The Guernsey Wagon Ruts of the Oregon Trail

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.

Guernsey Wagon Ruts

Half a mile of the best preserved ruts on the whole of the Oregon Trail.

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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.

Wyoming Wagon Ruts

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!

historic ruts

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.

Nature of the Oregon Trail

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.

wagon ruts still visible

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.

ruts carved into the rock

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.

onward with the Oregon Trail

Another great memory made along this fantastic route across America. Interesting to see and learn about a unique spot on the huge continent.

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  1. Gail Swift says:

    Is the Oregon trail ruts in Guernsey, WY something we can see from the road or must hike to see them. Asking due to mobility issues

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Hi, there is a short loop trail up to the ruts from the car park

  2. I saw parts of the trail traveling to CA last year to see kid1. I did not stop to see the wagon ruts. I wished I had – will make it a point on my next trip. So very fascinating

    1. Paul Steele says:

      awww next time you may be able to pay a visit

  3. Jennifer Howze says:

    What a fascinating thing to see. I don’t know much about the Oregon trail but there’s something about looking at the path created by the wagons all those years ago that really tells a story.

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Hi Jennifer, yes was very surreal to see first hand.. So much history and personal tales from the trail.

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