About The National Historic California Emigrant Trail Center Foundation

Participants on the California Trail

The CTHA (EIN#: 27-4488823 a non-profit, 501 (C) (3) organization) is based in Elko, NV. Our members are dedicated to the interpretation, preservation, protection, and sharing of the California Trail, the Hastings Cutoff and other associated trails.

Our members volunteer their time, energy, research and expertise in a variety of ways.  Some of the things we are involved in are:

  • Mapping Emigrant Trails (MET) Projects
  • Trail Marking Projects
  • Presentation of Programs at the California Trail Interpretive Center
  • Publishing an educational newsletter, the Wagon Tongue
  • Obtaining grants to support the California Trail Interpretive Center
  • Development of interpretive signage for trail visitors
  • Translate materials into Spanish and Mandarin

Our Mission

The mission of CTHA is to enhance the California Trail Experience for our community, the visiting public and future generations.

The History of CTHA

CTHA was established in 1995 by now-deceased Paul Sawyer and Dale Porter, visionary residents of Elko Nevada.  Initially the organization did business as the California Trail Center Foundation.

Its mission was to ensure the completion and installation of exhibits in the California Trail Interpretive Center.

With the installation of the Sutter’s Fort exhibit in 2014, the CTHA broadened its efforts to include protection and preservation of the historic trails as well as continued support of the California Trail Interpretive Center.

Our Founders

Paul Sawyer

Born in Winnemucca in 1917, Paul Sawyer moved to Elko as a young child His career was spent in the auto sales and leasing business. After retiring, Paul worked for several years with the Humboldt Highroad and the Bureau of Land Management to mark the California Trail and the Hastings Cutoff and other trails in the area. With his growing interest in the trails, Paul worked collaboratively with Dale Porter to conceive, promote, and fundraise for the National California Trail Interpretive Center west of Elko. Their efforts included visiting many similar centers, making local regional and national contacts with legislators, and gaining political support at all levels. The Center is located at the junction of the South Fork of the Humboldt and the main Humboldt River at Paul’s suggestion. Paul and Dale are honored by a Founder’s Plaque inside the Trail Center.

Dale Porter

Dale was born in Denver but moved to Elko where he attended high school in the ’40s. He served as a cryptographer during the Korean War. Dale attended both the University of Colorado and the University of Reno where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management. Dale and his father established and operated Porter Roofing for many years. Dale served three two terms on the Elko City Council and two terms on the Elko County Commission. He was instrumental in the creation of the South Fork Dam, a project he worried on for over 18 years. He worked with Paul Sawyer for more than ten years on the California Trail Interpretive Center. Their efforts included visiting many similar centers, making local regional and national contacts with legislators, and gaining political support at all levels.

Board of Directors

Today, CTHA has a 17-member Board of Directors. Nine are voting members and 8 are at-large members. Many of the at-large members reside near the California Trail outside of Elko County. All bring unique perspectives and knowledge to the deliberations, discussions, projects and activities of the CTHA. The Board meets monthly except in July and December of each year.

Core Board Members

  • Tamara Baker
  • Bailey Benson Billington
  • Leah Brady
  • Marlene Goddard
  • Walt Goddard
  • Helen Hankins
  • Duane Jones
  • Kevin Lee
  • Jordan Thomas

At-Large Members

  • Paul Dinwiddie
  • Jackie Lucero
  • Gratton Miller
  • Larry Schmidt
  • Frank Tortorich
  • John Winner
  • Lisa Dinwiddie
  • Chuck Briggs