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As It Was: Enthusiasts Track Emigrant Trails in Five States

In 1970, emigrant trail enthusiasts founded non-profit Trail West, Inc. to research, locate and mark the pioneer trails to California and Oregon.  Since then, it has placed 700 markers on 2,000 miles of trails across Southern Idaho, Utah and Nevada, and into California and Oregon.

The organization’s membership ranges from “trained historians to trail buffs … fascinated by the covered-wagon era.”

Trail West has created 14 guidebooks for SUV and truck drivers “who want to see and experience the routes used in the mid-1800s for (the) … country’s westward expansion.”  The guidebooks include maps, turn-by-turn directions and GPS coordinates.

Trail West says the markers are, in its words, “a way of preserving the memory of the people who endured danger and hardship along these routes to establish a new life in the far west.”  The markers, made from old railroad tracks, have cross bars containing engravings based on wagon road descriptions found in emigrant diaries.

Trails West has three main activities during the year, including the annual banquet and membership meeting, trail marking and maintenance outings and “fun trips” on a trail without any work activities.

Source: "Trails West: Marking the Emigrant Trails to California." Trails West, Inc. , Emigrant Trails West, Inc., 2010, https://emigranttrailswest.org/. Accessed 20 Mar. 2018.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.