NHT Auto Tour Guides

Wyoming

brochure NHT Auto Tour Guides - Wyoming

The National Historic Trail route across Wyoming. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

National Trails System National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior National Historic Trails Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Across Wyoming “Rendezvous,” by William Henry Jackson NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAILS AUTO TOUR ROUTE INTERPRETIVE GUIDE Across Wyoming Prepared by National Park Service National Trails Intermountain Region www.nps.gov/cali www.nps.gov/oreg www.nps.gov/mopi www.nps.gov/poex NATIONAL PARK SERVICE US DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Third Printing December 2016 Historical marker on South Pass recognizing the first “white” women to make the trek to Oregon in 1836. CONTENTS Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Gateway to the West . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Blazing the Trail . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Approaching the Rockies. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Sweetwater to South Pass . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Beyond the Great Divide . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Leapfrogging Across Wyoming . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 Ho for California! Oregon or Bust! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Fire on the Plains . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 God Speed to the Boy & the Pony! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 The End of the Trail Era . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Sites and Points of Interest. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37 Auto Tour Segment A —Nebraska State Line to Casper . . . . . . . Auto Tour Segment B —Casper to Seedskadee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Auto Tour Segment C —The Lander Road. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Auto Tour Segment D —Seedskadee to Idaho State Line. . . . . . . Auto Tour Segment E —Seedskadee to Utah State Line. . . . . . . . 38 50 68 70 71 For More Information/Credits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74 Regional Map. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Inside Back Cover Eastern view of the Sweetwater River Valley from atop Independence Rock, by William Henry Jackson. Image is courtesy of the Brigham Young University Online Collection. Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Wyoming INTRODUCTION Auto Tour Route any of the pioneer trails and other M historic routes that are important in our nation’s past have been designated by Congress as national historic trails. While most of those old roads and routes are not open to motorized traffic, people can drive along modern highways that lie close to the original trails. Those modern roads are designated as Auto Tour Routes, and are marked with highway signs and trail logos to help today’s travelers follow the trails used by the pioneers who helped to open a new nation. This interpretive publication guides visitors along the Auto Tour Routes for the Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer, and Pony Express national historic trails as they as they cross the state of Wyoming from east to west. Site-by-site driving directions are included, and an overview map is located inside the back cover. To make the tour more meaningful, this guide also provides a historical overview of the four trails, shares the thoughts and experiences of emigrants who followed those routes, and describes how westward expansion impacted native peoples of the Intermountain West. National Park Service interpretive brochures for the Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer, and Pony Express national historic trails are available at many trail-related venues, or can be requested via email to ntir_information@nps.gov. Additional information on each trail also can be found on individual trail websites. Links are listed on the title page of this guide. Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Wyoming GATEWAY TO THE WEST History is geography set into motion. —Johann Gottfried Herder, 18th century philosopher of history T he Rocky Mountains stretch like a jagged spine between Alaska and Mexico, splitting North America into East and West. The Continental Divide is not a simple line of peaks, easily threaded by tracks and roads, but a complex of overlapping mountain ranges and treeless sagebrush steppe, hundreds of miles wide. In the days of covered wagon travel, the Rockies were an imposing barrier to the movement of people, commerce, and communications. Early explorers probed the Northern Rockies looking for the fabled “Northwest Passage” that would open an easy route for transcontinental traffic. The men of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery finally put that myth to rest in 1805, when they nearly perished crossing Montana’s Bitterroot Range at Lemhi Pass. But the Absarokas (Crows), Shoshones, and other tribes knew of a much easier gateway through the mountains some 400 miles farther south, in today’s Wyoming. A small band of traders from the Pacific Fur Company discovered their secret in 1812. Robert Stuart and his men left Fort Astoria, a company post on the