1. It Was Not Just One Path
With a name liketheOregon Trail, it might seem as if there was just one single path that pioneers followed.
However, it was more like an open-ended course. The prairie was expansive and unsettled, and each pioneer had to choose his or herown destiny. It involved a lot of freedom, but that freedom sometimes resulted in dire consequences.
Pioneers could never be completely sure that they were making the right choice.
2. It Stretched About 2,000 Miles
While there were many divergent paths to take, the entirety of the overarchingjourney stretched for about 2,000 miles, give or take. That’s quite a ways to travel in such harsh conditions.
3. It Took Half A Year To Complete
According to Frontier Trails, pioneers traveling about 15 miles per day would get to their destination in about four to six months. Pioneers would leave around May, ideally, and finish sometime around October.
The problem wasthat if you left too soon, you might get bogged down in mud, and if you took too long on the path, you might have trouble with snow.
4. Picking Mules Or Oxen Was A Big Decision
Mules, unlike oxen, responded to commands and training. They also came pretty cheap, which was a major decision-making factorin those times.
Mules also responded to their names, and the tone and emotion in the voice of the human directing them. That said, the mule and its driver had to develop at least a bit of a relationship over the 2,000 miles in order to get there smoothly.
Oxen were much stronger, but they were also much slower. If you had a heavy wagon, an ox might be a better choice in case you needed to get unstuck from mud or travel up a big hill.
5. The Trail Was Scattered With Litter
According toNebraska Studies,folks embarking on the Oregon Trail often overpacked (much like I do every time I go on vacation).
Salespeople would sell pioneers certain “necessities” that travelers would end up ditching along the trail, littering the path to the west with tents, cooking supplies, shoes, beds, you name it.
6. Rain Spelled Big Trouble
Rain meant mud and rising rivers. Water could rise around riverbeds, turning the surrounding areas into quicksand that could potentially swallow a wagon, a person, or an animal in amatter of minutes.
7. They Used Buffalo Chips To Cook
Since the path was pretty much devoid of timber, travelershad to use buffalo chips (also known as dried poop) to fuel the fires for their meals. Yuck.
8. Crossing A River Was The Most Dangerous Possible Feat
According to theOregon Trail Center, forging rivers offered up the most potential for danger out of the entire experience of making the expedition across the country. Animals could get spooked and overturn wagons, or even crush the humans. Additionally, people and animals could drown.
It was risky to cross a river, but sometimes pioneers had to take that chance.
9. 400,000 People Traveled The Path
Roughly 400,000 pioneerstook to the trail. They were usually aged between 10 and 40, as the going wasn’t easy, though one thing was for sure: no one was truly alone on this journey.
These thousands of people came from all sorts of different backgrounds, from farmers to shopkeepers and soldiers, and even saloon keepers. Everyone wanted a chance at a new and better life.
10. Crime Was A Serious Problem
Just because the land was unsettled and there were no sheriffs around didn’t mean that crime came to a halt.
According to the Oregon-California Trails Association, many heinous crimes occurred along the path for reasons similar to crimes we still see today, such as fights over relationships and money. They even held trials of sorts and reached verdicts out there in the wilderness.
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