Plaque at Rope Ferry in Kansas

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The Oregon Trail in Missouri-Kansas:
Beginning the Adventure


    The arc traveled by pioneers through northeastern Kansas on their way to Nebraska’s Platte River is the shortest of the five state Oregon Trail segments. Pioneers headed west from numerous jumping-off points along the eastern bank of the Missouri River, including St. Joseph, Missouri and Council Bluffs, Iowa.  However, Independence, Missouri is generally considered the main departure point for the Oregon Trail, at least during the early years when pioneer families seeking to homestead western land comprised the majority of  wagon trains. 
    At
Courthouse Square in downtown Independence visitors can view a marker near where the emigrants gathered to rest, repair their wagons, acquire provisions, and locate other pioneers interested in traveling together to the promised land in Oregon.  This is a good point to begin your trip west.
    Nearby Courthouse Square is former president Harry S Truman’s home (223 N. Main St.) that is managed by the National Park Service and open daily for tours (closed Mondays Labor Day through Memorial Day).
  Tickets for a tour of the home must be purchased at the visitor center.  The home is part of the Harry S Truman National Historic Site. 
   
Modern-day roads zigzag in the general direction of the trail established by the pioneers, but are often some distance from the actual trail.  This is true through much of northeastern Kansas where the emigrants looped over and up to Nebraska and the Platte River.
    Crossing the Missouri River and entering
Kansas via I-435, a series of highways including U.S. 56, U.S. 59, and U.S. 40 follow the general route of the Oregon Trail through present-day towns of Lawrence and Topeka.  The Kansas Museum of History in Topeka (6425 SW Sixth Avenue) offers exhibits and information about the trail.  Further northwest, not far from the Nebraska border, Marysville is near the junction of trails originating at Independence and St. Joseph.  It is also where the two trails met up with the Pony Express Trail that originated in St. Joseph, but took a slightly different route across northeast Kansas. 
   
Just south of Marysville wagon trains on the trail crossed the Big Blue.   A short distance northwest of Marysville, near the Nebraska border, Hollenberg Station is the only Pony Express station in Kansas that remains in its original location. The site is now a national historic landmark.
Interesting sites related to the Oregon Trail in Missouri and Kansas include:
 
1) National Frontier Trails Museum (318 W. Pacific) - Near Independence Courthouse Square, the museum offers exhibits, information, and trail guides for individuals planning their own trip.

2)
Oregon Trail Nature Park - Located between the towns of Belvue and Marysville, this small park allows travelers to walk short nature trails, stand on a hill overlooking a gravel road that overlays the old Oregon Trail, and marvel at a funky silo enhanced with Oregon Trail art.  A photo of the silo is a must for any Oregon Trail traveler.  Also near Belvue is the cemetery where entrepreneur Louis Vieux is buried.  Vieux established a nearby toll bridge used by wagon trains on the trail. 

3) Scott Spring - Just south of the present-day town of Westmoreland, Scott Spring served as a stopping point for pioneers on the trail.  A small park just north of the spring has informational signs and a full-scale covered wagon.  

4) Alcove Spring - Near the town of Marysville, this well-known spring enticed pioneers to camp nearby.  The infamous Donner Party camped here for several days in 1846.  This is the point where the pioneers left the tallgrass prairie and entered the plains.