On May 16, 1842, a group of more than 100 pioneers left Elm Grove, Missouri, on the 3,500-kilometer (2,200-mile) Oregon Trail. Pioneers had been trickling into the Oregon Territory for decades, but this was the first major wagon train to embark on the famous route.The Oregon Trail stretched from the banks of the Missouri River to what is today western Oregon. The route had long been established by fur traders, missionaries, trackers, and military scouts. It crossed what are today the states of Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon.Pioneers packed up all they could in covered wagons, as well as on pack animals such as horses, donkeys and, crucially, oxen. Travelers had to be prepared for flat plains, steep mountains (the Rockies), and dry deserts (the Great Basin) before reaching the fertile valleys of Oregon. Many pioneers feared attacks by hostile Native Americans, but weather, landscape, and disease were much bigger threats.
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry bank Noun
a slope of land adjoining a body of water, or a large elevated area of the sea floor.
area of land that receives no more than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of precipitation a year.
Encyclopedic Entry: desert destination Noun
place where a person or thing is going.
a harmful condition of a body part or organ.
to leave or set off on a journey.
to form or officially organize.
able to produce crops or sustain agriculture.
thick hair covering the skin of an animal.
Great Basin Noun
enormous watershed region in the western United States with no drainage to the ocean, including most of the state of Nevada, and surrounding areas in California, Oregon, Idaho, and Utah.
confrontational or unfriendly.
the geographic features of a region.
Encyclopedic Entry: landscape migrate Verb
to move from one place or activity to another.
useless or outdated.
pack animal Noun
domesticated animal used by humans for transporting goods.
person who is among the first to do something.
flat, smooth area at a low elevation.
Encyclopedic Entry: plain route Noun
path or way.
person or animal that follows the traces (tracks) of another person or animal.
transcontinental railroad Noun
railroad that spans an entire continent.
depression in the Earth between hills.
wagon train Noun
group of pioneers traveling in covered wagons, often those emigrating to the American West in the 1800s.
state of the atmosphere, including temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind, humidity, precipitation, and cloudiness.
Encyclopedic Entry: weather