National Wildlife Refuge System

Historic Trail at Ruby Lake Refuge, NV

Another Panel
Volunteers participated in archaeological digs that uncovered foundations for officers' housing and other buildings. Many of the buildings were auctioned off when the fort was abandoned in 1869.
Credit: USFWS

The Fort Ruby interpretive trail opened in 2015 following ten years of archaeological digging and research to learn more about the fort. 

Colonel Patrick E. Connor established Fort Ruby in Nevada on September 4, 1862, to protect the Overland Stage and Pony Express Route, the main road crossing Nevada in the 1850s and 1860s.  Within months, the 3rd Infantry of California Volunteers had built the fort’s log structures, including officers’ houses, a hospital, barracks for enlisted men, a blacksmith shop, brig and stable. Pony Express stations were built about every 20 miles so riders could change horses.  As many as 300 soldiers were stationed there, calling Fort Ruby the “worst post in the West” because of its remote location.

The officers’ houses, a hospital, quartermaster building, and barracks for enlisted men are noted on a map and in photographs taken in 1868.
Credit: USFWS

In 1863, the Treaty of Ruby Marsh was signed at the fort with members of the Western Shoshone. The U.S. government forced signing of the treaty, which represents a broken promise for the Western Shoshone. Only a fraction of the promised cattle was given and the Ruby Valley reservation was never established.

The fort was abandoned in 1869 when the transcontinental railroad was completed. The buildings were auctioned off to local ranchers who hauled them away. Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge acquired the original fort in 2002 and began restoration.

Between 2005 and 2011, one-week volunteer projects were scheduled annually through the U.S. Forest Service’s Passport in Time program to help uncover foundations and artifacts related to Fort Ruby. The site of the fort is located on both U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Forest Service land. Early searches found U.S. Army uniform buttons, coins and the small head of a 19th century porcelain doll.

The short trail features interpretive panels that tell the story of the fort, including the fate of the treaty with the Shoshone. Evelyn Temoke-Roche, a member of the Western Shoshone tribe, provided a spiritual blessing during the trail opening. “This history brings back memories. It brings back emotions. We can’t forget.”


More information and photos at


Last updated: December 18, 2015