By Anna Hider
As a child, nothing, not even recess, got the classroom more excited than the words “The Oregon Trail”. The classic computer game, first released in 1981, edutained a generation and taught them the hardships and dangers of mid-1800s’ road trips. Pack up your Conestoga wagon, be glad you don’t have to worry about dysentery, and travel the trail for yourself with this modern day Oregon Trail Journey.
The Oregon Trail game started in Independence, Missouri, which was also the “jumping-off point” for the Santa Fe Trail and the California trail. Stop by the museum, brush up on your Oregon Trail history, and learn about the many pioneers who traveled long ago before braving the trail yourself.
One of the landmarks that guided pioneers along the trail, and one of the first stops in the game, Chimney Rock is a natural formation created by millions of years of volcanic ash and clay. The Ethel and Christopher J. Abbott Visitor Center is another great resource for Oregon Trail history.
One of the many forts where pioneers (and those playing the game!) would stop to restock, Ft. Laramie (then known as two separate forts called Fort William and Fort John) also played a key role in relations with Native Americans before being abandoned in 1890. Take a tour, or explore the surrounding park!
The Snake River, located within the gorgeous Grand Teton National Park, was one of the few rivers pioneers had to cross during the journey down the trail. The Oregon Trail itself followed the river. Eventually, ferries were established to aid in the often-dangerous river crossing, although in the game, the best way to get across was to hire a Native American to help you.
Take a step back in time and stop at another of the forts where pioneers stopped along the trail. Visit the Carpenter’s Room or the Blacksmith’s room should your wagon need repairs!
The Blue Mountain Crossing through the Wallowa Mountains offers some of the best preserved and most scenic sections of the old Oregon Trail (though thankfully the roads have been paved!) Check out the logging exhibit and interpretive panels, or, if you’re visiting on certain weekends, the living history presentations!
One of the last stops along the trail, the city of The Dalles, Oregon has murals leading into the downtown area that celebrate the city’s history, including weary Oregon Trail pioneers. You knew you were in the home stretch if you safely made it here in the game!
You made it safely down the Oregon Trail! This museum, located in Oregon City, OR, commemorates the final destination of the Oregon Trail. It features even more living history presentations and pioneer-themed exhibits, as well as hands-on activities and a General Store.
Blue Mountain Pass: http://www.nps.gov/nepe/naturescience/index.htm
Anna can be found on Google+ when she isn’t playing The Oregon Trail.