The Oregon Trail Helped Shape America, And Its Impact On The Landscape Can Still Be Seen Today

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Images: Doug KerrChris Light

For four decades, the Oregon Trail has played a starring role in American history, carrying hundreds of thousands of settlers towards a new life in the west. Now, railroads and highways have supplanted it. But the memory of the trail remains, and its legacy is still carved into the country’s landscape.

Image: William Robert Shepherd

To the European settlers who began arriving on North American shores in the 16th century, the new continent was a land of fresh starts and endless opportunities. Their pioneering spirit had led them to travel across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a new life. However, it would take two centuries before they began to colonize what would become the western United States.

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Image: Seth Eastman

At first, the majority of European emigrants settled in eastern America. And for those who wished to travel to the lands of modern-day Oregon and California, a long and challenging journey lay ahead. By ship, they were forced to travel through perilous seas all the way around South America in order to reach their destination.

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