The Topic: 
Oregon Trail


Easier - The Oregon Trail was the best land route for travel to the western United States. It was the only practical way for settlers in wagons with their tools, livestock, and supplies to cross the mountains. Many believe that without the trail, most of the American west would today be part of Canada or Mexico.
 
For twenty-five years, 1841-1866, people 'pulled-up-stakes' and headed west. Estimates range from 250,000 to 650,000 persons made the trip. About 1/3 immigrated to Oregon, another 1/3 were bound for California, and 1/3 went to Utah, Colorado, and Montana.
 
Harder - The Oregon Trail, the longest of the overland routes used in the westward expansion of the United States, was first traced by explorers and fur traders. Settlers began following the trail in 1841. The first large group of about 900 immigrants used the trail in the "Great Migration" of 1843. In that year, a provisional government was organized in Oregon. The Oregon Country's northern boundary was set in 1846, and the Territory of Oregon was formed in 1848 as over 12,000 people made the journey in that decade.
 
Families usually began their journey at Independence, Missouri near the Missouri River. The journey in a covered wagon took six months, following a winding 2,000 mile trail (3,200 kilometers) through prairies, deserts, and across mountains to the Pacific Northwest. The journey was a severe test of strength and endurance. Settlers often had to cross flooded rivers. Indians attacked the wagon trains; however, of the 10,000 deaths that occurred from 1835 to 1855, only 4 percent resulted from Indian attacks. Cholera, smallpox, and firearms accidents were the chief causes of death on the trail. Food, water, and wood were always scarce, and the travelers often encountered contaminated water holes. During summer, the trail was crowded with wagon trains, army units, missionaries, hunting parties, traders, and even sightseeing tours. Some travelers complained that they sometimes had to stop early in the day in order to find a good campsite ahead of the crowd. Others spoke of the need to wear masks for protection against the dust kicked up by the heavy traffic.
 
 
Essential Information for Immigration to the Oregon Country 
http://204.234.22.1/SDGI/Newell/Immigration.html
Here you can find out about the recommended supplies, choices to make in wagons, costs, routes and more.
 
Are We There Yet? The Oregon Trail
http://flms.ddouglas.k12.or.us/~ludwig/tag/thinkquest/Oregon_Trail/1trtr.html
Learn about the trail then and now with Robert Gray Middle School.
 
Links to The Oregon Trail (Part of the Overland Trail site) 
http://www.over-land.com/trore.html
Here you find information about the Donner Party, the Whitmans, and other people on the Oregon Trail along with diaries, memoirs, letters and reports.
 
All about the Oregon Trail 
http://www.isu.edu/~trinmich/Allabout.html
Site developed by Mike Trinklein and Steve Boettcher creators of the award winning documentary The Oregon Trail
Provides a general history of the Oregon Trail.
 
After visiting some of the sites below, complete one of these Oregon Trail projects:
 
Construct a Covered Wagon. Visit What Were Their Wagons Like?, Wagons on the Trails West, and Prairie Schooners, then select and construct a model wagon. Which would you rather have for Power: Horse, Mule or Oxen? Why? How long would it take you to reach Oregon? Stock your wagon with provisions enough for your family to reach Oregon. You might be able to get a few things at some of the forts on the route, but supplies there would be expensive. You can also count on a little food gained by hunting, but you don't have time to hunt for fresh meat daily. Make an itemized list of the wagon, livestock, and needed supplies and find there cost in the 1840s. Are you overloaded, do you need another wagon or do you need to lighten the load? Display your 'prairie schooner' project.
 
Compare an Oregon Trail Journey to Lewis and Clark's Expedition. First examine the routes for the Oregon Trail at Historic Sites on the Trail, Oregon Trail Map or the more detailed maps at Trail Overview Map. Select the best Oregon Trail route and then compare it to the path followed by Lewis and Clark (Maps). What was similar, how were they different? Compare and contrast the modes of transportation used, the timeline for the journeys, and the hardships on the trails. For links to other Lewis and Clark sites visit Lewis & Clark.
 
Complete An Oregon Trail WebQuest. Visit one of these sites and complete an Oregon Trail quest. 
1) Donner Online (Intermediate grades through high school) http://www.kn.pacbell.com/wired/donner/
2) Journey on the Oregon Trail (Intermediate grades and middle school) http://www.plainfield.k12.in.us/hschool/webq/webq58/page1.htm
3) Front Page News: The Oregon Trail and the California Gold Rush (5th grade) http://www.indiana.edu/~w210/w210wqs98.html
4) Going West (5th grade) http://ash.wtvl.k12.me.us/~webquest/index.html
5) Wagons Ho! (3rd grade) http://www.dg58.dupage.k12.il.us/Webquest/CarolCuda/default.htm
6) Westward Ho! (Annual webquest, join them in January)http://www.cyberbee.com/wwho/
7) Westward Ho!! (Grade 3-5) http://lily.edcoe.k12.ca.us/pbl/plank.html
 
Plan An Oregon Trail Trip. Plan a family trip across the Great Plains that follows as closely as possible one of the Oregon Trail routes. Decide what modes of transportation you are going to use and all provisions needed. Identify the stops that you will make; make sure to include the significant landmarks that early pioneers noted on their journey. Map out your route. Itemize costs for all items and find out the total cost of your trip.
 
