Category: Post

Emigrant Springs State Park


Superior Facilities for Those who Follow

Westward emigration on the Oregon Trail was an annual event for more than twenty years, and with each passing year the route improved until it was eventually replaced by railroads and modern highways. Superior Facilities for those Who Follow Early emigrants blazed trails and established routes, and in the Blue Mountains many along with James W. Nesmith, emigrant of 1843, “went in advance and cut timber all day.” Although later emigrants  found a well- worn path to Oregon,  they too often had to clear the trail of rocks, fallen trees, and other debris.

“…We were obliged to ascend and descend three very bad hills, and to pass over eight miles of a very rough and difficult road, a portion of it running through a track heavily timbered with pine.  We cut through this a road for the wagons, and it now offers much superior failities for those who follow.” 
Peter Hardeman Burnett; October 3, 1843


Lost LivestockLost Livestock

Water is scarce in the steep, forested slopes of the Blue Mountains and it is often found only at the bottom of steep ravines.  Although forage for livestock is plentiful, it is widely scattered among the trees.  Oregon Trail emigrants quickly discovered that livestock could not be allowed to range too freely.  Many along with Honore-Timothee Lempfrit, emigrant of 1848, found “Nearly all of them strayed during the night…consequently when morning came we found ourselves without any oxen.”  Although the search for lost animals was a common experience, more than livestock could be lost in the forest.

“Could not find all of our cattle, yoked up what cattle we found and moved one mile and camped.

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 Before night we went back and found the balance of our oxen. While we were hunting cattle today, one lady (Mrs. Thatcher) was discovered walking very briskly in the thick timber and asked which way she was traveling, she said she was going to the wagons and wondered what was the reason she could not see them; but when we told that she was one-half mile from the wagons and going in a contrary direction, she was not a little surprised and concluded in such thick timber as this she would not undertake to hunt cattle.”  Loren B. Hastings;  October 7, 1847


Oregon Trail emigrants usually reached this site after two days of arduous travel from the Grande RondeValley through the eastern slopes of the Blue Mountains.  Here James W. Nesmith, emigrant of 1843, found “mountains covered with evergreen Timber so Thicktrees which remind me of the scenes of my childhood.”  However, many overlanders like Harriet Loughary, emigrant of 1864, found terror in these mountains as “Panthers and wolves made the night hideous with their screaming.”  with “timber so thick…that you couldn’t see a man 10 steps,” according to William T. Newby, emigrant of 1841, the steep and forested Blues could be frightening indeed!

“…it was then sun-down and the road back to our camp was through heavy timber, which appears dark in daylight; we started back and met our little sister coming after us on horseback;  we went back all the way in a hard run and just before we reached the camp met a man, who seeing we were disconcerted thought he would have some fun; he told us it was three miles back to the camp, and through the darkest road he ever saw, or heard of; he went on and as we were then about ready to give up with fatigue, we almost concluded to wait till morning among the trees and then find our way back or wait their coming, when we met Father who was more uneasy if possible than we, and who was quite out of patience at our ludicrous mistake at least we considered it ludicrous when we got time to laugh:  In running I wore the soles off my moccasins against the sharp stones, and blisterd my feet before I got near the camp.”  Abigail Jane Scott:  September 4, 1852


Pipe of PeacePipe of Peace

 Emigrant Springs is a campground today just as it was for Oregon Trail emigrants.  Long before emigration, however, Native Americans also took advantage of this site’s abundant water and found shelter among the towering trees. Although relations between emigrants and Indians were generally positive in the Blue Mountains, cultural differences were always evident.

  “Soon after going into camp two Indians of the Nez Perce tribe visited our camp and, without any invitation, concluded to remain with us all night….we gave them their supper, which seemed to please them very much.  and by the way they caused the food to disapear one would think this was their first supper for a month past. …After supper was over all had to partake of the pipe of peace.  finally, the pipe was passed to Mrs. Burns, who was rather inclined to rebel, never having smoked tobacco, and then the thought of putting the stem of that old pipe in her mouth was to her worse than taking a dose of castor oil.  She gently took her apron and with it wiped the stem of the pipe, and then merely touched the stem to her lips.  this act of hers caused a smile to come over the countenance of both Indians…”  E.W Conyers;  August 31, 1852


Weary Months of TravelWeary Months of Travel

      Oregon Trail emigrants generally crossed the Blue Mountains during the month of August, September, and October.  Emigrants traveling early in the year often cleared the trail of windfall and debris left in the wake of winter storms.  Although the trail was open for those reaching the Blues by autumn, drizzling rain and the threat of snow was an added burden. Regardles of the time of year, many overlanders, along with Amelia Stewart Knight, emigrant of 1853, were “delighted with the prospect, of being so near the timber again, after weary months of travel, on the dry dusty sage plains.”

