The Oregon Trail
The longest of the great overland routes of westward expansion, the Oregon Trail passes south of Riverton along the Sweetwater River through South Pass. The trail stretched 2,000 miles over mountains, prairies, and deserts. With its trailhead at Independence, Missouri, it led to the Pacific Northwest. Entering Wyoming alongside the North Platte River, it then followed the Sweetwater into South Pass.
The best area in Wyoming to see traces of the trail lie within short driving distance of Riverton; Independence Rock, Devils Gate, Split Rock, the Ice Spring Slough and South Pass all offer views of the well defined wagon ruts and interpretive signs with information on the events and personalities that traveled the route. Travel to these places will include views of antelope, wild horses, gold mines and will allow for jade, agate and gold hunting.
Travelers along the trail were subjected to severe tests of endurance and strength. The trip took six full months of travel and many lives were lost along the way. They faced rivers, floods, Indian attacks, disease, and shortages of food, water and wood. Late travelers faced blizzards and snow storms with not more than tents or wagons for shelter.
Estimates of as many as 300,000 people moved along the Oregon Trail in search of a better future. Immigrants from all over the world came to America and traveled this route to Oregon, Utah, and California. Visits to area museums and the numerous interpretive centers will offer after startling glimpses of diaries and recorded reflections of these travelers.
As modern day travelers, this distance is easily covered in a few days in comfort, unbelievable to those determined, hardy settlers. As you view the area along the Sweetwater River, reconsider these remarkable people and their commitment to better their lives how their legacy gave us this great western region.