Near American Falls in Power County, Idaho — The American West (Mountains)
Snake River Rest Area Oregon Trail Kiosk
The Oregon Trail
Westward-bound emigrants entered Idaho after crossing Thomas Fork Valley. They soon encountered the climb and descent of Big Hill, witnessed nature's curiosities at Soda Springs, and discovered willing traders at Fort Hall.
In 1843 wagons first rolled past Fort Hall to face the harshness and desolation of the Snake River Plain. Dust, sagebrush, lava rock, mosquitoes, a burning sun, cold nights, and a concerned Native American population made the journey an arduous one. Yet, these pioneers continued on to establish ocean-to-ocean nation.
Prior to the discovery of gold, California-bound emigrants followed the main Oregon Trail to Raft River before turning south on the California Trail. Gold seekers soon opened new routes in an attempt to reach their destinations sooner. Hudspeth's Cutoff (1849) directed traffic west from Soda Springs. The Salt Lake Alternate (Hensley's Cutoff, 1848) enabled travelers to obtain supplies in Salt Lake City before continuing their journey. These routes joined in the City
As the number of emigrants increased, lands along the trail became barren of grass and wood, and water sources often became tainted. Consequently, alternate routes were explored and utilized. The South Alternate (1843), Northside Alternate (1840's), Goodale's Cutoff (1852), Lander Road (1858), and Kelton Road (1869) all became heavily utilized by emigrants and early Idaho settlers.
When emigrants first took their wagons west from Fort Hall in 1843, they soon encountered an unfriendly environment: desolation, suffocating dust, swarms of Mosquitos, hot days and cold nights. In many respects, the long trip across the Snake River Plain would be the most difficult part of their journey.
After reaching his destination in 1843, Jesse Looney wrote a letter to his brother-in-law in Illinois. Lt. John Charles Fremont carried the letter eastward to St. Louis for mailing. Mr. Looney noted:
"Mrs. Looney says prepare yourselves with good strong clothing for the road or the wild sage will trip you. This shrub is very plentiful and was hard on our teams, especially those that went before, but it will not be so bad on those that come next year, for we have left a plain well beaten road for all of the way."
Peter Burnett was also among
"On 30th of August we quitted Fort Hall, many of our young men having left us with pack-trains. Our route lay down the Snake River for some distance. The road was rocky and rough, except in the dry valleys, and these were covered with a thick growth of sage or wormwood, which was from two to three feet high, and offered a great obstruction to the first five or six wagons passing through."
On August 9, 1849, Major Osborne Cross commented on the prospect of traveling across the Snake River Plain.
"The picture, on the whole, was anything but a pleasing one. When we reflected that we were to travel several hundred miles trough a country presenting nothing more pleasing than barren hills and sterile plains, having artemisia (sagebrush) to burn, as well as food probably for the animals, it was certainly discouraging."
Before reaching the Snake River Plain, emigrants encountered problems with fine alkali dust and numerous mosquitoes along the trail west of Fort Hall, which evoked many diary entries describing the hardships they endured.
" You in 'The States' know nothing about dust. It will fly so that you can hardly see the horns of your tongue yoke of oxen. It often seems that the cattle must die for the
"Mosquitoes were as thick as flakes in a snow-storm. The poor horses whinnied all night, from their bites, and in the morning the blood was streaming down their sides." - Margaret Frink, July 11, 1850
"Sometimes the dust is so great that the drivers cannot see their teams at all though the sun is shining brightly, and it is a great relief to the way-worn traveler to meet some mountain stream, meandering through a valley, after traveling for miles over these rough and dusty roads, through country where every blade of grass has been dried up, with the drouth that generally prevails here at this time of year, except in the bottoms along the river banks, where we can yet get feed for out cattle." Elizabeth Wood, August 1851
"Mosquitoes so troublesome that we can not go out of our tent without everything but our eyes covered; horses nearly black with them, and they cannot eat for them." - Myra F. Eells, August 2, 1838
Prior to 1849, emigrants going to California shared the road with Oregon travelers until they reached Raft River. Here the trails parted. Those going to California turned south. In 1849, the California Trail intersected the newly opened Hedspeth's Cutoff at Cassia Creek and continued southwest. After leaving City of Rocks through Pinnacle Pass, the trail joined Samuel Hensley's Salt Lake Cutoff, which opened in 1848, and continued southwest through Granite Pass into Nevada and on to California. After 1849 most California-bound emigrants used Hudspeth's Cutoff rather then the Raft River route.
"At noon crossed Ford Creek & at night reached Raft River & camped. Grass good. At this point the two trails divide for California and Oregon. We met here quite a train taking the Oregon Trail, mostly families." -- Henry Tappan, July 23, 1849
" ... and in eight miles came to Raft River, a small stream that flowed from the mountains on our left. Here the roads fork again, the right-hand one turning off northwesterly towards Oregon, while we took the left hand one, going southwesterly towards California, leaving Snake River, and traveling up Raft River." -- Margaret A. Frink, July 15, 1850
The City of Rocks inspired all who viewed the wondrous rock formations, and
"We encamped at the city of rocks, a noted place from the granite rocks rising abruptly out of the ground. They are in a romantic valley clustered together which gives them the appearance of a city. I took several sketches of them. 5 miles from this comes in the new Mormon road which goes by the city of salt lake." -- James F. Wilkins, August 13, 1849
"The road lies between high & immense rocky mountains, with not a particle of herbage or vegetation upon them, but being white & smooth upon their surface. Just opposite to where we encamped was one which struck us as particularly curious. It was a perfect face upon the highest cliff around ... The road continued between these & around these rocky piles but the road itself was good. You can imagine among these massive piles, church domes, spires, pyramids, & in fact, with a little fancying you can see (anything) from the Capitol at Washington to a lowly thatched cottage. Four miles brought us
Erected by Idaho Department of Transportation.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Landmarks • Natural Features • Roads & Vehicles • Settlements & Settlers. In addition, it is included in the Oregon Trail series list.
Location. 42° 41.699′ N, 112° 57.721′ W. Marker is near American Falls, Idaho, in Power County. Marker can be reached from U.S. 86 at milepost 30 near Rock Creek Road, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: American Falls ID 83211, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 9 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Oregon Trail (within shouting distance of this marker); Massacre Rock - A Clashing of Cultures (approx. 1.9 miles away); Massacre Rocks on Old Oregon Trail (approx. 1.9 miles away); Register Rock (approx. 4 miles away); American Falls Power Plants (approx. 7.1 miles away); a different marker also named Oregon TrailA Town on the Move... (approx. 8.2 miles away); Power County War Memorial (approx. 8.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in American Falls.
More about this marker. This kiosk is located at the Snake River Rest Area on Interstate 86 Westbound.
Credits. This page was last revised on September 30, 2018. It was originally submitted on September 30, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. This page has been viewed 546 times since then and 106 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on September 30, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California.