By Alton Pryor
William Bradshaw and the Bradshaw Trail started in San Bernardino and ended in La Paz, Arizona, which is now Ehrenberg.
This trail was used heavily during the 15-year-period from 1862 to 1877. It consists of about 65 miles of graded road that crosses public land between the Chuckawalla Mountains and the Chocolate Mountains Aerial Gunnery Range.
Bradshaw had a good friend named Horace Bell. Well, Bell characterized Bradshaw as “the most polished gentleman” and at the same time, “a natural lunatic.”
Bradshaw decided to capitalize on what he saw as an opportunity. He knew that Powell Weaver, who was a well-known scout and trapper, had found gold on the Arizona side of the Colorado River.
He figured that once word of the gold find got out, there would be a stampede of gold miners that would need a more direct trail east from Los Angeles to reach the gold strike at La Paz.
Bradshaw recruited eight men to scout out the most direct route to La Paz. He led the newly-formed search party eastward across an almost totally unknown desert area toward the Colorado River.
According to Delmar Ross, who wrote about Bradshaw’s trail-blazing in his book, “Gold Road to La Paz”, Bradshaw and his party received help from Old Cabezon, chief of the Cahuilla Indians, and from a Cocomaricopa Indian mail runner from Arizona who was visiting the Cahuilla villages.
Two Indians provided Bradshaw with a map of an ancient Halchidoma Indian trade route through the Colorado Desert. Of particular importance, the map showed the location of important springs and water holes.
Well, Bradshaw and his party did reach La Paz. He then established a ferry across the Colorado River. Teamsters delivered 30 to 50 passengers plus freight to the ferry each day and Bradshaw prospered.
But as miners exhausted the supply of gold at La Paz, travelers along Bradshaw’s Trail also petered out.
Bradshaw, however, never saw the decline in the use of his once-famous trail. In 1864, Bradshaw was tormented after a night of heavy drinking. He was found dead in La Paz.
According to an article titled “The Bradshaw Trail”, published on the Arizona Outdoorsman Internet Site, Bradshaw walked deliberately into a carpenter’s shop in La Paz, picked up a drawing knife, and with a single stroke nearly severed his own head from his shoulders.