“…it is raining this morning, we are in the valley skirted by snow crested pine covered mountains.  we are noonin on the summit of the Blue mountains  we have been coming up all the forenoon.  the horses are very tired.  drizzling all the time too we travailed till late through a cold rain.”  Many Louisa Black;  September 10, 1864


Recovering the Lost Trail

“To you who read or hear my words, I conjure you to take heed and consider their importance. …If we forget the deeds of our forebears, we discard the lessons of history and take a step backward in the march of civilization.  In themeasure a genearation cherishes, so will it be for the future; for the love of country; for reverence of the flag; for the efforts of upbuilding the Nation.   recovering the Lost Trail has a deeper meaning than merely gratifying a whim or satisfying a feeling of curiosity.”  Ezra Meeker:  1915Recovering the Lost Trail

Most emigrants appreciated the enormity of their overland journey, but many were too busy establishing new lives to recognize the long-term significance of the endeavor.  However, Ezra Meeker, emigrant of 1852, was a notable exception.  Meekers’s unique witness of the nation’s expansion inspired him to mount a campaign to recognize and mark the route of the Oregon Trail. Knowing that actions are louder than words, Meeker hitched a team of oxen to a wagon, and between 1906-1908 set numerous monuments along the route of the trail from the Dalles, Oregon to Omaha, Nebraska.  One of Meeker’s markers may be seen near the entrance of this park.  In 1923 President Warren G. Harding also dedicated a second Oregon Trail monument here.
Meeker was encouraged by his first expedition, and in 1910 embarked upon a second wagon trip to locate lost portions of the tril.  In 1916, he retraced the trail in a 12-cylinder Pathfinder called the “Schooner-mobile” to lobby Congress for a national highway along the emigrant route.  Meeker flew a biplane over the trail route in 1925.  Ezra Meeker died in 1928 at the age of 97 just as he was planning yet another trek in an “Oxmobile” given to him by Henry Ford.




Farewell Snake River

Oregon Trail emigrants traveled through the Snake River country for over 300 miles. Hardship and danger were constant companions, and death, particularly at river crossings, was not uncommon. The river also sustained life, however, providing water and fish in abundance. For many emigrants along with Cecilia Adams and Parthenia Blank, emigrants of 1852, bidding “farewell Snake” at this site, parting was bittersweet.

“…we came on the Snake river bottom again, here I campt a very good place, a largte dry creek comes in here which has got good grass….There the road leaves Snake river and we see it no more only in the Columbia I was sorry for that for we have caught a number of fish Willie gets his hook and line in a morning and soon catches enought for breakfast for us we have travelled down it for about 360 miles it is a fine stream
George Belshaw
, August 23, 1853


Respite for the WearyRespite for the Weary!

Camp sites along the Oregon Trail were determined by the presence of water, grazing for livestock, or simply the end of a long, exhausting day. Although emigrants camped at Farewell Bend, a typical day’s journey brought emigrants from the Malheur river through the alkali desert to camp at nearby BirchCreek. Water was available along this route, but it was often tainted, and many along with Martha S. Read, emigrant of 1852, found themselves “most all sick from the effects.” Farewell Bend provided a welcome respite for emigrants recovering from the effects of bad water and other illness.

“…moved 3 miles to the river to get better water. found plentty of feed. The Indians have visited us every day and brought us fish. they appear fery friendly. We have had very warm days ever sionce we stopt here. To day we have had afew sprinkles of rain. There is an immense sight of sickness on the road. Lydia is getting sick today….” Martha S. Read; September 13, 1852.


Cattle is DyingThe Cattle is Dying

        The emigrant road from the Snake River Crossing to Farewell Bend was dry, dusty, and extremely arduous; it was also the end of the trail for many already exhausted oxen. George Belshaw, emigrant of 1853, noted that his “cattle is dying…some of them bleeds at the nose and dies in a few minutes after working through the day.”  Water holes were few, and with the distance between them great, emigrants often faced a life-threatening dilemma: to press on and risk losing their teams to fatigue, or to stop and risk that they would die of thirst.

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“After cattle have worked all the way from the STATES here , they become weak and tired, and it does not take much to make them a load. Sometimes having a good feed, then poor, then none at all, is enough to try anything.  We have come 12 miles and camped at Sulphur spring; a poor place with very little water and that inferior.” Samuel Handsaker; September 4, 1853


Hook, Line & FishtrapHook, Line and Fishtrap

      Rivers and creeks along the Oregon Trail supplied emigrants with both food and water, and the Snake River was no exception. although some emigrants employed hook and line , most found it easier to trade with the Indians. Long before the arrival of emigrants, local Indians had perfected techniques for harvesting the bountiful Snake River salmon.

“I have not observed that the Indians often atttempt fishing in the ‘big river’, where it is wide and deep; they generally prefer the slues, creeks, &c. Across these a net of closely woven willows is stretched, placed vertically, and extending from the bottom to several feet above the surface. A number of Inidans enter the water about a hundred yards above the net, and , walking closely drive the fish in a body against the wicker work. Here they are frequently become entangled, and are always checked; the spear is then used dexterously, and they are thrown out, one by one, upon the shore.  With industry, a vast number of salmon might be taken in this manner.” 
John Kirk Townsend, Naturalist; August 24, 1834


Old's FerryEastbound Lane Opens

       Gold was discovered in Idaho during the 1860s, and emigrants traveling westward often met prospectors heading east. Gold rushers seeking the most direct route to their bonanzs crossed the Snake River near farewell bend.  In 1863 Reuben P. Olds, a local entrepeneur, realized substrantial profits from both emigrants and miners by establishing a ferry a few miles to the south.  Old’s ferrry allowed emigrants to bypass the Snake River crossing near Fort Boise and follow an alternate route along the north bank of the river.

