Denver to Seattle
Wyoming Rockies at ground level - The Emigrant Trail and the South Pass
Centuries-old tracks from thousands of migrant wagons can still be seen today in southwestern Wyoming, a reminder of the tough journey emigrants made through the Rocky Mountains on their mission westward.
From the 1840s to the 1870s, hundreds of thousands of people made their way through the Rocky Mountains along the Oregon, California and Mormon emigration trails that followed the same route through the Wyoming Rockies.
Crossing the Rocky Mountains was one of the most challenging obstacles that faced the pioneers of the American West; fur trappers were the first white men to cross this natural barrier in 1812 using what was called the South Pass.
The South Pass is a natural crossing point of the Rockies, sandwiched between the southern end of the Wind River Range and the barren hills of the Wyoming Basin.
It is comprised of a broad flat prairie braided with several creeks and streams that could provide travellers with necessary water for themselves and their livestock.
The pass was used by emigrants seeking new lands and new opportunities in the West, with settlers establishing and populating California, Oregon and Utah, as well as those who stopped along the route at Wyoming and Idaho.
The Emigrant Trail itself has become embedded in the folklore of the United States as evidence of the nation’s perseverance in the quest for expansion.
Many thousands died during the gruelling journey west, as emigrants fought bad weather, disease, and Indian attacks as well as tackling the treacherous and ever-changing terrain.
The Green River was the most dangerous river crossed by the Emigrant Trails; deep, fast flowing water claimed the lives of hundreds of early pioneers.
As a solution, ferries were commonly used to transport emigrants across the Wyoming stretch of the Green River near the present-day towns of La Barge and Names Hill, originally a rest area where emigrants would inscribe their names on the hill before continuing their journey.