Columbia River, in June of that year to carry business dispatches overland to New York. Misfortune nipped their heels from the start: one man attempted suicide, mosquitoes were a constant torment, and a Shoshone guide ran off with Stuart’s horse. But before disappearing, the guide told the Astorians of a shorter route through the central Rockies, and they decided to look for it on their own. Three months into their journey, snarling fate turned vicious: as the traders approached the Teton Range near today’s Idaho-Wyoming border, an Absaroka war party captured all their horses. Now Stuart’s men were afoot in unfamiliar country, a thousand miles from any settlement, without supplies and on the sharp edge of a Rocky Mountain winter. The desperate men were picking their way eastward when they struck an Indian trace that led them south of the Wind River Range and through a broad pass over the Great Divide. They had found the Shoshone’s “shorter route,” but still were deep in unfriendly wilderness. After a hungry winter spent 2 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Wyoming huddled on the eastern plains of Wyoming, Stuart’s tough little band finally reached St. Louis in April 1813, bringing news of the southern pass that could open the continent to wagon travel. Their news was drowned out by the commotion of conflict with England, the War of 1812. The great southern pass was forgotten until friendly Absarokas directed a small party of mountain men, which included the legendary Jedediah Smith, James Clyman, and Thomas Fitzpatrick, through the gap in 1824. Then, at last, geography “set into motion.” Trappers and pack-mule caravans began carrying supplies over South Pass to the annual fur trade fair, or Rendezvous. Mountain man William Sublette took the first wagons to Rendezvous in 1830, but stopped just east of the Continental Divide. Although Sublette showed that loaded wagons could make the trip into the mountains, the “fur trace” was so rough that he returned with pack mules the next year. Captain Benjamin L. E. Bonneville, leading a 20-wagon supply train, blazed the first wagon “Emigrants Crossing the Rocky Mountains.” Image is courtesy of the Library of Congress. 3 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Wyoming track over South Pass in 1832, and more carts and wagons followed. Soon other travelers began joining up with the annual fur caravans for safe overland passage. Missionaries Marcus & Narcissa Whitman and Henry & Eliza Spalding crossed the Rockies with the fur brigade in 1836, proving that women were not too delicate for the trials of the trail. Four years later, emigrants Joel and Mary Walker, with four children and two covered wagons, joined the last supply caravan heading to the very last trappers’ Rendezvous. They reached Oregon in September 1840, and in January Mary gave birth to a daughter. The Walkers showed that even children and mothers “in a family way” could make the 2,000-mile overland trip. Their example helped open the floodgates of the emigration. First a trickle, then a stream, and finally a torrent of humanity, livestock, and technology poured through South Pass over the next three decades. Government survey parties and soldiers, missionaries, emigrant wagon and handcart companies, hopeful gold-seekers and adventurers, countless stage and mail coaches, commercial freight wagons, riders of the Pony Express, and the transcontinental telegraph — all funneled through that 20-mile-wide passage over the Continental Divide. So many hooves and wheels cut into the earth that the ground in places is still scored with ruts. South Pass was the gateway to the West. Without that accident of geography, there would have been no Oregon Trail, no California Trail, no Mormon Utah, and perhaps no United States stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific. And it comes forcibly to mind that this passage in the great Rocky Mountains was fashioned by the supreme ruler to aid the progress of the American people in their westward march to the Pacific Ocean. —Joseph Buffum, 1849 California emigration South Pass - Gateway to the West. 4 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Wyoming BLAZING THE TRAIL T he first emigrant wagon train bound for California, known as the Bidwell-Bartleson Party, struck out from Independence, Missouri, in the spring of 1841. “Our ignorance of the route was complete,” admitted John Bidwell, a 21-year-old Pennsylvania schoolteacher who lent his name and leadership to the wagon company. “We knew that California lay west, and that was the extent of our knowledge.” That was the extent of most everybody’s knowledge. The trail in 1841 was barely a track worn along the Platte River by the packmule and cart caravans of the Rocky Mountain fur trade. Hopeful greenhorns would have no beaten wagon road to follow over plain and mountain to California or Oregon. No useful map of the route existed. Emigrants would find no road signs, no bridges or ferries at river crossings, and no place to replace exhausted oxen and food supplies. The 68 souls who first set out with John Bidwell into that arid unknown have been praised as bold visionaries and spurned as risk-taking fools. “Pilgrims of the Plains,” by Alfred R. Waud, Harpers Weekly, December 23, 1871. Illustration is courtesy of the Library of Congress. 