The Wagon Trains
The mountain men were chiefly responsible for making the route known, and Thomas Fitzpatrick and James Bridger were renowned as guides. Capt. Benjamin de Bonneville first took wagons over South Pass in 1832. The first genuine emigrant train was that led by John Bidwell in 1841, half of which went to California, the rest proceeding from Fort Hall to Oregon. The first train of emigrants to reach Oregon was that led by Elijah White in 1842. In 1843 occurred the "great emigration" of more than 900 persons and more than 1,000 head of stock. Four trains made the journey in 1844, and by 1845 the emigrants reached a total of over 3,000. Although it took the average train six months to traverse the c.2,000-mi (3,200-km) route, the trail was used for many years. Travel gradually declined with the coming of the railroads, and the trail was abandoned in the 1870s. Many trail sites are now preserved in the Oregon National Historic Trail (see National Parks and Monuments, table). An interpretive center is in Baker City, Oreg.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.