Continuing on the Oregon Trail in Western Nebraska

by Lisa Yungel

6. This is a view that the emigrants didn't see, which is on the top of Scott's Bluff. Actually, the whole set of bluffs in this picture are considered Scott's Bluff. The yellow flowers in this picture are a type of sunflower that grows wild all over the west, even on top of Scott's Bluff.

7. Another view from the top of Scott's Bluff shows how vast the prairie was in this area. The light green plant in the front left of the picture is sage. If you rub your hand over sage it releases a smell which is rather nice. The west is so full of sage that, by this point in their journey, most emigrants wrote that they hated it's aroma.

8. This is the Oregon Trail as it narrowed down to one wagon lane through Scott's Bluff.

9. You can see the grassy ruts on this picture by looking at how high the ground is on either side of the picture. If the grass were cut from the center of this swale the ruts would be 3-4 feet deep.

10. If you look at the small sunflowers in this picture, you can see how the grassy ruts curves from the center-left of the picture out to the right. If you'll look in the distance, you'll see a dark and light blue dot which are people walking on the Oregon Trail. The emigrants often wrote in their journals about how deceptive distance seemed when looking across the prairies. For instance, these people are about a mile away from the person taking the picture, yet it seems a lot closer.

11. This picture was taken in Craters of the Moon National Park in Idaho. What does it have to do with the Oregon Trail? Well, one of the shortcuts called cutoffs, from the Trail went along the edge of the hills in the background. These cutoffs were meant to save the emigrants time and miles, however, many cutoffs went through areas where grass and water were scarce, which is true of the area in this picture. The strange formations that you see in the front of the picture are actually lava formations from extinct volcanos in the area. In fact, one of the major problems with cutoffs can be seen in this picture: if you look at the hills in this picture, what color do the hills look to you? They look green to me, as they did to the emigrants. Unfortunately, the green color does not come from plant life as we might think but from minerals in the ground. Many emigrants traveled toward these hills thinking the green color offered their oxen, horses, and other animals grass and water, only to be disappointed. The emigrants (and their animals) usually found out the hard way that cutoffs, while they might save miles, could mean disaster.
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