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--Background Journal----Personal Journal-- --History & Travel Journal Book 1-- --History & Travel Journal book 2-- --Family Journal----Journal for my Descendants--


The historic trails of the western United States are older than most people realize. They existed before settlers or even the Indians discovered them. The migrating buffalo, deer elk and horses carved them out. The trails used most by these animals always led the easiest way to the nearest water, grass, and lowest Mountain passes and afforded a wide range of view for protection against predators. Elk often traveled hundreds of miles over seemingly impenetrable mountains in their seasonal migration from summer to winter pasturage and back. Over hundreds of years their tracks wore into trails following the most traversable routes to necessary grazing and water. Deer seldom migrated as far, but their routes always followed the easiest paths and the lowest passes. Horses could not go far without water so they're main routes followed the rivers.

The American Indians are believed to have migrated to the North American continent from Asia over the land bridge, which once connected Alaska with Siberia. The Indians spread throughout the United States, following the rivers and trails of migrating animals. It is doubtful if any one Indian ever traversed the United States; however, the Indians did have transcontinental routes and traveled great distances over them.

When we speak of exploring, the great Lewis and Clark Expedition always comes first to the minds of Americans. Although their great expedition led to the opening of the West, they were not, by far, the first to explore the West and routes to the West.

English, Spanish, and Russian nautical explorers visited the Pacific Coast in the 16th, 17th, and l8th centuries. The Spanish had Missions in California by 1711. Between 1535 and 1779, the Spanish coming north from Mexico City explored much of the Southwest, from eastern Texas to Arizona and as far north as Colorado, and South Dakota. However, much of the vast plains, mountains, forest, and desert of the interior remained unexplored. It was not until the 19th Century that trails were broken from St. Louis, the city that became the eastern terminal for west bound settlers

Most of the trails described herein had common characteristics. They generally followed the line of least resistance, along rivers, Indian trails, and animal migration tracks. Most of then were the work of ambitious traders, gold-hungry Seekers, adventurous settlers, and pioneering military men.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1803-1806 was perhaps the most important in the history of American exploration. It opened up vast new territories to American knowledge. After the Louisiana Purchase, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were sent to explore the new American territory. They sought a land route to the Pacific, but made many scientific observations, collected many specimens of flora, and studied the Indians.

In 1803 the Louisiana Territory, which extended west of the Mississippi to Idaho, was purchased by the United States from France for $l5 million. In 1805 Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark discovered Idaho at Lemhi Pass, and crossed into north Idaho over the Lolo Trail August 11, 1805. Lewis and Clark sailed past Spaulding October 8, meet with Nez Perce Indians at Weippe Prairie. In l806 Lewis and Clerk spent more than six weeks with the Nez Perce Indians in the Kamiah area before returning eastward across the Lolo Trail. The Oregon Territory was established 1848.

They followed the Missouri River from St. Louis through Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, South and North Dakota, and Montana. They walked the Indian trails over the great Divide to the Clearwater River in Idaho. Then they went down the Clearwater and Columbia Rivers in canoes to the Pacific Ocean. Lewis and Clark divided forces for part of their return through Montana. On the return journey, Lewis had an unfortunate encounter with the Blackfeet Indians, the most powerful and warlike tribe in the Northwest, who were equipped with muskets from the Hudson's Bay Company. The antagonism of the Blackfeet towards the Americans kept the routes of Lewis and Clark unsafe for emigrants for many years. The Lewis and Clark Expedition route was essentially the trail known to the Indians as the Big Medicine Trail.

In Idaho 200 -mile segment of 8,000-mile route followed by Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805. Route recorded in journals kept by member of expedition. Several Idaho sites certified as official parts of trail. Much can be retraced today. Mostly follows rivers.

1,170-mile route commemorates heroic but unsuccessful attempts by Nez Perce Indians to escape capture by US Army in 1877. They made their way East, following some of same route as Lewis and Clark expedition. Trail extends from Wallowa Lake, Oregon over Lolo Trail to Salmon, Yellowstone, to Bears Paw Battlefield near Chinook, Montana.

White Bird Battlefield was commemorates battle between Nez Perce and U.S. Army in Jun 1877. 34 soldiers but no Indians killed. Occurred while Nez Perce was fleeing army.

The Canoe Camp at Ahsahka is a camp for Lewis and Clark expedition for two weeks in autumn 1805. Logs were hollowed out to make canoes for final leg of trip to Pacific Ocean. Horses left with friendly Indians.

Lenore was an important archaeological site. Evidence Indians inhabited area as log as 10,000 years ago. At least ten pit houses dating back 5,000 years. Fur trader camp in 1812.

Lewis and Clark Long Camp at Kamiah expedition camped at site for four weeks in spring of 1806 to wait for deep snow to melt on high ridges of Lolo Trail. Provided opportunity to become better acquainted with Indians.

