Blazing The Oregon Trail

The Westward Trail circa 1840: A map showing the westward trail from Missouri to Oregon. (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)
In 1971, Minnesota Education Computing Consortium released a computer game called The Oregon Trail. Since then several versions have been released, with the most recent being a standalone handheld game. But the real Oregon Trail was a 2,000-mile track leading from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon City, Oregon. It is estimated that up to 500,000 pioneers traveled the trail in the mid-1800s.

They traveled for a variety of reasons. Among those was the concept of Manifest Destiny, a sentiment that expansion was preordained. However, others were seeking financial stability or escape from the Civil War. The earliest travelers of the trail were trapper and fur traders who traveled on horseback or on foot. The Lewis and Clark Expedition from 1804 to 1806 was the government’s first attempt to explore the land to the west. In 1810, John Jacob Astor launched an expedition to Oregon, intent on opening a trading post for his American Fur Company. The expedition led to the discovery of a gap in the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming, which offered the easiest path across the Continental Divide and became known as the South Pass.