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california trail hardships
Because the wagons tipped over easily on a side hill they were often dragged straight up a steep hill, with multiple teams if necessary and then skidded straight down the opposite side with chained up wheels if required. The Carson River disappears into another alkali-laden marsh called the Carson Sink. The unknown culprits were believed to have been Native Americans. California Trail Discovered has universal appeal! Once on the Bear River they followed the Bear's valley mostly north along today's Utah, Idaho, Wyoming border. The vegetables like dried peas kept well if kept dry and a piece of dried vegetables the size of a fist when put in water and cooked could feed four. Fortunately, swifter flowing waters after Fort Laramie seemed to minimize the chance for cholera germ transmission, and its fatal attacks diminished significantly. The Pony Express used this route in the summer and winter of 1860â61. Today Nevada State Route 207 closely approximates this road. The California-bound travelers (including one woman and one child), knew only that California was west of them and there was reportedly a river across most of the 'Big Basin' that led part of the way to California. Portions of the Nevada City Trail are evident at the top of Coyote Street, and North Bloomfield Road, just north of Nevada City. In addition, their animals were getting in ever poorer condition. The 1850 census showed this rush was overwhelmingly male as the ratio of women to men in California over 16 was about 5:95. Fremont and his topographers/cartographers did not have time (it would take literally decades of work to do this) to make extensive explorations of the entire Sierra Nevada range or Great Basin. Mattes, Merril J.; "The Great Platte River Road"; p23; Nebraska State Historical Society; 1979: Steele, Volney M.D. (See: Pony Express Map) Many California bound travelers took the about 280 miles (450 km) and over two weeks shorter Central Overland Route to Salt Lake City and across central Utah and Nevada. The preferred camping spots for travelers on the trails north and south of the muddy Platte River were along one of the many fresh water streams draining into the Platte or the occasional fresh water spring found along the way. The road was built in response to pressure from California Congressmen who wanted a good road to California, preferably one that bypassed Forty Mile Desert. One of the first tasks, after unhooking the animals and letting them water and graze, at almost every stop was getting a new supply of water for drinking, cooking and washing. Swollen rivers could tip over and drown both people and oxen. Upon his return in early August 1859, Simpson reported that he had surveyed what became the Central Overland Route from Camp Floyd to Genoa, Nevada. It depended upon springs for water, as there were no dependable creeks along most of the route. One thing the Transcontinental Railroad did for the west was eliminating the Oregon Trail. Forts and army patrols helped protect these various stations from Indian attacks throughout the U.S. Civil War period and later. From the Humboldt Sink it crossed Forty Mile Desert to the Carson River and then went almost due south to the Walker River, which it followed to the Sierra before making the very steep (about 26 degrees in parts) and rugged ascent to 9,625 feet (2,934 m) Sonora Pass. From there, travelers faced a descent down a very steep hill to Fandango Valley on the shores of Goose Lake on the Oregon-California border. A typical toll from Sacramento to Virginia City Nevada was about $25.00 to $30.00 round trip for a freight wagon carrying at least 2,000 pounds (910 kg) up to 6,000 pounds (2,700 kg) of cargo with additional tolls possible for additional animals over six (usually $1.50/animal) and some additional bridge tolls were also needed. At the Green River on the main trail after crossing the river many took the Slate Creek Cutoff (also called the Kinney Cutoff), which turned north up the Green River for about ten miles (16 km) before turning almost due west to connect to the Sublette Cutoff road.  By 1848 the newspapers of the day often published articles about California. Extra harness parts, rope, steel chain and wagon parts were often carried. 