Near Adams in Umatilla County, Oregon — The American West (Northwest)
Deadman Pass Oregon Trail Kiosk
More than 50,000 emigrants traveled west on the Oregon Trail between 1840 and 1850. The constant stream of wagons and livestock charted the course of Oregon's future, and in some places indelibly etched the landscape with stark evidence of the great emigrant adventure--wagon ruts!
Contrary to popular belief, the Oregon Trail was not a single set of parallel ruts leading from Missouri to the Willamette Valley. In valleys and plains emigrants often traveled abreast sometimes widening the trail to several miles. Wagon wheels and oxen hooves carved trenches into the earth and churned up tremendous clouds of choking dust; "a nuff to stifel man and beast," according to Absalom B. Harden, emigrant of 1847. In the mountains emigrants were constantly attempting shortcuts and looking for easier grades.
Although much physical evidence of the trail has been destroyed by road construction, logging, and agricultural practices, it is still possible to find wagon scars. The most common scars are trenches, little wider than a wagon, which have been eroded by the elements. Two parallel wagon trenches indicating the emigrant route down this edge of the Blue Mountains
Oregon Trail emigrants typically reached Deadman Pass, then known as Crawford Hill, after three days travel over what Edward Evans Parrish, emigrant of 1844, called "the worst road yet." The descent from this site to the banks of the Umatilla River, noted George N. Taylor in 1853, was "steep but not sideling." Once down the hill, emigrants camped along the Umatilla River, and many like Cecelia Adams and Parthenia Blank, emigrants of 1852, found the valley "literally dotted with ponies."
"This day got an early start; in a few miles we came through the thick timber and came to large pines. The road smoother and not so hilly directly we came out of the pines and went down a long hill into the Umatilla Valley; the bottom and bluffs covered with Indian ponies and horses, too. Came to the Umatilla river and camped." -- Loren B. Hastings; October 8, 1847
Prior to 1840 only mountain-men, fur traders and missionaries traveled overland to the Pacific Coast. Early emigrants and missionaries traveled under the protection of fur-trade caravans. The decline of the fur-trade found many mountain-men eager to hire-on as guides or pilots--the experienced fur-trader John Gantt was
"The Captain wanted us to carry on further. We had three waggons with us, all the rest had lagged behind. An unusual stratagem for preventing the Captain from pushing on was conceived by the people in the waggons behind us. All of a sudden one of their guides came galloping up and reported to the Captain that one of their waggons had overturned as it was going down the hill. Two men had been crushed under the weight of the vehicle. Can you imagine such agonizing news! At once I spurred my horse and we all went to the help of these unfortunate men. Soon however we learned that it was only a ruse to make us go back. It was a false alarm!" -- Honore-Timothee Lempfrit; September 9-10, 1848
Oregon Trail emigrants generally crossed
"This morning we saw some packers from the back companies. They say the snow is nearly knee deep and they are camped there. Most deplorable, indeed. We made a fine escape, for which we thank God." -- Edward Evans Parrish; Oct 23, 1844
"Hard times. many cattle are failing and all are very poor and a good many get lost among the thick timber. A good many wagons
Missionary emigrant Honore-Timothee Lempfrit stood on a hill near this site in 1848 and observed, "... we had a new horizon. It seemed as though we saw a vast expanse of sea in the distance, for the scorched prairies give the landscape a bluish hue." Unlike Rev. Lempfrit, however, most emigrants cast their eyes beyond the valley below toward what many believed was the last great obstacle between them and the Willamette Valley--the snow-capped volcanic peaks of the Cascade mountains. The dry and dusty Columbia Plateau, however, was soon to prove no average adventure for weary emigrants.
"From the brow of the Mountain, we had a fine view of the Cascade range, fifty miles distant, forming the Western boundary of the valley, stretching far to the North and South, with its lofty peaks of eternal snow rising among the clouds." -- Overton Johnson and William Winter; September 1843
Erected by Oregon Trail Coordinating Council (OTCC).
Marker series. This marker is included in the Oregon Trail marker series.
Location. 45° Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Adams OR 97810, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 17 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. The Intrepid Pioneers (approx. 4.6 miles away); Emigrant Springs Oregon Trail Kiosk (approx. 4.6 miles away); Emigrant Springs State Park (approx. 4.8 miles away); Oregon Scenic Highways (approx. 5.6 miles away); Meacham (approx. 7.6 miles away); Oregon Trail Memorial (approx. 7.8 miles away); On This Ridge... (approx. 16.8 miles away); Parade of Survivors (approx. 16.8 miles away).
More about this marker. This kiosk is at the Deadman Pass Rest Area located off of Interstate 84, Exit 228.
Categories. • Roads & Vehicles • Settlements & Settlers •
Credits. This page was last revised on December 27, 2017. This page originally submitted on December 16, 2017, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 86 times since then and 32 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on December 16, 2017, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California.