“Going seven miles we reach the ferry. It took all the fore noon to get our party across, only one wagon at a time, with one span of horses or one yoke of oxen, for which we paid $2.00 in gold dust or $4.00 in Green Backs, but with plenty of patience and still plenty of money we finally crossed. When the ferryman said, ‘here you are in a land of rain, grain, and big red apples,’  yet neither was realized only in anticipation.” Harriet A. Loughary; August 5, 1864


Lost LucyLost Lucy

  It was not easy for Oregon trail emigrants to account for everything that had to be unloaded and repacked at cmp sites or river corossings. some things, including family members, were accidentally left behind.

“…we left unknowingly our Lucy behind, not a soul had missed her until we had gone some miles, when we stopt awhile to rest the cattle; just then another train drove up behind us, with Lucy   she was terribly frightened and so was some more of us, when we found out what a narrow escape she had run.  she said she was sitting under the bank of the river, when we started, busy watching some wagons cross and did not know we were ready.  I supposed she was in Mr. Carls wagon, as he always took charge of Frances and Lucy…when startign he asked for Lucy, and Frances says ‘shes in Mothers wagon.’  as she often came in there to have her hair combed.–it was a lesson to all of us.”
Amelia Stewart Knight; August 8, 1853


Old Fort Boise

“Left our camp 2 miles above Fort Boise & passed the mud-walld Fort of Boise & the clerk was Kind enough to make us out a Sketch of the rout to walla walla.” (James Clyman, 1844).

Fort Boise was built by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1834, in response to Nathaniel Wyeth’s Fort Hall, the stone he rolled into the garden of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company (A Majority of Scoundrels, Don Berry, p. 400). There is nothing on the spot today except a locally built monument, but that is  very well worth seeing.  I’m not going to show you everything. The object is to whet your appetite. There is a replica  of the fort in the nearby town of Parma, ID. The site is easy to find and worth the trip.

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Oregon Trail KioskTHIS IS THE Oregon side of the crossing, showing the interpretive kiosk with a blowup of one of the interpretive panels. Again, there is more to see here. The arrow says the crossing is a mile east, but I couldn’t find it. I was stopped by a dead-end road, private property, and angry dogs. We crossed to the south side of Snake River and camped about three o’clock. In crossing we tied the oxen to the stern of each wagon in front, at the same time a chain from the hind part of each wagon was made fast to the yoke of oxen in the rear. I thank God for the mercies that have attended us through all our difficulties.” Rev. E. E. Parrish (1844)

Ft. Boise Locator Map

Old Fort Boise
OAG = DeLorme’s Oregon Atlas & Gazetteer
 = Franzwa’s Maps of the Oregon Trail
 = Franzwa’s Oregon Trail Revisited

The Old Fort Boise site must be approached from Idaho; there is no bridge. It is kind of fun to go back through Parma and over to Adrian, Oregon, where you will find a South Alternate interpretive display. I didn’t even know there was a South Alternate till I did this trip. Franzwa’s directions allow you to follow the South Alternate for a few miles.

The next stretch, Keeney Pass, is relatively barren of modern improvements, so it will give a good idea of the terrain the emigrants encountered. Click on the red dots.Click on blue dots or the word Kiosk for the Interpretive Kiosk Tour Sites

Lewiston-Clarkston to Tri-Cities

On October 10, 1805 the Corps of Discovery crossed into what is now the state of Washington. They marveled at the spectacular vistas that, if we keep one eye closed, looks much the same as when Lewis and Clark traveled through this area. I have studied Lewis and Clark’s route through Washington for several years now and have become aware of the lack of attention to their journeys from the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake Rivers at Clarkston, Wa. to Sacajawea State Park just east of Pasco, Wa. There are books and articles by the thousands on just about every mile of their adventure, but very little is written on their trek across Washington, first by water in 1805 (westbound) and by land in 1806 (eastbound).After talking and working with the Washington State Dept. of Tourism this past summer (1998) I have decided to do a history on the expedition through Washington and the following is condensed from a future book of mine entitled “The Columbia River Connection: Lewis & Clark and the Oregon Trail”.

October 10, 1805 – the Corps enter Washington: “a fine morning loaded and set out at 7 oclock…arrived at a large Southerly fork or Lewis’s River (the Snake)…” This fork was called Tsceminicom (sign-MIN-ikum) by the Nez Perce, who wintered at this warm and sheltered canyon. Tsceminicom is where the Clearwater and Snake rivers meet: the Clearwater flows into the Snake from the West as the Snake makes its way from the North heading for the mighty Columbia.The Captains chose for their first campsite a location just north of the confluence, which is now near a copse of trees and a large stack of lumber. The scenery changed drastically from the rugged mountains and the Ponderosa pines to a treeless expanse of velvety canyons and short grassy hills. Their arrival here soon attracted the curiosity of the Indians who came from all directions to see these strangers. “Along the Snake Country the water about the forks is an open Plain on either Side I can observe at a distance…a high ridge of Thinly timbered Country the water of the South fork is a greenish blue, the North as clear as cristial…”. This night is spent with their new Indian friends and discussing the river that lay before them. Little did they know that the next 120 miles would be the most difficult to navigate since their portage around the Great Falls of the Missouri! They traveled 60 miles this day.