3) FreezingâFor examples of freezing deaths see: 4) Run oversâRun overs by wagons were a major cause of death, despite the wagons only averaging 2â3 miles per hour. Often, thirsty teams stampeded to the water with terrible results. Travelers also brought books, Bibles, trail guides, writing quills, and ink and paper for keeping a diary or writing a letter.. Oregon-California Trail. At least one ten gallon water barrel was brought, but it was usually kept nearly empty to minimize weight (some water in it helped prevent it from leaking); it was typically only filled for waterless stretches. The gold rush to northern California started in 1848 as settlers in Oregon, southern California, South America and Mexico headed for the gold fields even before the gold discovery was widely known about in the east. Many of the travelers left their names on the rock, either carved or painted on with axle grease. Oxen are driven by walking on the left side and yelling "Gee" to turn right, "Haw" to turn left, "Git-up" to go forward and "Whoa" to stopâwords often emphasized with a snapping whip (and occasional swear words). The railroad served nearly all trans-Sierra passenger and freight needs. The next task was usually rounding up enough fuel to start a fire for cooking and heating up the coffee. The trail down the western slope of the Sierra from Donner pass had enormous granite boulders and numerous rocky outcrops and steep slopes before passing through Emigrant Gap (California). Wooden or canvas buckets were brought for carrying water, and most travelers carried canteens or water bags for daily use. Here they could take the Mormon Trail to Salt Lake City or go to Fort Hall. The trail on the north side of the river was much better, allowing an easy miss of the Reese River sink. The western slopes are scarred by glacier and river carved canyons but slope much more gradually west taking about 70 miles (110 km) to fall from their rugged over 7,000 feet (2,100 m) crests to the about 25 feet (7.6 m) elevation of the Central Valley. About 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of the rutted traces of these trails remain in Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Nevada and California as historical evidence of the great mass migration westward. After extensive road work, paid for in part by Marysville, California commercial interests, freight could be shipped by steamboat to Marysville and picked up there for shipment over the Sierra. After 1861, telegraph relay stations and their crews joined these stage stations along much of the route. Each man typically took a rifle or shotgun (double barrel recommended) and occasional pistol along with the necessary balls, gunpowder and primers for hunting game and protection against snakes and Indians. Without the many thousands of United States settlers in Oregon and California with their "boots on the ground" and more thousands on their way each year, it is highly unlikely that this would have occurred. As the mines developed they went into progressively hotter regions until they were mining in up to 130 degree Fahrenheit (55 degree Celsius) temperatures. It ranges from 100 to 300 feet (30 to 91 m) wide in the upper course where it typically was forded and ranges from 3 to 50 feet (0.91 to 15.24 m) in depth. The two branches of the Trail rejoined at Humboldt Bar (sink). , Several accounts of travel along the Central Overland Route have been published. In addition, until the mills could be built, high grade ore was shipped to California for processing. Hundreds of wagons followed before, during, and after the gold rush. The trip from Fort Bridger via Salt Lake City to the City of Rocks was about 300 miles (480 km)âabout 20 miles (32 km) shorter than the trail via Fort Hall. The stream froze in winter and didn't thaw until early summer due to the insulating layer of vegetation. The main initial attraction for improved toll roads across the Sierra was Virginia City, Nevada and the Comstock Lode strike in the Washoe district of Nevada in 1859. Sherman Day, a part-time California State Senator was appointed to survey the possible routes. If precipitation falls on the eastern side of the Sierra crest it flows into the Great Basin where it evaporates, sinks underground or flows into lakes or sinks (mostly saline). They blazed a wagon trail down the Humboldt River Valley and across Forty Mile Desert until they hit the Carson River.  All California Trail emigrants would have to cross the Forty Mile Desert to get to either river. See: National Park Service California Trail Map. Individuals buying most of the needed items would end up spending between $150 and $300 per person. These preferred camping spots became sources of cholera infections during the third cholera pandemic (1852â1860). Competition arrived in July 1864 when the Central Pacific railroad entrepreneurs opened Dutch Flat and Donner Lake Wagon Road (DFDLWR) This route was opened over much of the route the new Central Pacific railroad would use over Donner Summit. Major threats to pioneer life and limb came from accidents, exhaustion, and disease. The Henness Pass Road was located about 15 miles (24 km) north of the Truckee trail. See