Near Blue Rapids in Marshall County, Kansas — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
A Quiet and Restful Place
To cross the high western mountains before the fall snow storms arrived, many emigrant wagon trains headed for the Oregon or California territories left Independence, Missouri, in mid April to early May. The downside to leaving too early often meant encountering heavy spring thunderstorms and flooded river and stream crossings on the prairie. On such an occasion, nearly a hundred emigrant wagons crowded this meadow for several days in May, 1846 while waiting to ford the "Independence Crossing" on the Big Blue River.
For most of these emigrants, keeping busy with chores or exploring the area provided a means to quickly pass the time. Some wrote in their journals and diaries, while others spent time constructing rafts to float their wagons across to the west, washing their laundry, cutting timber for firewood, or making wagon repairs that would get them through to the next stop. George McKinstry, traveling with the Donner and Reed wagon train, took time to carve the name "Alcove Spring" in the rock ledges above the waterfalls.
Whether they stopped to rest in the pleasant surroundings or camped out for several days waiting for the flood waters to subside, emigrants found Alcove Spring a place with good drinking water, timber for building a campfire to cook a meal, forage for their livestock, and wild game for
Emigrant journals and diaries provide us with a glimpse into the experiences they encountered at Alcove Spring in the 1840s and early 50s.
Myra Eells, May 9th, 1838. Wednesday. All is hubub and confusion; camp wants to move early, horses bad to catch, dishes not packed in season. Oh, how much patience one needs to sustain him in this life... Moved camp at half past seven, ride 7 hours, 21 miles without food for ourselves or animals. Encamped on the west [side] of the Blue. The scenery is so grand, together with a plesant sun and burning prairie, that for a moment we almost forgot the land of our birth.
Edwin Bryant, May 27th, 1846. This afternoon, accompanied by several of the party, I strolled up the small branch,... emptying into the rivers just above the ford. About three-fourths of a mile from our camp we have found a large spring of water, as cold and pure as if it had just been melted from ice. It gushed from a ledge of rocks,.... A shelving rock projects over this basin, from which falls a beautiful cascade of water, some ten or twelve feet.... So charmed were we with its beauties,
Eliza P. Donner Houghton, May 27, 1846, (68 years later). Messrs. Grayson and Branham found a bee tree, and brought buckets of delicious honey into camp. Mr. Bryant gathered a quantity of wild peas, and distributed them among the friends who had spices to turn them into sweet pickles.... The evening was devoted to friendly intercourse, and the camp was merry with song and melodies dear to loved ones around the old hearthstones.
Background painting is courtesy of Kenneth Winkenwader.
Erected by National Park Service and Alcove Spring Preservation Association.
Marker series. This marker is included in the California Trail, and the Oregon Trail marker series.
Location. 39° 45.037′ N, 96° 40.814′ W. Marker is near Blue Rapids, Kansas, in Marshall County. Click for map. Markers are about 500 feet northwest of the parking area of Alcove Spring Park, off East River Road (unpaved), about five miles north of Blue Rapids. Follow the signs from US Hwy 77. Marker is in this post office area: Blue Rapids KS 66411, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. The 1840s American Dream (here, next to this marker); Alcove Spring Park (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Oregon Trail Memorial Garden (about 500 feet away); A Respite In The Wilderness (approx. 0.2 miles away); Historical Baseball Game (approx. 4.7 miles away); Blue Rapids Station Bell (approx. 4.8 miles away); Oldest Roundabout in Kansas (approx. 4.8 miles away); Blue Rapids Public Library (approx. 4.9 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Blue Rapids.
Also see . . .
1. Alcove Spring National Register Nomination (Amendment). (Submitted on November 25, 2014, by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas.)
2. Oregon National Historic Trail. (Submitted on November 25, 2014, by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas.)
3. California National Historic Trail. (Submitted on November 25, 2014, by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas.)
Categories. • Environment • Roads & Vehicles • Settlements & Settlers • Waterways & Vessels •
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas. This page has been viewed 182 times since then and 42 times this year. Photos: 1. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas. 2. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas. 3. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas. 4. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas. 5. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.