October 11, 1805 – “a cloudy morning We set out early and proceeded on…” The first point of interest came after about 8 miles west of their October 10th campsite.This was a village site of the Alpaweyma band of the Nez Perce at the mouth of Alpowai Creek. Here Clark says “we came to at Some indian lodges and took brackfast…” which consisted of, no not ham and eggs with a large orange juice, but rather dried salmon and Dog!Years later emigrants traveling along the Oregon trail would write in their diaries of having to eat the pet dog, and you will recall Maricus Whitman eating his daughters (Clarissa) dog on his midwinter journey back east to save his mission at WallaWalla. Sorry Rover! This was the first experience they had with dog meat and it would prove to be a staple of their diet until their return trip in 1806 back through the Bitterroots. After “brackfast” Lewis and Clark hired three Palouse Indians to guide them through the rapid and swift running water of the Snake River. “The Country on either Side is an open plain level and fertile after assending a Steep assent of about 200 feet not a tree of antykind to be Seen on the river…the day worm.” That night they camped near two Indian lodges at the mouth of Alomta Creek, a favorite fishing site of the Almotipu band of Nez Perce. This is near the present town of Almota, Washington, where Henry H. Spalding, the son of Henry and Eliza Spalding, owned a hotel for several years. Henry was the first male born to American citizens in the Pacific NW. He is buried at the Spalding Cemetery with his wife and two of their children, both dying in their infancy. This day they traveled 30 miles.

Sorry, your browser doesn’t support Java(tm). October 12, 1805 – “a fair Cool morning we Set out at 7 o’Clock and proceeded on…” Where Deadman Creek meets the Snake River, Clark notes “here the country assends with a gentle assent to the high plains and the River is 400 yards wide…” After bouncing through long and dangerous rapids the Indians told them that there was more to come; “verry bad about two miles in length and maney turns necessary to Stear Clare of the rocks…” As it was now getting late they decided to set up camp below the mouth of Alkali Flat Creek which is near the town of Riparia, just west of Little Goose dam.Their campsite was at the head of Texas Rapids which is now below the backwater of Lower Monumental dam. Clark writes “Country as yesterday open plains no timber of any kind…The hills or asscents from the water is faced with a dark rugged Stone…” These open plains were about 200 feet above the river on each side and the lack of timber was a result of their now being in the arid Great Columbia Plain. The dark rugged stone is basalt (molten lava) which extends for hundreds of miles and are several hundred feet thick. The men were tired and soaked to the skin. The Texas Rapids could wait until tomorrow! Again, 30 miles were navigated through this swirling, boiling river.

October 13, 1805 – The corps awakens to a “windey dark raney morning The rain commenced before day and Continued moderately…” Before departing, Captain Lewis scouted the entire length of the rapids. With the Indian pilots guiding the canoes (dugouts) through two miles of rapids, they made it again without incident. Are these guys good or what? They proceeded on for another two miles or so before they encountered another series of whitewater rapids, which would bring them to the mouth of the Tucannon River. When looking at the Snake River today, it is impossible to visualize the mile after mile of rapids the Corp of Discovery had to negotiate and as William Clark noted “we should make more portages if the Season was not So far advanced and the time perious to us.” Throughout, the country remained much the same, all high dry prairie and rolling, wrinkled hills. After passing the Tucannon River, on their larboard side (left) the Snake becomes crowded with rough basalt rocks which created another rapid four miles in length and here the river was compressed into a narrow channel of about 20 yards wide! After shooting these rapids, they came to the mouth of a very large river on their starboard side (right) which they named Drewyer’s River in honor of George Drouillard, a civilian member of the Expedition. We now know this river as the Palouse and at the mouth is Lyon’s Ferry State Park, which at that time was a very large Palouse Indian village. Authors note: the Mullan Military Road also came through this area, in the 1860’s, as it wound itself along the river and heads northeast towards the Spokane River.In 1964, when the railroad built a bridge over the river, a Jefferson Peace Medal was found in a cemetery which had been given to Chief Kepownkon by Lewis and Clark. This medal can be seen at WSU in Pullman, Washington. About one mile up the Palouse River from Lyon’s ferry bridge is Marmes Rock Shelter where deposits of human bone were found and which date back 10,000 years! Artifacts such as weapon points, bone needles and alivella shells were also found. Lewis and Clark saw no Indians here so proceeded down the Snake, when suddenly two Palouse appeared on horseback. The Indians followed the corp to their next campsite which is near Ayer, Washington on the south side of the Snake. Another physically exhausting day had ended with the corp traveling only 23 miles.

October 14, 1805 – “A verry cold morning wind from the West and Cool…” At this point you begin to wonder if the men, upon awakening, felt the same passion and sense of adventure that had marked each of their pervious mornings, knowing that more rapids and the cold, numbing dampness was once again waiting for them! After two and a half miles they came upon one of the few landmarks that impressed them enough in this area to name it. Now Monumental Rock just NE of Magallon, Washington, Lewis writes “a remarkable rock very large and resembling the hill (hull) of a ship.” Lower Monumental Dam takes its name from this landmark which is on the South side of the Snake River. After a distance of 12 miles the head of a rapid appears, larger and more dangerous then ANY of the prior rapids they had encountered! It just doesn’t seem to be getting any easier for the expedition! This newest challenge was at least three miles in length and it is here that the odds finally caught up with the corp. Three of the dugouts got stuck and the fourth hit a rock. Disaster struck at pine rapids where the river was parted by a rock island. The dugout that “drewyer” (Drouillard) was steering struck a large rock and sank, the men scrambled onto the rocky isle but lost some of their equipment. Another canoe was sent to rescue both the men and whatever supplies could be salvaged. Patrick Gass says “all wet and some articles were lost. We halted on an island to dry the baggage having come 14 miles.” This island was at the Pine Tree Rapids, just downstream from Burr Canyon and now inundated by Lake Sacajawea. Thus ended the most exciting day they had since leaving their camp at Tecmincum.