5 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Wyoming Whatever they were, they were also lucky. A few days out of Independence they managed to join up with Thomas “Broken Hand” Fitzpatrick, who was already guiding a company of missionaries to the Pacific Northwest. The famous mountain man agreed to take the emigrants along the Platte and through the Rockies as far as the Fort Hall area in today’s Idaho. From there they would have to find their own way. Amazingly, they did. The way Fitzpatrick took his pilgrims—on the old trappers’ route up the North Platte River into central Wyoming, up the Sweetwater, and over South Pass— became the corridor of the combined Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer, and Pony Express Trails. Government maps of the route published in 1843 and 1845 gave others the confidence to set out for the West. Within a few years, a rising stream of emigrant wagons had beat the old “fur trace” into a road that the greenest tenderfoot could follow. To all of my acquaintances and friends who may be in bad health I would recommend a trip to California. —John Bidwell, 1841 California emigration 6 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Wyoming APPROACHING THE ROCKIES M ost emigrants agreed that the easiest part of the overland trail was the 500-mile stretch that followed the Platte River across Nebraska’s prairie. The country grew rougher and the scenery more wonderful as the wagons rumbled up either side of the Platte’s north fork, past Chimney Rock and Scotts Bluff, and into Wyoming. In the vicinity of today’s town of Lingle, the trail crossed an undistinguished grassy flat where an 1854 shootout between Sioux and soldiers— the Grattan Fight—would unleash the bloody Plains Wars. A shallow mass grave and grisly artifacts marked the battle site for the continuing emigration. By the time travelers reached that sober milestone, they had been six to eight weeks on the trail. Their enthusiasm for wayside points of interest was dampened by the weary rhythm of the road: rise before dawn, cook, clean up, repack, gather and yoke the oxen… and then plod through the dust all day to set up another camp about 12-15 miles up the road. Fort Laramie, 50 miles west of Scotts Bluff, Nebraska, provided a welcome break from the tedium. “Old Fort John,” renamed later as Fort Laramie, by William Henry Jackson. Image is courtesy of Scotts Bluff Nat’l. Monument. 7 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Wyoming In 1841, when the Bidwell-Bartleson Party stopped in for a twoday layover, the fort (then called Fort John) was a simple adobe trading post bustling with fur traders, trappers, Plains Indians, and adventurers. Eight years later, the U.S. Army purchased the establishment for a military post to protect and help re-supply the ever-increasing overland traffic. Fort Laramie soon grew into a busy community of soldiers, army wives, laundresses, children, servants, and quartermaster employees. Teepee encampments settled in around the fort, which became a multi-ethnic “travel plaza” on the overland highway. There, emigrants could post their mail, repair wagons, shoe livestock, and shop for necessities (and liquor) at the post sutler’s store. They also could visit and trade with the fort’s Indian residents — a thrill that many emigrants recorded in their trail journals. Many of these [Sioux] women, for regularity of features and symmetry of figure, would bear off the palm of beauty from some of our most celebrated belles…. The men are powerfully made, and possess a masculine beauty which I have never seen excelled. —Edwin Bryant, 1846 California emigration 8 I remember with what terror I saw the Indians come out from Fort Laramie. They looked so naked and wild. The men got out their guns but all the Indians wanted was to see us to see if we would give them anything. —Lucy Ann Henderson Deady on crossing the trail at age 11, 1846 Oregon emigration We were visited…by about two hundred Cheyennes and Sioux, who danced a little, stole a little, eat a great deal, and finally went on their way rejoicing. —“Nebraska,” anonymous newspaper correspondent at Fort Laramie, 1849 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Wyoming Most travelers approached Fort Laramie from the main Oregon and California roads along the south bank of the North Platte River. This required fording a tributary, the Laramie River, just east of the fort. Today, dams have tamed the Laramie, but in the mid-1800s the river’s spring current sometimes toppled wagons and drowned emigrants and livestock. Looking for the safest places to ford, travelers used at least nine different crossings of the Laramie, and bridges and ferries eventually served some locations. In the early years of the emigration, the terrain on the north side of the river was thought to be impassable west of Fort Laramie. Mormon emigrants and others entering Wyoming on the north-bank road were forced to ford the deep, swift North Platte near the fort. Starting in 1850, north-side emigrants had the option of loading their wagons onto a ramshackle flatboat and pulling the contraption along a rope stretched across the river — unassisted, and at the outrageous fare of $1 per wagon. The price of passage drove some offended emigrants to blaze a new trail, Child’s Cutoff (also called Chiles’s Route), which continued west on the north