(The Farewell Bend Oregon Trail kiosk houses seven panels which deal with the trials and tribulations on this arid portion of the Oregon Trail.) "Pathway to the "Garden of the World"
Excitement filled the air May 22, 1843 as nearly one thousand Americans left Missouri toward new lives in the Oregon Country. During the next two decades, more than 50,000 people emigrated to a land of abundance. a land that Abigail Scott, emigrant of 1852, called the "Garden of the World."
The Oregon Trail was more than two thousand miles through what Riley Root, emigrant of 1848, called "Landscape without soil! River bottoms with scarcely enough grass to support emigrant teams." The fragile landscape's ability to sustain life eroded as numbers of emigrants increased and privation, illness and death often plagued emigrants. Survivors endured an extremely wearisome road, and by the time they reached this portion of the Trail, with much of the journey behind them, the "Garden of the World" still seemed very distant.
Hook, Line and Fishtrap
Rivers and creeks along the Oregon Trail supplied emigrants with both food and water, and the Snake River was no exception. Although some emigrants employed hook and line, most found it
easier to trade for fish with local Indians. Long before the arrival of emigrants, local Indians had perfected techniques for harvesting the bountiful Snake River salmon.
I have not observed that the Indians often attempt fishing in the 'big river,' where it is wide and deep; they generally prefer the slues, creeks, &c. Across these, a net of closely woven willows is stretched, placed vertically, and extending from the bottom to several feet above the surface. A number of Indians enter the water about a hundred yards above the net, and, walking closely drive the fish in a body against the wicker work. Here they frequently become entangle, and are alway checked; the spear is then used dexterously, and they are thrown out, one by one, upon the shore. With industry, a vast number of salmon might be taken in this manner... — John Kirk Townsend, Naturalist, August 24, 1834
Eastbound Lane Opens
Gold was discovered in Idaho during the 1860s, and emigrants traveling westward often met protectors heading east. Gold rushers seeking the most direct route to their bonanza crossed the Snake River near Farewell Bend. In 1863 Reuben P. Olds, a local entrepreneur, realized substantial profits from both emigrants and miners by establishing a ferry a few miles to the south. Old's ferry allowed emigrants to bypass the Snake River
crossing near Fort Boise and follow an alternate route along the north bank of the river.
Going seven miles we reach the ferry. It took all the fore noon to get our party across, only one wagon at a time, with one span of horses or one yoke of oxen, for which we paid $2.00 in gold dust, or $4.00 in Green Backs. but with plenty of patience and still plenty of money we finally crossed. When the ferryman said, "here you are in a land of rain, grain, and big red apples," yet neither was realized only in anticipation. — Harriet A. Loughary, August 5, 1864 <>
It was not easy for Oregon Trail emigrants to account for everything that has to be unloaded and repacked at camp sites or river crossings. Some things, including family members, were accidentally left behind.
... we left unknowingly our Lucy behind, not a soul had missed her until we had gone some miles, when we stopt awhile to rest the cattle just then another train drove up behind us, which Lucy she was terribly frightened and so was some more of us, when we found out what a narrow escape she had run. She said she was sitting under the bank of the river, when we started, busy watching some wagons cross and did not know we were ready. I supposed she was in Mr. Carls wagon, as he always took charge of Frances and Lucy ... when starting he
asked for Lucy, and Frances says "shes in Mother's wagon." as she often came in there to have her hair combed. - it was a lesson to all of us. — Amelia Stewart Knight, August 8, 1853
Farewell Snake River
Oregon Trail emigrants traveled through the Snake River Country for over 300 miles. Hardship and danger were constant companions, and death, particularly at river crossings, was not uncommon. The river also sustained life, however, providing water and fish in abundance. Many emigrants along with Cecelia Adams and Parthenia Blank, emigrants of 1852, bidding "farewell Snake" at this site, parting was bittersweet.
... we came on Snake river bottom again, here I campt a very good place, a large dry creek come in here which has got good grass ... There the road leaves Snake river and we see it no more only in the Columbia I was sorry for that for we have caught a number of fish Willie gets his hook and line in a morning and soon catches enough for breakfast for us we have traveled down it about 360 miles it is a fine stream — George Belshaw, August 23, 1853
Respite for the Weary
Camp sites along the Oregon Trail were determined by the presence of water, grazing for livestock, or simply the end of a long exhausting day. Although emigrants camped at Farewell Bend,
a typical day's journey brought emigrants from the Malheur River through the alkali desert to camp at nearby Birch Creek. Water was available along this route, but is was often tainted, and many along with Martha S. Read. emigrant of 1852, found themselves "most all sick from the effects." Farewell Bend provided a welcome respite for emigrants recovering from the effects of bad water and other illness.
... moved 3 miles to the river to get better water. Found plenty of feed. The Indians have visited us every day and brought us fish/ The appear perfectly friendly. We have had very warm days ever since we stopt here. To day we have had a few sprinkles of rain. There is an immense sight of sickness on the road. Lydia is getting sick to day ... — Martha S. Read, September 13, 1852
The Cattle is Dying
The emigrant road from the Snake River Crossing to Farewell Bend was dry, dusty and extremely arduous; it was also the end of the trail for many already exhausted oxen. George Belshaw, emigrant of 1853, noted that his "cattle is dying ... some of them bleeds at the nose and dies in a few minutes after working through the day." Water holes were few, and with the distance between them great, emigrants often faced a life-threatening dilemma: to press on and risk losing their team to fatigue, or to stop and rick
that they would die of thirst.