So Rugged and Mountainous: Blazing the Trails to Oregon and California, 1812–1848 by Will BagleyThe story of America’s westward migration is a powerful blend of fact and fable. Over the course of three decades, almost a million eager fortune-hunters, pioneers, and visionaries transformed the face of a continent—and displaced its previous inhabitants. The people who made the long and perilous journey over the Oregon and California trails drove this swift and astonishing change. In this magisterial volume, Will Bagley tells why and how this massive emigration began.While many previous authors have told parts of this story, Bagley has recast it in its entirety for modern readers. Drawing on research he conducted for the National Park Service’s Long Distance Trails Office, he has woven a wealth of primary sources—personal letters and journals, government documents, newspaper reports, and folk accounts—into a compelling narrative that reinterprets the first years of overland migration.
Illustrated with photographs and historical maps, So Rugged and Mountainous is the first of a projected four-volume history, Overland West: The Story of the Oregon and California Trails. This sweeping series describes how the “Road across the Plains” transformed the American West and became an enduring part of its legacy. And by showing that overland emigration would not have been possible without the cooperation of Native peoples and tribes, it places American Indians at the center of trail history, not on its margins.
California Trail Facts & Worksheets
A map showing the westward trail from Missouri to Oregon. While most Oregon-bound emigrants traveled a route that passed by landmarks in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon, there was never just one set of wagon ruts leading west. Pioneers often spread out for several miles across the plains to hunt, find grazing patches for their animals and avoid the choking dust clouds kicked up by other wagon trains. As the years passed, enterprising settlers also blazed dozens of new trails, or cutoffs, that allowed travelers to bypass stopping points and reach their destination quicker. These shortcuts were especially popular in Wyoming, where the network of alternative pathways meandered more than a hundred miles north and south. Frontier explorers and fur trappers blazed the rough outlines of the Oregon Trail in the early 19th century, but the route was initially considered too demanding for women, children or covered wagons to navigate.
So, where is the California Trail? And where did the California Trail start? Open from to , the California Trail brought emigrants from many locations in the East. Starting points varied, but most began somewhere along the Missouri River and ran parallel with the Oregon Trail, heading west. One such cutoff led to the tragic events of the infamous Donner party. There is no exact way to tell how long the California Trail was because each starting point was different. Historians place it close to 2, miles.
Oregon Trail pioneers pass through the sand hills, painting by William Henry Jackson. They also brought along preserved foods. There were more fatalities from the accidental discharge of guns than from confrontations with Indians. Up till , a hired trail guide was deemed to be essential to the success of a wagon train. After the trails became more defined and trail traffic became heavier, guides were no longer seen as a necessity. Commencement of the overland journey usually occurred during a five-week window from the last week of April through the end of May. If they left too early, there would be no grass for their animals to eat, if they left too late, they would get caught by the winter snow.
Robert Munkres, our resident historical expert, who compiled them from various sources. These trail facts may be downloaded for personal reading convenience or to be used in the classroom. For all other uses you must first obtain permission.
children of the world movie
Questions & Answers About the Oregon and California Trails
The California Trail led thousands of would-be prospectors to the would-be promised land during the California Gold Rush. But the 2,mile trail from the Midwest to the Pacific Coast also carried a great many settlers looking for more and different opportunities. Gold was discovered in The California Trail paralleled the Oregon Trail for a good bit of the way, then split to head a bit farther south. Some of these routes were so well travelled that enterprising businessmen set up toll roads along the routes, charging travelers a small fee for taking what might be a shorter route to what might be a fortune. Once gold was discovered, the Carson Route became very popular because its endpoint was in the middle of the California gold fields.
It was most heavily used in the s, s, and s. The length of the wagon trail from the Missouri River to Sacramento, California was about 1, miles 3, km. It normally took four to six months to traverse the length of the California Trail with covered wagons pulled by oxen. About , pioneers, the most of any American emigration trail , used it to reach California before the transcontinental railroad in An alternate California Trail route overlapped the Mormon Trail all the way. The trail ended at several destination places mostly in the gold fields in the mountains of northern California. Most settled in California.