The 2,200-mile east-west trail served as a critical transportation route for emigrants traveling from Missouri to Oregon and other points west during the mid-1800s. Travelers were inspired by dreams of gold and rich farmlands, but they were also motivated by difficult economic times in the east and diseases like yellow fever and malaria that were decimating the Midwest around 1837.


Conestoga Wagon
The Conestoga wagon, named for an Iroquoian tribe, also went by the names prairie schooner and covered wagon. (Watercolor by H. Langden Brown c. 1935)


The Oregon Trail was laid down by trappers in 1811–1840, and was used by settlers from 1839–1869.

how long was the oregon trail?

The Oregon Trail led 2,200 miles, from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

how many people traveled the oregon trail?

350,000 (estimated)

how many people died on the oregon trail?

“One in 17 never made it.”

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Fur Trappers Lay Down The Oregon Trail

From about 1811 to 1840 the Oregon Trail was laid down by traders and fur trappers. It could only be traveled by horseback or on foot. By the year 1836, the first of the migrant train of wagons was put together. It started in Independence, Missouri and traveled a cleared trail that reached to Fort Hall, Idaho. Work was done to clear more and more of the trail stretching farther West and it eventually reached Willamette Valley, Oregon. Improvements on the trail in the form of better roads, ferries, bridges and “cutouts” made the trip both safer and faster each year. There were several starting points in Nebraska Territory, Iowa and Missouri. These met along the lower part of Plate River Valley which was located near Fort Kearny.

The many offshoots of the trail and the main trail itself were used by an estimated 350,000 settlers from the 1830s through 1869. When the first railroad was completed, allowing faster and more convenient travel, use of the trail quickly declined.

Oregon Trail: The Video Game

Dying of dysentery is still very much a thing, but the classic 80’s video game, The Oregon Trail, is getting a reboot.

Available on Apple Arcade, the beloved game is back, but this time with a greater emphasis on the lives and the perspectives of Native Americans that pioneers encountered.

“For Indigenous Peoples, westward expansion was not an adventure but an invasion,” the developers acknowledged, which earlier versions of The Oregon Trail failed to capture.

“Recognizing this complex history, we have collaborated with Native American scholars to bring a new level of respectful representation to the game,” they continued.

“For the first time, the game features Native American playable characters and stories, celebrating the history and cultures of the Peoples who first lived on this land and still live here today.”