The Emigrant Trail

“In general, the route from Independence lay along the Santa Fe trail some forty miles, to the present site of Gardner, Kansas, where the famous sign pointed its finger northwest with the legend, “Road to Oregon.” It crossed to the Waukarusa and then to the Kansas, which it forded near the present Topeka and followed some miles farther before striking overland to the Little Vermillion and then the Vermillion. On to the Big Blue, the Little Blue, and so to the Platte, which was usually reached at or near Grand Island. Here was the great conduit to the West and for many days the wagons groaned up the long slope which became increasingly arid. The valley was an oasis in what seemed to be truly the Great American Desert, the scenery got more alarming as the going got dryer, and the river was one of the most preposterous in the world, a bottomland through which a mile-wide trickle of water you had to chew made its way along cottonwoods and quicksands. Where the river forked, the trail struck up the South Platte, then crossed to the North Platte by several alternative routes. The Lower California Crossing was near the modern town of Brule, Nebraska, and trains which crossed there usually reached the North Platte at the famous Ash Hollow. The Upper California Crossing was thirty-five miles farther up the South Platte. Once it reached the North Platte, the trail followed it to well beyond Fort Laramie, then left it for good and struck fout for the Sweetwater.”