October 15, 1805 – This morning was “fair…after a Cold night. Some Frost and ice.” Hunters were sent out and the baggage continued to dry while at the same time Captain Lewis scoured the plains and saw at a distance of about 60 miles a mountain range we know as the Blue Mountains. Within a period of less then forty years the great migrations to the “West” would bring the pioneers by the tens of thousands across these same mountains along what was to become the Oregon Trail.The hunters came back with no food and with Captain Lewis pointing the way, the Corp of Discovery set out once again. After traveling several miles they were again approached by the Palouse Indains near a basin where the water was quiet and resembled a lake. Here again they warn the corp of the dangerous rapids ahead! Would these rapids never come to an end? Will they accompany us all the way to the Ocean? These must have been some of their thoughts as they listened to the Palouse! This was to be a short day, as they hadn’t left their prior camp until 2 PM and daylight was nearly gone. It was decided to make camp at Rattlesnake Flats which is at the head of the perilous Fishhook Rapids. Again they were on the starboard side (right) of the great Snake River. Captain Lewis would later enter this comment into his journal…”we only made 20 miles today owing to the detention in passing rapids &c.”

It took the Corp of Discovery five days to travel, with the current, a distance of less than 120 miles; whereas on the 10th of October they literally flew 60 miles down the Clearwater River!

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Coming back to the tripI suppose this stretch of the Snake River is considered as insignificant to most writers and readers as it appears that not much happened during this part of the grand adventure. However, the Corp of Discovery definitely would state otherwise!

Farewell Bend

On Sept. 24, 1852 twin sisters Cecilia Adams and Parthenia Blank wrote:

“In about 4 miles more over hills came to Snake River for the last time. Here it runs through lofty and inaccessible mountains. so farewell Snake–Traveled over high mount to Burnt River 4 miles. Here we stopped and fed our cattle on dry grass…This river is fine clear water about 20 feet wide on an average and flows between very lofty mounts with just room to pass.”

We often think of 1841 as the beginning of the Oregon Trail, but this sign shows how many white parties came this way earlier, blazing the way for the wagons.

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And, of course, these trails and camping spots were well known to the Indian tribes for thousands of years.

In the 1860s some emigrants came from Boise via the Payette River, crossed the Weiser River, and eventually the Snake at Olds Ferry ( slightly upstream from here), which was established to serve traffic to and from the gold mines in the Boise, ID area.

“There is a large pack train camped at this place….We have crossed the Snake again & waiting for the balance of the wagons to come over. They make quick trips and drive two wagons with 4 horses on at a time.” (Mary Louisa Black, 1865)

Farewell Bend Locator Map

Farewell Bend
OAG = DeLorme’s Oregon Atlas & Gazetteer
 = Franzwa’s Maps of the Oregon Trail
 = Franzwa’s Oregon Trail Revisited

The State of Oregon has a fine State Park here with camping and trail interpretation. There is also a motel, restaurant, and service station nearby.

From the park, go under I-84 to the west side and look for signs leading up to the Birch Creek overlook.  To continue the physical journey turn right out of the park onto old Route 30. To continue the virtual trek click on the red dot by the name Burnt River.

Columbia River Connection

THE REASONING behind this website came from the need to inform my Northwest chapter of the Oregon – California Trails Association of the amazing connection between Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery and the Oregon Trail provided by the Columbia River. My reading and research resulted in an overpowering need of “personal discovery” into these remarkable journeys and over the past five years, has led me to the point of trying to put into words my feelings and sense of incredible awe of the men, women and children who set out on their own personal journeys of discovery.

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Therefore, this website is my attempt to #1 bring more recognition to the Lewis and Clark journey through the state of Washington, #2 to bring awareness to my readers of the relationship of the Corps of Discovery with the Oregon Trail and #3 to show the powerful Columbia River at its height of glory. This time frame will cover the years 1805-1860 and hopefully make clear to the reader the Columbia River Connection: Lewis & Clark and the Oregon Trail. We also offer tours, lectures and character talks about Lewis & Clark, Oregon Trail, Mullan Road and other significant Pacific Northwest historical sites and trails. Go to Tours and Talks for more complete information.
At present we are up to Oct. 19, 1805. New stuff is coming soon, meanwhile perhaps you’d like to read about Chief Concomly’s Head. And be sure to check out the Photo Gallery for several new pictures.

Proceed On,
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Deadman Pass

These ruts are in the eastbound Deadman Pass rest area on I-84., looking back on the trail. Several tracks come together here. On August 8, 1866 S.B. Eakin, Jr. wrote:

“Marching as usual. Roads very rough. traveled all day on the top of the mountains. Road hilly. Camped at about 4 o’clock on the top of the mountains on the extreme west. A spring close up to camp. we are now through the timber and can see around us. Umatilla River is in sight. It lays north of us running west. Mount Hood directly west; also the Three sisters; all in the Cascades We are now very high up on the mountains.”

