified the Sahwave Mountains on his 1876 maps, the highpoint of the range was identified as “Juniper Mountain” and this led to referring to the Sahwave Mountains as the “Juniper Range.” The name of the mining district founded in the southern end of the Sahwave Mountains in the early 1900’s was christened the “Juniper Range Mining District.” The name Sahwave Mountains continued to appear on all the United States Geological Survey (USGS) maps from 1876 to the present. The 1926 USGS index for topographical maps and geological folios shows the Sahwave Mountains on the eastern edge of the Granite Range 60-minute topographical sheet. The next sheet to the east, which would have included the Sage Valley and Adobe Flat, had not yet been surveyed. Although the topographical outline for the Bluewing Mountains is clearly visible on the Granite Range 60-minute topographical sheet, it is not identified, rather it is presented as a possible extension of the Sahwave Mountains to the north.
The first USGS 60—minute topographical sheet produced for the region immediately east of the Sahwave Mountains was survey in 1929-1931. This 1933 “Lovelock Nev” topographical sheet now identified the eastern portion of the previously unnamed Bluewing Mountains as the “Bluewing Mountains.” This 60-minute quad map does not include the Sahwave Mountains, but the valley immediately to the east of the Sahwave Mountains, identified as the “Sage Valley” on King’s 1876 geologic map, is now labeled the Granite Springs Valley, and what were the Pahsupp Mountains on King’s map are now called “The Lava Beds,” although that name appears as early as 1921 in the USGS Bulletin 0725D: Contact-Metamorphic Tungsten Deposits of the United States:
“The Lava Beds is the strangely inappropriate name by which is now known the range south of the Black Rock Desert and 45 miles northwest of Lovelocks, called by the Fortieth Parallel Survey the Pahsupp Range. Pahsupp may not be a euphonious name, but so far as has been ascertained there is not a pebble of lava in the range. The Fortieth Parallel Survey shows the range, except for two small strips that it determined as Jurassic on the east side, to be made wholly of granite.”
It is interesting to note that the closest spring source to the early 20th century Juniper Range District mining operations at the south end of the Sahwave Mountains was the Granite Springs that appears on modern maps located on the east side of the range about 6 miles northeast of the mines. As the region became more important for Euro American mining and ranching, perhaps the Granite Springs became the most noteworthy feature of the former “Sage Valley” and motivated the name change to the “Granite Springs Valley.” At some point in the Euro American history, the name Bluewing Springs becomes attached to a natural water source on the east side of the Sahwave Mountains about 2 miles north of Granite Springs. The first publication of the USGS 7.5-minute topographic maps for this region with detail significant to indicate the names of these features, however, were not produced until 1980.
The origin of the moniker Bluewing (or Blue Wing) for features in the region is a mystery. As mentioned above, the first mention of the Bluewing Mountains is on the USGS 1933 Lovelock Nev 60-minute topographical sheet. Blue Wing Spring appears in the 1954 Pershing County Road Map, but not on the 1937 version of that map. Oddly, on the Pershing County road maps, the name Pahsupp Mountains persist until 1968 for the area that the USGS clearly re-identified as “The Lava Beds” on the 1933 USGS Lovelock Nev 60-minute topographical sheet.
The name of Adobe Flat in the Granite Springs Valley seems to have persisted until the publication of the 1980 USGS 7.5-minute topographic maps for this region. Two of the topographic maps are now named Blue Wing Flat (North & South) and identify the former Adobe Flat as “Blue Wing Flat.” Although the newest USGS Topographical maps continue identifying this area as “Blue Wing” Flat, several of the Nevada Road Atlases use the spelling “Bluewing” Flat. Additionally, the “Blue Wing Springs” of the Pershing county maps is now changed to “Bluewing Springs” on both the location of the water source on the USGS map and for the title of the 7.5 Minute topographic map itself.
Perhaps the most confusing naming in the area is for several different features identified as the Bluewing (or Blue Wing) Mine. The origin of this confusion seems to arise with the history of mining in the Sahwave Mountains presented in the September 1985 Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Report 85-3 A MINERAL INVENTORY OF THE PARADISE-DENIO AND SONOMA-GERLACHRESOURCE AREAS, WINNEMUCCA DISTRICT, NEVADA Prepared for: UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT WINNEMUCCA DISTRICT OFFICE by the NEVADA BUREAU OF MINES AND GEOLOGY University of Nevada- Reno. In all fairness, this report is prefaced with the following caveat: “This information should be considered preliminary. It has not been edited or checked for completeness or accuracy.” Unfortunately, this information has been taken as a source for many of the internet sites describing the history of this region.
First, this 1985 reports claims that the “Juniper Range district in in the southern end of the Juniper Range or Shawave [sic] Mountains” despite the fact that no USGS topographic map ever applied the labeled “Juniper Range” to the Sahwave Mountains (although the 1921 USGS Bulletin 0725D: Contact-Metamorphic Tungsten Deposits of the United States mentions tungsten deposits “in the Juniper Range west of Granite Springs Valley”). It is also clear that this report continues to use the Bureau of Land Management mis-spelling for Sahwave that began in the 1970s.
