National Register of Historic Places


Oregon Trail Ruts National Historic Landmark

Guernsey

Date Added to Register

Friday, May 13, 1966

Smithsonian Number

48PA80

Read all about it

Worn from two to six feet into an eroded sandstone ridge located on the south side of the North Platte River about one-half mile south of the town of Guernsey, Wyoming, the Oregon Trail Ruts provide striking physical evidence of the route followed by thousands of Americans in their migration westward across the Plains between 1841 and 1869. The first recorded use of what was to become the Oregon Trail occurred in 1812, when Robert Stuart and six companions followed the route in returning to the East from Fort Astoria in Oregon. In the succeeding years, the route was used by numerous traders, trappers, and missionaries; but it was not until 1841 that the first wagon train, that of the Bartleson-Bidwell party, moved westward over the Trail. Over 100 emigrants followed the Trail west in 1842, and over 900, in 1843. In the ensuing years the numbers of emigrants steadily increased, and the Oregon Trail became a clearly defined and deeply rutted road across the country. With the completion of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1869, use of the Trail as an overland route to the Pacific rapidly declined, although sections of it continued to be used locally for many years. The combined effects of wagon wheel wear and cutting to ease passage over a rough place in the road, these ruts near Guernsey are probably the most prominent along the Oregon Trail and are unsurpassed in their clarity and integrity.

Department of State Parks & Cultural Resources