Lolo Pass was Lewis and Clark expedition came through pass in September with Indian guides. Early snow along steep ridges made trip very difficult. Elevation is 5,233 feet.

Lolo Trail extends from Lolo Pass to near Weippe. After Lolo Pass, Lewis and Clark expedition with Indian guides followed route in September 1805. Civilian Conservation Corps created Lolo Motorway in 1930's to approximate original routes (unpaved, steep and rugged). Trail closely paralleled by U.S. 12.

Pierce Courthouse is Idaho's oldest government building build in 1862 when Pierce was center of gold rush in Northern Idaho. Became private home in 1885 when county seat moved to Murray.

Weippe Prairie at Greer is favorite root-gathering place for Nez Perce, Spot where Lewis and Clark first encountered Nez Perce in September 1805. Later thousands of miners passed through during gold rush.

The Oregon Trail was the overland emigrant trail for the Missouri River to the Columbia River country, Oregon Territory. Nathaniel Wyeth and William Sublette pioneered it in 1832. Like all western trails it tended to follow rivers where possible. It followed the Missouri River from St. Louis to the Kansas River near Independence, Missouri, then that river to the Little Blue River where it joined the Platte River. It took the North Platte in western Nebraska to the present Casper, Wyoming, followed the Sweetwater River to South Pass, and then went southwest to Fort Bridger Wyoming. At this point the trail split with the Mormon Trail, which continued southwest to the Great Salt Lake, while the Oregon Trail went northwest to Fort Hall, near Pocatello, Idaho. Over the Blue Mountains in northeaster Oregon, then down the Columbia River to Willamette Valley, where the early settlers finished their journey.

The Oregon Trail in Idaho crossed the border near Montpelier, passed by Fort Hall, then proceeded westward proceeded south of the Snake River to the ford below Salmon Falls, then to Fort Boise, and finally crossing the Snake River into Oregon.

The trail opened the Pacific Northwest. In 1843, the "great emigration" of more than 900 people and 1,000 head of stock traveled the route daily. It was in use for many years.

2,170-mile trail extends from Missouri to Oregon. Most famous trail used by fur traders, gold seekers, missionaries and emigrants Used heavily from 1841 to 1862. Trail used less when shortcuts, such as Goodale's and Hudspeth's Cutoffs were developed. Mostly follows Snake River in Idaho. Much of trail is still intact. Idaho segment is approximately 400 miles.

The first emigrants reached California via the California Trail in 1841. This was a party of 32 men, one woman and a child led by John Bidwell. They literally groped there way west from Salt Lake City with no guide or frontier experience. Enduring incredible suffering, they had to abandon their wagons and finally lived on the flesh of their starving and exhausted horses--but they made it.

There are several variants of the California Trail, but its route is basically determined by the course of the Humboldt River. One route follows the Oregon Trail to Fort Hall, just north of Pocatello, Idaho, then goes southwest along the Raft River to the Humboldt River and follows this river until it disappears into the ground. This route then continues on to present day Reno, Nevada, and on over the Sierra Nevada through Donner Pass to Sutter's Fort. Another route leaves Soda Springs Idaho, goes through Marsh Valley and Arbon Valley to the Raft River. Around the middle 1800's Myers and Hudspeth evidently started out to shorten a route to the gold mines in California, and actually succeeded in opening the new cutoff from Soda Springs to Raft River. This cutoff entered Marsh Valley by way of present day Fish Creek Divide above Lava, over the low hills near what is now Arimo and westward out of the valley by way of Hawkin's Basin. This early time trail has been erroneously called the Sublette Cutoff. Today a road across the valley from Arimo west is marked the Sublette road. The proper title should have been the Hudspeth or Myers Cutoff. Beginning in 1849, most of the California-bound pioneers utilized Hudspeth's Cutoff, which departed from the main Oregon-California Trail by heading straight west at Sheep Rock. Hudspeth's Cutoff wound through mountainous country north and west of present-day Malad City before rejoining the California Trail on the west side of the Raft River Valley on Cassia Creek near the present day town of Malta. Hudspeth and his fellow guide Myers felt their route would save over one hundred miles. In fact, the route eliminated only around 25 miles and there was no saving of time. On top of that, the much more difficult Hudspeth route had less water and feed and was harder on animals and equipment. Nevertheless, thousands of Americans yet to come, true to their national temperament, would take the cutoffs, believing that by going west rather than northwest they would be able to get ahead of others and reach California first. Hudspeth's Cutoff left the main trail at Sheep Rock and headed west for the California Trail. Hudspeth's Cutoff was created in 1849 when Benoni Hudspeth and J.J. Myers wanted to get to California a bit faster and tried a shortcut to the California trail. Hudspeth's Cutoff from the main Oregon Trail to the California Trail crossed the northern part of Oneida County. It passed Twin Springs. The road that passes through there today is closed in winter. More trails and cutoffs passed through the Cassia County area than any other part of Idaho. The main Oregon Trail crossed the northern edge of the county in a westerly direction. The California-Applegate Trail left the Oregon Trail in the northeast corner of the county and headed southwest toward California gold. The Salt Lake-Oregon cutoff came from the south and moved northwest before turning west to meet the Oregon Trail near Twin Falls. Hudspeth's Cutoff joined the California Trail just southwest of the town of Malta.
A connection between the Salt Lake Trail and the California Trail arched above southern border.