According to the 1985 report, the history of the mining activity along the southern boundary of the “Juniper Range” began with prospecting for copper mineralization in the early 1900’s and was determined to be uneconomical and halted in 1912. The report then makes the statement: “[t]ungsten was discovered in the vicinity of the Star Mine in 1917 and was expanded with the development of the Blue Wing Mine 3 miles to the east.” The implication of this statement is misleading, that is that the name “Blue Wing” was attached to mining in the Juniper Range District as early as 1917. Neither the terms “Blue Wing” nor “Bluewing” appear attached to any mining operation descriptions in the greater Lovelock region in the 1923 Mining Districts and Mineral Resources of Nevada, or in the 1921 USGS Bulletin 0725D: Contact-Metamorphic Tungsten Deposits of the United States. The 1921 USGS Bulletin 0725D identifies the tungsten claims that would become identified as the Blue Wing Mine in the mid 20th century, as the “Roop and Allen Claims.” The 1989 Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Report 43; Mineral Resources of the Kumiva Peak 30’ by 60’ Quadrangle confirms this information, stating that the Blue Wing mine was “first mined in 1943” (as the Blue Wing Mine) and that old, previous names included: “Roop and Allen mine” and the “Wild Bill claim.”
To make matters more confusing, the Nevada State Journal reported in November 25, 1940 that “J.C. ‘Red’ Stagg,” a famed gold prospector and mine promoter “found gold-silver ore near the base of the Blue Wing mountains.” The same Nevada State Journal article describe the areas of Stagg’s discovery as: “This wild region, barren and devoid of water, apparently has been shunned by prospectors and there is no record of any work or of any mineral having been found within a wide radius.” This last statement may have contained a bit of hyperbole, as the both the 1985 Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Report 85-3 and the 1989 Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Report 43 mention that the tungsten deposits in the area may have been initially prospected during WW1. Unfortunately, the 1989 report may be mirroring any inaccuracies of the 1985 report in this matter. The 1985 report stated that “The [tungsten] prospect got its name from a Mr. Harry Springer of Lovelock who first operated the property during World War I.” Although Harry Springer was an active prospector and miner in the area before his World War I service in 1919, his activity focused in the Vernon, Seven troughs, and Rochester areas. The 1989 Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Report 43 summarized the the tungsten activities in the “Blue Wing Mining Area” as: “The first recorded mining activity in this area was prospecting for tungsten during World War I but no production was recorded until 1972. The same report identifies the tungsten production claim as the “Springer prospect” or the “Spring Ore Prospect.” If the prospect was originally identified as the “Spring Ore” claim or simply named in honor of Springer, Harry Springer would not necessarily have been involved with the claim. The 1989 Report documents Stagg’s gold discovery as the “Black Mountain Claims” (which produced 7 ounces of gold and 10 ounces of silver before they shut down in 1941), and another, adjacent “Back Mountain lode prospect,” which saw no production. All of these activities were on the north side of the Bluewing Mountains at the base of Black Rock Mountain. The same report identifies the “Bluewing Prospect” as an area of “bulldozer roads, long, shallow cuts down several hill slopes” within the Bluewing Mountains proper.
Deeper History of the Sahwave Mountains
Lt. E.G. Beckwith, working for the Department of the Army to survey possible routes for the Transcontinental Railroad in 1854, was the first Euro American to describe the Sahwave Mountains area. His party left the known Nobles Immigrant trail at Lassen Meadows on the Humboldt River, searching for a lower gradient for a railroad to reach the portion of the Nobles Trail in the vicinity of what would become Gerlach. By the time he found his way into the Granite Springs Valley, he realized that the route he was surveying (essentially interrupted by the Sahwave Mountains) would not be an improvement over the more direct route of the existing Nobles Trail between Lassen Meadows and Gerlach. Beckwith’s party entered Granite Springs Valley from the northeast, crossed over the northern corner of Blue Wing Flat, circumnavigated the north perimeter of the Bluewing Mountains, described Kumiva Flat, then proceeded northwest through The Lava Beds and across the northern Selenite Range to rejoin Nobles Trail in the eastern Smoke Creek Desert. Beckwith’s travel though this area are illustrated on the 1858 Warren map of Railroad surveys. Although Beckwith documented his route and described the general geography of this area, he refrained from bestowing names on any of the features he described.
From Warren's 1858 Western Railroad Survey Map
During 1867 through 1869, the Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel conducted a survey under the direction of Clarence King, U. S. geologist, which included the area around the Sahwave Mountains. Still un-named, Blue Wing Flat, Bluewing Mountains, and Kumiva Flat all are included in the survey 1876 geological map of the region. This map, for the first time, clearly show that the Bluewing Mountains (unnamed) are separated from the rest of the Sahwave Mountains (named) by what appears to be a pass (known as Juniper Pass today).
