Everything from California to Alaska and between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean was a British-held territory called Oregon . The trail pointed the way for the United States to expand westward to achieve what politicians of the day called its “Manifest Destiny” to reach “from sea to shining sea.”
The Oregon Trail was a roughly 2,000-mile route from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon City, Oregon , which was used by hundreds of thousands of American pioneers in the mid-1800s to emigrate west. The trail was arduous and snaked through Missouri and present-day Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and finally into Oregon .
Emigrants feared death from a variety of causes along the trail : lack of food or water; Indian attacks; accidents or rattlesnake bites were a few. But the number one killer, by a wide margin, was disease. The most dangerous diseases were those spread by poor sanitary conditions and personal contact.
The Oregon Trail was the most popular way to get to Oregon Country from about 1843 through the 1870s. The trail started in Missouri and covered 2,000 miles before ending in Oregon City.
What was life like for pioneer children on the Oregon Trail ? Many children made the five month trek west with their families. It’s estimated that 40,000 of the emigrants were children.
But most stretches of the trail can still be traversed by foot, including sections under the auspices of the National Park Service. Some stretches of the trail are in state parks, such as Three Islands State Park in Idaho, where pioneers crossed the Snake River.
The 2,000-mile Oregon Trail was used by pioneers headed west from Missouri to find fertile lands. Today , travelers can follow the trail along Route 66 or Routes 2 and 30.
There were many reasons for the westward movement to Oregon and California. Economic problems upset farmers and businessmen. Free land in Oregon and the possibility of finding gold in California lured them westward. Most of the pioneer families either followed the Oregon -California Trail or the Mormon Trail.
Some hardships of the journey were death of relatives due to accidents , indian attacks, supply shortages, weather, drowning , disease , terrain, and even medicine. A challenge faced by most travelers was to steady their usage of money along the Oregon Trail.
These deaths were mostly in part to disease or accidents. Diseases ranged from a fever to dysentery, but the most deadly disease was cholera. The biggest deaths from accident on the trail were due to shootings, drownings, wagon mishaps, and injuries from handling the cattle.
Wagon crashes, particularly at river crossings were among the most common and deadly dangers that pioneers faced. At any given time on the Oregon Trail , there were numerous rivers that required crossing. Crossing the rivers could be very dangerous .
It normally took four to six months to traverse the length of the Oregon Trail with wagons pulled by oxen. About 80,000 pioneers used it to reach Oregon, and about 20,000 to Washington before the transcontinental railroad in 1869 .
The overland journey from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon or California meant a six-month trip across 2,000 miles of hard country. It was costly—as much as $1,000 for a family of four. That fee included a wagon at about $100.
The trail from Independence to Oregon City crossed portions of six present-day states . The first 16 miles were in Missouri, then the trail crossed into Kansas for 165 miles, Nebraska for 424 miles, Wyoming for 491 miles, Idaho for 510 miles and finally Oregon for 524 miles.