Oregon Trail, overland emigrant route in the United States from the Missouri River to the Columbia River country (all of which was then called Oregon). The pioneers by wagon train did not, however, follow any single narrow route. In open country the different trains might spread out over a large area, only to converge again for river crossings, mountain passes, and other natural constrictions. In time many cutoffs and alternate routes also developed. They originated at various places on the Missouri, although Independence and Westport (now part of Kansas City, Mo.) were favorite starting points, and St. Joseph had some popularity.
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