U.S. River maps-USGS for map of rivers followed across the United States.. Near Fort Bridger the Chiles company enlisted mountain man Joseph Walker as a guide. The typical freight charges were about $120.00 to $160.00/ton (6â8 cents/pound) with am additional $20.00 to $30.00 toll charges/wagon. To this should be added residents from San Francisco, (the largest city in the state) Santa Clara, and Contra Costa counties whose censuses were burned up or lost and not included in the totals. The usually much cheaper animals in the mid-west could be herded to California etc. , If three or more were traveling together a tent was often included; but most slept on the groundâgetting in the wagon only in case of bad weather. IX, 209, 231, 238-9, 246-51, 266-7, 268-71, The Chautauqua Press, Chautauqua, New York, 1931. The trail then continued west over 7,100 feet (2,200 m) Granite Pass, which involved a steep, treacherous descent. This strike rapidly developed after about 1860 when they found out how potentially massive the gold and silver deposits there were. The Bear River wanders about 350 miles (560 km) through three states as it makes a large inverted U around the north end of the Wasatch Range and then turns south and eventually empties into the Great Salt Lake as part of the Great Basin drainage system. The risk-takers who took this (approximate) 1,300 mile long journey faced many of the same hardships as Oregon Trail travelers (dangerous geographic features, disease, etc. The trail followed the north banks of the Humboldt west for about 65 miles (105 km) until it encountered the narrow 5 miles (8.0 km) long Carlin Canyon on the Humboldt. The freight going to the gold and silver strikes in Nevada at the Comstock Lode were calculated to pay about $13,000,000 per year in wagon tollsâa fraction of this was well worth pursuing. As the 1850s progressed and armed hostilities escalated in "bleeding" Kansas, travelers increasingly traveled up the Missouri River to leave from or near Omaha. Today the Henness wagon road is a mostly gravel U.S. Forest Service road called the Henness Pass Road from Verdi Nevada to Camptonville, California. (See: Pony Express Map) In addition to immigrants and migrants from the East, after 1859 the Pony Express, Overland stages and the First Transcontinental Telegraph (1861) all followed this route with minor deviations.  From Carson pass they followed the northern Sierra's southern slopes, to minimize snow depth, of what is now called the American River valley down to Sutter's Fort located near what is now Sacramento, California. Travelers rarely made the entire trip without one or more in their traveling group dying. Many thousands of people used the same camping spots whose water supplies became contaminated by human wastes. Wagon wheels could often be repaired by blacksmiths found along the way or replaced with an abandoned wagon's wheel but otherwise if damaged the wagon usually had to be abandoned. Creeks, streams, or rivers originating east of the Sierra crest find no outlet to either the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific Ocean. Trapper Jim Beckwourth describes: "Mirth, songs, dancing, shouting, trading, running, jumping, singing, racing, target-shooting, yarns, frolic, with all sorts of drinking and gambling extravagances that white men or Indians could invent. The trail crossed the Sierra Crest through 8,574 feet (2,613 m) Carson Pass.. (See: NPS California Trail Map for the "BartlesonâBidwell Route") The very successful Salt Lake Cutoff, developed in 1848, went over much the same territory in Utah but stayed further north of the Great Salt Lake and had much better access to water and grass. (For Oregon-California trail map in Idaho see: Oregon-California Trail in Idaho for trails in Wyoming, Idaho, Utah etc. Prior to the 6th crossing, the trail crossed an unusual location known as Ice Slough. The Mormons were trying to establish new Mormon communities in Utah and needed almost everything then. The stock, coaches, etc., on the southern Gila River route Butterfield Stage route through or close to some potential Confederate states were pulled off and moved to a new route between St. Joseph, Missouri and Placerville, California along the existing Oregon, California Trails to Salt Lake City and then through central Utah and Nevada. Walk in the footsteps of history. Walk on the Trail. These estimates, however, may be low, since they only amount to an extra 125,000 people, and the 1870 census numbers show an increase of 200,000. Most did not realize for several days or even weeks they had made a wrong turn. The Germ theory of disease and the systematic observation of possible disease causing microorganisms were just starting in this era. Here, the Green