nearly a week, the emigrants had been traveling through a region of extremely
The chalky soil created an especially nasty dust and made the water brackish.
Animals or emigrants who could not be restrained from drinking out of the
alkaline pools often fell deathly ill. Edwin Bryant suffered such a fate
in 1847: "I was seized, during the night, with a violent and exhausting
sickness. The soil and water of the country through which we are now travelling,
are strongly impregnated with salt, alkali, and sulphur; rendering the use
of the water, in large quantities, deleterious to health, if not dangerous."*
About 1.6 miles northeast of Independence Rock, as the emigrants approached the Sweetwater River, they reached the Saleratus Lake. Saleratus is a naturally occurring sodium or potassium bicarbonate. The emigrants quickly recognized its capability as a leavening agent and used it as a raw form of baking soda. One emigrant party noted that "the efflorescent white bicarbonate of soda" turned their bread "a suspiciously green cast" if not used in moderation. Nevertheless, the leavening worked best when added to a dough cooked quickly over a high heat, making it perfect for an emigrant campfire.
Saleratus had become commercially available in 1840 and some of the females prized the find. Amelia Hadley described it "as white as snow and this is 3 or 4 inches deep and you can get chunks of salaratus as large as a pint cup just as pure as that you buy."**
The fortified military post known as Sweetwater Station was located near the south side of Saleratus Lake. Sweetwater Station, established in 1862, was the headquarters station of Lieutenant Caspar Collins and also served as a telegraph relay station, a military supply base, and a Pony Express station. The soldiers stationed here protected both the emigrants and the telegraph lines until it was abandoned in 1866
Service Comprehensive Management Plan