In Wyoming, not far from Guernsey you can get to see history first hand. The physical impressions from the masses of wagons heading west on the Oregon Trail. For here we got to see the best examples of preserved wagon ruts along the whole former length of the trail. A fascinating place to explore. Seemingly away from it all these marks in the ground are a reminder of when this was a very busy route through.
Half a mile of the best preserved ruts on the whole of the Oregon Trail.
At this point, the pioneers heading west were forced away from the North Platte River, which was way to marshy to carry the wagons and horses etc. Such was the narrow corridor to pass through over this sandstone ridge it meant that virtually every single wagon that went on the trail up to the mid 1800s had to cross over this area of soft sandstone at the exact same point. All those wagons, people and animals meant that not only were the tracks left as an impression in the ground, but the ground sank were the wagons went. The ground sank in parts by two to six feet!
By 1843 there were around 900 emigrants a day passing through. Today it is all so quiet. The Union Pacific Railroad built in 1869 virtually ended all cross country by wagon travel and these tracks became just local tracks. Of course then came roads at a later date and these ruts stand still in time.
It was serene quiet area in the middle of nowhere. I was undertaking this Oregon Trail journey of approximately 2200 miles by car in just over a week… by good roads. These tracks together with what I had learned so far before even reaching Wyoming made me thing a little of how it must have been for these people heading to the unknown. Their lives and belongings packed into a rickety wooden wheeled wagon, spending their last pennies on animals etc to hopefully get them all the way from Independence, Missouri to Oregon and the promise of a better life. So many months it took, so many dangers along the way.
Many undertook this mammoth journey even after hearing of the horror stories and with all the doubt of ever making it. Big river crossings, lack of food, disease, snakes, bears, loss of pulling animals, lack of water, the unthinkable crossing of the Rockies and the great plains. These are only a few of the dangers that lay before them, yet, thousands went ahead and the west was settled.
The Wagon Ruts Today
This spot, the half mile or so of wagon ruts, are now a National Historic Landmark, a must see if taking on the trail and its history today. They are situated around half a mile south of the town of Guernsey, Wyoming.
Another great memory made along this fantastic route across America. Interesting to see and learn about a unique spot on the huge continent.