The Saratoga Sun -

Trek 'in a rut'

Museum led ‘wagon train’ follows rutted path of Overland Trail to Emigrant’s Crossing


Nineteen people gathered at the Saratoga Museum Saturday morning to take a trek out to Emigrant’s Crossing.

Local historian and Valley chronicler, Dick Perue, gave a short overview of the trip to come and handed out flyers detailing events that occurred and people having had interactions in the area.

Shortly after having corralled a passenger to open gates, Perue led the nine car wagon train the approximately nine miles north of Saratoga to a gate where the group proceeded to head west.

Two stops were made along the way. The first stop highlighted an area where ruts gouged into the landscape by wagon trains going through the area had been preserved.

After heading over broken rock and hardscrabble terrain that seemed it would be extremely difficult to get a covered wagon through, the caravan pulled up to a rock that served as headstone for a child lost along the journey west.

After a time, the 19-person crew came to the Emigrant Crossing memorial marker and gravesite for some 8 souls. At the marker, Perue gave some historical highlights then turned orating duties over to Kenny Swanson who pointed out that 4,274 wagons, 50,000 head of cattle, and 17,584 pioneers went west along the Overland Trail from Fort Halleck (near Elk Mountain) as totaled in December of 1864.

The crew then broke into two groups, those who wanted to take the “hidden stairwell” from the top of the monument’s bluff to near the spot of the old ferry crossing and those who wanted to take a vehicle to the bottom of the bluff.

The stairwell is a narrow split in the cliff face with features that are usable as a stairway if one takes care to account for movable gravel along the route.

Though the stairway itself has some names written along the inside of its passage, the predominance of pioneer names can be viewed on the cliff face from the bottom.

Having made the descent safely, those who elected to make the descent were treated to pioneer names either ornately engraved into the hard sandstone cliff face or painted on using wagon grease.

The earliest date observed for a pioneer name was from 1861.

After wandering the cliff face and finding the rock pile which was part of the anchor point for the original North Platte ferry crossing, the group adjourned to the deck of an area cabin for lunch and a more informal story swapping session.

After lunch, Chris “Chilly” Rollison gave an overview of Native American activities in the area. The lecture centered on which tribes utilized the area and included the reasons for the “bloody summer of 1865.”

After the talk, a short question and answer session was held and the group headed back east for the day.


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