side of the river. Travelers who stayed on the north bank via Child’s Cutoff could avoid crossing the North Platte altogether, while those following the original southbank road had to cross upstream, near today’s city of Casper. By 1852, most wagons arriving on the north side continued up Child’s Cutoff, though many travelers still crossed the river to visit Fort Laramie. A graceful iron military bridge, built in 1875, still spans one of four emigrant crossings of the North Platte near the fort. Sparkling placidly beneath the bridge, the river strikes today’s summertime visitor as a mere pleasant wade, unlike the fearsome mountain torrent of 150 years ago. For travelers north or south of the river, Fort Laramie was a major milestone, sitting at the edge of the western plains where the land begins to lift toward the slopes of the Rockies. West of the fort rose the blue-gray beacon of Laramie Peak, looking “like a dark cloud on the western horizon,” according to John Bidwell. The steepest, roughest, driest, and most dangerous stretches of road lay ahead. Travelers paused to lighten their wagons by selling unnecessary items—tools, books, clothing, furnishings, even wagons and food— at Fort Laramie, but buyers were scarce. Most disappointed sellers simply destroyed or dumped their possessions along the trail 9 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Wyoming and moved on. Forty-niner J. Goldsborough Bruff saw “bacon in great piles, many chords [cords] of it” and a “diving bell and all the apparatus” among the items abandoned in the Wyoming dust. On the road from the fort.... I saw a wagon—tolerable good but heavy—bacon, beans, stoves, chairs, iron wedges, crow bar, soap, lead, ovens and many other articles all laying about in the prairie. They could not use them and they could not carry them, and the only alternative was to leave them. —Israel F. Hale, 1849 California emigration Merchandise that in the States has cost thousands upon thousands is thus disposed of by sufferers whose life is still of the most value. —Edward C. Harrow, 1849 California emigration Wagons are worth nothing. We frequently cook our suppers with the spokes of a better wagon than half the farmers in St. Louis county own. —“R.H.D.,” newspaper correspondent, 10 miles west of Fort Laramie, 1859 Ten miles northwest of the army post, travelers on the south side of the river reached their next campsite, called Sand Point, near today’s Guernsey, Wyoming. (In 1860-61, the Centre Star Pony Express station was located there, too.) Some paused between endless camp chores to carve their names into the soft stone face of Register Cliff. Pioneer emigrant signatures etched in the soft sandstone of Register Cliff. 10 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Wyoming A few miles beyond, the wagons fell into single file for a hard pull up a rock ridge, avoiding boggy ground nearer the river. Thousands of iron-shod hooves and wagon wheels gradually cut a verticalwalled channel deep into the stone there, at a site now known as the Guernsey Ruts, or Deep Hill Ruts. The trails followed the arc of the North Platte River deep into central Wyoming. Once wagons started taking Child’s Cutoff, profit-minded men established toll bridges and ferries at several locations between Fort Laramie and today’s city of Casper. These allowed wagons to zigzag back and forth across the river to avoid sand hills and other difficult spots. At Casper the river curved southwest across the emigrant route, forcing those on the south side to make a final crossing there or a few miles farther west near Red Buttes (now called Bessemer Bend). And that was the end of the Platte River lifeline that had conducted the emigration across hundreds of miles of prairie and plain. Now the need for water and grass would become a nagging worry. A short distance beyond the last crossing of the North Platte at Red Buttes, all the trails came together for the hot, hard haul over Devil’s Backbone (also called Avenue of Rocks) to the next good water at It is considered by all to be the worst camping ground we had had on the journey. Its banks are so perfectly soft that a horse or ox cannot get down to drink without sinking immediately nearly overhead in thick, filthy mud, and [it] is one of the most horrid, swampy, stinking places I ever saw. —William Clayton on Clayton’s Slough, 1847 Mormon emigration . . . but oh my poor pony . . . no grass no grass . . . but he is a fine fellow & deserves a better fate than to starve. —Charles B. Darwin at Willow Spring, 1849 California emigration 11 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Wyoming Willow Spring. Along this stretch, travelers on all the trail variants and cutoffs of the Oregon, California, and Mormon Pioneer trails merged for the first time onto the same road. Now their teams faced a long pull up Prospect Hill, where wagon wheels wore multiple ruts and swales that still are visible. Two miles farther was the next watering hole for the thirsty oxen: an odorous alkali marsh called Clayton’s Slough, jokingly named after an 1847 Mormon pioneer who had nothing good to say about the place. Hardworking oxen (and people) that drank too deeply of alkaline water often died of digestive upsets and dehydration. Good water was available about four miles farther west at Horse Creek, where a Pony Express station