Deadman Pass proper direction

In this photo we are facing the right direction of emigrant travel. Ruts were verified by Jack Evans (Powerful Rockey).

This was Crawford Hill until July 12, 1878 when four freighters were killed in the Bannock War. Ever since it has been Deadman Pass.

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Deadman Pass againMount Prospect

was the name given to Deadman’s Pass by Riley Root, an 1848 emigrant. The view is magnificent and the name a good one, but it never took on.

“Wednesday, Oct. 4th.  Weather stormy; rain and hail. we got under way and traveled twelve miles down the west side of the Blue Mountains, when we struck the Umatilla River. went three miles down it, and encamped near some Cayuse lodges.” (James Nesmith, 1843)

OAG = DeLorme’s Oregon Atlas & Gazetteer
 = Franzwa’s Maps of the Oregon Trail
 = Franzwa’s Oregon Trail Revisited
Deadman Pass

Once down from Deadman Pass there are no longer visible ruts because the city has taken over. Gregory Franzwa has proposed several possibilities in his Maps of the Oregon Trail. What I have labeled Rieth Rd. on the map is labeled Old Pendleton River Rd in the Oregon Atlas & Gazetteer. Take Exit 207 from I-84.


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Alkali Springs

Alkali Springs

This site is on Tub Mountain between Vale and Farewell Bend. I’ve never tried to get there because of dirt roads and fences, but Jim Tompkins has been there and supplied this picture. Up here is at least one trail grave .

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“We traveled about twenty miles; ten miles brought us to a sulphur spring and ten more miles to Birch Creek, where we encamped. The country is considerably rolling, and much of it is barren: No timber found. (Joel Palmer, 1845)

Alkali Springs Picture
Another view, this one provided by Stafford Hazelett. In 1852 Elizabeth Julia Goltra wrote:
“Started early this morning and reached Sulphur Springs about noon, no place to camp; thence to Birch Creek, reached this about sundown, today we have used a cart having cut our wagon in two pieces to make it lighter…”

Jim Tompkins adds that Mrs. Goltra was the ggggrandmother of Alice Norris, friend and executive director of the Oregon Trail Pageant in Oregon City. The Goltra diary was included in the houseful of stolen items from universities aroundthe country that was discovered in a house in Iowa about 8-10 years ago.

Alkali Springs Locator Map Alkali Springs
OAG = DeLorme’s Oregon Atlas & Gazetteer
MOT = Franzwa’s Maps of the Oregon Trail
OTR = Franzwa’s Oregon Trail Revisited

The town of Vale has wonderful murals on its buildings, depicting a burial near the Alkali Springs, washing in the Malheur river, and other area historical scenes.

Next stop, Farewell Bend. Click on red dots.

You are at Alkali Springs
West < Farewell Bend Malheur River > East
Intro Map Main Maps Page NW OCTA Home

contents copyright © 1998 NWOCTA, Tom Laidlaw, and respective photographers
No material may be copied without prior permission.

Executive Summary

The Board of Directors and staff of the Oregon Trails Coordinating Council present the Oregon Historic Trails Report, the first step in the development of a statewide Oregon Historic Trails Program. The Oregon Historic Trails Report is a general guide and planning document that will help future efforts to develop historic trail resources in Oregon.

The objective of the Oregon Historic Trails Program is to establish Oregon as the nation’s leader in developing historic trails for their educational, recreational, and economic values. The Oregon Historic Trails Program, when fully implemented, will help preserve and leverage existing heritage resources while promoting rural economic development and growth through heritage tourism.

The opportunity to realize these benefits will depend on the entities that have the authority to act and collaborate on the program’s behalf; land management agencies, government commissions, heritage organizations, and tourism associations. The Council recommends that these entities move forward with the Oregon Historic Trails Program.

Oregon’s historic trails represent the transformation of the American West and are essential to understanding Oregon’s history. The sixteen trails described in this report combine to tell a story, beginning before whites arrived and continuing through the Nez Perce War of 1877. Together they present an interwoven account of native peoples, explorers, and settlers brought into contact by their movements through a shared landscape. The outcomes of their travels and activities shaped the place we live today. They shaped Oregon.

The Council challenges organizations and communities along Oregon’s historic trails to adopt these recommendations, preserving and developing resources as appropriate, and continuing the work initiated by this report.

Jim Renner, Executive Director Oregon Trails Coordinating Council

Project history

The Oregon Trail Advisory Council was formed in 1984 by executive order of Governor Victor Atiyeh. The Advisory Council was responsible for evaluating the condition of the Oregon Trail and reporting on its condition to the Governor. The Advisory Council’s 1988 Our Oregon Trail: A Report to the Governor, provided a detailed analysis of Oregon Trail remnants in the state; political and private concerns surrounding the Oregon Trail; and the Trail’s preservation and development. The Oregon Trail Advisory Council made a series of recommendations for the Oregon Trail that served as a mandate for the Oregon Trail Coordinating Council.

In December 1990, Governor Barbara Roberts, responding to the Oregon Trail Advisory Council’s report, supported the founding of the Oregon Trail Coordinating Council as an independent non-profit corporation. Governor Roberts called for the Council to plan activities for the Sesquicentennial celebration and to coordinate the development of four interpretive centers planned for Baker City, on the Umatilla Indian Reservation near Pendleton, in The Dalles, and in Oregon City. The Council’s mission was to develop the Oregon Trail as a major historical attraction and tourism opportunity that would result in positive economic and cultural impacts for the State. The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center on Flagstaff Hill near Baker City opened to record attendance in May 1992.

