Diary of a Desert Trail: 1890 Cattle Drive from Arizona to California
By Edward L. Vail
The Diary of a Desert Trail tells the exciting story of the 1890 cattle drive from the Empire Ranch, north of present day Sonoita, Arizona to Warner’s Ranch near present day Warner Springs, California. Undertaken in response to a rate hike by the Southern Pacific Railroad, the drive was led by Edward L. Vail and Tom Turner, accompanied by six cowboys of Mexican descent and one Chinese cook. They drove 900 cattle over 500 miles through sections of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona and California and across the Colorado River. Ed Vail kept a diary during the two month and ten day trip in which he recorded their adventures and hardships including stampedes, the scarcity of water and feed, the arrest of two horse thieves, difficulties crossing the Colorado River, and an unwelcome tax collector. Vail’s descriptions of cattle behavior, cowboy practices and expertise, and the landscape and people encountered on the trail provide a unique view of life in the Southwestern United States.