stood in the 1860s. From there the road stretched another 10 dry miles to the Sweetwater River. Grass was scarce all along the route. This leg of the trip, Emigrant Gap (today sometimes called the Poison Spider Route), was a bitter introduction to what lay ahead: long stretches of hot, hilly trail with little feed for the animals, punctuated with stinking, toxic alkali waterholes. That poisonous 30-mile stretch between the North Platte and lovely Sweetwater Valley would kill many an ox and emigrant through the overland trail years. All the air is strongly impregnated with effluvia from dead oxen it is like walking over a field of battle after three hot suns have [beat] upon the thousand dead. —Charles B. Darwin on the Emigrant Gap segment, 1849 California emigration 12 Here [at Poison Slough, west of Willow Spring] are the graves of some five or six persons who drank of the water and died in a few minutes. Notices are stuck over the graves and at the road side… “He drank of this water and died.” “Drank at this spring and died.” “This water is poison.” “Death!” “Poison!” “Beware! For God’s sake do not taste this water! Happy is the man who can read!” —James W. Evans, 1850 emigration Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Wyoming SWEETWATER TO SOUTH PASS T he great granite loaf of Independence Rock signaled temporary relief from the thirsty barrens, for it stands where the emigrant trail meets the Sweetwater River. Trail tradition held that reaching this milestone by the Fourth of July meant the emigrants would arrive safely in Oregon or California before early blizzards blew. People often paused here to rest their livestock and explore the formation, probably the most famous landmark on the combined Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer, and Pony Express routes. Many travelers chiseled or painted their names on the outcrop, turning Independence Rock into a permanent memorial to the passing emigration. Came to independence rock about ten o clock this morning I presume there are a million of names wrote on this rock —Lydia Allen Rudd, 1852 Oregon emigration Names! Names! Are every where upon its surface to be seen. names of the young & the old, of the man & his gentle mate, of the learned traveler & the yellow ideaed gold hunter. —Charles B. Darwin, 1849 California emigration “Independence Rock,” by William Henry Jackson. Image is courtesy of Scotts Bluff Nat’l. Monument. 13 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Wyoming Independence Rock also marked the beginning of South Pass, for the pass was not just the single point where the trail crested the Continental Divide. It was, in the minds of emigrants, the entire 100mile climb up the Sweetwater to the divide. Emigrants and oxen on this uphill stretch would have good water—and lots of it, as they would cross the cold, meandering Sweetwater nine times. Even here, though, in peak emigration years, grass was scarce and livestock went hungry. People, as well, suffered along this stretch of trail. In the Sweetwater Valley, many travelers began taking sick with a mysterious, aching ailment they called “mountain fever.” They blamed their illness on mosquitoes, altitude, and the alkali dust, but doctors today think it was a tick-borne disease such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. And as they climbed toward the mountain pass, emigrants regretted having abandoned warm bedding and clothing along the trail. High elevations can bring chilly summertime winds, freezing nighttime temperatures, and the threat of snowstorm in July. In fact, weather in this mountain country has been known to deliver disaster to the unprepared. In 1856, an October blizzard trapped four late-departing Mormon handcart and wagon companies, with nearly 1,400 men, women, and children among them, in the Sweetwater Valley. Despite the heroic efforts of rescuers from Salt Lake City, many of the Sweetwater Valley near Devil’s Gate, Wyoming. 14 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Wyoming emigrants —historians’ counts range from about 170 to over 300 — did not survive the ordeal. Mountain-rimmed Sweetwater Valley can be cold and merciless, but it is also a place of sublime natural beauty. Despite the hazards they faced there, some awestruck 19th century emigrants paused to write poetically of this segment of trail. The Sweet Water flows through the flat below us in many a graceful curve, looking like a huge serpentine silver thread in the rich emerald green. Before us, behind us, all around us, are mountains piled on mountains…. —Nellie Phelps, 1859 California emigration I had many pleasing reflections while traveling alone in this sequestered and remote part of the earth where the footprints of a white man is seldom seen and all nature appears as though nothing had been molested since it rolled out of the Hands of the Creator. —Henry Lunt, 1857 Utah emigration As they trekked up the Sweetwater Valley, travelers passed several notable trail milestones. First was Devil’s Gate, a natural curiosity that puzzled many an emigrant: what caused the Sweetwater River to chew a channel through the ridge instead of flowing around it? Then came Split Rock, a “gun-sight” notch in the Rattlesnake Range that aimed travelers directly toward South Pass, some 75 miles distant. At Ice Slough, astonished emigrants dug clear, sweet ice—a treat!