California Trail: Overland

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by smoore22
Last updated 8 years ago

Social Studies
American History

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California Trail:  Overland

"Found our mess very much dejected with their nights watching and drenching but consoled themselves that they had seen some of the Elephant. Everything being wet we concluded to tarry 2 days & dry & repair & wash." --Polly Coon June 3, 1852 Elephants were a rare sight often spoken about as a strange and foreign creature. Many never saw a real elephant. The term refers to experiencing the unexpected and scary, both for the good and the bad.

April - Leave St. Louis or other jump-off townsMay- Travel through Nebraska's spring stormsJuly 4- Pass Independence Rock, WYAugust - Cross over the Rocky Mountains and the desertSeptember - Cross over the Sierra Nevadas to arrive in California

Travel overland was very difficult, dangerous, and took a great deal of physical effort.Travelers:* Walked almost 2,000 miles* Traveled for 4 to 6 months.* Traveled in wagon trains with many strangers.* Faught: disease (Cholera killed within 24 hours), harsh weather, and wild animals.* Paid nearly $1000 for supplies* Ate the same food daily: beans, bread, hotcakes, rice, some dried fruit, some meat, coffee and tea. * Had pack animals (mules, oxen) die on the trail.* Lost friends and family members.* Arrived in California with winter approaching.*Had many routes to choose, some leading to death.

Lasting Impact

The California Trail is now a nationally recognized trail. Thousands traveled the trail and left a legacy which impacted western migration and the formation of America. Many accounts of the journey were captured in diaries.


Graphics:"California Gold Diggers: A scene from actual life in the mines." Wood engraving. 1856. web. 2 December 2013. McClure "California Gold Rush." Photograph. 1850. Wikipedia. web. 2 December 2013. Trail Map. Map. n.d. National Park Service. web. 2 December 2013."Wagon side view." Illustration. 2010. Oregon Trail Center. web. 2 December 2013. Coon, “Journal of a Journey Over the Rocky Mountains,” Covered Wagon Women, eds. Kenneth L. Holmes and David C. Duniway, vol 5, Bison Books Edition. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997,188.

Wagon Travel


Wagons were the main vehicle of travel on the trails. Travelers had to repair their own wagons and even know how to turn them into boats to cross deep rivers. The wagons crossed mud laden fields, mountain ranges and deserts.

Travel on the Trail

Travel Timeline

Seeing the Elephant


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