cut a steep 400 feet (120 m) channel through the Green River Desert, which travelers had to descend by a steep rocky path to reach the life-giving water. Lassen and on to Shasta (near present-day Redding). There were many hardships and challenges along the way on the Orgon Trail. This was the last water before crossing about 45 miles (72 km) of desert consisting of soft dry soil that rose in suffocating clouds before reaching the next water at the Green River about 4 miles (6.4 km) below the present town of La Barge, Wyoming. Prior to the 1870s, vast herds of buffalo in Nebraska provided fresh meat and jerky for the trip. The railroads would be built with essentially the same tools. To get supplies to Virginia City, Nevada, and the Comstock area after 1860, the road was extensively improved as a toll road to the mines in Virginia City, Nevada.  After extensive upgrades and modifications this road would become U.S. Route 40 and later Interstate 80. Between 1860 and 1870 the U.S. population increased by seven million with about 350,000 of this increase being in the Western states. The trail from Fort Bridger to Salt Lake City and over the Salt Lake Cutoff was about 180 miles (290 km) before it rejoined the California Trail near the City of Rocks in Idaho. Sometimes an unfolded feather bed mattress was brought for cushioning the ride in the wagon if there were pregnant women or young children along. In the next twenty years, over $300,000,000 (in 1880 dollars) worth of gold (at about $20/oz.) Books, pamphlets and guides were available for trail information after about 1846. In the 1840s, $150.00 represented about 150 days worth of work or half a year's typical salary so most of the poor were excluded from travel unless they got a job herding and guarding the livestock or driving a wagon. By 1860 Camp Floyd was abandoned as the army left to fight the U.S. Civil War and the Central Overland Route was their only long term legacy. In addition to providing transport, shelter and protection against bad weather during the trip at the end of the trip many wagons were parked and became a temporary home until a more permanent cabin or shelter could be built. With evidence that the Russians, French and English were preparing to seize the province, he determined to make it a part of the United States. The wheels were greased with a mixture of tar or pine resin and lard contained in a covered wooden bucket or large ox horn often hanging from the rear axle to keep its greasy contents away from other goods. Initially, the trails across the Sierra were improved only enough to make them barely passable. The California Trail from the junction followed the Raft River to the City of Rocks in Idaho near the present Nevada-Idaho-Utah tripoint. This route was about 280 miles (450 km) shorter and over ten days quicker. When mules or horses were chosen to pull the wagons, they typically cost about twice as much money and required more expensive harnesses. There was almost no forage left for their animals, and they lost many hundreds of animals and suffered severe hardships and several deaths, as many ran out of supplies before rescue parties sent out from Sutter's Fort could reach them. From there they went through Carson Pass, elevation 8,574 feet (2,613 m). After the opening of the Oregon, California and Mormon trails, several ferries were set up to cross it at both the main trail and the Sublette Cutoff; but during peak travel seasons in July the wait to cross was often several days.  The trail ended at his ranch, and he invited immigrants to stay on his ranch until they could get settled, and assisted in their obtaining passports. Later toll roads would be built along the rough pack trail from Auburn to Emigrant Gap (California) where Interstate 80 and the Central Pacific Railroad would later go. From Smoot, the road then continued north about 20 miles (32 km) down Star Valley west of the Salt River before turning almost due west at Stump Creek near the present town of Auburn, Wyoming and passing into the present state of Idaho and following the Stump Creek valley about ten miles (16 km) northwest over the Caribou Mountains (Idaho) (this section of the trail is now accessible only by US Forest Service path as the main road (Wyoming Highway 34) now goes through Tincup canyon to get across the Caribous.) Cholera is thought to have been brought to these river cities, etc. Cholera was the main scourge of the trail. Crossing rivers were probably the most dangerous thing pioneers did. They continued west using their oxen and mules as pack animals eventually finding the Humboldt River and followed it west to its termination in an alkali sink near present-day Lovelock, Nevada. The Humboldt River Valley was key to forming a