One of the things that I think would be fun to do if I had ample vacation time would be to visit spots along the Oregon Trail. While I know that this was quite the dangerous trip to embark on during its heyday, the Oregon Trail has a place in my heart thanks to the computer game during my formative years. I thought I would pull together some great tourist information for anyone who might want to have this experience as well. If you have ever been to any of these places or other stops along the way, please leave a comment below about your adventure.
I am posting a map of the Oregon Trail – however it is very small here. You can click on the image to go to the site and enlarge and search it. For driving directions you need to check each state, but the National Park Service has provided links for each. The traditional kick off point for the trails westward was either Independence, Missouri or St. Joseph, Missouri. From here they would begin a nearly 2,000 mile trek west to Oregon or California. So it would be natural to visit either one of these towns first. In Independence there is a Frontier Trails Museum where you can brush up on your history before heading out.
After Missouri you will pass through a small section of Kansas (you can stop by the Blue River – but I wouldn’t recommend trying to ford it!) and then on to Nebraska. In Nebraska you will find many exciting Trail related things to do. Want to try your hand at what it would be really like to take to the Trail? Why not try a 24 hour Wagon Trek adventure at the base of Chimney Rock? The Oregon Trail Wagon Train Restaurant and Campground offers a real wagon trek by Conestoga wagon out on the prairie and Trail. I couldn’t find too much information on it but it calls it a living history trek and living as the pioneers would. They also offer tours of Chimney Rock. Sounds like fun to me! Also in Nebraska you can visit Ash Hollow and Windlass Hill – both with interpretive centers and you can visit the ruts made by the wagons.
After passing though the corner of Colorado you have to trek across the state of Wyoming. There is a lot to see and do here. The National Park Service provides an interpretive brochure for auto driving the trail through Wyoming which provides a lot of information about the sites you will come across. Two must stops are Fort Laramie and Fort Bridger. At Fort Laramie you can take an audio tour as well as see interpretations. At Fort Bridger you will find 2 museums, a rebuilt trading post and an interpretive archaeological site. I would also want to visit Independence Rock to see all of the names carved in it by travelers. They named it Independence Rock because the goal was to reach this part of the trail by July 4th, but travelers arrived here all the time.
The second to last state before the terminus of the Trail is Idaho. One place that sounds like it would be interesting is Three Islands Crossing. Apparently this was a dangerous crossing on the Snake River and every 2nd weekend in August there is a reenactment of what it was like to cross here. You can also visit the Fort Hall Replica which was another major stop on the trail.
The last major stop along the Oregon Trail was, of course, Oregon. The final destination was Oregon City but many families would jump off the trail and settle at any point once they reached Oregon. There are two interpretive centers in Oregon, one shortly after entering the state and one in Oregon City. Historic Oregon City has many events going on there.
I would love to hear you stories if you have been to any of the places mentioned here or ones I skipped over, there were too many to catch them all. I plan on posting a virtual trip along the California Trail in the future – the southern route once it splits from the Oregon Trail and the one the Donner Party took. Hope you enjoyed this feature!
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