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.
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.
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.