I hadn’t been to the Oregon Trail Ruts since I was about 16 and I had actually forgotten what they looked like. I had also forgotten how deep those ruts where as well. It’s impressive to see how deep they really are and it brings home to a person how arduous they’re trip was and exhausting and how heavy their loads were when you see how deep the ruts cut into the rock. Just think of it! Wagon after wagon just filled with all that they owned being pulled by oxen, followed by more wagons after wagons, decades after decades…..Almost 160 years later the ruts can be seen today as a testimonial to their bravery and determination to start a new life more than half way across the continent. Few of us today would have that same brand of courage,
The history of the Oregon Trail Ruts is a fascinating one to me whenever I look at the deeply cut ruts in the soft rock and soil of the Guernsey earth. Today, you can view the small town from the banks of the Platter River as you drive out to the ruts just a scant mile out of town. It’s hard to picture, when you stand at the top of the hill, viewing the
ruts, what hardships these people must have actually faced when you see the comforts of a town just a few moments away.
Originally, in the early 1840’s, when the move west was just beginning, the Oregon trail carried hundreds of thousands of people who were unable to pay for the expensive ship-board passage rates. As well, many of them wanted to bring along with them their furniture and equipment that they planned on using to start businesses, much of which was not feasible to transport by ship because of cost.
So, the fascinating Oregon Trail became the ‘highway’ transport for over 20 years and extended into the late 1860’s until the completion of the Union Pacific railroad route in 1869, the new method of transport. You can see their trail on the map at the left and at the right, from a photo I took in Guernsey, some of the ruts remain, a testament to the huge number of oncoming settlers determined to make this difficult trip.
The deep ruts cut into the rocks still remain after over a century. Some of the ruts wore down into the rock anywhere from 2 to even 6 feet deep!
As their trail passed further and further west, the wagon trains were of necessity, forced to follow close behind each other creating the resultant ruts which today show so deep. I believe this area is considered some of the more impressive places along the Oregon Trail that show the path the settlers took and gave a hint of some of the challenges that the emigrants would have to face as they continued west.
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