Hudspeth Cutoff Caribou

Hudspert Cutoff Bannock

Hudspeth Oneida

Hudspert Cassia
Another route leaves the Oregon Trail just west of South Pass in Wyoming, goes down through Fort Bridger, Wyoming, Salt Lake City Utah, and due west to the Humboldt River. Another variant of the trail is over the Sierra Nevada via Sonora Pass and down the San Joaquin Valley along the Stanislaus River.

The Stevenís party of 1843 was probably the first to take wagons across the Sierra Nevada Range via Donner Pass. Three years later the ill-fated Donner Pass Party lost 40 of its 87 members though freezing and starvation in the same range.

Follows Oregon Trail most of way through Idaho, but turns southwest at Snake River and Raff River toward California, passing through City of Rocks. First traveled on foot in 1840, and then by wagons in 1844. Thousands of gold miners rushing to California used trail in late 1840's Tracks, made by thousands of wagons, still remain today.

110-mile, short-cut trails across Idaho state for those traveling Oregon and California Trails. Follows more direct southwest course from Sheep Rock in east Idaho to Cassia Creek in west Idaho. Come into use in 1849 as gold rush route to California and soon became main route for both Oregon and California-bound travelers. Still is visible in some places.

Trail left Oregon Trail at Fort Hall, crossed Snake River plains to Lost River, then headed west, joining Oregon Trail again near Ditto Creek, south of Boise. Traversed as early as 1852, became especially popular during Salmon River gold rush in 1862. Old tracks are still visible near Craters of the Moon.

Lander Road at Wayan was completed in November 1858, road developed to provide more direct route west from South Pass, Wyoming. Frederick Lander, engineer, selected route which joins Oregon Trail at Fort Hall Indian Reservation Road still visible in many places.

Mullan Road at Coeur d' Alene was surveyed and built between 1859 and 1862, road connected Missouri River with Columbia River. Constructed as military road but used for only a few years due to repair difficulties. Pioneered course of modern-day Interstate 90 all the way across north Idaho.

The Old Spanish Trail was never a single well-worn thoroughfare, but a multiplicity of trails westward from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to what was in l830, the little pueblo of Los Angeles, California.

In 1776, the Spanish sought a way of supplying their mission in California without either the long sea voyage around Cape Horn or the ground route due west or southwest from Santa Fe across the Arizona and California deserts. Both routes exacted a high toll of men and animals. Father Silvestre de Escalante endeavored that year to find a northern route to California that would be kinder to men and animals. His party traveled over 2,000 miles in five months, getting as far west as the Sevier River in western Utah before their supplies ran low, and they returned to Santa Fe. In 1827 Jedediah Smith an extremely gifted explorer and trapper, made the first recorded journey by the central route from California to the Mississippi, with two companions.

The Spanish trail has two principal routes. One follows the Santa Fe Trail northwest to Utah Lake, Utah, and then south-southwest to Los Angeles. The other route goes north some miles from Santa Fe, then almost due west to southwestern Utah, thence southwest to the vicinity of what is now Las Vegas, continuing southwest through the Mojave Desert and on to the Los Angeles area. The Old Spanish Trail became the regular route for commerce between New Mexico and California during the 1830's and 1840ís

The Santa Fe Trail as opened in 1821 by William Becknell, a trader from Franklin, Missouri. He followed the already well-known route along the Missouri River via the Kansas and Arkansas Rivers. He reached what is now La Juna, Colorado, but had no success in either trading or trapping.

Turning southwest on an old Indian trail along Timpas Creek, across the Ratan Pass and down to the Canadian River, he reached Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he learned Mexico had won its independence. With the Spanish gone from Santa Fe, the Mexicans where anxious to trade for his goods.

Backnell's trip opened up Santa Fe to American trade and the route saw heavy use for more than 40 years. It became the military road west during the Mexican War, and, despite Indian raids, was the route of many travelers headed for California during the gold rush.

EL Camino Real (The Royal Highway) and the Settlement of Upper California were brought about largely through the efforts of Father Junipero Serra, a Franciscan priest, who founded the first mission in California at San Diego in 1769. He founded over 20 others during the next 10 years, from Velicata in Baja California to San Francisco. Some of these missions, such as Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco grew into major cities. To supply the missions by sea proved too expensive and undependable, so it was done by land via EL Camino Real, which is still a main thoroughfare of the most populous state in the Union.