The Council anticipated that it would dissolve at the end of the Sesquicentennial commemoration. The year-long series of events and activities heightened awareness of and interest in Oregon’s heritage resources. The development of capital projects complemented by marketing and educational outreach activities provided economic and cultural benefits to the communities along the route of the Oregon Trail. The success of the Oregon Trail Coordinating Council’s programs and the continued support of the State of Oregon encouraged the Council’s board of directors to consider recognition of Oregon’s other historic trails.

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The Council postponed its dissolution until at least 1995.

The 1993 Oregon Legislature provided additional funding support for the completion of three Oregon Trail interpretive centers at Oregon City, The Dalles, and the Umatilla Indian Reservation. The Legislature allocated $2,000,000 in Oregon Lottery funding to be administered through the Council’s matching grant program. Based on a formula of need and the amount of federal funding coming to each project, $500,000 was distributed to the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Oregon City; $500,000 was distributed to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in The Dalles; and $1,000,000 was distributed to the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute on the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

During the 1993 Legislative session, the Oregon Trail Coordinating Council received a new and broader mandate: to work toward the interpretive development of Oregon’s other national historic trails (the Lewis and Clark Trail, the Applegate Trail, and the Nez Perce Trail), in addition to the Oregon Trail. This mandate came with the passage of Senate Bill 98 authorizing the creation and sale of an Oregon Trail commemorative license plate through the end of December, 1995. For every Oregon Trail license plate sold, a $2.50 surcharge was “transferred to the Oregon Trail Coordinating Council for the purpose of developing interpretive facilities along national historic trails in Oregon.”

The Council responded to this mandate by initiating a matching grant program available to qualified organizations developing projects such as interpretive waysides, staffed interpretive centers, and interpretive trails. License plate sales through December 1995 provided $1,000,000 for interpretive facility projects. These funds were distributed through the Council’s matching grant program with $250,000 going to each of the four national historic trails. In 1995, the Oregon Legislature voted to extend the Oregon Trail commemorative license plate program through December 1999, providing a four year extension for the Council’s work. The Assembly also passed House Joint Memorial 6 proclaiming 1995 as the Year of the Meek Cutoff Trail to honor the sesquicentennial of its first crossing.

The 1995 bill which had the greatest impact on the Council was House Bill 2966, the Oregon Historic Trails Bill, which recognized sixteen historic trails in Oregon and provided an opportunity for the Council and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to work together on the development of a statewide historic trails program.

HOUSE BILL 2966 relating to historic trails

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Oregon:

SECTION 1.  Oregon recognizes the value and significance of its historic trails, including:

  1. The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail;
  2. The Oregon National Historic Trail;
  3. The Applegate National Historic Trail;
  4. The Nez Perce National Historic Trail;
  5. Alternate routes of the Oregon Trail including:
    (a) The Whitman Mission Route;
    (b) The Upper Columbia River Route;
    (c) The Meek Cutoff;
    (d) The Free Emigrant Road; and
    (e) The Cutoff to the Barlow Road; and
  6. Major historic trails of Oregon including:
    (a) The Klamath Trail;
    (b) The Jedediah Smith Route;
    (c) The Nathaniel Wyeth Route;
    (d) The Benjamin Bonneville Route;
    (e) The Ewing Young Route;
    (f) The John Fremont Route; and
    (g) The Santiam Wagon Road.

SECTION 2. In preparation for the bicentennial celebration of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery expedition, the State Parks and Recreation Department may:

  • Work with property owners to mark the historic trails of Oregon; and
  • Cooperate with the Oregon Trail Coordinating Council to develop a statewide program to research, recognize and promote Oregon’s historic trails as heritage tourism resources that will have a positive economic and cultural impact on the state.

Project history (continued)

With the four-year extension of the Oregon Trail license plate program and the passage of the Oregon Historic Trails Bill, the Council elected to continue operating beyond 1995 and to remain an independent organization maintaining direct oversight of its funds. The Council’s mission broadened to include the sixteen trails named in the Oregon Historic Trails Bill and the Council also adopted a d.b.a. name-the Oregon Trails Coordinating Council-to reflect its interest in historic trails statewide.

The Council entered into a cooperative agreement with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to facilitate development of the statewide historic trails program described in the Oregon Historic Trails Bill. The agreement enabled the Council to work closely with State Parks by transferring its operations to the Parks headquarters office in Salem. In exchange for office space, the Council agreed to develop the statewide historic trails program. After moving its operations to Salem in March, 1996, the Council began a four-year work plan to create the Oregon Historic Trails Program. The work plan consisted of five phases:

  1. conduct research and resource evaluations;
  2. identify potential partnerships and development alliances;
  3. develop individual trail plans;
  4. develop sources of program funding; and
  5. oversee program implementation.

