During summer 2010 we
followed the Oregon Trail from its origin at Courthouse Square
Missouri, to its
finish in present-day Oregon City,
Along the way we walked along ruts and swales scored by the wagons,
camped near sites utilized over 150 years ago by the pioneers, visited
numerous museums and interpretive centers devoted to the Oregon Trail,
and gazed in wonderment at the beautiful but demanding terrain emigrants
were required to navigate during their long journey west.
Pioneers required from five to six months to
complete the trail's 2,100 miles from
Independence to present-day
distance and travel time decreased over the years as shortcuts were
discovered and bridges and ferries were constructed. In comparison, we
drove 2,600 miles in three weeks while tracing the pioneers' journey.
Our trip covered more miles because significant portions of the trail
are not paralleled by present-day roads. For example, in
Kansas and southeastern
Nebraska where wagon trains cut
diagonally northwest to reach the south bank of the Platte
drivers must zig and zag along county and state roads. We took fewer
supplies than the pioneer families that carried 600 pounds of flour, 400
pounds of bacon, 100 pounds of sugar, 60 pounds of coffee, and 200
pounds of lard. We also weren't burdened with heavy and bulky
personal possessions such as trunks, dressers, or family heirlooms.
In addition, we didn't have the added complication of taking along and
caring for children and animals.
Not all wagon trains heading west set out from
just as not all pioneers completing the journey put down roots in
wait times for crowded ferries that carried families and their gear
across the Missouri
caused many pioneers to cross north of
delays for gaining ferry space were shorter. Pioneers knew that an
early start meant an earlier arrival in
Oregon, thus giving
them a better chance of locating superior land to homestead.
Following the 1848 discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in
mostly gold seekers rather than families wanting to homestead, found it
more convenient to cross the Missouri River at
Mormons, who began traveling west in 1846, mostly crossed even further
north at Council Bluffs,
We have taken many extended trips throughout the United States but discovered three weeks spent following the
Oregon Trail was near the top in
terms of enjoyment and education.
Walking along ruts cut by wagon trains on their
way to settling the West 150 years ago is an awesome experience.
View Our Oregon Trail Videos