From Clarence King's 1876 Geology of the Fortieth Parallel Map
By the 1860’s, with the development of mining in the area around Lovelock, grazing livestock became an important industry throughout Pershing County. The Sahwave Mountain area had so few dependable water sources that livestock grazing developed at a slower pace. Despite this limitation, livestock grazing had detrimental impact on the ecosystem of this region. An April 30, 1941 article in the Nevada State Journal summarized this problems as: "during the past half-century… large areas of excellent range were practically destroyed by over-grazing.” Specifically, “in the Blue Wing Mountains and the Blue Wing Valley… during heavy droughts and periods of over-grazing, the cattle and sheep had completely destroyed all suitable vegetation for stock purposes near water holes within traveling distance.” The 1934 Taylor Grazing Act initiated regulations to reduce livestock depredations on the ecosystem of this area through the creation of a grazing permit system. The 1940’s the grazing service brought in Civilian Conservation Corps to help develop springs and wells, such as Tunnel Springs, Lower Stonehouse Springs, One Mule Spring, and West Ragged Top Well in the Granite Springs Valley. Despite these efforts, the range ecosystem in this area remained in poor condition, a problem which has become exacerbated in recent decades due to global warm, increasing droughts, and the rampant spread of invasive weeds, such as cheat grass, halogen, and Russian thistle. One last change fostered by the Taylor Grazing Act was the establishment of grazing allotments across the public managed lands. The Blue Wing unit covered about 1 million acres across Pershing County. As a result of the description of such a vast area under the the umbrella term of the “Blue Wing Range” led to a proliferation of the “Blue Wing” name though out the area. allotments. For more information on the history and naming of geographical features in the Bluewing Mountains area, see A Swirling Welter of Names under the Additional Resources tab on the left side of this page.
The February 2, 1945 Reno Evening Gazette published a public notice from the Secretary of the Navy about the authorization of the Lovelock Aerial Gunnery Range. The boundary was described as extending from the Western pacific railroad south to the Blue Wing Spring in the southern Sahwave Mountains and being bounded on the west by “Selenite or Limbo Mountain Range” and on the east by the “Seven Troughs Mountain Range.” The notice also demanded: “All persons must remove themselves and their belongings. All mining, grazing and other activities will be suspended unless specifically authorized.” By 1950, the “Sahwave Mountains Danger Area” boundary on the south had been expanded down to the Pershing and Churchill County line. In 1956 the Navy proposed adding the Black Rock Extension (1,372,160 acres) and the Sahwave Extension (654,720 acres) to the Lovelock Range (creating a total of 2,846,786 acres total). This hostile take-over by the military in Nevada created a broad coalition of opposition including Nevada Representative Cliff Young, who in the 1956 Congressional Subcommittee hearing on the militarization of this area by Fallon NAS, stated: "The program for the defense of our nation's human and natural resources should not—and must not—be so conducted as to destroy the very resources it is aimed at preserving." This public outcry ultimately led to the passage of the Engles Act of 1958 to assure that military “withdrawals, reservations or restrictions of more than five-thousand acres of public lands of the United States… shall not become effective until approved by Act of Congress.” Unfortunately, the Engles Act specifically stated that “nothing in sections 1, 2, or 3 of this Act shall be deemed to be applicable… [to] naval gunnery ranges in the State of Nevada designated as Basic Black Rock and Basic Sahwave Mountain.” In 1964 the withdrawals of the Black Rock and Sahwave Gunnery ranges were canceled by the Navy.
In 1979, during the Bureau of Land Management Initial Inventory decisions process, both the 56,320-acre Unit NV-020-217, Sahwave [misspelled "Shawave”] Mountains and the 55,040-acre Unit NV-020-222, Blue Wing Mountains, were recommended “to be intensively inventoried.”
In the November 1980 Wilderness Study Area Decisions- Nevada BLM intensive Wilderness Inventory, Sahwave [misspelled “Shawave”] Mountains and the Blue Wing Mountains were dropped from further Wilderness Study Area consideration. The rationale for dismissing outstanding opportunities for solitude and and primitive and unconfined recreation focused on lack of topographical and vegetative screening, lack of points of interests or challenge, and no available water. These exclusion factors were typical at the time because the initial agency understanding of wilderness characteristics were biased toward mountainous, forested landscapes. A clear understanding of the unique wilderness attributes of deserts was still decades away. The very attributes listed as deterrents against outstanding opportunities would eventually become to embodied the unique outstanding opportunities available for recreation and solitude within desert wilderness: endless open spaces and uninterrupted vistas, opportunities to vanish “in plain sight” into the solitude of pure distance, and outstanding opportunities of the challenge of exploring a rugged, waterless desert wilderness landscape.
Between 2004 to 2006, the Checkerboard Lands Committee process sponsored by Pershing County Commission conducted meeting and field trips to evaluate wilderness lands within Pershing County. Both North Sahwave and Bluewing Mountains were adopted to be designated for Wilderness by the Pershing county commission on March 1, 2006. These areas were also evaluated by the the Nevada Wilderness Coalition and then reevaluated by the BLM staff, who identified these lands as meeting wilderness characteristics in the 2010 Winnemucca District Office Draft Resources Management plan. Since that time, both the Bluewing and North Sahwave Mountains have been included as wilderness designations in a series of Pershing County Public Lands Bills introduced into Congress by various members of the Nevada Delegation.