Ford crossing the John Day River which was named for the
unfortunate Overland Astorian, who spent the winter of 1811-12 naked in the
wilderness after being robbed and stripped by some Indians. A kinder, gentler
tribe of Indians rescued him and clothed him. Read all about it in Washington
"Road lay through a deep, narrow valley, but very barren. At noon camped by a small spring coming out of the valley. (Cedar springs). from here pass over high bluffs and descend a very steep hill to John Day's river a very rapid stream. No wood here except a few very small willows. All the country from the indian agency to this place is about barren and desolate as any we have passed over and we have seen nothing that could be fairly called wood since we left the Umatilla." (Twin sisters Cecilia Adams and Parthenia Blank, 10/19/1852)
After climbing that hill the emigrants were back on the Columbia Plateau, which they followed to Biggs and the Deschutes River.
"In leaving the valley of John Day's River we ascend a canyon or defile 1 1/2 miles, narrow, sandy and very rocky. After we arrived at the summit we had tolerably good road a considerable distance." (Henry Allyn, 8/23/1853)
The east side of McDonald Ford is rough dirt road and onto private property. I have been there and not chased out. There is a Meeker Marker down by the river. It is worth while pursuing, but it's rough. Franzwa gives good directions on p. 372 and following of Oregon Trail Revisited. The west side has a BLM kiosk. It is worth seeing both sides, but both roads are rough.
You are at McDonald Ford
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