Joe Walker

Joseph R. Walker was born in Tennessee on December 13, 1798. In 1819, his family headed west to Missouri. From early on, Joe had a knack for recalling topography and geography, skills that he’d rely on in his many travels. Over the next 14 years, Joe Walker worked as a goods trader, beaver trapper, horse seller, and even as a sheriff. In 1833, Joe led a party of 40 men, including trapper Old Bill Williams and author Zenas Leonard, to explore the Great Salt Lake and find an overland passage to California. Facing attacks by natives, the threat of dying from starvation and thirst, and dangerous terrain, the group finally found the Humboldt River and followed it into the Sierra Mountains—all the way to California. This route became the California Trail, followed by emigrants during the California Gold Rush. Walker would go on to explore uncharted lands with people like Kit Carson and John C. Frémont—in places that we now know as California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. After a long and adventurous life, Joe Walker passed away on October 26, 1876 at his family ranch in California. Trailblazer, pioneer, fur trapper, gold hunter: Joe Walker did it all!