The Oregon Trail is the name of the main route west to Oregon from the United States eastern coast. The official end of the Oregon Trail is in Oregon City, Oregon, although there are of course many spots along the trail that became destinations for settlers. Visitors to Oregon City can visit the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, where they can learn more about Oregon Trail history at the end of the Oregon Trail.
The main push of Oregon Trail migrants began heading to the Oregon Territory in 1840. Although progress west was slow-moving, thousands of settlers began making their way across the country to claim land. At this time, laws proclaimed that married couples could claim 640 acres at no cost, while single adults could claim 320 acres at no cost. For many people living on the eastern seaboard, the promise of free land meant open opportunity.
Oregon Trail history reflects the difficulty of the
sometimes 2,000 mile trek. Although many settlers made
it to the end of the Oregon Trail, many settlers, particularly
children, were known to die along the trail. Native American
tribes, wild animals and dangerous terrain all added to
the difficulty of crossing the Oregon Trail. Marcus Whitman
was one of the more famous figures in Oregon Trail history.
As a missionary, he led more than 900 settlers west. One
section of the Oregon Trail Museum in Portland
Oregon is devoted to the experiences of Marcus Whitman.
The original route for the Oregon Trail headed through
the flatlands of the United States Midwest and through
the Rocky Mountains, as mapped by Lewis
and Clark during their famous expedition. Wagons,
however, had too much trouble getting through the difficult
mountain passes of the Rockies, and the main Oregon Trail
route eventually dropped down and followed the Columbia
River south and west to the ocean, ending in Oregon City.
While the Oregon Trail Museum in Portland Oregon and the museum in Oregon City offer excellent information regarding Oregon Trail history, many interested travelers also choose to drive to sections of the trail itself. The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center is one such site. Located in Wasco County along the Columbia River, this museum is located along the Oregon Trail and is a great place to learn about Oregon Trail history and the formation of the Columbia Gorge.
The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City, Oregon, is another stop along the trail. Although Baker City is quite small, if you travel through the center is well worth a stop for anyone interested in the Oregon Trail. The museum offers information regarding the history of the people and the terrain of the Oregon Trail. Also located on the trail is the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute, which offers the Native American perspective on the Oregon Trail and its travelers.
In eastern Oregon, certain spots along the trail are kept open for public viewing, and there are also various memorials set up to commemorate the crossing. In a few places, wagon ruts from the much-traveled trail can still be seen. Though the Oregon Trail Museum in Portland Oregon has no actual wagon ruts, it does offer plenty of great information about the trail and the people who used it to expand their fortunes. The Portland Art Museum is located not far from the Oregon Trail Museum, and the two museums together provide a nice overview of the history and culture of the area.