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Covered Wagon

California Trail


Established in 1841, the California Trail was the overland route that brought an estimated quarter of a million emigrants to the Golden State. The trail roughly followeds the same path of as the Oregon Trail, but extended to California from various points in southwestern Wyomning and southern Idaho. As the trail approached the Reno, Nevada area, it again split into several trails all ending in or near Sacramento. Like its counterpart, the Oregon Trail, there was never really a single trail, rather a network of interwoven trails.

In 1841, John Bidwell (below) led the Bidwell-Bartleson Party across what would soon be called the California Trail. Two years later, Joseph Chiles would repeat Bidwell's journey. In 1844, Caleb Greenwwod and the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party would be the first to take wagons over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In 1845, Lansford W. Hastings and John C. Frémont guided several hundred pioneers to California. (The next year, Hastings persuaded another group of emigrants to follow his 'shortcut' that ran to the south of the estabnlished trail.)

The floodgates opened following the discovery of gold in California. According to one staistic, over 70,000 emigrants used the California trail in 1849 and 1850.

Eventually, the railroad and modern highways followed the corridors established by the California Trail. Between Elko, Nevada and Sacramento, California, Route 40 follows the path of the California Trail.

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John Bidwell
John Bidwell

California Trail

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Last updated: 2010-11-03 22:50:56

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