Scenic USA - Wyoming

Salt River Pass

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Salt River Pass - Afton, Wyoming

Photos by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website

     In the decades that followed the Louisiana Purchase, an expedition led by Lewis and Clark and the War of 1812, Americans were ready to move westward. Filled with an adventurous spirit, the western pioneering movement occurred in spurts. Between 1816 and 1821, six new states entered the Union. During the next 20 years, Ohio and Michigan gained nearly a million more people. Western fur trappers became living legends and pioneers began to venture across the Mississippi River to the west.
     Migrating as families, a series of land laws, treaties, and exaggerated reports led a modest number of emigrants to the far west by 1848. Then, the San Francisco Gold Rush changed everything. In 1849 alone, the Gold Rush attracted over 100,000 newcomers to California, and a mass exodus from the east began. Although clipper ships made the journey from New York to San Francisco in three months, most journeyed overland, following several popular trails, collectively called the Emigrant Trail. Always looking for a quicker route during this six month trek, many variations were touted as the best and easiest route. The main Oregon/Mormon Pioneer Trail was first established in the 1840, passing just south of the present-day Bridger-Teton National Forest. Salt River Pass - Bridger-Teton National Forest, WY Crossing a wide alkaline desert with little water, a safer and easier route was established in 1857. Known as the Lander Cut-off, this trail over the Salt River Pass was the first federally funded project west of the Mississippi River, shaving nearly 100 miles from the original trail. Leaving the Oregon Trail at Burnt Ranch on the Sweetwater River, the 250 mile cut-off required 19 days of travel time. During the first year over 13,000 pioneers followed the new route across the Green River Basin and over western Wyoming's Salt River Range to rejoin the Oregon Trail in Idaho at Ross Fork Creek. This historic route can still be traced today, with telltale wagon ruts and emigrant graves still visible.
     This view from the Salt River Pass offers panoramic view of Star Valley and the Salt River Range, plus a pleasant reminder of an incredible American pioneering spirit.

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