Tuesday, February 26

We Were There on the Oregon Trail

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What’s a Mountain Man to do when the fur trade goes south?

May, 1843.  Pioneers left Missouri to head for Willamette Valley in Oregon.  The 2,000 mile long journey tested even the strongest of settlers, as the trail was rough and full of dangers.  Approximately 10% of those who set off on the trail died.  We can still see many grave sites littered through the trail area today.

While dubbed ‘the Oregon Trail,’ it wasn’t really a set trail, but more of a general route west.  Settlers followed the same path, but given all of the shortcuts (or attempted shortcuts), passes, and attempts to avoid dangerous areas, the trail was quite flexible.  The mountain men and fur traders that had traveled the region since its exploration by Lewis & Clark were seeking new jobs as the fur trade died out.  They turned their attention, and their skills, to being trail guides.  Some of them also documented the people, places, and nature found on the trail.

Planning for the journey could take up to a year – there were supplies to be bought, loose ends to tie up at home, and some families needed to earn extra money for the trip.  They traveled to Missouri, often meeting up with other families who were heading west, and set out in wagon trains.  These wagon trains provided protection in numbers.  They could only set off on the journey during a few months, as they needed to reach their destination before the snows came.

Due in part to the Oregon Trail, areas that had once been only log cabins or Indian lands were quickly cleared, planted, and scattered with towns.  California and Oregon became states, and the United States stretched from coast to coast. 

Virtual Field Trip

Our family traveled through Nebraska on the way to South Dakota a few years ago.  When we drove by Chimney Rock, we had to stop and poke around for a bit!

We discovered the Chimney Rock Cemetery, full of graves of the individuals who had died along this stretch of the trail.  While a bit sad, it was pretty amazing to be standing in a place with so much history behind it, looking at a view that had offered hope to weary travelers journeying to a new life!

Our spine novel is We Were There on the Oregon Trail

Access the complete unit in the 'We Were There' Novel Studies Bundle!

Includes THIRTY-SIX unit studies covering World & American History. Each unit addresses a new topic, spanning the the ancient world through post-WW2.  Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.

  • There are photographs and illustrations, and we have also included primary documents when available.
  • After this text, there are featured videos, which augment the background information and help make the topic more accessible for more visual students.
  • You will also find a short list of reading books, including a featured novel that the unit builds upon.
  • There are vocabulary words, places, and people to identify.
  • Reading comprehension, critical thinking questions, and writing assignments are included.
  • We add fun with hands-on activities and extra videos to watch that will bring the era to life.

These studies are directed toward upper grades students, but some have resources for younger students so that the whole family can work together. Our family has used unit studies as curriculum for many years, and we hope that your family will enjoy these, too!

Product Samples:


  1. that was a neat walk along the trail. :)

  2. As always, some really great looking resources here. Thanks for sharing.

  3. We played the card game - good fun. I need to ask our friends to bring it back over for the next game day.

  4. I tried this several years ago and had a terrible time with getting all of it to be straight. I eventually made some shorter, some longer and used that layout.


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