The beginnings of the Oregon Trail can be traced to Robert Stuart, who in 1812 left Oregon and journeyed east. Along the way, Stuart and his party had the good fortune to find South Pass, a gentle and manageable crossing of the Continental Divide. The Bidwell-Bartleson Party (see the California Trail page) was the first emigrant party across the Oregon Trail although most of the emigrants opted for California instead of Oregon. In 1843, the first large party of emigrants bound for Oregon included Peter Burnett, Jesse Applegate and Marcus Whitman. The years 1849-1852 saw the largest concentration of emigrants on the Oregon Trail; in 1850 and 1852 and estimated 65,000 to 70,000 emigrants moved west.
The Oregon Trail began in the Independence-Westport area in Missouri. For the first few miles, the Oregon Trail used a path already established as part of the Santa Fe Trail. About a mile southwest of Gardner, Kansas, the trail split. The trail continued in a general northwest direction through Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon. Like its counterparts, the Santa Fe and California Trails, there was never really a single trail, rather a network of interwoven trails.
Between Lawrence and Bellvue, Kansas, Route 40 follows the path of the Oregon Trail. For 'rut nuts,' Kansas presents some great opportunities for locating trail swales. Grab a copy of Gregory Franzwa's Maps of the Oregon Trail and start exploring. Almost all of the intersections of the old trail and modern streets and roads are marked with National Park Service signs.
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Last updated: 2010-11-04 12:47:34