New Updates! Photos added June 2010 of Last Crossing of the Sweetwater and the approach to South Pass. (See sites 45 and 46 on the South Pass vicinity map.)
This web page provides a "virtual tour" of the Oregon Trail from its last crossing of the North Platte River at modern-day Casper, Wyoming, to the point where it crossed the continental divide and entered the Oregon Territory at South Pass. There are currently 119 photos included in this tour.
The stretch of 150 trail miles from Casper to South Pass is perhaps the best-preserved section of the original route, and includes important landmark features such as Independence Rock, Devil's Gate, Split Rock, Emigrant Gap, Prospect Hill, Rocky Ridge, and South Pass. Wheel ruts from the original trail are visible in several places, and thanks to the isolation of the area, it is possible in many places to see a landscape almost unchanged from what 19th century travelers would have seen.
The Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails all coincide here. It was along this stretch of trail that the Mormon handcart companies of 1856 encountered the hardships of early snows, freezing cold, and starvation. The LDS church maintains a visitor's center at Devil's Gate where a hiking trail allows easy access to Martin's Cove -- the place one of these companies sought shelter while awaiting rescue from Salt Lake City.
The primary feature of this page is a photo tour of the route with some brief historical notes on some of the locations. There's no substitute for standing in the old wagon ruts, but the "armchair tourist" in you may enjoy these photos. I've also included some free computer desktop images of scenes from the photo tour.
This site also has information that you may find useful if you are contemplating a visit to Wyoming. For driving the trail route, we offer some recommendations on side roads that will give you the best possible experience. Also, there are links to services available in the area as well as to other sources of information on the web.
All photos on this site are copyrighted by Mark J. Nielsen (2006-2010) and can be used by permission only. That being said, I'm not out to make any profit from this site and would be happy to give permission for reasonable (noncommercial) uses of anything here. Contact me by emailing "markn" "@" "uidaho.edu" if you would like such permission. I may even be able to supply you with a higher-resolution version -- the photos here have been edited because of limited storage space.