Gila Trail is probably the oldest major trail in the US. Artifacts at least 15,000 years old have been found to the Gila River region. In common with most trails, the Gila Trail follows rivers. It comes up from Mexico along the San Pedro River, just west of Bisbee, Arizona, until the river's confluence with the Gila River, then follows that westward to Yuma, Arizona. A branch of the Gila Trail goes eastward along the Yuma River to the San Pedro River, then follows the San Francisco River to just over the state border into New Mexico, thence north to Zuni, New Mexico.

The first man other than an Indian to traverse the ancient trails along the Gila was a black. He as a huge slave named Esteban, a member of an expedition sent by Charles V of Spain to colonize Florida in 1527. In 1538, some 11 years and many adventures later, Esteban was sent to accompany a Franciscan Monk named Marcos de Niza on a secret mission to discover the Seven Cities of Cibola. This led him along the Gila Trail where many of the Indians believed Esteban was a god. The Zuni tribe tested his immortality with arrows. He proved to be mortal

In l549, Melchior Diaz explored along the Gila River almost to the Colorado River, followed the next year by Francisco Vasques de Coronado. Both were unsuccessfully seeking the fabulous golden cities.

In the late 17th and early 18th centuries Father Eusibio Francisco Kino explored and established missions in Arizona and Southern California along the Gila Trail. The first Americans to use the Gila Trail were the trappers of the early 19th century who found the headwaters and tributaries of the Gila River literally teeming with beaver.

Lieutenant general Stephen Watts Kearny marched the Army of the West over the Gila Trail to California during the Mexican war of 1846. In early 1847, the five companies of the Mormon Battalion made an incredible march over the trail to California to augment Kearny's army, which by then was down to 57 able-bodied dragoons.

Within a year of the Mormon Battalionís March, gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill, California. Many forty-niners seeking gold traveled west by the Gila Trail. Many also left their scalps with the Apaches. Captain Isaac Duvail blazed a much traveled route which went south into Mexico at El Paso, Texas (to avoid the Apaches}, then swung back north just South of Tucson Arizona. Captain Jack Hayes pioneered a cutoff route from El Paso to Lordsburg, New Mexico, to Tucson. The Butterfield Overland Stage Line went over many sections of the Gila Trail enroute to California from St. Louis, Missouri.

When California was admitted to the Union in 1850, slavery was the most divisive issue facing our nation? California was admitted as a "free" state, with no slavery permitted, but much of Southern California was inhabited by proslavery southerners. In 1856, the state was already a fabulously wealthy one, but far removed from our country's capital, and there was a movement afoot to the state to form a separate nation. Rapid transportation west to California was essential to maintain close communication. Proslavery senators wanted a southern route to California, via Texas. Antislavery forces wanted the North to have access to Upper California where nearly all the gold had been discovered. The central overland route from St. Joseph, Missouri, through Nebraska, Southern Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada to Sacramento, California, was the shortest and fastest way, but it was politically unsatisfactory to Southern sympathizers. John Butterfield won a government contract to transport mail from the Mississippi River to San Francisco in 1857. Be chose a route that would offend neither the North nor the South. It ran from St. Louis to Tipton, Missouri, by rail, then by Stagecoach or wagon to Springfield, Missouri, to Fort Smith, Arkansas, to Sherman and EL Paso, Texas, thence to Tucson and Yuma, Arizona, to Los Angeles, California and terminating in San Francisco.

The route had the advantage of being snow free most of the year. Much of the route ran through wild and semi-arid territory, but it was open prairie and desert and not particularly difficult for wheeled vehicles. It was 2,975 miles long with much of it a trail in name only. Operation of the stage requited the construction of nearly 200 relay post and way stations 1,000 horses, 500 mules' 500 vehicles, and some 800 employees. The vehicles, mostly Concord stagecoaches and celebrity wagons, had to maintain a schedule of 25 days or less for the trip. The coaches traveled 24-hours a day, stopping only for primitive meals and to change horses and crews on their bi-weekly trips.

Watterman Ormsby, who traveled on the first westbound trip, had this to say about one night's travel. "To see the heavy mail wagon whizzing and whirling over the jagged rock, through such a labyrinth, in comparative darkness, and to feel oneself bounding--now on the hard seat, now against the roof, and now against the side of the wagon--was no joke."

By the spring of l860 the Overland Mail Company was carrying more California Mail than the steamship companies. In 1861, the company transferred its operation to the central route from Missouri through Nebraska, Wyoming, and Utah to California, and not long after sold out to Wells Fargo and company.

--Background Journal----Personal Journal-- --History & Travel Journal Book 1-- --History & Travel Journal book 2-- --Family Journal----Journal for my Descendants--

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