Mile 238: The Narrows

“Forty-two miles west of the George Winslow grave the emigrants approached a troublesome portion of the trail known as “The Narrows”. Just northwest of the town of Oak (Nuckolls County-approximately 1 3/4 miles). Here the Oregon Trail was squeezed between the Little Blue River and a stretch of high, rugged bluffs which were impassable for wagons. The trail became so tight through portions of this area that there was room for only one wagon at a time to pass through this narrow strip between the bluffs and the river. Until the Indian Wars of 1864 the area was only a minor Oregon Trail landmark but in 1864 the NARROWS suddenly assumed a much more sinister meaning, for the geography presented the Indians with an ideal spot to ambush an emigrant train, a freight train or a stagecoach.

“In August of 1864 the telegraph line into Fort Kearny crackled with messages of depredations up and down the Platte Valley. But here, there was no telegraph communication and that August, Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians of Nebraska seized the opportunity presented by the withdrawal of Federal troops from the west during the Civil War to make a concerted effort to drive the encroaching white settlers from their land. During August, 1864, nearly every settlement and way station between the Big Sandy and Julesburg (400 miles) was attacked. Settlements and isolated farms were abandoned or destroyed, and travel ceased on the Oregon Trail for several months. A local family name Eubanks was attacked in the vicinity of the Narrows.”

“(Note: A present day visitor will find viewing the site quite difficult due to a combination of restrictive terrain and lack of access. Alterations in the course of the river and the subsequent erosion along the bank have cut into the Narrows and obliterated the Oregon Trail. Dense vegetation now lines the river bank and bluffs, and unlike the Oregon Trail days, there are now few vantage points from which a visitor may view the Narrows. The best place from which to see the Narrows is located at a point along the Oregon Trail, just off the graveled county road one-half mile west of the little town of Oak.)”

The Oregon Trail, Rock Creek Station, Nebraska to Fort Laramie, Wyoming, p. 4-5