August 14, 2013

Exploring the Oregon Trail

By Brandon Marie Miller

After several months plodding along the Oregon Trail in 1853, Amelia Stewart Knight noted with a touch of sarcasm, "Take us all together we are a poor looking set, and all this for Oregon. I am thinking while I write, 'Oh, Oregon, you must be a wonderful country.' Came 18 miles today."

Roughly 350,000 pioneers traveled this 2,000 mile artery west from Missouri. It was the journey of a lifetime, an adventure like no other. Most Emigrants had seen nothing like the Great Plains and the walls of mountains. They eagerly sought landmarks like Independence Rock where thousands carved their names. The sight of buffalo herds and villages of prairie dogs stirred excitement while first encounters with Native Americans aroused both curiosity and fear. The Knight family tasted their first salmon while on the trail, caught by Indian fishermen.

Boredom marked many of the miles with frequent jolts of peril thrown in. Emigrants crossed swollen rivers. They faced brutal weather and died of disease and exposure and accidents. As the journey dragged on, exhausted, famished oxen dropped dead in their tracks, forcing families to abandon their goods and wagons along the road. After 5 months Amelia Knight signed off her trail diary, grateful her family survived their hardships, with the simple words: "This is the journey's end."

Many Oregon Trail sites Emigrants watched for can still be seen today. Check out some of the images below and go online to find more. Happy Trails!

Chimney Rock, Nebraska
Devil's Tower, Wyoming
Independence Rock, Wyoming

Fort Laramie, Wyoming
Scott's Bluff, Nebraska

The Dalles, Oregon

Three Island Crossing, Idaho


  1. I loved reading books about families on the Oregon Trail when I was a kid. One of my favorites NOTHING IN LIFE IS FREE. No idea who wrote it. Anybody remember this book?

  2. I don't know who wrote it, either. It's amazing how much we do remember, though, from books we read as kids-- characters, scenes, and how we felt reading about them. I've decided I would not have made a very good pioneer.