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The horses and wagons over the Rocky mountains?

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  • The horses and wagons over the Rocky mountains?

    When people were going west in wagon trains in the nineteenth century, how did they get the horses and wagons over the Rocky mountains?

  • #2
    They drove them! In places they had to double team horses/oxen or winch wagons up or down to get thru mountain passes. Sometimes they added drags, usually logs, to prevent wagons pushing teams downhill. They made rafts for river crossings, or had to wait until waters receded, to cross. Water crossings were almost always scary, people died there.

    All covered wagons are NOT built the same. Prarie Schooners were much lighter built, smaller, would float, than Conestoga wagons used for freighting on the east coast. Chuck wagons were not seen on wagon trains, they got developed for cattle drives later in history. The Prarie Schooners could be used as farm wagons once people settled.

    Most pioneers drove oxen, not horses, heading west. It often took two seasons to make it to the west coast areas, so they wintered near the Rockies, then crossed in spring. Those who tried crossing in Fall often died, got snowbound or fell off slippery trails. Winter can start in late August or early Sept in the mountains and pioneers did not listen to good advice. Oxen could pull more, easier to feed, cheaper to buy, eat them if they broke a leg. They did travel slower, so a REALLY good day could be 15 miles, a good day only 8 miles. A very bad day might be only a couple miles in mud. Horses were fairly expensive, more excitable, used more food. Freighters used bigger covered wagons than Prarie Schooners, but still square and high up. Freighters developed delivery routes, wagons pulled by horses and mules as settlements developed, because equines were faster movers. They could get things delivered east of the Rockies, back to civilization with their trade goods before winter came.

    Every day was work, nothing like "seen on TV" rolling along a flat road. Trails were rutted deeply from other pioneer trains, grazing might be scarce, so animals were weak, so goods had to be left beside the trail to lighten the wagon. Some portions of famous trails are still preserved in a few places out west. Deep ruts are still there. Water often was contaminated, making people sick. We won't even talk about angry Native Americans not wanting pioneers crossing their lands! It was a hard and dangerous choice to make the trip West.


    • #3
      Great info (as always) goodhors

      All I can add re: difficulty is: Donner Party
      *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
      Steppin' Out 1988-2004
      Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
      Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


      • #4
        You might enjoy this modern wagon trip on the Oregon Trail.


        • #5
          Having driven across the country myself. I wonder how Rinker Buck dealt with fences and cattle guards.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Stonewall View Post
            You might enjoy this modern wagon trip on the Oregon Trail.
            Thanks you for sharing.
            google street view maps