Skip to Content

Jedediah Strong Smith

Jedediah Strong Smith

Jedediah Strong Smith (January 6, 1799 – May 27, 1831) was an American explorer, hunter, trapper, and fur trader who played a significant role in the westward expansion of the United States. He is known for his extensive explorations of the American West, particularly in the Rocky Mountains, the Southwest, and California.

Jedediah Strong Smith Overview

Smith was one of the first non-Native Americans to explore and map large parts of the western United States, and his expeditions contributed significantly to the understanding of the region’s geography and natural resources.

Smith was born in New York and raised in Pennsylvania. He later moved to Ohio, where he was introduced to the fur trade by joining William Henry Ashley’s Rocky Mountain Fur Company. Smith quickly proved himself an adept trapper and hunter, as well as a skilled leader and negotiator.

During his time with the fur company, Smith led multiple expeditions into the American West, venturing into uncharted territories and encountering various Native American tribes.

In 1826, Smith and his party became the first Americans to cross the Mojave Desert and the Sierra Nevada, eventually reaching the Pacific coast in California. He also explored the Great Basin, which includes modern-day Nevada.

In Nevada, Smith’s explorations were particularly influential. He was among the first European-Americans to explore and map the region. His expeditions provided valuable information about the geography, natural resources, and native populations in the area. Smith’s journeys through Nevada included traversing the Ruby Mountains, passing through the present-day cities of Wells and Elko, and exploring the Humboldt River. His accounts of the region’s geography, particularly its rivers and mountain ranges, proved invaluable for future explorers and settlers.

Smith’s impact on the history of Nevada is multifaceted. His explorations provided valuable information for other fur trappers, traders, and settlers who would later follow in his footsteps, helping to shape the westward expansion of the United States. His interactions with Native American tribes in the region were both cooperative and contentious, as his presence and the subsequent influx of settlers disrupted traditional ways of life and led to conflict.

Tragically, Smith’s life was cut short at the age of 32 when he was killed by Comanche warriors in present-day Kansas. Despite his early death, his contributions to the exploration and understanding of the American West, including Nevada, are remembered and celebrated today. His legacy lives on through the landmarks, rivers, and mountain ranges he documented, as well as the numerous books and historical accounts that recount his adventures and achievements.

From May to June 1827, Jedediah Smith, explorer, and trapper found a route from California’s central valley to the Great Salt Lake Valley in Utah.

He became the first European American to completely cross what is now Nevada.

Since Smith’s journal and map have never been found, his exact route is unknown.


  • Person
  • Trapping

Marker Type

Blue marker

Nevada Historical Marker Number

Jedediah Strong Smith is Nevada Historical Marker #84.

Click here to view the full list of Nevada State Historical Markers.


White Pine County, Nevada

GPS Coordinates

39.291445 -114.837921

Nevada Historical Marker Transcription

From May to June 1827, explorer and trapper Jedediah Smith found a route from California’s central valley to the Great Salt Lake Valley in Utah.  He became the first European American to completely cross what is now Nevada.

Because Smith’s journal and map have never been found, his exact route is unknown.  Based on Smith’s own statements about his difficult trip, modern historians and geographers have pieced together the most plausible route.  Smith crossed the Sierra Nevada at Ebbetts Pass, swung southeast along or across the headwaters and middle reaches of the Walker River, and passed into central Nevada’s open spaces south of Walker Lake.

Smith entered Smoky Valley on its southwest side in June 1827 and crossed the valley in a northeasterly direction.  He then paralleled the future Simpson survey, route of the Pony Express and Overland Stage, along modern U.S. Highway 50.

He entered Utah at Ibapah.




References Used

Jedediah Strong Smith