usable California Trail. The severely water-challenged Hastings Cutoff trail across the Great Salt Lake's salt flats rejoined the California Trail about 7 miles (11 km) west of modern-day Elko, Nevada. Following Rocky Ridge, the trail descends one more time into the Sweetwater valley to the ninth and final crossing of the Sweetwater at Burnt Ranch. They were able to finish their rugged trip over the Sierra and into the future state of California by killing and eating many of their oxen for food. Directly outside the entrance is a welcome plaza that features quotes, historic information, statues, and trail maps of the California Trail. Wash days typically occurred once or twice a month or less, depending on availability of good grass, water, fuel and time. Later more family groups started traveling as well as many more ferries and bridges being put inâfording a dangerous river became much less common and dangerous. All routes required using multiple teams to get the wagons to the top and differing amounts of wagon dis-assembly. 1842) in present-day Wyoming on the Green River, where the Mormon Trail turned southwest over the Wasatch Range to the newly established Salt Lake City, Utah. Despite modern depictions where nearly everybody rides, almost nobody unless a child, pregnant wife or injured traveler actually rode long in the wagons; it was too dusty, too rough and too hard on the livestock. Their abandoned wagons were retrieved in the spring of 1845 and pulled the rest of the way to Sutter's Fort. Oregon Trail Interactive Map-National Park Service, This page was last edited on 24 December 2020, at 19:29. They got over the Sierra at Donner Pass by unloading the wagons and packing the contents to the top using their ox teams as pack animals. He felt that the best way to go about this was to encourage emigration by Americans to California, and in this way the history of Texas would be repeated. By the spring of 1849 tens of thousands of gold seekers headed westward for California. Travelers could hunt antelope, buffalo, trout, deer and occasionally sage hens, elk, bear, duck, geese, and salmon along the trail. Treatments were almost always ineffective and sometimes hastened death. Ex-trappers, ex-army soldiers and Indians often used pemmican made by pounding jerky until it was a coarse meal, putting it into a leather bag and then pouring rendered fat (and sometimes pulverized dried berries) over itâthis was very light weight, could keep for months and provided a lot of energy. The oxen were taken to the top where they could pull on more or less level ground and about 400 feet (120 m) of chain was let down to a wagon and twelve or more yoke of oxen then pulled the wagon up the final steep (about 30 degree) slope. The recommended food to take per adult for the four- to six-month trip was 150 pounds (68 kg) of flour, 20 pounds (9.1 kg) of corn meal, 50 pounds (23 kg) of bacon, 40 pounds (18 kg) of sugar, 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of coffee, 15 pounds (6.8 kg) of dried fruit, 5 pounds (2.3 kg) of salt, half a pound (0.25 kg) of saleratus (baking soda), 2 pounds (0.91 kg) of tea, 5 pounds (2.3 kg) of rice, and 15 pounds (6.8 kg) of beans. The Henness Pass Road (est.  The eastern end of the trail has been compared to a frayed rope of many strands that joined up at the Platte River near new Fort Kearny (est. The hardships of weather, limited diet, and exhaustion made travelers very vulnerable to infectious diseases such as cholera, flu, dysentery, measles, mumps, tuberculosis, and typhoid fever which could spread quickly through an entire wagon camp. In many years it is estimated that there were more animals than people using the trail. While most of the newly arrived were Americans, the Gold Rush attracted tens of thousands from Latin America, Europe, Australia, and China. On Smith's second trip he entered California the same way and left through Oregon.  Before 1852 those on the North side ferried (or after about 1850 took a toll bridge) across the North Platte to the south side and Fort Laramie. "Historical Statistics of the United States, 1789â1945"; Lyman, George D. John Marsh, Pioneer: The Life Story of a Trail-Blazer on Six Frontiers, pp. Centennial ed. In the present states of Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah, the California and Oregon trails split into several different trails or cutoffs. When the Union Pacific Railroad started west in 1865, Omaha was their eastern terminus. News paper correspondents reported that they had a preview of hell when they took the trip.. This ignores most of California's population increase from the excellent sea and rail connections across Panama that existed by then. 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