In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase pushed the US border west of the Mississippi River for the first time, nearly doubling the size of the country. But the wilderness known as “Oregon Country”—including present-day Oregon, Washington and part of Idaho—still belonged to the British, leaving Anglo-Saxon Americans eager to settle the area.
Lewis and Clark’s 1803 expedition was part of a U.S. Government plan to open Oregon Country to settlement. However, the hazardous route blazed by this party was not feasible for families traveling by wagon and an easier trail was needed. Thus, the Oregon Trail was born.
Despite the name, the Oregon NHT is not a continuous traditional trail from end to end, but consists of many trail traces, structures, graves, landmarks, and markers left on the landscape in seven states: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri.