Landmarks on the Oregon Trail

Landmarks on the Oregon Trail
Running approximately 2,000 miles from the Missouri River across half of the continent to the Oregon Territory, today the trail ruts of the Oregon Trail are a reminder of the westward expansion that began in 1841. Fur traders, gold hunters, missionaries and many others would take an entire season to complete the arduous journey in search of a more advantageous life. People traveled by foot, wagon, horseback and raft in hopes of establishing new lives and businesses in undeveloped territory. Today the National Park has developed an interpretive auto tour that follows the Oregon Trail. In addition to the tour, adventurous travelers can follow in the footsteps of history while hiking segments of the trail.

Independence, Missouri

Independence, the fourth largest city in the state of Missouri, was the most popular starting point for parties heading west on the Oregon Trail. Ideal for stocking up on supplies, emigrants collected information and laid their plans for their travels within this industrious city. Many parties banded together at this point to avoid traveling alone and for fear of Indian attacks. Today visitors following the Oregon Trail can still visit Independence's town square and the National Trails Frontier Museum to learn more about the city's role in this historical moment in time.

National Frontier's Trail Museum
18 W. Pacific
Independence, Missouri 64050
(816) 325-7575

Susan O. Hail Grave, Nebraska

Located along the trail is the "Coast of Nebraska," a ridge of sand hills that separate the Platte Valley from open prairie, which contains a number of unmarked graves of emigrants plagued by disease. Among these grave markers laid that of Susan O. Hail who passed away at 34 years of age. Near Lowell, Nebraska, travelers can hike and visit this area, which is located at mile marker 250 along I-80 in Adams County.

Chimney Rock, Nebraska

Now standing 325 feet above the plains of Nebraska, Chimney Rock used to stand much higher during the years of migration. Most commonly mentioned within diary accounts from emigrants traveling the Oregon Trail, Chimney Rock is now a National Historic Site managed by the state. Visitors can learn more about this magnificent site and the trail during educational presentations given every Sunday during the summer season.

Chimney Rock National Historic Site
Hwy 92 and Chimney Rock Road
Bayard, Nebraska 69334
(308) 586-2581

Devil's Gate, Wyoming

Considered one of the major landmarks on the Oregon and Mormon Trail, Devil's Gate developed its narrow cleft from the waters of the Sweetwater River. Although traveling parties made a detour around the cleft, many stopped to hike through the rocks and explore the area. Today the Bureau of Land Management has developed an interpretive trail for outdoor enthusiasts and historical buffs to learn more about the colorful history of the Wyoming section of the Oregon Trail.

Shoshone Falls, Idaho

Often referred to as the "Niagara of the west," Shoshone Falls is 212 feet high and flows over a rim that is 900 feet wide. Located along Idaho's Snake River, the explorers of the Oregon Trail would often take a short side trip to see the rumored waterfalls that stand 36 feet higher than Niagara Falls. Now open year-round, the falls are under the management of the City of Twin Falls. For a nominal entrance fee visitors can hike the trails surrounding the falls, picnic and enjoy the scenic views.

Shoshone Falls
three miles east of Twin Falls, Idaho, on Falls Avenue
(208) 736-2265

Article Written By Patricia Poulin

Patricia Poulin is a freelance writer based out of the western slope of Colorado. Poulin's travels and insight have chronicled in print media resources, such as "Inside Outside" and "Breathe" magazine. She is also a regular contributor for other various publications including "USA Today." Poulin holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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