Separated from the rest of California by the imposing escarpment of the Sierra Nevada range, the county seat of Markleeville and nearby Woodfords have developed a close association with the communities of Western Nevada.
Just as many of Alpine County’s pioneer families trace their roots to the Carson Valley, today’s citizens depend on essential goods and services available from the Silver State.
Located on historic Highway 88 at the mouth of the West Fork of the Carson River canyon, Woodfords holds title as the oldest non-native settlement in the entire region. Mormon Battalion member Sam Brannan left supplies near a spring here in 1847 on his way to Salt Lake City, and Brannan Springs, as it was then called, was ideally positioned to take advantage of traffic on the booming road to California.
After a brief period during which the settlement was known as Carey’s Woodfords Canyon Mills, the Woodfords name came into common usage following the establishment of an official post office near a hotel by Daniel Woodford in 1849.
Today, Woodfords continues to serve highway travelers, and is home to about 150 full time residents, while the Southern band of the Washo tribe has a small community in nearby Diamond Valley.
Markleeville traces its beginnings to the land claim of Jacob Markley who established a toll bridge across a tributary of the Carson River in 1861 during the height of the silver mining boom at nearby Silver Mountain City. Markley hoped to prosper from the freight and supplies headed to the mining camps, but was instead killed in a gunfight in 1863, his killer going free on a plea of self defense.
When the mines shut down, Markleeville assumed the county seat and remains the center of government services for Alpine County.
Serving as a supply and shipping center for the mining, lumber and Markleeville Courthouse ranching industries for the last one hundred years.
Markleeville today is home to a mix of local, state and federal government employees, ranging from the U.S. Forest Service to the state highway department, and small businesses catering to the tourist trade and visitors to the nearby Grover Hot Springs State Park.
During the winter months, the community is only accessible from the north via Highway 88 & 89, as both Monitor Pass* and Ebbett’s Pass close for the season due to heavy snow.
*October 2006 – Dedication at Milepost 5.0 – the Robert M. Jackson Memorial Highway. Mr. Jackson a longtime Alpine County resident who was deeply involved in the development of the county’s roads over Hwy 89 Monitor Pass.