Late in the 1997 Oregon Legislative session, a bill was passed which included a provision that terminated the manufacture of specialty license plates and which specifically repealed the 1993 and 1995 acts that created the Oregon Trail commemorative license plate program. The Council’s source of historic trail funding was cut short. Fortunately, remaining inventories of Oregon Trail license plates could still be sold to provide final revenues to the Council’s matching grant program. Perhaps the greatest impact on the Council was that the timetable for considering the organization’s future (expected to coincide with the end of the license plate program in December 1999), was now moved up to 1997. Loss of authority and program funding support from the State of Oregon, the Council decided to conserve its remaining assets and place the remaining funds in an endowed fund.

The work plan of the Oregon Historic Trails Program was half completed. Research and resource assessments were developed so that individual trail plans could be proposed. The outline of a program “to research, recognize and promote Oregon’s historic trails as heritage tourism resources,” as called for in the Oregon Historic Trails Bill, had been prepared. The Council moved ahead with the creation of this document, the Oregon Historic Trails Report, to provide a planning document to assist future efforts to develop historic trail resources in Oregon. With this report in place, the Council moves toward dissolution.

The Council’s legacy is a challenge to Oregonians to carry on the work outlined in the Oregon Historic Trails Report and an endowment, the Oregon Historic Trails Fund, under the Oregon Community Foundation to help fund their efforts.

General recommendations

The Oregon Trails Coordinating Council recommends that Oregonians move forward with the Oregon Historic Trails Program. The Oregon Historic Trails Program can produce an array of benefits for Oregon’s economy and its citizens. The opportunity to realize these benefits will depend on the entities that have the authority to act and are willing to collaborate on the program’s behalf: land management agencies, government commissions, heritage organizations, and tourism associations. Fully implemented, a statewide historic trails program will provide a number of benefits, including:

  • a system of historic trails developed for their educational, recreational, and economic values;
  • a network of quality cultural heritage tourism projects that are historically accurate and consistent in design;
  • a foundation for a consistent cultural heritage tourism marketing package uniting all of Oregon and encouraging exploration along trail corridors;
  • increased economic opportunity and economic diversity for rural Oregon communities; and 0 a statewide historic trails system in place for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial.

In 1988, the Oregon Trail Advisory Council recognized the 1993 Oregon Trail Sesquicentennial as the impetus to preserve and develop the Oregon Trail for economic and cultural benefit to the state. The Bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery Expedition in 2003-2006 continues the momentum and expands the benefits. As the nation’s focus turns to Oregon and the terminus of the Lewis and Clark Trail, there is a remarkable opportunity to shape the commemoration of a single national historic trail into a statewide celebration. All regions of the state will benefit by the implementation and promotion of the statewide Oregon Historic Trails Program, inviting Oregonians and visitors alike to explore all of Oregon’s historic routes.

Beyond the one-time opportunity offered by the Bicentennial, a statewide historic trails program merits the attention and commitment of Oregonians. Our trails are our history and our care for the trails, and other heritage resources, will preserve Oregon for the future. We have both an opportunity and an obligation to preserve and interpret the state’s historic sites and stories for present and future generations. The Oregon Historic Trails Program provides us with the framework to link people and places, to unite the state in a common effort, and to encourage exploration of Oregon’s special places.


Whereas, the Oregon Trail Advisory Council was established by Executive Order in 1984 and duly reported to the Governor and Oregon Legislature its recommendations for the preservation and development ofthe Oregon Trail through its report “Our Oregon Trail” in 1988; and

Whereas, the Oregon Trail Coordinating Council was organized in 1990 by the Oregon Trail Advisory Council at the request of the Governor and designated by the Oregon Legislature in 1991 to prepare the State’s program to celebrate and commemorate the 1993 Sesquicentennial of the Oregon Trail; and

Whereas, the Oregon Trail Coordinating Council coordinated an interpretive wayside program developing  47 Oregon Trail interpretive sites from the Idaho border to Oregon City and implemented a statewide heritage program for the Oregon Trail Sesquicentennial and printed the results of its programs in its “Sesquicentennial Report” in 1994; and

Whereas, the Oregon Trail Coordinating Council was also entrusted by the Oregon Legislature in 1991 to oversee the investment of Oregon Lottery Funds into the development of Oregon Trail interpretive centers located at Baker City, the Umatilla Indian Reservation, The Dalles, and Oregon City; and

Whereas, the Oregon Legislature in 1993 authorized the sale of the Oregon Trail License Plate with voluntary fees to be transferred to the Oregon Trail Coordinating Council for the development of interpretive facilities along Oregon’s national historic trails; and

Whereas, the Oregon Legislature in 1995 extended the authority and purpose of the Oregon Trail License Plate and also passed House Bill 2966 recognizing the value and significance of Oregon’s historic trails and permitted the development of a statewide historic trails program; and

Whereas, the Oregon Trail Coordinating Council issued its recommendations for the development of a statewide Oregon Historic Trails Program in its “Oregon Historic Trails Report” in 1998; and

Whereas, the Oregon Trail Coordinating Council has elected to dissolve its corporation and recommends the re-activation of the Oregon Trail Advisory Council to oversee and advocate on behalf of Oregon’s historic trails;

Now, therefore, the Oregon Trail Coordinating Council elects to transfer its cash assets to the Oregon Community Foundation to establish the Oregon Historic Trails Fund for the perpetual benefit of Oregon’s historic trails and transfers its permanent collections to the Oregon State Archives to establish a lasting record of the Council’s activities on behalf of the State of Oregon.

Signed this 20th day of April, 1998 Steve Meek, President of the Board of Directors