Historical Trails

Old Historic Map of the Oregon/California Trail


With financial support from the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust, the National Oregon/California Trail Center co-produced an Oregon/California Trail in Idaho film presentation with Idaho Public Television. This 2009 production is featured on the Idaho Public Television web site which includes text, comments, photos and also a short preview from the video.

The Oregon National Trail is a 2,000 mile monument to the human spirit. In the sixty odd years of its use, thousands of Americans headed west, first for fur, then as missionaries, and finally for land. Between 1841 and the turn of the century, over 300,000 Americans of all ages and walks of life sold most of their worldly possessions, piled what was left in a wagon and set off on an epic journey.

A etching of pioneers in a wagon on the Oregon/California Trail

Whitman, came west to bring Christianity to the American Indians. Reports from these missionaries greatly stimulated Eastern America?s interest in the rich land awaiting them in Oregon. The first organized party of emigrants set out in 1841 under the leadership of John Bidwell. They were the first in a trickle of emigrants that would swell to a flood in the years to come. The generally recognized start of significant movement west has been established as 1843.

The U.S. Congress memorialized the vital role the Oregon Trail played in our nation?s history in 1978, when the trail was designated a National Historic Trail. The intent of the public law was to designate the primary route of the Oregon Trail, extending full length between Independence, Missouri, and Oregon City, Oregon.

Bear Lake County is not only a significant part of the Oregon Trail as signifying it?s entrance into Idaho, but Montpelier is also the key intersection for Highway 89. Highway 89 is the National Parks Highway that connects all the National Parks in the west from the Mexican border on the south to the Canadian Border on the north. Tourists numbering in the thousands travel Highway 89 to reach Yellowstone National Park each summer.