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Near American Falls in Power County, Idaho — The American West (Mountains)
 

Snake River Rest Area Oregon Trail Kiosk

The Oregon Trail

 
 
Idaho's Emigrant Trails panel image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 14, 2018
1. Idaho's Emigrant Trails panel
Inscription. (There are five historical panels in this kiosk:)

Idaho's Emigrant Trails

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 of Rocks area and headed west through Granite Pass.
As the number of emigrants increased, lands along the trail became barren of grass and wood, and water sources often became tainted. Consequently,
Snake River Plain panel image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 14, 2018
2. Snake River Plain panel
Captions: (upper right) Wagon train crossing sage of the Snake River Plain in 1849. (Major Osborne Cross, Ackerman Lithograph); (bottom) The Stricker Store, a trading post and emigrant campground can be reached off U.S. Highway 30 south of Hansen.
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.

Snake River Plain

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 the first to take wagons past Fort Hall and wrote:
"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.
Dust and Mosquitoes panel image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 14, 2018
3. Dust and Mosquitoes panel
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."

Dust and Mosquitoes

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 want of breath, and then in our wagons, such a spectacle - beds, clothes, victuals and children, all completely covered." - Mrs. Elizabeth Dixon Smith Geer, August 29, 1848

"Mosquitoes were
Snake River Rest Area Oregon Trail Kiosk Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 14, 2018
4. Snake River Rest Area Oregon Trail Kiosk Marker
Captions: (top) Emigrants occasionally found game while traveling across the Snake River Plain.; (bottom center) The cover for Hastings' The Emigrants' Guide to Oregon and California.
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

With the exception of young children and the ill, emigrants typical walked or rode on horseback alongside the wagons. (F.N. Wilson)


Parting of the Ways

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
City of Rocks panel image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 14, 2018
5. City of Rocks panel
Captions: (upper right) An 1849 sketch and notations by J.G. Bruff of the trail leaving The City of Rocks trough what he called Pinnacle Pass.; (bottom center) About 300 miles of emigrant trail remnants have been marked in Idaho.
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

City of Rocks
California Trail

The City of Rocks inspired all who viewed the wondrous rock formations, and emigrant diaries are filled with glowing descriptions of the area. Most emigrants who traveled through City of Rocks were headed for California, but some went to Oregon. In 1988 Congress designated City of Rocks
Snake River Rest Area Oregon Trail Kiosk image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 14, 2018
6. Snake River Rest Area Oregon Trail Kiosk
as a National Reserve and directed the National Park Service to prepare a management plan. On May 2, 1992, management authority was transferred to the Idaho State Department of Parks and Recreation.

"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 to the coming in of the Mormon road. Half mile before striking it we passed through a narrow pass of rock, just wide enough for the wagons, & which evidently has been made by some adventurers before us." --
View of the Snake River from the Kiosk image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 14, 2018
7. View of the Snake River from the Kiosk
Vincent Geiger and Wakeman Bryarly, July 19, 1849
 
Erected by Idaho Department of Transportation.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Oregon Trail marker series.
 
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.
 
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 Trail (approx. 7.2 miles away); A 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.
 
Categories. LandmarksNatural FeaturesRoads & VehiclesSettlements & Settlers
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on September 30, 2018. This page originally submitted on September 30, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 37 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on September 30, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California.
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