The Mormon Trail

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Oregon Trail
California Trail
Chisholm Trail

Santa Fe Trail

Brigham Young led a small group of his fellow Mormons westward from a few settlements in what is now Iowa, Missouri, and Nebraska to the Salt Lake Valley in what is now Utah in 1847. More Mormons from other states followed, more than 2,000 that first year.

What came to be called the Mormon Trail followed the northern bank of the Platte River across Nebraska to Fort Laramie, into what today is Wyoming, and then onward to the Salt Lake Valley. Some travelers crisscrossed trails, going along the Oregon Trail and/or the California Trail for a time. In all, the Mormon Trail stretched about 1,300 miles.

Mormons traveling along the Mormon Trail commonly used wagons to transport their worldly goods. Some of the poorer travelers used handcarts for this purpose, pushing or pulling them across hundreds of miles of varied terrain.

In large part, the Mormon migration involved entire families. Because so many of the traveling parties had elderly people and/or young children, the journey took longer. It took some families 100 days to cover 1,000 miles. By comparison, travelers along the California Trail and Oregon Trail covered about 15 miles a day.

In just a few decades, more than 43,000 Mormons made the journey to the Salt Lake Valley, along the Mormon Trail. Many of these people headed to California and became part of the Gold Rush.

Many more stayed in Utah. Others stopped along the way, or ranged further afield, settling in what is now Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, and Arizona.

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Social Studies for Kids
copyright 2002–2020
David White