Expedition along the 35th parallel led by Lt. Amiel Weeks Whipple (July 1853 - March 1854)

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The primary purpose of the Whipple expedition was finding a railroad route from the Mississippi to the Pacific. The expedition was one of six major expeditions that traversed through different parts of the country in search of a promising railroad route. Twelve scientists, including John M. Bigelow, traveled with the expedition party along the 35th parallel through modern-day Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Spencer Baird, assistant-secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, recommended Bigelow for the position of botanist on the expedition. Antoine Leroux, an experienced western guide knowledgeable of the Native American uses for plants, joined the expedition at Mojave territory in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Mojaves helped the scientists collect botanical, biological, and geological specimens, and believed that the railroad would result in a valuable trade route spanning their territory. Additional Sources: Goetzmann, W. H. Exploration and Empire. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1966. Hafen, LeRoy R. The Mountain Men and the Fur Trade of the Far West. Glendale, California: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1966. Vol IV. Senate. Reports of Explorations and Surveys, to ascertain the most practicable and economical route for a railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Washington: Beverly Tucker, 1855. Sherburne, John P. and M.M. Gordon. Through Indian Country to California: John P. Sherburne’s Diary of the Whipple Expedition // edited by Mary McDougall Gordon. Chicago: Stanford University Press, 1988. Sherer, Lorraine M. Bitterness Road: The Mojave: 1604 to 1860. Menlo Park, California: Ballena Press, 1994. Waller, A.E. “Dr. John Milton Bigelow, 1804-1878. An Early Ohio Physician- Botanist.” Ohio Historical Society,1998. http://publications.ohiohistory.org/ohstemplate.cfm?action=detail&Page=0051313.html&StartPage=313&EndPage=331&volume=51¬es=&newtitle=Volume%2051%20Page%20313 Whipple, Lt. Amiel Weeks. Reports of Exploration and Surveys, to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Washington: A.O.P.Nicholson, 1856.


  • Bigelow, John M. Route near the thirty-fifth parallel, explored by Lieutenant A.W. Whipple, topographical engineers, in 1853 and 1854. Report on the botany of the expedition. Washington D.C.: WarDepartment, 1856.
  • Foreman, Grant. A Pathfinder in the Southwest. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1941.
  • Goetzmann, W.H. Army Exploration in the American West. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959.

Date Range

1853 - 1854


  • Geology
  • Zoology
  • Plants
  • Botany


  • United States
  • New Mexico
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • California
  • Arizona


Expedition name