The Oregon Trail was a 2,000-mile route that ran from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon City, Oregon, and was used by hundreds of thousands of American pioneers to emigrate west in the 1800s. It was difficult to navigate and snaked through present-day Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon.
Missionaries Blaze the Oregon Trail
Missionaries were among the first to cross the Oregon Trail, with Nathan Wyeth leading the first missionary group west in 1834, where they established an outpost in what is now Idaho.
Marcus Whitman, a missionary, set out on horseback in 1835 to prove that the westward trail to Oregon could be traversed safely and further than ever before. His party made it to the Green River Rendezvous, then faced a grueling journey across the Rockies with the help of Hudson Bay Company trappers.
Great Emigration of 1843
The Great Emigration of 1843, which began on May 22 and lasted five months, was one of the most significant events in American history, as it effectively opened the floodgates of pioneer migration along the Oregon Trail. The group consisted of 120 wagons, about 1,000 people, and thousands of livestock.
The incident sparked a seven-year conflict between indigenous peoples and the federal government of the United States.
Life on the Oregon Trail
Emigrants had to sell their homes, businesses, and any belongings they couldn’t take with them, as well as hundreds of pounds of supplies such as flour, sugar, bacon, coffee, salt, rifles, and ammunition, in wagons that were typically six feet wide and twelve feet long.
Oregon Trail Route
Thousands of pioneers traveled thousands of miles along the Oregon Trail, crossing the Great Plains, following the Platte River, and ascending the Rocky Mountains. Summer thunderstorms made travel slow and dangerous, so leaving in April or May was critical for the best chance of survival.
The “Great Register of the Desert” was named after the rock. Settlers climbed the Rocky Mountains to the South Pass, then navigated the Snake River Canyon and the Blue Mountains, with some continuing south into California.
Dangers on the Oregon Trail
The Oregon Trail became a well-worn path and an abandoned junkyard of surrendered belongings, as well as a graveyard for tens of thousands of pioneer men, women, and children who died of diseases like dysentery, cholera, smallpox, and flu.
The End of the Oregon Trail
Thousands of emigrants used the Oregon Trail on their way to California, and it was also a major thoroughfare for massive cattle drives between 1866 and 1888, before railroads virtually eliminated the need for wagons in the West by 1890.
How long did the journey from the Missouri River to Oregon or California usually take?
The wagon trail, which ran from the Missouri River to Sacramento, California, was most heavily used in the 1840s, 1850s, and 1860s. It took about four to six months to traverse the length of the California Trail with covered wagons pulled by oxen.
How long did the journey westward take?
In fact, the Lewis and Clark Expedition traveled across the western part of the continent and back in two years, four months, and nine days.
How long did the sea journey to Oregon take?
The pioneers were also impatient to get to their destination, and the sea journey could take up to a year compared to four to six months by wagon. Marcus and Narcissa Whitman were the first emigrants to go to Oregon overland in a covered wagon in 1836.
Does the Oregon Trail still exist?
Pioneers heading west from Missouri used the 2,000-mile Oregon Trail to find fertile lands; today, travelers can follow the trail along Route 66 or Routes 2 and 30.
What was the greatest cause of death on the Oregon Trail?
Accidental deaths on the trail included falling off or under wagons, being crushed by wagon wheels, and injuries from handling domestic animals. Wagon accidents were the most common, with both children and adults falling off or under wagons and being crushed under the wheels.
Why didn’t most pioneers ride in their wagons?
The wagons were pulled along the dusty trail by teams of oxen or mules. People didn’t ride in the wagons very often because they didn’t want to wear out their animals; instead, they walked alongside them, becoming just as dusty as the animals.
Why did the US want to expand West?
The ability to work in the cattle industry; the ability to be a “cowboy.” The ability to own land cheaply under the Homestead Act. The discovery of wheat strains adapted to grow in the climate of the Plains.
Why did pioneers go to Oregon?
Economic problems infuriated farmers and businessmen, and free land in Oregon and the prospect of finding gold in California enticed them westward. The majority of the pioneer families followed the Oregon-California Trail or the Mormon Trail.
Why did people move from Missouri to Oregon?
Explanation: The rich farmlands of Oregon drew thousands of settlers, and the land was free to those who could establish the Oregon Territory. Farmers on marginal lands in Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri found the lure of rich farmland in the Willamette valley irresistible.
Why was it important for the pioneers to leave Missouri in early spring?
Travelers needed to leave in April or May if they wanted to reach Oregon before the winter snows arrived, and leaving in late spring ensured there would be plenty of grass along the way to feed livestock.
When did thousands of Americans go to Oregon?
From the early 1840s to the 1860s, the Oregon Trail, which spanned about 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers), served as the primary route for hundreds of thousands of emigrants seeking to reach the Northwest. It traversed varied and often difficult terrain, including large Native American lands.
What was the most common disease on the Oregon Trail?
Among the diseases mentioned in diaries and journals were dysentery, smallpox, measles, mumps, and influenza, but cholera, mountain fever, and scurvy were probably the most deadly.
Where did Pioneers sleep?
Despite the romantic depictions of the covered wagon in movies and on television, it would not have been very comfortable to travel in or sleep in the wagon. Some pioneers did camp on the groundu2014either in the open or sheltered under the wagonu2014but many used canvas tents.
Did the Oregon Trail go through Iowa?
Between the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, US-20 cuts straight through the middle of Iowa, following the invisible border that separates the flat agricultural tableland that separates the northern half of the state from the more heavily industrialized south. Map of the Oregon Trail through Iowa.