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  For nearly a week, the emigrants had been traveling through a region of extremely alkaline Alkali Regionsoil. 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 Saleratus Lake Near Independence Rockefflorescent 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

Ownership
Private

Directions
Natrona County, Wyoming. T29N/R86W
Approximately 8.5 miles southwest of the intersection of County Road 319
(Oregon Trail Road) and State Highway 220, about 1.6 miles northeast of Independence Rock

National Park Service Comprehensive Management Plan
An opportunity exists to negotiate an agreement with private owner for public access. The site is not listed on the National Register.

Additional Information
Bryant, Edwin. What I Saw in California.
Williams, Jacqueline. Wagon Wheel Kitchens.

 

 

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