Website By Kids For Kids
Pioneers (ThinkQuest Junior Site) 
http://tqjunior.advanced.org/6400
Learn about a pioneer's journey to the frontier and what it was like to travel along the Oregon trail; everyday life, tools, pastimes, toys and more.
 
More
Across the Plains in '64: By Prairie Schooner to Oregon by Anna Dell Clinkinbeard. 
http://flag.blackened.net/daver/1sthand/atp/atp.html
Read the story of an 1864 family crossing the plains in a covered wagon.
 
The Applegate Trail (Southern Route) 
http://www.webtrail.com/applegate/index.html
Learn about this alternate route that was blazed in 1846 in hopes of providing a safer journey to Oregon.
  
End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center 
http://www.endoftheoregontrail.org/biomenu.html
Contains immigrant biographies and diaries, diagrams of wagons and contents, articles about the trail, and information about African-American pioneers.
Not to Be Missed Section:
2) Oregon Trail History http://www.endoftheoregontrail.org/histhome.html
3) The End of the Oregon Trail Historic sites http://www.endoftheoregontrail.org/hist_oc.html
 
Food on the Oregon Trail by Jacqueline Williams 
http://www.orst.edu/food-resource/kelsey/williams.html
Read an article from The Overland Journal which discusses food on the Oregon Trail.
 
In Search of the Oregon Trail 
http://www.pbs.org/opb/oregontrail/
At this PBS companion site, you can investigate the facts and myths about the Oregon Trail.
 
Whitman Mission National Historic Site 
http://www.tcfn.org/tctour/museums/Whitman.html
Learn about the Whitman Mission, the Oregon Trail, and pioneer life.
 
William Henry Jackson
1)Frontier Photographer and Artist http://www.harappa.com/whj2.html
2) Research links http://virtualmuseumofart.com/hallofphotography/WILLIAMJACKSON.ORG/
 
The Lost Meeks 
http://www.militaryhistory.com/historictraveler/articles/1997/0397_text.htm
The Oregon Trail emigrants who chose to follow Stephen Meeks thought his shortcut would save weeks of hard travel. Instead, it brought them even greater misery.
 
People of the West 
http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/people/s_z/whitman.htm
http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/two/whitman1.htm
Read the letters and journals of Narcissa Whitman, 1836-1847.
http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/two/sager1.htm
Read 'Across the Plains in 1844' by Catherine Sager Pringle (c. 1860).
  
The Prairie Traveler: A Hand-Book for Overland Expeditions 
http://kuhttp.cc.ukans.edu/carrie/kancoll/books/marcy/index.html
This book was written by Randolph B. Marcy, Captain U. S. Army, and first published by authority of the War Department in 1859.
 
Teacher Sites
In Search of the Oregon Trail 
http://www.pbs.org/opb/oregontrail/teacher/index.html
This Teachers Guide provides background material and suggested classroom activities (designed to complement the PBS video); including a map, timeline, and links to other sites.
 
Patty Reed's Doll: The Story of the Donner Party 
http://www.sdcoe.k12.ca.us/score/patty/pattytg.html
Here is the cyber teaching guide based on the story by Rachel Laurgaard. The account is told through the eyes of a tiny doll which eight-year old Patty Reed kept hidden in her apron pocket. This unit was designed for teaching the Westward Movement and California history
 
The Westward Movement 
http://edweb.sdsu.edu/T2ARP/quest/journeys/westlessons.html#lesson 1
Here is a group of lesson plans (Middle school) designed to give a better understanding of the geographical region of the Great Basin while gaining an insight on what a trip West in a covered wagon might have been like.
 
Oregon Trail-Wagons West! (Lesson plan: Social Studies, Grades 4-8 ) 
http://www.kamalii.k12.hi.us/Oregon_Trail_-__Wagons_Wes.html
 
More WebQuests
An Overland Journey WebQuest
http://www.web-and-flow.com/members/sberger/pioneer/webquest.htm
What's the truth about traveling west?
 
 
 

covered wagon
oxen
Missouri River
prairies
Independence Rock
Soda Springs
deserts
mountains
Pacific Northwest
Columbia River
'Great American Desert'
Lewis & Clark
Snake River
Independence, MO
Platte River
Fort Laramie
Hastings Cutoff
Applegate Trail
Fort Bridger
Fort Hall
Fort Boise
South Pass
antelope
ferry
Willamette Valley
Fort Kearny
ford
Grande Ronde Valley
Native Americans
'Indians'
cholera
wagon train
smallpox
'prairie schooner'
river crossing
food box
'nooning'
livestock
Three Island Crossing
plains
lava beds
quicksand
handcarts
dried fruit
Chimney Rock
Scotts Bluff
saleratus
Massacre Rocks
Lombard Ferry
buffalo chips
mules
Sublette Cutoff
Deep Rut Hill
Ash Hollow

 
Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 1/99 ,Updated,4/00; Updated by Nancy Smith 2/02