—from beneath the turf in mid-summer. Barren, wind-slapped Rocky Ridge, a 700-foot climb through broken rock, was always an ordeal for wagons and teams, and particularly so for Mormon emigrants pulling loaded handcarts. Finally, the trail threaded between Twin Mounds, two low hills that marked the final approach to the Continental Divide. Through the years of the emigration, this Sweetwater-toSouth Pass stretch also became dotted with trading posts, Indian and army encampments, and Pony Express, stage, and telegraph stations. 15 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Wyoming Devil’s Gate on the Sweetwater River, Wyoming. To the northwest bared the ferocious, snow-covered sawteeth of the Wind River Range, which fretted many an emigrant. It was needless worry, as the trail passed south of the Wind Rivers, not through them. The grade up and over South Pass, about 7,550 feet in elevation, is so gradual and mild that most travelers never knew exactly when they crossed the Continental Divide. In his journal entry of July 18, 1841, John Bidwell noted casually, “Crossed the divide which separates the water of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.” The long-anticipated crossing of the Great Divide was a letdown! But travelers to Oregon and California were still less than halfway through their journey. More serious challenges lay ahead. There we saw the far famed south pass, but did not see it until we had passed it for I was all the time looking for some narrow place that would almost take your breath away to get through but was disappointed. —Amelia Hadley, 1851 Oregon emigration 16 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Wyoming What is called the Pass in the Rocky Mountains is not as most persons suppose, a narrow passway through frightful over-hanging mountains with wild streams dashing down their acclivities, but on the contrary it is a scarcely perceptible ascent, and when the summit is reached the traveller is not aware of it and frequently asks where is the Pass? —William A. Carter, sutler at Fort Bridger, 1857 Came to the Ice Springs, which certainly are remarkable…in cutting through a wet grassy strip, we came to solid ice, which was eagerly gathered and eaten by our delighted and astonished selves. Some Doubted its being ice,—but it looked like ice, smelt like ice, tasted like ice, felt like ice, and—I believe it was ice. —Nellie Phelps, 1859 California emigration South Pass still looks much as it did during covered wagon days. 17 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Wyoming BEYOND THE GREAT DIVIDE A fter sharing a common broad corridor through Nebraska and Wyoming, overland traffic burst up and over the Continental Divide like spray from a hose. Three main trunk routes, linked by a snarl of alternative cutoffs, fanned out across western Wyoming: the Lander Road, the Sublette Cutoff, and the Fort Bridger route. The Lander Road, one of a small handful of Western emigrant roads ordered and funded by Congress, was the last of the three routes to be opened. Frederick W. Lander, a government engineer with the Department of the Interior, surveyed and built the road in 1857-59 to improve transportation to the western states. Lander saw that many travel problems, including the suffering of the oxen, arose from “the extreme dryness and heat of the artemisian [sagebrush] deserts,” so he routed his cutoff on the northern side of South Pass through cooler, higher areas with more grass and water. The Lander Road forked off the main trail at the ninth crossing of the Sweetwater, just east of the Continental Divide, and angled northwest. It crested the divide north of today’s Highway 28, entered Idaho west of Auburn, Wyoming, and rejoined the main Oregon and California road near Fort Hall, Idaho. This northerly route stayed well clear of Utah, where troubles were then brewing between the federal government and the Mormon followers of Brigham Young. For awhile, though, the Lander Road was a preferred stalking ground of “white Indians” —white men disguised as Indians— who lured emigrant families away from the main road and cruelly murdered them for their belongings. White criminals were responsible for several particularly brutal incidents on the Lander after it opened in 1859. You have no idea of the confusion and uncertainty in the minds of the emigrants as to which was the best route to take….Some said you had to buy the land in California while in Oregon it was free….Some advised us to take the short cut across the 45-mile desert, avoiding going to Fort Bridger. —Lucy Ann Henderson Deady on crossing the trail at age 11, 1846 Oregon emigration 18 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Wyoming The main trail on the southern side of South Pass headed toward the bright green marsh of Pacific Springs, just west of the Continental Divide. Cattle would mire themselves at this swampy campsite if their owners did not take care, but Pacific Springs provided the last good water and abundant feed they would find for a couple of days. From here travelers entered a grassless, gray-green ocean of sagebrush, starvation country for the weary oxen. Next water was about 10 miles ahead at Dry Sandy Crossing, a miserable spot where alkali pools fatally poisoned seve

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